Kimchi Noodles

Until Robin started kindergarten last fall, I never really understood the allure of 30-minute meals. Before then we lived with my parents and I stayed home with my two pre-schoolers. By dinnertime, I was so excited to do something other than play Barbies or watch another round of Octonauts, I had 3 other adults (a dad and 2 grandparents) who were stoked to play with the kids, my dad loves cooking as much as I do so we worked together, and my mom always did the dishes. I never minded spending an hour cooking dinner with my dad with no impending clean up – and, as much as I love being a stay-at-home-mom, it was often the highlight of my day.

Of course, seasons change. We now live 28 whole minutes away from my parents, Robin’s in kindergarten all day, I’m only cooking for two adults, the kids have evening activities that make dinner complicated, and though I require everyone to do their part, I end up with the bulk of the dishes, too. While we were adjusting, we ended up picking up a lot of takeout, which was so great when we were 23, but at 33 your body just doesn’t handle Taco Bell like it used to. So here we are, renewed interest in 30-minute meals.

On Wednesday nights, Robin has a Daisy Troop meeting that lasts an hour 5 minutes from our house starting at 6. Eating at 5:30 is too early, and 7:30 is too late, but by the time I’ve dropped her off, chatted with the moms, and driven home, I’ve only got 40-minutes max to cook and eat before I have to leave to pick her up. My 6-year-old does not handle late pickups well.

Enter Kimchi Noodles – which can be cooked, start to finish, and eaten by me, a notoriously slow eater, in 40 minutes. If you love kimchi, noodles, and runny eggs, this meal is for you. As much as I like to brag about my kids loving a wide variety of foods, this dish is spicy and I won’t subject my kids to fermented vegetables yet, so they get macaroni and cheese at 5:30. Kimchi, gochujang, and udon noodles can be a bit hard to find, but they last forever, so stock up and you can bust this out when all you’ve got is eggs to work with.

Kimchi Noodles

9 oz. dry wide udon noodles (they come in a pack with 3 little portions – you only need one per person, so I either cook the 3rd for leftovers or save it for next time)

3 T butter

1 cup or so of kimchi (I use Mother-In-Law Kimchi – which is absolutely the best I’ve had and I use about half a jar) and some of the kimchi juice.

2-3 T gochujang paste, depending on how spicy you want to go.

1/2 cup of any kind of broth or water

eggs

optional: broccoli, green onions, and/or sesame seeds – but it’s fine without any of those.

  1. Start the water boiling for the noodles and cook according to package directions (usually about 4 minutes. In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt 2T of the butter over high heat and roughly chop the kimchi. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the kimchi and gochujang and stir everything together. If you’re using broccoli, add it here and cook with the kimchi mixture for about 5 minutes until nice and caramelized.
  2. Turn the heat down a little, add the broth and whatever leftover kimchi juice you have to the kimchi to deglaze the pan. Continue cooking until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and add them to the kimchi mixture and stir and cook it all together while you do the eggs.
  3. In a small frying pan, melt a pat of butter over high heat, then crack in the egg and cook until the edges are set (around a minute). Flip the egg and count to 10, then serve over the noodles (my husband likes 2 eggs, I usually only like one).
  4. Garnish with some sliced green onions or sesame seeds if you’ve got them.

 

Miso Salmon

In the past decade of dating/being married to my husband he’s made a lot of requests in the food department.  I enjoy a challenge and, with the exception of one ill-conceived and poorly executed pesto, he’s always been happy to eat everything I make.  Lately he’s suggested more seafood and I have been trying some new fish dishes.  We cook with shrimp a lot, but other fish is not my wheelhouse – I am not experienced enough to make substitutes well based on what’s available.  I also have been generally opposed to salmon – it seems like salmon got trendy in the early 2000s and it was everywhere and generally poorly prepared and I just got tired of it.  I never buy it, but it was on sale at the grocery store and Ross wanted more fish, so I gave it a try.

This dish might be the single easiest dinner I’ve ever made.  It takes 3 minutes of prep the night before and 10 minutes of cooking the day of.  That’s it.  I’ve served it with rice and with quinoa, usually with grilled asparagus on the side.  It’s insanely good.  The miso paste may be hard to find, I located it at Whole Foods.  It’s fermented soybean paste – so it stays good forever in the refrigerator.  Whether you’re a long time salmon lover or a salmon skeptic, give this a try.  Mostly because you can make it in 11 minutes.  You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind.

