Meet Craig! He is one of Amir’s friends and work colleagues. Whether they are gushing about the best cupcakes in LA or favorite meals to cook, their very first conversations are centered around food. We’re excited for you to meet Craig and enjoy some great food too! As usual, our friends who participate in the Guest Test Kitchen always pull out interesting meals. This one is no different. Take it away Craig!
“Deciding what to cook is always a chore for me. I’m too inconsistent with what I eat to know if I even have the right things in the house to make what I want. Since my husband can only cook noodles, I’m usually doing 99% of the cooking and baking (or we just eat out). So when I was asked to not only cook something but write about it, I was worried. First I don’t want to give away all my secrets on how I can keep this body AND eat cupcakes almost every other day. And second, I really only had recipes and meal ideas that I either found online or were told to me.
Then I went vegan for 10 days. What? That doesn’t make any sense. Well, if you knew my husband and knew his love for Oprah, then you’d understand. The Oprah Winfrey Show had an episode where her whole staff went Vegan for a week (about 350 employees). I was not feeling the whole meat thing for a while leading up to that, so as my husband sat crying at yet another episode of Oprah, I thought, ‘I can do that too!’
So off I went. Surprisingly enough, there were tons of options at my grocery store and not a fancy-smancy one, but Pavilions. Sure everything was twice as much as real meats and dairy products, but oh well. So I spent about $50 more than usual buying non-dairy and vegan meats. I was picking up stuff I have never even heard of and throwing it into my cart. This is from someone that used to only eat cheeseburgers (plain) and pizza (plain) as a kid.
I got home and my husband was so ecstatic about me doing this, he decided to do it too. But I don’t think he really understood what the rules were (more on that later). I was so happy he was happy about it, even though I knew it had more to do with me listening to something Oprah and her experts had said and less about me becoming a vegan. Nevertheless, off to the kitchen I went!
I had bought so much that I had no idea what to make or do. So I started throwing everything into the wok we got for our wedding and never use. And boom! A new dish is born (even though its probably been made before). The recipe I’m going to share is what happens when you think in you mind, ‘This sounds like it could work’ and then also think, ‘It needs a splash of color, lets add veggies!’ Enjoy.”
First you need a wok. If you don’t have one, I have no options for you. I’m sure a large pan will work. But don’t be cheap – go buy one. Or go get married and register for it like we did. Next you need the ingredients (or variations of them) below. You can switch out most of the options listed. That’s what makes this dish so duo-tastic. What?
Sweet and Sour Cutlets with Udon Noodles – Serves 2
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7 ounces jumbo udon noodles (There are egg-free vegan ones available.)
2 meat substitute cutlets (The ones here are from Lightlife. Or you can use any protein you like–pork, chicken, tofu.)
1/3 cup pre-shredded carrots, broccoli, and red cabbage mix
1/3 cup green peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/2 cup sweet and sour sauce (or you can use any sauce you like)
All the ingredients should look nice and perfect like in the picture before using them. Just kidding. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s very low on the cleanup scale. You just need a wok, and the plate you’re going to eat on, and maybe some utensils. You’re just throwing things in the wok together. No big deal!
1. Marinate the cutlets in the sauce for at least an hour. Overnight is best. (Or you can get the pre-cooked veggie cutlets from Lightlife. They make a sweet and sour kind that are already cooked and marinated in the sauce.)
2. Once marinated, if you are using raw veggie cutlets or uncooked protein, grill it first until just done, then set aside.
3. Heat the vegetable oil in the wok on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the udon noodles and cook them for 2 minutes. The noodles will soak up some of the oil.
4. Next, add the marinated veggie cutlets (or other protein), along with all the excess sauce. Cook in the wok for 2 minutes occasionally stirring around the noodles and making sure the cutlets touch the bottom of the wok.
5. Now flip the cutlets and add the green peas plus shredded veggies. Cook for 4 minutes more. Mix everything around from time to time. The sauce should be snapping and popping. The Wok should be smoking and smelling good.
That’s it. Place the noodles and cutlets onto a plate and enjoy. I call them my Wok-a-licious Udon Cutlets. This recipe makes enough for two people – one cutlet each. Add a salad to the side for more veggie goodness. The salad shown is one of my favorites. Instead of dressing, I like to use citrus in my salads. So I’ll take some mixed greens and add a clementine or orange to it. I’ll place all the slices into the salad and then squeeze one slice over the entire salad. It makes it fresh and sweet.
The plate as a whole is amazing. I use the Smart Choice® Veggie Cutlets. It’s faster and already has the sauce in it. The Udon noodles will be a little mushy, but that’s because they’ve soaked up so much flavor. For less mushy noodles, start cooking the noodles in the Wok at the same time as the protein, but use half the oil. The shredded veggies give the dish a crunch texture that is amazing. And the green peas give the plate color and taste, plus they’re good for you! If you like nuts, you could add them to this and make a pseudo-Pad Thai, but that’s not for me.
So, after making this dish and some other variations of it for my husband and I, he was amazed. He couldn’t believe how good it was. Then he goes on to tell me how he ate a ton of candy at the office for Valentines Day. Of course I let him know how un-vegan that was. Hence why I think he was confused on the rules of it all. Oh well, he is still meat-free and I am not (and it’s been a month), so what do I know?
After that week, I felt great. But I missed my cakes, cookies, candy and some meat. So it did not last, but I have stopped eating certain meats. I eat more fish and rarely have a cheeseburger (Veggie burgers are so good anyway. The black bean ones from Morning Star Farms® are the best).
Even though I’m not a vegan, I can say that I did it 100% (yes this a jab at my husband) for 10 days. And also, since I’m not a vegan, here’s a recipe for my spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting that we love. I found the recipe online and they are amazing!
Spice Cupcakes (adapted by AllRecipes) – 1 1/2 dozen
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened until easily spreadable
2 cups dark brown sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and vanilla.
2. Beat softened butter into dry ingredients with an electric mixer until the batter forms coarse crumbles. Add 1/3 of the liquid ingredients and mix on low, then repeat two more times with the remaining milk. Beat in the sugar until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour everything into paper-lined cupcake tins, filling each one about 2/3 of the way up.
3. Bake about 18-22 minutes, then set on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from tins. Cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from AllRecipes)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add the vanilla, followed by the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth, then cover and chill until ready to use.
2. Frost cooled cake when ready. (Let the frosting sit on the counter for about 30 minutes and stir well before using. This should make it a little easier to spread.)
Click HERE for printable recipes.