Monday, March 23, 2009

The Most Beautiful Salad In History

Ok, perhaps an overstatement. No ...second thought, it's not. At least not from my perspective. But its not just beautiful, NO SIR-ee it is delicious to boot! According to Ree from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks " (which is where I found this recipe) it is SUBLIME! Do, I agree? Would I go as far as to call it sublime? That would be a resounding HECK YEAH!
I am sure that it does not hurt that this is the first "spring is here, summer is on it's way" dish I have made this year. Chock full of beautiful produce in all the colors of the rainbow. Oh how I LOVE summer! But what makes this salad is the Dressing. The Pioneer Woman has found the perfect ..."did you hear me?" I said PERFECT balance in this recipe. You can change any of the vegetables you like in this dish but don' t DARE change the dressing. I promise you, you won't be sorry. If you have read this blog more than a few times you will know that is a pretty strong statement coming from me. I am usually all about making a recipe your own. BUT DON'T!
You can use any veggies you like in any amounts. I will tell you I used A BUNCH! I also only used a half a pound of dried linguine where the recipe called for a whole pound. Let me tell you this makes a ton! I would not have had a bowl big enough to fit a whole lb. The mixture of veggies I used incorporates all the beautiful colors of nature. If you don't like something leave it out or substitute it for something else but be mindful of the colors. Remember, you taste with your eyes first.

Asian Noodle Salad

adapted from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks"

1 bunch-Boc choy
1 small head Nappa Cabbage
1 Small head Purple cabbage
1 each-Red,yellow, orange pepper
4 Green onions
1 bag Baby spinach (washed and dried)
Small container of bean sprouts (mung beans)
1/2-1 lb linguine noodles
3/4 of a of Bunch cilantro , roughly chopped (about 1/4 will go in dressing)

Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup olive oil
2 TBS Sesame Oil
1/3 cup Soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 TBS fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 hot peppers, finely chopped (serrano or jalepeno)
Cashews (optional)

Cook Linguine according to package directions. Drain, rinse in cool water and drain again.
Whisk together ingredients for dressing and set aside.

Thinly slice cabbages and place in to VERY large bowl. Julienne peppers, thinly slice white and green part of scallions and add to cabbage, Add remaining salad ingredients and linguine.
Pour dressing over salad and toss well. Top with cashews if desired.

Notes: As this salad sits the veggies begin to wilt and lose a little of their wonderful crunch. It is still very good this way but not nearly as pretty. If you are making this ahead don't toss everything together until you are ready to serve. Mix together veggies and place in large ziplock bag. Mix a few tablespoons of dressing with linguine (this will keep it from sticking together) and store in another ziplock bag. Immediately before serving toss veggies, linguine and dressing together.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poke Me With a Fork, I'm Done

It’s official, I am old! My "baby" turned 18 on Sunday. I have found that my birthdays don’t make me feel this way near as much as my children’s do. Face it, we can exercise and use face creams and lie about our age as much as we like. Sometimes we can even get away with it. But we can’t stop our children from growing up.

I don’t typically lie about my age (when asked) but I do like to feel like people think I am younger than I am. But, when someone meets my children or I talk about them or show pictures and I get a "I didn’t know you had children that old." or "You don’t look old enough to have children that age." The image is shattered. The "you don’t look old enough" comment at first feels like a compliment but then there is that unspoken "WOW, you are REALLY old!"

I never thought I would be that woman who wishes she was younger. That’s easy to think when you are 18 or 20 or even 25. Not so much at 42 because 45 is just around the corner and then 50 OMG!!!!

Do I wish I were 18 again? No way! I don’t even wish I were 25. I think I would like to stay about 35. I feel like I really didn’t know "who I was" until I was about 30. Which is why I don’t think anyone should get married, get a tattoo or have a baby until they are at least 30. Did you hear that Kristen???? How about you Ryan?

So, how old am I ? "I am 35!!" what is that you say? "Yes, I did have my first baby at 14!" Dang, that does not support my argument to my children to wait until they are 30 ...does it? Sigh ..ok how about 35 with experience?

On to some food!

I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon looking for a "different" cake to make for my daughter for her birthday. I was flexible. I wanted either something REALLY pretty or something REALLY cute along with tasting good OR something really really decadent. Remember however, that I am not an accomplished baker. I would have loved to make that coconut cake I made last year but Kristen does not like coconut. I also could not make anything with pineapple because Ryan does not like that.

Due to those criteria and a quickly running out of time (for anything complicated) I resorted back to my "go to" birthday cake. I make this all of the time because it’s really easy and personally I think it looks "special". Normally I use multi-colored sprinkles to decorate this cake because it gives it a very festive "birthday" look but I still was striving for that "really pretty" thing.

Did you know that several flowers are edible? Nasturtiums are one that I know off the top of my head along with Pansies. I have long wanted to try them.( I think they would be beautiful in a salad). But, I never felt like I had the right crowd to be receptive to this. I didn’t think my children would eat them but I figured what the heck. No one actually has to eat the flowers, they can push them to the side and they will make this cake beautiful!

I found them at Harris Teeter in the herb section. They are organic and perfectly edible. I did try them and actually found them to be flavorless. This collection was all pansies. Perhaps Nasturtiums might have more flavor. I do plan on using them in a salad at my first spring/summer dinner party!

This Jell-o "Poke Cake" is wonderfully moist and not overly sweet. It’s a little tricky to make as a layer cake so if you are not going for "really"pretty feel free to make it in a 9x13 pan. It definitely falls in to the BBFYB (Big Bang For Your Buck) category!

Jell-o Poke Cake

1-3oz pkg Jell-o

1 packaged white or yellow cake mix

1 -16oz container Cool Whip(thawed)

Eggs, oil, water, butter or whatever you cake mix calls for

Decorations of your choice

Prepare cake according to package directions in 2- round layer pans. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes (after removing from pans)

Prepare jell-o according to package directions. Cool slightly but DO NOT chill.

Place one layer on cake plate (or what ever you plan to serve it on) bottom side up. Place wax paper on another plate and place other layer bottom side down on plate. Using a fork poke holes all over cake (you can’t make too many).

Pour or spoon half of jell-o slowly and carefully over one cake and half on other. Chill for 20 minutes.

"Ice first layer (the one on cake plate) make sure the top is covered but do not make it too thick or the second layer will slide around.

Carefully remove second layer from wax paper a place bottom side down onto first layer. Ice entire cake with Cool Whip being careful not to press too hard on cake or you will get cake bits in your "icing"

Once cake is well covered make peaks in your icing by gently placing knife or spatula into icing and lifting straight up. Top cake with flowers, sprinkles or other decorations of your choice. If you would like to write on cake the gel type of decorating icing (in small tube) works the best.

Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Notes: You can use whatever flavor/color jell-o you like. My favorite is strawberry-banana (and often decorate it with sliced strawberries). My favorite cake mix to use is the Duncan Hines "butter recipe" YUMMY!