Miso Salmon

adapted from Keepers by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

2/3 cup red miso paste

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1lb of salmon filets (at my grocery store, this means 2 long filets so I cut eat in half to get four pieces)

1. Place the miso paste, vinegar, and brown sugar in a large ziploc bag or tupperware and mix together until combined.  Add the fish, making sure to coat all sides, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2. When you’re ready to eat, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray or brush with a little olive oil, and heat the oven to 400.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the foil skin side downand bake for 6 minutes, flip them over, and bake an additional 4 minutes, until you’re just able to flake the fish with a spatula.

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  The tang of lime, crunch of peanuts, savory noodles – it’s my go-to at any new Thai restaurant.  Ross requested Pad Thai for dinner last week and, after scouring about a hundred recipes, it seemed like all of them required specialty ingredients.  I’m sure that using one of those recipes would yield a more authentic taste, but I couldn’t really picture dragging my toddler and baby across town to an Asian market where I was unfamiliar with the layout, restrooms, and exit strategy.  So I wanted ingredients I could easily find at Safeway or, better yet, my pantry.

I came up with this recipe and it is really delicious, but you could hardly call it authentic.  It lacks tamarind paste, rice noodles, tofu (due to my sucking at cooking tofu, not availability), and bean sprouts.  But if you’re looking for a noodle dish that’s spicy, a little sweet, and has a lovely peanutty taste, then this is your dish.  You could certainly substitute any protein here – I had intended to make it with shrimp, but the ones at our store looked pitiful this week, so I used two leftover grilled chicken breasts.

 

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

12 oz. linguine noodles (or spaghetti or vermicelli)

1/3 cup fish sauce

2T honey

2T sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2T lime juice

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 cup water

1 shallot (or half an onion, if that’s what you have)

3 cloves garlic

2 eggs

4 green onions

handful of fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

lime wedges for serving

oil for cooking

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions, I usually boil for 20% less time than it suggests (so 8 minutes if it says 10 – taste and see).  Meanwhile whisk the fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sriracha, lime juice, and water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Mince the garlic and shallot, slice the green onions.  Lightly beat the eggs.

2. In a large pot or wok, heat 2T of oil over high heat.  Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the eggs and stir constantly to scramble the eggs – about 30 seconds.  Add the cooked noodles, green onions, and chicken, then toss the mixture together.  Pour the sauce over the top and allow it all to cook together for a few minutes.

3. Chop the cilantro and peanuts for garnish.  Serve warm with cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge.

 

Thai beef stir fry

In our efforts to add more Asian dishes to our repertoire, stir fry has become a mainstay.  My favorite thing about stir fry is that virtually all of the work is done in prep, so once you’re there it’s just a few minutes of cooking and then you’re ready to serve!  This particular stir fry is loaded with veggies and really is a complete meal in one dish.  We served ours with quinoa instead of rice (due to not having any rice), and honestly I think I prefer the quinoa in this case – it really soaks up the sauce and is a little fluffier.

You can substitute, add, or omit any of the vegetables involved if you don’t like them, don’t have them, or whatever.  That’s my favorite thing about stir fry – it’s great for a “clean out the fridge night” (Friday, in our case, as our trash pickup is Saturday).

Thai Beef Stir Fry

1 cup dry quinoa or rice

1 lb beef, cut into small strips – I used some thin-cut steaks that were on sale.  The cut isn’t really important

2 garlic cloves

a small piece of ginger

1 red chile (half if you don’t like spicy dishes)

8 oz mushrooms

1 large carrot

1 bell pepper

6 oz sugar snap peas

2 green onions

a few sprigs of basil

olive oil

For the sauce:

3T soy sauce

2T oyster sauce

2T fish sauce

2T rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

3T water

1. Rinse and cook the quinoa according to package directions.  Cut the beef into small strips.  Peel and mince the garlic, ginger, and red chile.  Chop the mushrooms, the carrot, the bell pepper, and the green onions.  Chop up the basil and set aside.  Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Congrats!  You’re almost done.

2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a wok (or big frying pan) until hot and sear the beef until the outside is brown, but the beef isn’t completely cooked (it will cook more later).  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

3. Add a little more oil and stir fry the garlic, ginger, and red chile until fragrant (a minute or so).  Then add the mushrooms, carrots, and about 1/4 cup of water.  After another minute or so add the bell pepper, snow peas, and green onions.  Stir fry another few minutes until the vegetables are a little tender (check the carrot).

