Monday, September 26, 2011

Not Your Everyday Asian Chicken Noodle Salad

Sesame Chicken Cucumber Noodle Salad

What do you bring to an end-of-summer potluck? On a man-made island, capped off by excavated dirt from the Big Dig? To celebrate your child's friend's half-birthday and his mom's (ahem) birthday? I wanted to bring something different befitting of the day's festivities. And it needed to be a crowd-pleaser. That's when I turn to Ming Tsai.

In one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply Ming One-Pot Meals, Ming starts of by saying, "Just about everyone loves sesame noodle salad, including me." I knew I had to give this a try. Click here for Ming's recipe in Eating Well.

 The Good: It was a big hit with everyone. And pretty easy to prepare. Ming was right - again.

The Bad: While this is not a complicated dish, it does take some time in terms of prep. Love that the dish is packed with veggies, but prepare to do a lot of chopping.

Grade: B+. Will definitely be making this again. Will experiment with ways to make this even lighter.

A couple of tips if you are preparing this for a crowd -
  • I doubled the recipe and there was enough to feed a small army (8 adults, 8+ kids)
  • There was way too much peanut dressing - but okay if you plan to set some aside for salad dressing later in the week
  • Wait to dress the salad just before serving
  • Splurge and use some good quality toasted sesame. I used Toasted Sesame Ginger Seasoning by Victoria Taylor's Seasonings.

View of Boston from ferry to Spectacle Island. Boston Harbor Islands is a must-see!

What is your signature dish for a potluck? What are some tips for keeping meals fresh while traveling?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meal Planning

We're two weeks into our Fall routine - dragging the boys out of bed, packing school lunches, shuttling kids, soccer practice, etc. Our days are pretty jammed and if I don't have a meal plan for the week, chances are we're having frozen pizza or take-out at least once for dinner. With two young kids, I don't have time to make last minute trips to the store. I'm a planner. I need recipes and shopping lists (and a glass of wine doesn't hurt) to get me through the week.

I've discovered there are a TON of websites and apps out there offering to help make meal planning simpler. So I thought I would test-drive some meal planning sites and apps over the next few weeks and share my thoughts on what worked and what didn't.

Planning Tool Review #1: Real Simple's Weekday Meal Plan and Shopping List

What is it: download and printable list to organize dinners and shopping list

How it works:

  1. Decide on your weekday dinners and write them in the menu column on the left. I find menu ideas online, cookbooks and magazines. Real Simple suggests planning dishes that rely on perishable groceries (fish, chicken, fresh basil) at the start of the week and sturdier foods (pasta, eggs, frozen shrimp) at the end. I'll be blogging about some of my favorite sources for menu inspiration.
  2. Write down the ingredients you’ll need to buy for each dinner in the appropriate columns to the right. Use the miscellaneous section for other purchases, like lunch supplies and paper towels.
  3. Grab your list and head to the store. 
  4. If you're like me and can't remember what you actually planned, hang on to your list throughout the week.
The Skinny: It doesn't get more straightforward than this. This has become my go-to tool for planning and organizing meals for the week. I only wish it was an editable PDF.

Click here to download.


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