Guest Post: Spicy Peanut Chicken and Cucumber Cold Noodles

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

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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)
Directions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. While the chicken is marinating, start to julienne the cucumber and make the peanut sauce.
  4. 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).
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

Healthy Snacks: Kale Chips

The first time we had kale chips was during a trip to San Francisco a few years back, and we’ve been hooked ever since! There are delicious store-bought ones (Solar Raw Food makes amazing Better than Cheddar kale chips covered with bell peppers and cashews that taste just like cheese!), but they’re usually pretty pricey. Homemade kale chips are a lot less expensive and really easy!

Kale Chips

Before: Ready to Bake

Kale Chips

After: Kale Chips! 

Ingredients

  • A bunch of kale
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt or other seasoning to taste

Directions

  • Cut or rip the kale leaves off the stems, then tear the leaves into smaller bite-sized pieces
  • Wash the leaves and dry thoroughly
  • Once dry, put all the leaves into a bowl and toss with olive oil and salt
  • Spread evenly on a baking try lined with parchment paper, foil, or baking sheet
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 300°F

Tips 💡

  • Make sure the leaves are completely dry! Any moisture will make the kale soggy. In addition to air drying the kale, we used a salad spinner and paper towels.
  • You don’t have to tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces, but it makes it easier for the kale to crisp in the oven.
  • Try not to stack/layer any leaves on top of each other while baking because it’ll prevent them from crisping.
  • Some people suggest adding salt after the kale is baked (salt draws out the moisture from the leaves and can make them soggy).

4 Easy Herbalicious Recipes!

herbs

Now that the weather has finally been getting better, I’ve finally started a little herb “garden” at home. My awesome coworker V gifted me some sweet Thai basil, and we’ve recently added regular basil to the mix. Mint is next on the list! Matt and I have been making the most of basil and mint lately, so I thought I’d share 4 easy recipes:

freezies

1. Mint-Watermelon Tequila Freezies: Inspired by this Buzzfeed list (I literally want to make everything on there), which cited this recipe from Hungry Girl por Vida. Mint? Gooood. Watermelon? Gooood. Tequila? Even better! This was SO easy to do and perfect for our weekend at the cottage.

gin-tonic

2. Mint-Cucumber Gin & Tonic: I am very much a gin and tonic girl. While I usually just have it with a bit of lime, muddling some mint and cucumber makes for an awesome and super easy-to-make refreshing summer drink!

caprese-salad

3. Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad): Matt made this salad with his homemade spinach burger patties and steamed sweet potatoes. We didn’t follow a recipe, but it’s pretty simple: layer sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, and basil, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (we didn’t, but you can add salt and pepper to taste). Perfect for summer!

thai-basil-chicken

4. Thai Basil Chicken: Of the 4 recipes I’ve posted here, this one was probably the most involved, but it definitely isn’t as hard to make as it might seem! We adapted this Foodie Crush recipe, and the dish turned out really well—we’ll definitely be making it again!

So there are my 4 easy recipes… How do you use herbs in your cooking?

Lemon Yogurt Cookies…Turned Muffin Tops

While I have some great bakers in my life, I’m not one of them. I prefer cooking more, just because baking is such a science—it requires a lot patience and precision. A slight misstep in measurements, ingredients, temperature, or technique can completely change the outcome, which is what happened to me today!

I was randomly in a baking mood, so I decided to bake lemon yogurt cookies based on this recipe from Welcome Company. I’m not sure if it’s because I halved the recipe, if I under- or over-mixed the ingredients (after my electric hand mixer went berserk and I had to do it by hand), or something else, but my cookies ended up as muffin tops! 😮

Fortunately, they’re still delicious and perfectly lemony. And to be fair, I recently gushed about the abundance of muffin tops sold in coffee shops in Boston. So when life hands you lemons… make lemon yogurt muffin tops! 😉

Lemon Yogurt Muffin Tops

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) of butter
  • ½ cup of lemon yogurt
  • 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice

Note: The measurements are based on what I did, so if you want to play it safe, I’d go with the recipe mentioned earlier!

Directions

  1. In one bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  2. In another large bowl, cream/beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add and beat in the eggs, one at the time. Finally, mix in the yogurt and lemon juice.
  3. The flour mixture can then be gradually added and incorporated into the wet mixture.
  4. Scoop spoonfuls of the mixture 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet/tray (I used parchment paper, but you can use a silicone baking mat or grease the pan).
  5. Bake at 350ºF for 15 to 20 minutes or until just a light golden brown around edges.

*The original recipe involved smaller-sized cookies (teaspoonfuls of the mixture), so the baking time was shorter (~10 to 12 min.)

