Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Satay Chicken Noodle Salad


Back in May, it was my turn again to host my Stampin' Up hostess club. It was already getting hot, so I was looking for something that would be filling but not too hot or heavy.  This Satay Chicken Noodle Salad was just the thing!

Before I share the recipe, I have to go back to March for a minute. A group of my homeschool mom friends got together and went to Mr. Chen's in Montgomery for dinner. My friend, Wei, is Chinese, and she was our "tour guide" for the night. We ordered about six different dishes and shared, family style. After dinner, we walked around the other side of the restaurant, which is an Asian market. It is my new favorite place! It's right next to Faulkner and church, and I have already made a stop there a couple of times when I had a little time to kill. Fascinating! That's where I got my Asian ingredients for this dish. 

I quadrupled my recipe since I was making it for a group. I am giving you the single recipe below. It would serve a family of four.

Satay Chicken Noodle Salad

1/4 c crunchy peanut butter (what I had - you can use smooth)
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
sriracha to taste (I used about a teaspoon)
juice and zest of one lime
6 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste

(If you can't find sweet soy sauce, use regular, then double the brown sugar.)

This stuff is WONDERFUL! It's thick and sweet. Kinda like a hoisin sauce. Brack loves this on plain noodles.

Coconut milk is used a lot in Asian cooking. I keep some on hand. It lasts forever!

I mixed it all in a bowl...

then put it in a mason jar and stuck it in the fridge. Shake often to mix. Allow at least a couple of hours in the fridge for flavors to marry.

Mr. Chen's has a whole aisle (both sides) of various noodles. I'm not kidding when I say there are probably over one hundred types of noodles. I love these rice noodles, but if you can't find them, you could use angel hair pasta cooked according to directions.

While I was making my dressing, I brought a big pot of water to a boil. I added the noodles and removed it from the heat where they sat for an hour to soften. Do not boil these. They will fall apart.

Satay Chicken Marinade

2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp canola oil
1.5 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken tenders (or two breasts)

I've never been a big fan of curry, so I adjusted the amount by half. It's more than enough, and I actually really liked it in this dish. Plus - my kitchen smelled AMAZING!

Mix your marinade in a bowl.

Cut chicken into thin strips on the diagonal.

TIP - It is easier to thinly slice meat when it is still partially frozen. I cut it up when it was halfway thawed then let it continue to thaw.

Add to marinade and let sit while you prepare the salad.

Thinly slice 1/4 a purple cabbage. Slice four green onions on the bias. I used matchstick carrots to make things easier. Use 1/2 a small bag for a regular recipe.

Add one tablespoon of canola to a non-stick pan and heat. Stir fry the chicken in two batches to keep from over-crowding. Add chicken to hot oil and leave it for a couple of minutes to get good color on one side before turning. Chicken will cook fairly quickly - probably less than two minutes per side if sliced thinly enough.

Drain noodles. Since I was not serving the salad immediately (I had to drive to Montgomery), I tossed the noodles with one teaspoon canola oil to keep them from sticking. 

I used a huge stainless bowl that belonged to my grandmother to assemble and serve the salad since I made so much. I layered the noodles, then tossed the cabbage, carrots and green onions before layering them. I topped it with the hot chicken and covered it with plastic wrap.

By the time I got to Montgomery, the hot chicken had wilted the vegetables ever so slightly. I tossed the salad with the dressing and it was ready! I served it at room temp that night but ate leftoevers the next day straight out of the fridge. Delicious both ways! 

This salad is one of my favorite things EVER. I really thought I was going to have to pull off the road on the way to my meeting that night. It smelled that good! You must try this recipe! My kids begged for a taste of the chicken before we left, so that alone tells you something. I plan to make this again soon. I think I'll marinate whole chicken tenders on skewers and then grill them for the kids. Maybe a side of fried rice? Yum!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Life's a Journey" Tablescapes

I was recently asked to decorate for a luncheon at Faulkner University. "Friends for Faulkner" is a volunteer auxiliary organization at the university which undertakes special projects each year to help pay for student scholarships and un-budgeted projects. I was honored to serve as president when I was employed at Faulkner a number of years ago. 

Each year, one of our "sister" universities will host a summer conference for these groups from around the county, and this year it was our turn. FFF (Friends for Faulkner) chose "Life's a Journey" for the theme for this year's conference. 

My mother helped me pull everything together and actually set up the tablescapes. It's always fun to work with her on a project. Espcially when I'm the boss!

We have a number of beautiful buildings on campus (built during my father's administration, I'm proud to say!), but the Bible Building (home of the V.P. Black College of Biblical Studies) is probably my favorite. Big, bright and airy, it has a beautiful atrium foyer that is perfect for receptions and gatherings. This was the setting for the luncheon. 

