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Peanut Sesame Noodles September 29, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in Chinese, pasta.
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dandanmien

As a student cooking for one, I need meals that are quick and easy to prepare. This dish is super easy to throw together and is absolutely delicious! The sauce can be prepared in advance, and the leftovers saved for more noodles another night, or used as a dipping sauce for whatever you’d like.

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Food Mayhem

This recipe is mainly for the sauce. You can garnish with whatever you think is suitable. Traditionally called dan dan mein, it is topped with julienned cucumbers, minced pork, and crushed peanuts. I used lettuce because that’s all I had. You can also add Siracha sauce in place of chili garlic sauce.

whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy – your choice)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 – 2/3 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced (add more or less as desired)
chopped lettuce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (adjust to your own taste)

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente or tender, according to your preference.
In a medium sized bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar,water, and minced garlic. Add water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Add more for thinner sauce, less for thicker.
Drizzle sauce over cooked noodles then top with chopped lettuce and dollop the chili garlic sauce. Stir just before eating and enjoying!

Homemade granola September 16, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in breakfast.
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granola

Have I mentioned that I love oatmeal? And granola? And granola bars? Let’s just say I take well to anything that involves oats. Streusel toppings and crisps included. I find the nutty flavor and chewy texture of oats very appealing and comforting, especially with a dash of cinnamon added.

I’ve been wanting to make some homemade granola ever since I ran out of the stash I bought from the market a couple weeks ago. What with the constant invasion of ants, however, I’ve been avoiding the kitchen for the past week. So I took advantage of the temporarily spotless countertops and threw this granola together. It was quick, required a minimal amount of bowls, and didn’t involve any steps where I would have been likely to spill flour and sugar everywhere.

The resulting clusters of oats were delicious! Nicely crispy and chewy at the same time, sweet, cinnamon-y and healthy. But that healthy isn’t going to be any good if I continue to eat it the way I have been ever since it came out of the oven. That is, constantly.

Homemade Granola
adapted from Think Inside The Icebox

This goes great with vanilla yogurt and some fruit. One of my favorite combinations is mixing granola with honey nut Cheerios and milk. Feel free to add in your favorite ingredients! I don’t have raisins or cranberries in my granola because I don’t particularly like dried fruits. But that’s the glory of homemade granola – it’s customizable! (and cheap)

3 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toast the almonds in a large pan over medium heat, stirring constantly for about five minutes, or until golden and aromatic. In a large bowl, combine oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and toasted almonds.

In a small saucepan, combine applesauce and honey. Heat until the mixture is thinned, about two minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour the liquid over the dry mixture, stirring with a spatula until well coated. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 30 minutes. (Less time for softer, chewier granola and more for drier, crispier granola)

When cool enough to handle, stir lightly to break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Spicy mac n’ cheese September 9, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in pasta, savory.
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macheese1

Working in a retail store, I get to see a wide variety of people. They range from the friendly, courteous-to-the-meticulously-folded-stacks type to the mothers cranky from the heat and annoyed with their rowdy kids to the foreign exchange students and recent immigrants who don’t know how to speak more then ten words of English. Each day, I never know what kind of people I’m going to encounter, but I greet and help each customer with the same cheery smile and happy-to-help-you attitude.

During evening and nighttime hours, the store gets more family-oriented and friendly-customer traffic. People go shopping after eating dinner, charged with the feel-good energy from hearty food and relaxation. Food plus cooler weather with friends, family or a significant other? There couldn’t be a better recipe for a good mood. One Friday night, while I was working the closing shift, I asked one of the guys meandering around the store if he was looking for anything special (aka, what are you shopping for and is there anything I can help you find). Just then, his girlfriend or wife joins him, and he replies, “I already found her.” And smiles. I smiled back, my heart gushing at his sweet statement, thinking “man, that girl is one lucky girl.”

But she’s not the only one with good luck, becuase I think I’ve struck it rich with the special guy in my life. And on some nights, nothing beats cozying up close to him with a big bowl of comfort food and a feel-good movie. So what made it into our dinner bowls on a lazy night in? Well, it’s not hard to guess from that ridiculously yellow hue. Yup, Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Normally, we just steam up some rice and stir fry some veggies and meat, but last night there was no fresh food in his fridge. None. Only because my boyfriend was going back home for a few weeks, though, and used up all the fresh food before it got the chance to go bad. But it’s very unlike me to cook just plain mac n cheese, or just plain anything when I’m in the kitchen, so we mixed in whatever looked good in the pantry: corn, spam, and some chili garlic sauce for heat. Can you say Asian-American fusion? I was looking for something spicy and that happened to be the only thing sitting around, so into the pot it went. And it was great! A whole lot better than we expected, especially with such a random combination of ingredients. The chili garlic sauce gave it a nice, satisfying heat. However, I don’t think garlic and cheese is the greatest of combinations. Next time around, I’m gonna omit the garlic and find something that’s just purely spicy. But that’s what cooking is, right? Trial and error.

macheese2

Kicked Up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

This dish is infinitely versatile. You can add in or substitute just about anything – leftover chicken or shrimp for Spam, red pepper flakes for the chili garlic sauce, or anything else you imagine will taste good! Just as we finished cooking, we realized that we did have one fresh ingredient – an onion. Next time, that onion is going to make it into the pot.

1 box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
6 cups water
3 tsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
1 6 oz can whole kernel sweet corn (frozen will work too)
1/2 can Spam, diced
3 tsp chili garlic sauce (or preferrably something non-garlicky)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add macaroni and cook about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan. Cook the diced Spam until browned, about 4 minutes. Drain the canned corn, and add to the pan. (If using frozen corn, just add it directly, no need to thaw) Season with salt and pepper, then cook until heated through and set aside. When the pasta is cooked, drain, but do not rinse, and return macaroni to the pot. Add butter and stir to melt. Add the milk and the cheese packet, stir. Add the Spam and corn mixture to the macaroni and stir to combine. Add the chili garlic sauce, adding more or less to suite your taste. Serve and enjoy!

Peach banana smoothie September 6, 2009

Posted by sugarandbliss in drinks.
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smoothie top view

Sometimes, in scorching summer heat like this, all I want to do is settle down with a nice cool glass of something refreshingly cold. And after coming home and escaping from 100 degree heat, I did just that. I made myself a peach banana smoothie. It satisfied my craving perfectly – it was cold, it was thick, and it was healthy. It didn’t leave me feeling guilty either for indulging in something so good! At home, I can control what goes into my food and drink, so this smoothie has no added loads of sugar or high fructose syrup stuff like those other drinks from fast food and drink places. Plus… one of the best parts for a poor college student like me – this smoothie was free!

peachban smoothie

Peach Banana Smoothie

This smoothie can be made with whatever yogurt and fruit you happen to have in your fridge or freezer. I had some peach yogurt in the fridge, so I used that. I imagine vanilla, strawberry, or other fruity flavors would make some great flavor combinations too. If you don’t have yogurt, feel free to use milk or soymilk. Smoothies are incredibly flexible!

Crushed ice (amount varies with the size of your glass)
1 frozen banana, chopped
6 oz. peach flavored yogurt

Fill your glass halfway with crushed ice. Add the yogurt on top of the ice (whether you’re using milk or yogurt, your glass should be about 3/4 full). Pour into the blender and blend a bit before adding the chopped banana. Blend the mixture until smooth. Pour back into your glass and enjoy! Easy right?