Fine Dine-In Fridays: 3-Course Meal on a Budget

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

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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

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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)

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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!

2 Easy Meals: Curry Coconut-Crusted Fish + Roma Tomato Sauce Pasta

Over the past couple of days, Matt and I cooked two meals that we consider staples in our list of home-cooked dinner options. It’s driving me nuts that my photos are not the same sizes, but it’ll have to do for today!

Curry Coconut-Crusted Fish

This has become one of our favourites ever since my friend A shared this recipe with me! Instead of fish tacos, we sometimes pair it with veggies or quinoa, and we’ve tweaked the recipe a little bit.

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Ingredients
  • 1 lb white fish (any type you prefer), cut into 4  pieces
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1½ tbsp curry powder
  • Salt to taste

Optional marinating time (30 min): Soak the fish fillets in the coconut milk about 30 min to an hour before cooking. This is not a must, but marinating the fish in the coconut milk gives it a sweeter flavour and keeps it moist.

Prep time (10 min): Mix the shredded coconut, curry powder, and salt in a dish or bowl. Take the fish fillets out of the coconut milk and coat them with the shredded coconut mixture.

Cook time (25 min): While you can pan fry the fish as per the recipe, we opted for baking it until it was golden brown. The fish was baked at 350ºF for 25 minutes (may need to be adjusted depending on the size of your fish).

Roma Tomato Sauce Pasta

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This is my dad’s recipe, and the day we learned how to make this pretty much marked the end of our store-bought pasta sauce days! We now have two go-to “sauces” for pasta nights: homemade Roma tomato sauce or lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil.

The recipe below is more so for the sauce than the entire dish. Matt and I used minced meat with spinach this week, but we often switch it up and use shrimp, mushrooms, and/or bell peppers. A protein or seafood obviously isn’t necessary either—all-veggie works too!

Ingredients
  • 8 to 10 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 156 mL (5.5 oz) can of tomato paste
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Basil, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

Directions: 

  1. In a pan, saucepan, or wok, cook down the diced onions for a few minutes.
  2. Add in the minced garlic, some of the basil, and the chunks of Roma tomatoes. Cook down until the tomatoes have softened.
  3. Stir in the can of tomato paste (you can use ketchup instead, but we opt for tomato paste because it has a little less sodium), salt, pepper, and oregano.
  4. Cook for a few more minutes, adding vegetables or meat/seafood if desired (we opted for spinach with minced meat today).
  5. Serve over al dente pasta, garnish with fresh basil and chili flakes.

Guest Post: Cooking Time with Mattster Chef

Matt wanted to showcase another side of our eating lives: the food we cook! Today, he documented one of our go-to fast and easy weeknight meals.

It may seem like April and I eat out quite a bit but, but we do cook a lot as well. We love food!  Most of the time, we eat at home during the week, and since we work during the day, we plan our meals so that they’re relatively easy to make. And though we want something easy, we like fresh, home-cooked meals and not frozen foods.

So what’s for dinner tonight?

Soy Cumin Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprouts

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Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • Chicken Breast
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Veggies

  • 1 lbs of Brussels sprouts
  • 1 small/medium carrot
  • 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar (you can use less if you want)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • ½ tbsp of garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the prep (15 mins): I usually get home well before April does, so I do all the prep work while she is still at work. For the chicken breast, my suggestion would be to use a meat mallet to flatten out the chicken breast for even cooking time.  This will make it easier for you to predict when your chicken is cooked.

Once you have flattened the chicken, place it into a bowl large enough for you to marinate the chicken.  Add all the ingredients and rub it into the chicken, then set aside. The longer you let it sit, the more flavour the chicken will have. Usually I try to have it marinate for about an hour.

After you have the chicken marinating, peel the carrot and slice it into chunks. Then slice the bottom of the brussel sprouts and halve them. Set all this aside until you are ready to cook.

Cook time (35 min): The toughest part of saving time to eat a soon as possible after a long day at work is the preheating the oven.  This is what I hate the most! I usually start preheating the oven once April gets home so that we aren’t waiting forever.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While you are waiting, toss the carrots and Brussels sprouts in the roasting pan with all the ingredients. Once everything is tossed, make sure as many of the flat sides of the Brussels sprouts are face down in the pan. Once the oven is done preheating, bake for 35 mins.

The chicken will take approximate 4-5 mins on each side to cook.  If you can cook all the chicken in one pan all at once, then start heating your pan when there is 12 mins left on the Brussels sprouts and carrots. Make sure the pan is hot, add a little bit of oil, and fry the chicken at medium-high heat.  Once you see the juice in the chicken is clear, everything is good to go.

After that, it’s time to plate and dig in! I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do!