Mom Needs Grace

Musings on the life redeemed & purpose redefined

A random recipe (with too much commentary) June 11, 2011

Filed under: food — dayna @ 11:55 pm

This fairly well-known salad is one of our summer favorites.

It has been known to be eaten by the bowl-ful at our house, out of Ziploc bags on the beach: (can I get an amen, long-lost Rocky Point ladies?), and out of large styrofoam cups and emesis basins at night-shift potlucks.

It is super-easy. Just chop, shred, drizzle, mix. Even easier if you take a short cut or two… use your imagination.

Here is the straight-up traditional version I begin with:

Asian Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups chicken shredded into long strips
  • 1 head of cabbage sliced thin
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced almonds toasted
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds toasted and ground
  • 2 packages top ramen uncooked and broken up (save flavor packets)

Mix all together.

For dressing-

  • 2 packages top ramen seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil

Pour dressing over. Mix. Refrigerate over night. Check seasoning. Add vinegar, sugar, oil to taste.

And here is how we make it our own (mostly by not being so precise):

  • I usually just bake a bag of frozen boneless chicken thighs or breasts, drain them, and shred them. (You can even put the juice in the dressing instead of some of the oil). We prefer dark meat, but the breasts probably shred a little more easily and aren’t too dry when mixed in. Last time, the husband grilled them and added yet another layer of flavor.
  • I do a whole head of cabbage (or two for a double batch), but once used bagged shredded cabbage and it did save a bunch of time.
  • Green onions- yup.
  • I’m generous with the almonds, especially since they come in a 6 ounce bag. I just toast the whole bag in the toaster oven (it really brings out the flavor) and throw them in.
  • The sesame seeds I toast, but don’t bother grinding.
  •  The ramen is all the same- just with different flavor packets. I usually buy one Chicken flavor and one Oriental flavor. Again- DO NOT COOK!

The dressing- where I really rebel 😉

  • I use a lighter touch with the ramen seasoning. I put in most of it- but not all. Sure wish there were a healthier alternative…
  • Light touch with the sugar too.
  • Generous with the pepper.
  • I use balsamic vinegar because we prefer the flavor. The salad is darker (see above) and not quite as pretty as the original, but we think it is tastier and you can save on the sugar.
  • I tend to substitute 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • I don’t usually have sesame oil hanging around, so I use the vegetable oil here. I’ve also experimented with other oils such as grape seed or almond, and they added nice flavor elements.

There you have it. Whether you asked for it or not.

I would love to hear your variations. Anyone found a healthier ramen noodle or seasoning packet alternative?


On a lighter (but not reduced calorie) note… February 8, 2011

Filed under: Better life,food — dayna @ 1:33 am

Shades of gray

A couple of weeks ago our kitchen island “play-doughing” turned into actual baking (ok- sort of actual baking).

My mom had come for a visit a few weeks prior, and while visiting introduced my girls to the delights of one of my childhood favorites…monkey bread.

Oh my. The whole experience left quite an impression on the three-year old.

Don't worry, there was no mixing of media.

Well, on this particular grey play-dough day, we were scheduled to attend a potluck style baby shower.  We still had all of the few, (and I mean few), simple ingredients to make this monster, so monkey bread was the obvious choice. The big sister was delighted and didn’t even seem to  mind pushing aside her” baby-sister’s-naptime-playdough-creation” to bake something real.

If there is a pre-schooler or perhaps even toddler in your life, this is a great recipe to bake (I use the term loosely), because it is fun and easy for little hands to make, fun and easy for little hands to eat, and involves very little mess or clean up. There aren’t even any mixing bowls involved. Seriously!

In action

And there is popping and shaking!

You basically cut up pieces of already made popping-can buttermilk biscuits, drop them in a freezer bag with cinnamon and sugar and shake ’em. (Add your favorite “shaking” song and dance moves for really genuine three-year old giggles. I happen to have a few in my repertoire. The originals probably weren’t appropriate for her little ears, but the cleaned up mommy versions seemed to do the trick).

Next you dump the cinnamon and sugar coated pieces into a bundt pan, drown them in a heavenly brown sugar-melted butter mixture and throw it in the oven. That’s it.

The link to the actual recipe is here.

I think it goes without saying that this stuff has virtually no redeeming nutritional value. But it is decadently delicious. Buttermilk biscuits, brown sugar, butter. Some seriously tasty b- words.

I have to admit that I briefly considered ways to possibly” health it up”. We did happen to use one can of  Trader Joe’s brand biscuits because our leftovers from the Mamaw visit were one short.  They were supposedly all natural, preservative free, and worked just fine. I think I would use all this kind next time. Shh! Don’t tell Pillsbury. I also noticed that the recipe on the website (which I didn’t look at until now) includes walnuts and raisins. A little protein and crunch wouldn’t hurt to balance things out.  But for a first attempt, ours seemed to turn out just fine…


Sadly, the event we were supposed to attend was cancelled, and after lunch our family was forced to enjoy some of this stuff still warm from the oven.

Tiny taste tester

Do not, I repeat, do not let this happen to you. Find a party to attend, or invite people over…QUICK! You will eat inhale the whole thing. 🙂

Have you made or enjoyed monkey bread? Got any interesting variations? Is all your play dough gray?