It is an odd little kid who prefers observing adults above hanging out with other kids, but that is how I was issued. With the focus of Jane Goodall and the sofa as my cover, I studied grown-ups and all forms of their behavior; language, cultural and social norms, and how curiously their developed biology drove their actions. Kids I found to be mostly mean, addled, and ridiculous.
It will not surprise you, then, to know I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The basic components were good, I thought. But jelly seeping through the bread, the gluey palate-sticking nature of the thing, and the whole sandwich mangled by the smacking of a thermos inside the lunchbox of a girl with a purposeful stride? Thank you, but no.
If Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Peanut Sauce had been popular among suburban moms so long ago, it would have been my absolute lunchbox preference. A tangle of chewy buckwheat noodles and colorful crunchy vegetables draped in a velvet cloak of spicy, gingery peanut sauce is arguably the best use of peanut butter. It would have had me daydreaming about girls in Indonesian -- where peanut sauce originates-- wondering if they liked math any better than me, if their parents fought, and whether they moved a lot or got to live in one house their whole life. I would have wished the Weekly Reader to do a story on them so I could know.
This recipe is for my grandchildren should they want something other than jelly and bread with the peanut butter in their lunchboxes.
Chewy soba noodles and crackly-fresh vegetables are draped in a velvety, gingery peanut sauce. Make it in less than 20 minutes for a speedy dinner, but be sure to make extra-- it holds well for tomorrow's lunches or picnics. Easily halved or doubled, this all-ages people pleaser will be a welcome addition to your meal rotation.
3Tbsp.fresh squeezed lime juice or rice wine vinegar
2Tbsp.sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
2Tbsp.toasted sesame oilalso called dark sesame oil
1 tsp. -1 Tbsp.Sriracha or hot chili garlic sauce to taste
1Tbsp.grated fresh ginger and its juice
1-2 grated garlic cloves
10 oz.soba (buckwheat) noodlesudon, ramen, or rice noodles or even spaghetti are also good choices. Use gluten free noodles if you'd like
6 cupsfresh crunchy raw vegetables (see list below to mix and match*)chopped , coarsely grated, or thinly sliced
3-4green onions, sliced
1bunchcilantro, coarsely chopped
¼ cuppeanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
Peanut Sauce (above)
1lime, cut in wedges for serving
In a medium bowl that allows room for whisking, whisk peanut butter to loosen it. Add each ingredient one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. (You are making an emulsion, and adding the liquids slowly in batches prevents a sloshy mess from forming. It will actually go faster this way, and will minimize cleanup.)
Whisk in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce thickly drips from the whisk. You want the sauce to be thin enough to easily coat the nooks and crannies of the vegetables and noodles, but to retain some body. Depending on the thickness of your peanut butter and the room temperature, you will add between 1 Tablespoon and ¼ cup of water. Taste and make any adjustments of sweetener, lime juice, spicy heat, or perhaps salt. Set the peanut sauce aside.
Place a pot of salted water on to boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. When done, rinse in cold water until the noodles are completely cold.
While the water is heating and the noodles are cooking, prep your vegetables including the green onions. Aim for small dice, or thin matchstick pieces so that you can fork up a mix of vegetables and noodles in each bite. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl..
Coarsely chop the cilantro and peanuts. Keep a few tablespoons of each aside for garnish, and place the rest in the bowl. When the noodles are cooked, rinsed, and drained, add them to the bowl. Give everything a gentle toss.
Add about ½ cup of the peanut sauce to the bowl, and give everything a gentle but thorough toss, until all ingredients are evenly coated with peanut sauce. Add more sauce, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the salad is dressed to your liking.
Plate the salad individually or transfer it to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle cilantro, peanuts, and sesame seed on top. Serve with a lime wedge.
Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep nicely for a day.
*Fresh crunchy vegetable options. Use what the garden or farmers market gives you, or what you have in your crisper:
green and/or purple cabbage
red or yellow bell pepper
snow or sugar-snap peas
green or yellow summer squash*
*Best added only if you'll consume the entire recipe right away, as they go soft and watery overnight. I don't mind this, but you might!
