Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the whole foods experiment continues- a quick path to a fun family meal

Evenings at the Wilkison house tend to be just as crazy as everywhere else. Brad and I both work very busy jobs that more often than not spill over into our home life. Our evenings are a carefully orchestrated melody of commuting, dinner, errands, play time with Matthew, catching up on work, cleaning up, bath time, and bed time. Matthew's bed time alone can be more time consuming than the rest of the evening combined. That child is quickly perfecting the fine art of procrastination. These same scenes play out in homes across these United States every night.

So when I made the decision to move my family to whole foods I knew I had to find recipes that were easy to prepare and that included ingredients both my husband and son would eat. (My husband has caught on to me hiding spinach in foods like lasagna, so I know my family's exotic food limits!) Some days are better food days than others, but for the most part we are on the right track. Although my son was not happy with his peanut butter toast this morning, telling me in no uncertain terms that he wants the bread with the "grocery store letters" on it. This is how he describes Giant Eagle. He recognizes the logo and apparently he is missing his Giant Eagle white bread. I told him that change is not always easy. He stomped his little bare foot at me. Ahhh, these are the moments we cherish...

I am slowly combining my love of cooking with my need for easy to prepare meals. Some recipes are successful and some should never be used again. Last night was successful. I think that one of the keys to successful cooking is knowing your audience and being able to just wing it. Unless I am baking I don't deal a lot with measuring, so many of my recipes are somewhat vague in amounts of ingredients.

toasted sesame lettuce wraps

cooked chicken, cut into cubes or thin strips
bottle of toasted sesame salad dressing
shredded cabbage
green onions
large broad leaf lettuce

add chicken and dressing to large pan and cook over medium heat until warmed through. add shredded cabbage and cook a few more minutes, stirring. add green onions and cook just until onions are heated. Scoop the mixture onto the lettuce leaves.

A few thoughts: I usually cook a pan of chicken breasts on the weekend or one weeknight while I am making dinner so that I always have fresh cooked chicken on hand. This prevents me from needing to use those frozen bags of cooked chicken, which I always think taste a little off, not to mention that they are filled with preservatives. Use as much shredded cabbage as you want- I like the purple kind because it looks pretty. I add the cabbage and the green onions at the last minute because I like them to stay crunchy. If you prefer your veggies softer, then add them to the pan earlier. I usually end up using most of the bottle of salad dressing, but be careful as you don't want the mixture to be dripping or it will make the lettuce soft and be hard to eat, as this is a meal you eat with your hands. I like to use a salad spinner for the lettuce because I feel that it keeps it fresher and crunchier, something very important to me. I do not like mushy vegetables! You can sprinkle water chestnuts or crunchy noodles on your lettuce wraps for even more texture and crunch. This is a great recipe because you can basically use whatever you have on hand.

Cold Ginger Soy Noodles

2 tsp peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp tamari
1 tsp sesame oil
approx. 1 inch fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
approx 1/2 pound soba noodles
sesame seeds

boil noodles and when cooked rinse under cold water. chill in refrigerator. melt peanut butter in microwave, whisk in honey and tamari. whisk in sesame oil and ginger. toss with noodles and sprinkle sesame seeds over dish.

You can add shredded carrots or peas to this also. You can also skip the refrigerator step and serve this dish warm. If you prefer to not work with fresh ginger you can use ground ginger- about 1 teaspoon is enough for this recipe. I am not a huge ginger fan so I usually back off the amount slightly. I have found that this dish tastes exactly like the boxed Asian noodle dishes without the preservatives and chemicals. It is healthier and just as easy to prepare, plus it is a lot less expensive. Mathew loves these noodles and tries to eat them without cutting them, so he has no bad luck. It is messy, but sweet to watch.

Last night I served this meal with large seedless purple grapes. It took no time at all to put on the table - from refrigerator to table in under 15 minutes. Quick to prepare, but long to enjoy. Another successful whole foods experiment, and another successful family dinner. Tonight's menu? Parmesan garlic crusted chicken. Yummy...

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