Monday, June 2, 2014

Asian Week

So my older son, the more adventurous eater, requested "Asian Week" at our house, partly based on the pictures he saw of the May 2014 Cooking Light magazine I was reading (they did look good -- see below).  They did a feature with "quick" recipes, including a few Asian-inspired, so I thought I would give it a try.  I only had it in me to do three nights, though, because there are lots of ingredients and trying to do all the prep for 5 nights seemed a little daunting, given that my kids have soccer practice 4 out of those 5 weekday nights.  So quiche and pancakes provided our non-Asian filler for the week.

The recipes were really pretty simple, and the only ingredient that I couldn't find was powdered peanut butter. The magazine article made it sound so simple, that it could be found "with the peanut butter." Uhhh, no - and I looked in both the regular and natural foods sections of our Wegmans, which tends to have a lot of specialty items.  I should have known better, since I had never even heard of it, but it was also something I had never had to look for, but, being the peanut butter fan that I am, I was pretty surprised to learn about an entirely new peanut butter product of which I had never heard.  :-)

I was seduced, however, by the misleading optimistic "hands on" and "total cooking" time estimates.  When they list, for example, "1/2 red onion, chopped" they do not count the chopping time into the preparation time, at least as far as I can tell.  And for Asian food, that can add a lot more time (lots of peeling and chopping of ginger, lemon grass, herbs, vegetables, measuring out of sauce ingredients), say, 15 or 20 more minutes.  So that 30 minute recipe that sounds so simple turns into a 45 minute race to get a meal on the table before the kids have to leave for soccer practice.

Another tip for Asian cooking: be sure to have all your ingredients prepped and measured (including the spices and liquids) before you start (although you should heat your pan as you're prepping so that it's ready to go), because once you start cooking, it does go pretty fast.

The first night I made Sweet and Sour Chicken, which had the elusive powdered peanut butter ingredient.  I just left it out and added a little extra flour.  I should have left the coating off altogether, because I thought all it did was get everything else all gummy and glue-y.  The rest of the family liked it, though, so I will probably make this again...just without coating the chicken.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

The next recipe was the Vietnamese Caramel Pork. I really liked this, and so did everyone else.  Good flavor, although I have to admit I didn't use the brown sugar.  I had some leftover homemade caramel sauce that I used instead.  Still yummy!

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Recipe

And finally, the Thai Shrimp Curry was my favorite, even if I realized too late that I didn't have the right curry paste, so I punted, using Penzey's Sweet Curry blended with some Thai chili paste that I did have have.  Still was really good.  The color was just a little off <<shrugging it off>>.  No one said I had to be perfect, right?

Thai Shrimp Curry Recipe

(All photos from the Cooking Light recipe website)

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