The broad category of humans called mothers, like all the other broad categories of humans, are not intractably indivisible and uniform. Nope, the perfect motherhood monolith is just a false notion. Every single person who bears the label "Mother" stands uniquely alone in their personhood. The way each mom fills out their mother-space is theirs alone.
My mom and I live nearly 3,000 coast-to-coast miles apart, or roughly the same distance as it is from my home to Mexico City or Montreal, Quebec. It's been nearly 16 months since I've seen her.
We've missed some big things this year-- we made the most of her 80th birthday celebration with a Zoom party. She's stayed well, the most important thing. But I miss her.
Here are some of the things that make my mom different than all the other moms in the world:
My mom has always had that young-for-her-age cuteness.
My mom has a great sense of aesthetic. It is from her that I learned to group things in odd numbers, what the word monochromatic meant, how to fan a stack of paper napkins with the bottom of a glass, and how to accessorize an outfit.
My mom throws great parties. She makes custom invitations for every event, even a neighborhood weinie roast. She carries a theme all the way through the party, from that early invitation to some little parting gift-- usually something she's made.
My mom made sure that my Christmas birthday was never overlooked. Not one single year in all my years has she ever given me a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper, and she always held some fun birthday party in the midst of the holiday bustle.
My mom was a good cook and made sure she introduced my brother and me to lots of different foods at an early age.
My mom is an intuitive gift-giver. She gives clever, meaningful presents that always surprise and delight.
My mom likes bananas only if they are in the four-hour window of being pale-to-medium yellow and ever-so-slightly slightly green at the tip. At the ice-cream shop she asks to see the bananas before ordering a banana split. Deep yellow or spotted bananas are meant for baking ONLY.
My mom LOVES all things wedding. My mom has made wedding bouquets for more brides than I can count, and a few wedding dresses and cakes too. Her telephone ringtone is Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
My mom hosted a ladies-only royal wedding sleepover for William and Kate and stayed up all night watching the festivities. People from three states attended.
My mom always cries at the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of the national anthem or Amazing Grace, and at goodbyes.
My mom allowed me full access to her kitchen as a tiny little kid. It wasn't her kitchen-- it was our kitchen. She taught me how to use flame and knife safely and didn't hover over my experiments thereafter.
My mom taught me that cleaning up after myself was an important part of cooking and would call me back into the kitchen if I'd slap-dashed through it. I appreciate the sense of discipline she instilled.
My mom is not afraid to be the only couple on the dancefloor.
My mom starts almost every day with coffee and a breakfast bar in bed. Her routine makes me smile.
If I were with her this week, I'd make mom these tasty Banana Coconutty Breakfast Cookies. I'd actually make a double-batch, and zippy-bag them up for her freezer so she'd have a month of homemade breakfast cookies after I left.
What makes your mom the unique person she is or was? Please leave a comment to help us all celebrate our mothers this week.
These breakfast cookies are made with hazelnuts, one of our Oregon treasures. They are naturally gluten-free if you chose GF oats. The contain no dairy, and no added sugar-- just naturally sweetened with very ripe bananas. Don't be tempted to use the green-stemmed ones here. The browner the better and you will never know there is no sugar added.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, egg, olive oil, and vanilla. Set aside.
Crush the hazelnuts with the wide side of a chef's knife blade, then roughly chop the hazelnuts a few times, leaving them somewhat chunky. Slide them into the wet ingredients.
In a food processor fitted with its steel blade, pulse the oats five or six times to begin breaking them down. Add the hazelnut flour and pulse another 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the baking powder, spice of your choice, and salt and pulse another few times just to incorporate.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the bowl, along with the coconut. Stir thoroughly. Leave it sit 5 to 10 minutes.
Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops are light golden brown and the bottoms are lightly browned, switching the pans half-way through. (Teaspoon-sized drops will bake in about 16 minutes; larger drops will take longer.) Allow the cookies to cool on their baking sheets 5 minutes or so, them move them to a cooling rack to complete cooling.
Store airtight for up to 5 days. These also freeze nicely.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.