Udon Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Mushrooms

So, I’m completely addicted to this soup. With summer around the corner, I’m getting a little worried. I’m not a huge fan of soup in the summer, but there’s something about this one. I think I can actually see myself eating it year-round.

The plan was to post my version of Bok Choy and Mushroom Soup, which I typically make with rice noodles. One visit to the Cured by Bacon blog and I’m realising how much better my soup can be. First the chili oil…then a Kaffir lime leaf…by the time I hit poached egg I was done for. I had already planned to substitute the rice noodles for udon so reading his post was perfect timing.

Udon 1

Note: I couldn’t find the lime leaf so I used the zest of one lime instead. It still infused the lime flavour nicely.

Udon Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Mushrooms
Adapted from Cured by Bacon

Ingredients

  • 3 oz udon noodles
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup of bok choy, sliced thick
  • 1 lime, zest and sliced into wedges
  • ½ cup sliced button mushrooms
  • ½ cup sliced shitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 cube of fresh ginger (peeled 1″ square piece)
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

Directions

In a 2 quart saucepan, bring the sesame oil up to a shimmer on medium high heat. Toss in cube of ginger, and the two cloves of crushed (but still whole) garlic.
After cooking for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, pour in the soy sauce, fish sauce and throw in the lime zest. Stir for another minute.

Udon and Mushroom Soup

Next, toss in the mushrooms and bok choy and coat them thoroughly in the garlic oil. Sauté until softened about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Once brought to a simmer, place in the package of udon noodles and cook thoroughly at a low boil for approximately 10 minutes, or until noodles are fully cooked and slippery. Turn of the heat and portion out into your bowl(s), being careful not to include the garlic or ginger.

Top each bowl of udon noodle soup with a pinch of chopped cilantro, a teaspoon or more of chili oil (to taste) and one poached egg.

Poached Egg
From Cured by Bacon

This was my first ever poached egg! She wasn’t too pretty but I’m still proud that I managed to keep the fragile egg intact until I placed it over my soup noodles.

Poached Egg3

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Directions

In a 2 quart saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a simmer. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.

Crack an egg into a bowl, once assured that the yolk has not broken and that no shells have dropped in, gently slide the raw egg into the slightly simmering water.

There will be excess whites that float to the top and essentially separate from the poached egg party, and that’s okay, you didn’t want them to come anyways.

Using a slotted spoon, gently lift the egg out of the water after the whites have set, but the yolk is still giggly and runny inside. Once ready, using the same slotted spoon, remove the poached egg and set on a dry paper towel for the white to continue to set and the egg to dry a bit after its bath.

When the rest of the udon noodle soup is ready, place the egg on top and dig in. The yolk will add a rich creamy element to the fresh bright broth.

Poached Egg2Poached Egg4

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Taco Salad

I have to admit I had my doubts about this one. There are a lot of steps and in the end it’s still just a salad right? Well, I’m happy to report that it was worth the work. Most of all I was surprised how awesome the sour cream drizzle was when it blended with the meat mixture. Everything worked so well together and I didn’t even miss the crisp taco shell. I did however toast some Greek pita bread in the oven, cut it into wedges to serve along side.Taco Salad

Believe it or not, with all the steps noted below, I didn’t include a few items because I figured I didn’t need them. So if anyone is interested, just click on the original link to the recipe from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry and there are additional recipes for Chunky Avocado Salsa and Tortilla Bowls.

Taco Salad
Adapted from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry via Food Network Canada

This is a multi-step recipe. Spiced sour cream may be made a day in advance, but the taco beef is best if made fresh.

Ingredients

Taco Beef

  • 1 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped red onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning (see recipe below)
  • 2/3 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1/3 cup ketchup

Spiced Sour Cream

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning (see recipe below)
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated lime zest

Salad

  • 12 cups chopped romaine or mixed lettuces
  • 1 cup canned corn, drained
  • 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup packed shredded light sharp (old) cheddar cheese (4 oz/113 g)
  • 3-4 Green Onions, sliced

Taco SeasoningTaco Seasoning

  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Taco Beef
Cook beef, onions, green pepper, garlic, and jalapeno in a large (12-inch) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink and vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir often and break up large pieces of meat as it cooks. Do not drain. Sprinkle taco seasoning over beef, then add broth and ketchup. Mix well. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Spiced Sour Cream
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Salad
To assemble salad (either individual servings or on a large platter), layer ingredients in the following order: lettuce, hot beef mixture, corn, black beans, cheese, sour cream drizzle, avocado, cheese, sour cream drizzle, green onion.

Taco Seasoning
Makes enough seasoning for this recipe. You may wish to double the recipe and store the leftover seasoning in an air-tight container for future use.