Six tables were set for dining and tables for the buffet meal and beverages were also prepared before I arrived.

I began my planning by making a run downtown to the Montgomery Visitors' Center and picked up a number of Alabama maps and brochures for tourist attractions from around the state.

I unfolded the maps and "tore out" the state allowing a border around the edges. I discarded the scraps and used the map as a base for my decorations. Cost - $0!

Six dining tables plus two buffet and beverage tables are a lot to decorate! I wanted them to be similar, but I also wanted them to be interesting on their own. I went through my own home then borrowed from my mother and sister-in-law to complete the tablescapes.

I began by using a tray on each table to hold all my items of interest. Most trays were wood, but there were also some made of metal or woven materials. Then we filled the trays with various items from around the world.

"Life is a Journey" was our theme, so in addition to the state map of Alabama, each tray featured a globe. The carved wooden birds are from one of Daddy's missionary trips to Nigeria during the 1960's. 

Enjoying local cuisine is an important part of traveling, and since this was a luncheon, I included cookbooks on each table's tray. I already owned several with international themes. Brack loves dining in Teppanyaki restaurants, so much so, he bought me a Japanese cookbook for my last birthday! You can see it above. While at Dollar Tree, I found a few more cookbooks that I picked up and used.

I bought these simple black frames at Dollar Tree and filled them with sayings about travel. The little Japanese enamel vase was a gift to my mother from Sister Hudson, a Japanese friend at church.

One of my favorites - in honor of Gerald and Jewell, my Tolkien junkies. The "Aladdin's lamp" is from Morocco (in Epcot!).

I once read where every room should contain a touch of black. These black frames were very classic and served as another way to tie the different tables together.

Most of the items I used are souvenirs, ether gathered on our own travels or brought home to us by friends. This owl is probably the only exception. I found him for $1 at a thrift store! I just thought he was pretty and worked well with everything else on the table.

I had a limited budget, so I tried to "shop" either my home or my parents' for everything I used, but I did buy fresh flowers. I spent around $10 and got these pretty Alstroemeria flowers. I used three stems per vase (those are my mocha frappe bottles!). These pretty flowers come in a number of colors, and last forever! They also have a lot of built-in greenery, which really bulks up the appearance of the flowers. I took these home and changed the water every couple of days. They lasted about 10 days!

Above you can see one of my $1 cookbooks from Dollar Tree. These have already made it into my pile of bedside reading. Who knows when you might need a good Austrian recipe? 

These precious little be-jeweled elephants were a present from our dear friends, the Khadangas, after one of their trips home to India.

Each table had a pretty white and gold votive candle holder with a Moroccan print on the inside. They came from Dollar Tree. 

The cookbook under the carved birds is called "Around the World in 80 Bites" and is a tapas cookbook. This one has a lot of fun ideas!

The mini teapot can be used to serve soy sauce and is another gift from Sister Hudson. The engraved gold covered bowl is from Israel. My greatgrandmother brought it back to my mother in the 1960's from her trip to the Holy Lands. 

The furry little moose came from a trip my parents made to Saskatchewan, Canada. The black obelisk is a nod to the Eiffel Tower. It's usually found on top of a bookshelf in my home office. It came from Kirklands years ago. The pretty globe was on loan from a friend.

Another travel quote rests atop Julia Child's classic French cookbook and one from Central Italy, both from my collection.

The arrows were a gift from one of Gerald's co-workers. For years he has worked with African tribes to help them build souvenir businesses. He imports many of their products for sale in the US, as well. He also gave us the Chinese terracotta soldier.

Over the years, we have had scores of international exchange students at Faulkner. Many of them present my parents with gifts, such as the Chinese coin purses above.

The tiny candle holder above was also brought back by my greatgrandmother from Israel.

I scattered vases of flowers along the back of the buffet table.

More travel quotes. Above you can see the back of a carved owl I found at a yard sale years ago. I have a thing for owls!

This quote is a little less serious than the rest!

More Japanese pretties from Sister Hudson and another Chinese coin purse. The gold and white plate in the middle was a gift to my parents from Bro. Leonard Johnson (one of the founders of Montgomery Bible School  - now Faulkner University) after one of his mission trips to Scotland.

Although the ladies from Faulkner's group provided the food, I provided many of the vessels. Over in the left corner, you can see that I used my Arthur Court serving dishes for the buffet. I also used a few more state maps on the table.

