Christmas is full of traditions for most families. Caroling, decorating the house in obscene amounts of lights and garish garlands, tinsel or no tinsel, pet Santa costumes, pictures of screaming children with old Saint Nick, stocking hung by the chimney with care, Terry’s Chocolate oranges stuffed into the bottom of your stocking, tables laden with bowls of mandarins, mixed nuts and boxes of chocolate bonbons. But as a young family, we’re still struggling to find out own “traditions”. Of course we carry over many of our parents ways like stockings and trees, cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, watching “A Christmas Story” on Christmas Eve while we snuggle on the couch and drink egg nog (and rum).
But this year I thought I would try and start something else. I’ve always baked for Christmas, whether it was for an office party or to give away as gifts. As a die hard fan of food, I like to make it and then give it away (most of it anyway). So this year I tried some gingerbread. First we made gingerbread men. Kind of a little warm up to something bigger. They turned out just fabulous. It put a spark of joy in my heart when my three year old son woke up the next day, looked at the gingerbread men and asked me when they were going to come alive and run away. Kids really do say the darnedest things. What do you say to that? Crush his imagination by telling him they aren’t going to come alive or try to distract him by telling him to bite the head off before it does come alive and run away? I chose the latter…seemed to work out just fine.
So then I thought, why not tackle a gingerbread house? So many people make them, right? Or is it really, that so many people go out to the grocery store and buy a kit for $12.99? Yeah, that’s probably what most people do. I decided my kid wouldn’t really care about a gingerbread house, but would probably be more excited about something a little more…child-like? A rocket ship? A bulldozer? Well, great ideas they may be, but I am no engineer or architect. So I looked up popular designs on the interwebs and I found that another popular rendition of the traditional shape, is a gingerbread train. Made up of mostly rectangles and circles, how could it be hard?
I told my kid I was going to make it. I drew up plans, I cut them out. I made the dough. I chilled the dough. I rolled it out with my little helper’s help. I cut out the shapes, I baked the pieces off. Then I baked them again…and again. Ovens are fickle beasts…
But I had all my pieces. Then I remembered I had to glue them all together. What to use? I hate royal icing. Were there other options? How about chocolate? That seemed feasible. But then I remembered I had sixteen dozen eggs in the refrigerator and decided to go with the egg white based royal icing anyway, against my better judgment. So we glued. One side. We waited. Two hours. Four hours. Overnight. Then we glued the other side. Is it supposed to take that long? I think I didn’t add enough icing sugar. After four days, I had the train glued together securely (kinda), enough that I deduced it would hold up to the sheer weight of candy I was going to lay upon it. Then I started decorating it. This baby was not going to be laded with seven bags of jujubes, jelly beans, Kiss chocolates and M&Ms. This was going to be sparingly adorned with a couple here and a couple there. It was a masterpiece of engineering folks, I tell ya.
Next year, I’m making a gingerbread igloo.
What traditions I do want to keep though are eating healthy, especially right before and right after Christmas. Here’s why: I have zero will power. ZERO. If you stick food in front of me that I even remotely enjoy, I will eat it. If it stays there or is refreshed, I will continue to eat it. If you bring more to the table, I will eat it. If we are sitting around the table, seemingly finished our meals, and there is food still on the platters, I will pick at it. If it stays there, I’ll probably eat it. Buffet? I’ma gonna eat it all. There are no plates big enough for this gal at buffets. Dessert buffet? Shut your mouth. All you can eat buffet? Now we’re in trouble. I love food. See food, eat it. It’s why I’ve battled my weight my whole life. So now in every day life, I eat very healthy, controlled portions. Because in the back of my head, I know, the next bad meal or huge portion of cake is just around the corner and I’m going to eat it, no guilt. It’s the reason I work out…so I can eat. Well, that and staying healthy and cancer free, of course.
So this stir fry is my way of eating big portions but keeping the calories low. A creamy, dreamy peanut sauce smothered over guilt free veggies and calorie free noodles? I’ll eat this every night of the week, thank you and I hope you will too. Merry Christmas!
One year ago: Chicken Mulligatawny
Two years ago: Quince Crisp
Kelp Noodles and Spicy Peanut Sauce Stir Fry
Yield: Two Servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
For the Sauce:
1/3 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp peanut butter
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 tsp ginger, grated
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sriracha chili sauce
2 tsp Thai red curry paste
For the Stir Fry:
1tbsp sesame oil
1 cup broccoli (florets), broccolini or guy lan, cut into chunks
1/2 a small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
300 g Enoki mushrooms (shiitake or regular white will also be fine)
150 g extra firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces
two packages shirataki noodles, tofu shirataki noodles or kelp noodles (about 8-14 oz. per each package or one large package)**
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped roasted and salted peanuts
1. For the Sauce: Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
2. For the Stir Fry: In a large wok or heavy bottomed pan, heat the sesame oil over medium high heat. Place the broccoli, cauliflower and carrots in the pan and sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Toss in the red peppers, mushrooms and tofu and cook for another five minutes or until all vegetables are cooked through but not mushy (mushrooms are fine to be soft).
4. Prepare the noodles according to package directions (all require rinsing, some need to be cooked while others do not).
5. Toss noodles and sauce into pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat, garnish and serve.
Similarly delicious recipes from other fabulous food blogs:
Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce from Rachel Cooks Thai
African Peanut Soup from Relishing It
Peanut and Veggie Filled Crepes from Book of Yum
Caramelized Onion and Spinach Pizza with Peanut Sauce from A Hippie With a Minivan
Vegan Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce from Lunch Box Bunch