4. Add the meat back into the stir fry and pour the sauce over the top, stirring to coat everything.  Once the sauce has soaked up into the stir fry, turn off the heat.  Serve the stir fry over quinoa and top with a little basil.

Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite

January 2014

When I launched Butter is My Jam one month ago, I did not expect that so many of you (to the tune of 1000 hits!) would be reading, sharing, and cooking with me.  I love hearing that that you tried one of my recipes, so thank you for reading and following.  It’s really given me a vote of confidence to continue.  In all honesty, I started this blog because I am often annoyed by the way recipes are written and I wanted a place where I could rewrite them to have for my own use.  I love writing and cooking, so a blog seemed an obvious choice.

You may remember that my first post was a list of goals I want to accomplish before I turn 30 in December.  As part of my personal accountability, I thought I should do a little followup to let you know how things are going.

1. Learn to cook Asian food.

This month I tried a vegetable lo mein and shrimp wonton soup (I’ll be posting the recipe this week).  Both dishes were delicious and I’m excited to add more this month – I’m hoping to try hot and sour soup and egg rolls.

2. Run a 10k.

In the name of accountability, I joined the StrollerStrides run group and signed up for a 10k in March.  I’ve been running for 3 weeks and so far, it’s going really well!  I have done running programs on my own in the past, but typically find a way to postpone and never seem to meet my goals.  Joining a group has really helped to motivate me and make sure I get my runs in.

3. Incorporate pies into everyday life.

My new pie this month was an eggnog pie that had a really different gingersnap crust.  It was really great and nice to make a pie without the pressure of a holiday.  I have an apple pie in the plans today.

4. Do a handstand without a wall.

This is the goal I haven’t made much progress on.  My husband, an ophthalmologist, attended a lecture on problems caused by increased eye pressure (from doing things like standing on your head), so he has put the kabosh on my handstand practice for now.  I am still doing headstands a few times a week, but not focusing heavily on it.

5. Enter some knitted goods into the State Fair.

I have done some research of different categories and patterns and I picked 5 pieces to try to finish.  As soon as I finish my Olympics hat, I’ll be starting on my first project.  State Fair judging places a higher value on execution than difficulty, so it’s more about making no mistakes than attempting a really difficult or impressive looking pattern.  This is generally not my M.O., so it should be a fun challenge.  I’m hoping to enter a toy, a scarf, a hat, a baby sweater, and possibly a crocheted toy as well.

6. Make 2 successful souffles.

I priced some souffle cups and torches.  That’s it.

7. Finish a triathlon.

I can currently swim and bike the required distances, so my 10k training is kind of doing double duty for this goal, too.

8. Blog.

Thanks for reading!  I’ll keep posting :).

9. Stop using my phone in the car.

I’ve all but stopped.  Occasionally I slip up, but usually just for a second and then I put my phone down.  I’ve definitely broken the habit and it’s nice to have more conversations with my toddler in the car at red lights.

So that’s it – again, thanks for reading and cooking with me.  I’m looking forward to an awesome February.

Vegetable Lo Mein

One of my goals for 2014 was to incorporate more Asian cuisine into our menu.  Some dishes, I’m really excited about (hot & sour soup, eggrolls, thai shrimp), but vegetable lo mein wasn’t high on my list.  See, when I think of it, my mind immediately goes to the sad vat of colorless vegetables and greasy noodles at Panda Express, where, when given the choice, I always choose the fried rice.  However, I’m a sucker for a vegetable dish, so I decided to start my quest with this dish.  I’m so very glad I did because it was wonderful.  The vegetables were crisp, the noodles were flavorful, and the whole dish was really comforting.  Also, I typically associate Asian cuisine with spice, which I adore, but my dear toddler does not.  This dish isn’t spicy at all and my little girl really liked it, so that makes it a win for sure.

I was able to find all of the ingredients at my standard grocery store.  The chow mein noodles came in 6oz. packages, sort of a tray wrapped in cellophane.  I bought 3 of them, so I had a little more than a pound, which was fine.

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Vegetable Lo Mein

Serves 4-6

1 lb. chow mein noodles

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 T fish sauce

2T oyster sauce

2T sesame oil

1 onion

1 bell pepper

4T olive oil

1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms

1 zucchini

1/2 lb. broccoli

1 inch of fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves

1. Boil the noodles according to package directions (about 4 minutes).  Strain and toss with about a tablespoon of oil (vegetable, olive, whatever) to keep the noodles from sticking together.  Chop the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms.   Peel and mince the garlic and ginger.  Cut the broccoli into small pieces, removing most of the stems.