Above is one of my favorite eBay finds ever. It is a light-up topographical globe from the early 1960's. It's not accurate anymore - many places have changed names since it was made, but it's beautiful. It sits in our home office, and I love to use it like a night light. I placed it on the buffet table and plugged it in.

These wooden busts came from Daddy's trip to Africa. The vase in the top right was a gift from a Korean student. 

The wider shot shows a little more of the table settings. I made the little passport notebooks and pens and placed one at each place setting.

Here's a close up of the notebooks and pens. Tomorrow I'll show you how I made these.

Here's a wider view taken from the middle of the room.

If you look closely then you can see that I placed stacks of brochures from state tourist attractions between the place settings. It gave the ladies something to look at and discuss during lunch.

I spent about $50 for everything. I used clear plastic glasses for the beverages (my biggest expense at about $10 for 40 from Party City). I found black plastic plates and flatware at Dollar Tree. It went well with the black picture frames, also from Dollar Tree, and the black accents contrasted nicely with the white cloths and lightly colored maps and brochures. The pretty gold votive holders came from Dollar Tree, as did the extra cook books I found. Flowers for about $10 rounded out my purchases. Not bad for a total of eight tables!


One last look...

I really enjoyed pulling these tablesettings together. There was a lot to look at on each table and the eclectic items created an interesting and well-traveled feel for the luncheon.

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Well - it's been a while! Really busy around here with summer in full swing. I promise I'm gonna get serious and get back to blogging because I have so many things to catch you up on! 

Today we're finishing Brack's 11th birthday party which had a Nerf theme. If you haven't seen it, you can catch up on it here. This is one of my FAVORITE tablescapes. And the best thing? 90% of it came from The Dollar Tree! 


Brack wanted mint chocolate cupcakes for dessert. Sounded great to me, but green icing would totally mess with my color scheme! Easy enough...I just omitted green food coloring in the icing. Looked great and tasted even better!

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c all purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Cream oil, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well.

Sift dry ingredients and alternate adding with milk, beginning and ending with dry. Mix for about two minutes until well incorporated.

I double wrapper my cupcakes. I find that unless you use the heavy foil cupcake liners, once they are baked, the color on the liner is less vibrant and the cupcakes often bleed through a little. So, I generally bake my cupcakes in a white or craft paper brown liner - just one. After they're done, I will use a decorative wrapper for the outside. Don't worry that it's not "tight" around the cupcake. It serves more as a decorative cup.

I also use a quarter cup ice cream scoop to scoop my cupcake batter so they turn out pretty even.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Begin checking at 15 minutes. I like my cupcakes a little under - not wet, mind you, but a little crumb on a toothpick means they're still moist. If it comes out wet, put them back in for a couple of minutes and try again.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing. I used my regular cream cheese icing recipe (one block of unsalted butter and one block of creamed cheese, both at room temp) along with a pinch of salt, about a tablespoon or two of milk and a two pound bag of powdered sugar. Cream butter, cream cheese, milk and salt. Add a healthy teaspoon of vanilla. (In this case, I used a peppermint extract instead of vanilla. The mint went great with the chocolate cupcakes!) Mix well. With the mixer on low, add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the bowl from time to time. The amount of sugar really depends on the weather. Sometimes I can get away with 4 and a half or five cups, sometimes it takes the whole bag.

I try to make my icing right before I use it. You can keep it in the fridge, but it will set up. If you have to make it ahead, take it out an hour or so before you use it and use a hand mixer to fluff it back up.  

I used round punches to make the cupcake picks. I wanted them to look like targets, with "11" as the bullseye! I punched them out and then stamped the number eleven on the smallest circle. I then used a glue stick to adhere it to the blue circle. Then I used my ATG (Advanced Tape Glider) to apply a heavy adhesive to the back of the blue circle, then stuck it to the orange circle with a toothpick inserted between the two. Perfect!

Here you can see how I placed the cupcakes into another wrapper before putting them on the stand. Isn't that pretty? I had these cupcake wrappers leftover from a Miss Manners cupcake party I hosted last year. You can read more about it here.

The cupcakes were a hit and exactly what the birthday boy ordered!

Pretty sure we exceeded the weight limit on the trampoline!

Brack opening presents.

Money from grandparents - always the right size and color!

The kids were told to bring their favorite Nerf gun, but no bullets. I provided the ammo for everyone!

Time out to reload.

Usually the birthday boy or girl chooses what they want for their birthday dinner and I make it, but Brack's birthday fell on a Wednesday this year. Wednesdays we head into town to run errands before church and then meet Gerald for dinner. Brack chose his favorite - Mexican. He had a great birthday! Can't believe my baby is ELEVEN!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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