Mattster Chef is back on the blog! Tonight, Matt will be writing about one of our easy weeknight meals.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for Our Happy Jar, and April wanted me to post this recipe because it’s one of our favourite cold noodle dishes and also super easy to make.
Spicy Peanut Chicken and Cucumber Cold Noodles
It tastes better than it looks!
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
- 1 package of spaghetti or noodles
- 2 pieces of chicken breast (cut into small pieces)
- 1 English cucumber (julienned)
- 4 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (crunchy)
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce + ½ tablespoon to marinate chicken
- ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil (split into halves)
- Chili oil to taste
- Water (varies)
- The first thing to do is cut up your chicken into small pieces. I try to cut mine into long, narrow pieces to give it a shredded chicken feel.
- Once your chicken has been cut up, marinate it with the minced garlic, ½ tablespoon of soy sauce, and ½ of the sesame oil, and mix it up. Once mixed, let the chicken marinate for as long or as little as you would like. Obvious rules apply: the longer you marinate, the more taste the chicken will have.
- While the chicken is marinating, start to julienne the cucumber and make the peanut sauce.
- For the peanut sauce: in a large bowl, add the peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce, ½ sesame oil, and chili oil. Once all the ingredients are added, stir them together. The mixture will be thick, which is where the water comes in; slowly add water little-by-little and stir it into the peanut sauce. This will gradually reduce its thickness, and you can stop adding water when it has enough of a saucy consistency (basically, you need it to be able to easily coat your noodles).
- When the chicken is done marinating, boil the water for the pasta and heat a pan for the chicken. The chicken can be cooked and set aside while you’re making the pasta. Once the pasta is done, run it under cold water to cool (if you have time, you can also let it cool naturally).
- After the pasta is cooled, get a large mixing bowl, and throw the pasta, cucumbers, and chicken together. Pour the peanut sauce over everything and toss thoroughly so everything is mixed well.
And then you’re done! This is a quick and easy meal that practically anyone can to make during the week, which is a requirement for us because we both work all day.
We’ve tried a few ways of poaching eggs, including using an egg poacher and the swirling method, but I personally like the plastic wrap method the best—it offers consistent results and pretty perfectly poached eggs (the homemade kind, anyway).
- Line a ramekin or small bowl with a small sheet of plastic wrap.
- Brush a few drops of oil (I used olive oil) onto the cling wrap and add any herbs or spices.
- Crack an egg onto the plastic wrap.
- Bundle the egg in a little package, tying the top with twine (I didn’t have any, so I improvised with our silicone food ties).
- Put the bundles into boiling water, and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Pull the bundles out, unwrap the eggs, and serve!
- The oil prevents the egg from sticking to the plastic wrap; it should slide off easily when you unwrap the packages.
- When bundling the egg, try to minimize the amount of air inside because it’ll make part of the package stay afloat, which causes it to cook unevenly. This happened to me, so I used a spoon to submerge the package and to turn it over.
Over the weekend, I was reading this Buzzfeed article, which sparked a craving for stuffed veggies. We had a lot of ingredients kicking around that were perfect for quinoa-stuffed bell peppers, so I decided to do it!
- 1/2 cup of quinoa
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 small cocktail tomatoes, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- Cheese, shredded
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package (we actually use the quick-cooking setting on our Zojirushi rice cooker)
- Sautée onions and celery until soft, season with salt and pepper, and mix them in with the quinoa and tomatoes
- Cut the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds
- Spoon veggie-quinoa mixture into the bell peppers and top with cheese
- Bake in an oven-safe dish or tray for 15 minutes at 350°F
You can swap in whatever veggies you like (if I had corn or jalepeños, I would have used them), and I added cheese throughout :). The peppers can also be baked for another 5 to 10 minutes longer if you want them to be softer.
We had our stuffed bell peppers with butter-lemon pan-fried fish—Matt got the perfect fry with our new fish spatula—and steamed asparagus, which is a perfect way to cap off a Monday night!
Next on my stuffed veggie making wishlist: this falafel-stuffed eggplant recipe!
Work has been absolutely insane, and I’ve been starting to feel really burned out. Fortunately, home life has been the opposite—Matt has been doing a lot of little things to make my life easier and this week was no exception: he cleaned the house from top to bottom, and on Friday, he planned and cooked me a surprise 3-course meal!
Matt did his shopping at St. Lawrence Market (one of our favourite spots in the city), and the 3 courses x 2 people cost less than $40… not bad!
First Course: Gruyère, Duck Pâté with Pistachios, Roasted Bone Marrow, and Sliced Baguette
All of this cost us just over $20. The cheese and the pâté made up a good chunk of that, but the marrow bones were surprisingly affordable (under $6 for the 2!). This was the first time we made roasted bone marrow, so I didn’t realize how easy it was (Matt used this recipe). Obviously, we can’t eat all of this stuff all the time, but it’s good to know that we can make it at home for a fraction of what we’d be paying at a restaurant!
Second Course: Filet Mignon with Caramelized Onions and Figs and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
The steaks were $5 each. After pan searing and baking them, Matt served them with caramelized onions and figs (yum!), as well as our easy roasted Brussels sprouts (see our go-to recipe here).
Dessert: Chinese Steamed Egg Pudding (燉蛋)
When it comes to Chinese desserts, this is one of my absolute faves, which is why Matt chose it! As desserts go, it isn’t too hard to make (I’m not sure what recipe Matt used, but here’s one in case you’re interested), but getting the right consistency can be tricky. Matt’s first attempt was unsuccessful because the heat was too high and the tops should have been covered, but the second try was redemption: they were perfect!
All in all, a great way to spend my Friday night!
This time we just winged it, but last time we used a variation of this recipe
This is a bit of a no-brainer, but one of the most budget-friendly (and healthiest) ways to cook is to use a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. For the most part, fresh produce is inexpensive, and one bunch or package of vegetables can often be used for multiple meals.
Case in point: almost all of the veggies in tonight’s risotto were from other meals made earlier this week. We included some spinach from a bunch that we also used for chicken-spinach patties (based loosely on this recipe) and as part of a quinoa salad. We also used some pea sprouts and honey mushrooms that were used as sides for other meals.
Even the parts of the risotto dish that weren’t fresh were budget-friendly in that they were already in our pantry—we had previously purchased the frozen peas and Arborio rice from this meal! So really, the only items purchased specifically for this meal were the king crab (a splurge), the no-salt-added chicken broth, and an onion (half of which is in the fridge for another meal!).
Overall, this probably equated to less than $20 per person for this meal, which could potentially be a lot more if we went out to a restaurant!
Extra Splurge: Matt also surprised me by bringing home gruyère and pâté, which we put on these delicious raisin-walnut cinnamon mini crisps from ACE Bakery. I love almost all types of cheeses, but I have a special place in my heart for gruyère and any strong, sharp varieties. Because most of these are a bit on the saltier side though, I can only have it once in a while now, and tonight was one of those times! Little slices of heaven…
“It’s like crack!”: Me sampling the cheese in Napa Valley (and feeling the shame after nibbling the goodness off the rind)
As a side note, I’m super excited for tomorrow; we’re hitting up Hopgood’s Foodliner in Roncesvalles Village. Stay tuned for the post-meal blog post!