2. Whisk the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1/4 cup of water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Heat 2T of olive oil in a large skillet (or better yet, a wok or dutch oven) over high heat and cook the onion and bell peppers until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and zucchini and stir fry until they start to brown, about 3 more minutes.  Scoop the vegetables onto a plate or bowl and set aside.

3. Add 1T of olive oil to the hot pan and cook the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Then add the noodles and cook for about 4 minutes, turning occasionally.  Then, add the vegetables back in and toss in the broccoli.  Pour the sauce over the whole thing and use tongs to toss the mixture together until the liquid is absorbed and the broccoli is slightly tender.

Source: Adapted from Williams Sonoma.

Eggnog pie

Full disclosure: I’m a serious pie snob.  As in, I don’t count it as “making a pie” if you don’t make your own crust.  As in, I have extended conversations about pie crust with my grandma.  As in, I plan my Thanksgiving pies a month in advance.  As in, I have serious opinions as to which pies can be served in which seasons.  As in, we served pie instead of cake at our wedding.  I take my pies very seriously, so my resolution to try a new pie every month was not flippant and it should be known that I already have a pretty vast repertoire of really good pies that I can make.

In my quest to add new pies to the repertoire, I invested in some resources, the first being the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.  It’s a really stellar collection of authentic pie recipes, organized by season, with creative flavor combinations.  The authors of the cookbook, and owners of an adorable pie shop of the same name, take pie snobbery to a whole new level.  I decided my first pie should obviously come from their “Winter” chapter.  Eggnog immediately caught my eye.

See, I’m not really an eggnog fan, but my husband is a huge eggnog fan.  It seems that there are really two camps as far as eggnog consumption and it boils down to whether or not you find the idea of melted ice cream appealing or not.  Personally, I say, I’d prefer it frozen.  My husband would say “drinkable ice cream? Awesome!”.  This pie is not nearly so divisive – it’s enough like eggnog to please eggnog lovers, but not enough so that it would turn eggnog haters off.  To me, it has a really nice cheesecake quality without the work (and extreme richness) of actual cheesecake.

Although this pie took me 3 days to make, it’s not really very difficult and you can knock it out in 2 hours (including baking time), which is great for a pie.  It took me 3 days because on Monday I decided to make the pie and added the ingredients to my grocery list, including gingersnaps for the gingersnap crust.  On Tuesday, I went to the store and they had no gingersnaps, so I decided to make my own.  Tuesday night, I made gingersnaps (and they were awesome, I’ll blog about them soon!), but realized I was a cup short of flour so I stuck the dough in the freezer until Wednesday, when I went back and got flour.  Wednesday I baked the gingersnaps, and Friday I finally baked the actual pie.  Then I went to Trader Joe’s where they sell gingersnap cookies.  Alas, storebought would work fine (I mean, the homemade cookies were REALLY good, but I’m not sure how much better).

So I say all of this to say – try this pie.  It’s really good.

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Eggnog Pie

For the crust:

1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs

2T sugar

4T butter, melted (I used salted, if you have unsalted, add a little salt)

For the filling:

3/4 cup cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla paste (which is delicious, but if you don’t have it, vanilla extract would be fine)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

3 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

3T rum

1/4 of a lemon

1. Take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften.  Preheat the oven to 375.  To make the crust, use a food processor, crush the gingersnap cookies into a fine crumb (to get a cup, I used 13 2.5″ homemade cookies).  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sugar, salt, and melted butter.  Press the mixture into a pie dish, using the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to distribute.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 after you remove it.

2. To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, sugar, spices, and vanilla together until smooth.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides between to make sure you don’t get a big glob of cream cheese at the bottom.  Add the heavy cream and rum, continuing to beat until incorporated.  Squeeze the wedge of lemon in and give it a few more seconds of mixing.

3. Pour the filling into the prepared, cooling crust.  I had slightly too much filling, so you may have a little excess.  Bake the pie at 325 for 25 minutes, then rotate it to make sure it bakes evenly.  Bake another 20 minutes, until the edges are set (45 minutes).  The middle will still not be set, but it will after you remove it from the oven.

4. Let the pie cool for a few hours before serving.  I found it really set up well after an hour in the refrigerator.  You could sift a little cinnamon over the top, but warning that it may come out in a big blob, which you’ll try to scrape off and leave a big hole and cinnamon smear in the side of the pie, which is why the picture is cropped way close.

Source: Barely adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Melissa and Emily Elsen