Scallop Po-Boys with Garlic Aioli

I love seafood, but I don’t get to make it too often because my family is picky when it comes to fish (shellfish or otherwise)

I took a chance with this one but my husband ended up loving it! Maybe it had something to do with the frying, or the garlic aioli, but whatever it was…scallops!Scallop Po-Boy

Bay Scallop Po-Boys with Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Everyday Food, July/August 2008

Prepare this New Orleans-style classic with record-breaking speed: Scallops are naturally moist, so you can skip the usual egg in the breading.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound bay scallops, patted dry
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 4 hot dog buns
  • 4 lettuce leaves

Directions

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, teaspoon paprika, and hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. Set spicy mayo aside.

In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, flour, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon paprika; season with salt and pepper. Add scallops, and toss to coat.

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Working in two batches, fry scallops, tossing occasionally, until golden and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer scallops to a paper-towel-lined plate; season with salt.

Dividing evenly, spread inside of buns with spicy mayo. Top with a lettuce leaf, then scallops. Serve po boys immediately, with lemon wedges.

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

There’s something about the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. I just can’t resist it. I love the way the skin gets all golden and crispy. I place my chicken on a raised roasting rack above a bed of potatoes and carrots. As the chicken roasts they get basted with all the goodness from above until they’re crispy on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside.Roasted Chicken

My husband is so careful. He always chooses the breast meat and peels the skin of his piece. Fine by me, since I’m more that happy to eat the thigh, leg and the golden skin he doesn’t want. Mind you, these days my boys have figured out how great chicken legs are so I haven’t had them in a while, but it’s worth the sacrifice.

Now if only I could get them to eat the roasted vegetables…

Note: When I purchase a smaller chicken, I quarter the lemon to get it to fit inside the cavity. Also, in the original recipe, she indicates 1-1/2 hours cooking time but I’ve always had to leave mine in about 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Oven temperatures vary a little, so make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the chicken.

Rosted Chicken and Vegetables
Adapted from Ina Garten – Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Beer bottle or Chicken Stock, for basting

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.

Brush the outside of the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions and carrots in a roasting pan. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Once the chicken has been in the oven about 30 minutes, baste the chicken and vegetables with a bit of beer (or chicken stock). Move the vegetables around a little, just to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Repeat this process every 20-30 minutes. Once your chicken reaches the desired golden colour tent with foil and continue roasting until cooked through.

Roast the chicken for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Quesadillas

I love sandwiches. And really, aren’t quesadillas just a flat sandwich? If you ask me, they’re the best kind. Hot and gooey on the inside, crisp and salty on the outside. Especially along the edges where the cheese escapes and browns a little in the pan. I always eat that bit first.

My favourite way to make these is in a frying pan with butter, but I do try to make healthier choices when I can. So here’s an easy and healthy option for baking the quesadilla that will save you some calories but still give you the crispy and gooey combination that makes this dish so good.Quesadilla 2

I usually use leftover roasted chicken, but sometimes I use thinly sliced breaded chicken breast for the kids.

Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • Tortillas (I use whole wheat)
  • Roasted Chicken, shredded
  • Cheddar, grated (or cheese of your choice)
  • Green Onions, sliced
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole and salsa for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° degrees.

Quesadilla 1

Place one tortilla on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.
Top with sour cream, cooked chicken, cheddar, green onion.
Lay remaining tortilla on top.

Place a second layer of parchment paper then another baking sheet on top of the assembled quesadilla. Use a weight to help press it down. I use my dutch oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Character Inspirations

About a month or so ago, right in the middle of some revisions from hell, I got stuck. I think what drove me crazy was the fact that I knew exactly what I needed to fix. I just didn’t know how to do it. Or anything I’d write sounded awful as I read it back, over and over, until I scrapped most of my new words and started again. My characters needed more, well, everything. Layers, depth, warmth. You name it, my characters lacked it.

Then, while “researching” online as we all do, I came across Polyvore. That’s when I felt it. A flutter of excitement starting in my chest, spreading out until I couldn’t scroll through the options fast enough. The reason I became stuck in the first place was because I couldn’t figure out my heroine’s next step. On this website, I took a minute to revisit Alyssa. I guess it was kind of like filling out those character questionnaires before starting your story.

Back to Work - Alyssa

Only this time, I woke up with my character in the morning. Decided how she might dress. How would she style her hair. What colours would she choose?

I know this all seems really superficial, but it’s not. For example, below you’ll find a character sketch I created for Alyssa and Max’s first run in after years apart. Every choice I made helped me piece together Alyssa bit by bit.

Her blouse and skirt are sexy but at the same time modest. She’s still a little uneasy in her new life, but the structured clothes make her feel like she’s in control. Even though she’s panicking on the inside.

So then I thought, “Hm. I can do this with all my characters, even the secondary ones.”

Next came Emma…and then Elaine.

It’s surprising where inspiration hides from you sometimes. I hope you can always find yours.