Udon of a New Day

Instant noodles are the staff of life. Globally, they sustain wild swaths of the population, satisfying picky children to discerning adults, proving a quick fix for the hapless homemaker and the harried office worker alike, fitting the bill for both impoverished college students and affluent entrepreneurs. Curly bricks of ramen, dried, fried noodles, make the world go round.

There’s so much more to slurp, though, with considerably fresher appeal. Udon, thick as double-braided nylon rope, make ramen look like limp spaghetti by contrast. Dense, chewy, substantial wheat noodles, it’s hard to improve upon the classic soup base.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course.

With just a bit of quick knife work, cut cubes plunge into bubbling hot oil rather than plain water to meet a crispier fate. Compulsively munchable, savory, and salty, these noodles are more than a last-minute dinnertime staple. Serve them with drinks for a new happy hour hit, pack them up for snacking on the go, or toss them into green salad as upgraded seasoned croutons.

Up until recently the best varieties could only be found frozen, flown in from Japan. Now the edible art form is available in the refrigerated aisle, made right here in the US by Fortune Noodles. Offered with a mushroom seasoning specifically and boldly labeled as VEGAN right across the front, they come out with the perfect texture and balanced yet bold umami broth every time.

Check out more inspiration from JSL Foods via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Plus, if you join the Noodle Club, you’ll be rewarded with a high-value freebie coupon right away at Stater Bros, Safeway, Von’s, Aldi, Lucky’s, SaveMart, Food Maxx, Food 4 Less, or Raley’s.

There will always be a place in my heart, and my pantry for instant ramen, but no one noodle can do it all. Fresh udon makes greater snacking opportunities possible.

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Say Cheese!

Names, dates, phone numbers: my memory fails me on these specifics nine times out of ten, embarrassing me to no end when I’m introduced to the same person for the seventh time. The one birthday I will always remember, of all things, is for someone I’ve never even met. Amy, the inspiration for Amy’s Kitchen, shares my same birth year, making it even more astonishing to recognize over 30 years of vegetarian and vegan meals made available to the masses, all from such humble beginnings. Those frozen samosa wraps, tamale pies (RIP), and vegetable barley soups saved my life back in high school, before I could even operate a toaster without causing a conflagration.

Where so many brands have failed and folded, Amy’s Kitchen has grown in leaps and bounds, expanding their dairy-free options exponentially while still maintaining high quality standards, and an endless hunger for both adventurous flavors and down-home comfort foods. Breaking into 2020 with a boom, Amy’s Kitchen has just unleashed a new line of ooey, gooey, cheezy vegan entrées, including two pasta dishes and two Mexican-inspired options. They’re all going into regular rotation here as emergency dinners at Casa BitterSweet, but if I had to play favorites, my money would be on the Vegan Broccoli & Cheeze Bake.

I’m rather picky about my pasta, to put it lightly, and I was stunned to realize a few bites in, going back to read the label, that these noodles were gluten-free, too. Tender, chewy, springy, the texture surpasses that of most average frozen wheat options, too. There’s no sacrifice nor compromise for accommodating such a range of dietary restriction; nothing makes it into the bowl but delicious, creamy instant gratification.⁣

You really can’t improve on perfection, by definition, but you can match it on the same level in an equally compelling, yet wholly unique way. That’s where these fool-proof party starts come in.

Baked, not fried, to golden brown and crispy brilliance, this is the halfway homemade food hack that could very well become the stuff of legends. Better than mozzarella sticks, they won’t start to congeal and lose their luster the moment they hit the table. The breading ensures easy prep, no culinary skills required. Banishing greasy fingers by adding no extra oil means you could be saving your sofas- and stomachs- from unnecessary anguish later, too.

Tender spiral noodles and organic broccoli, bathed in luscious, creamy vegan cheese sauce burst forth from their crisp breaded shells, a rush of comfort and savory satisfaction in every bite. This is one unforgettable finger food that will serve you well for many happy years, too.

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Binge-Worthy

Curling up on the couch to watch big ticket movies on the small screen is quite arguably America’s favorite pastime. Theaters are hurting as ticket sales plummet and uneaten popcorn goes stale, but it’s hard to compete with the instant gratification of home viewing. “Netflix and chill” is more than a libidinous euphemism, but a genuinely innocent evening activity, as 158 million global subscribers would agree.

Well, I don’t have a couch, nor a TV, but I do have a cozy queen-sized bed and fully charged smart phone. While movie night at Chez Hannah looks a bit different than most, it’s no less glorious of an event. Of course, snacks are a mandatory, essential element, no matter how how late the featured flick drags on. Unlike concession stand limitations, having a full kitchen at my disposal allows for every craving to be satisfied, hot off the stove or fresh from the freezer.

Naturally, as I work on my seventh cookbook, this one all about ice cream, I find myself wrapped around a frosty pint more often than not. Apparently I’m not the only one with such cool inclinations, though.

Connecting the dots, Ben and Jerry’s has just unleashed an exclusive new flavor, Netflix & Chilll’d, upon the world. Showcasing a peanut butter ice cream with pretzel swirls and fudge brownies, the conventional pint has been released alongside a non-dairy, certified vegan variation!

Not gonna lie, Ben & Jerry’s gave me the full hook up.

  • Fluffy slipper socks? Check.
  • Wireless bluetooth speaker? Check.
  • Double-wide stainless steel spoons? Check.
  • Insulated pillow with built in pint holder and phone stand. Oh CHECK yeah!

It should come as no surprise this dynamic duo knows how to chill, no holds barred.

What really matters most, of course, is the scoop itself. Finely ground pretzel pieces combined with the creamy peanut butter base evoke the sensation of biting into a creamy butterfinger candy bar. Notes of malt linger with each lick, compliments of the burnished pretzel’s surface. Soft brownie chunks give way easily into the ice cream, melting like chewy squares of fudge. Nutty, crunchy, gooey, and decadent above all else, I think the critics would give it a standing ovation, even if they had to crawl out from under the covers to do so.

Full of sweet and salty twists and turns, this pint plays out like a good drama with a happy ending.

Hot Take on Hot Lunch

Living in the moment is best way to experience life, unencumbered by past regrets and future concerns, but it certainly has its pitfalls, too. Wrapped up in summertime revelry, I didn’t even realize that we’re fast approaching doomsday for every child and young adult under the age of 18: The first day of school. Creeping earlier and earlier across the calendar every year, I feel a bit blindsided to learn that local school will be back in session as early as next week. What kind of cruel joke is that, to pull children out of the sun’s golden glow, away from the beckoning beaches and parks, stuffing them into stiffing locked rooms without windows, without joy, without apologies? Hopefully the transition isn’t as harsh as memory suggests, but it’s still a hard sacrifice to make for anyone yearning to squeeze the very last drops of sweetness out of this fleeting season.

If there was anything that could inspire any enthusiasm for this kind of sacrifice, it would have to be the promise of good food. Of course, that’s pretty much the opposite of what you can expect from any institutional cafeteria menu, which is why a properly packed lunch is essential. Though the dark days of school lunches are well behind me, the memories of soggy PB + J sandwiches and stale granola bars are indelibly seared into my memory. No one should have to endure such hardship, especially if they hope to put any positive energy into their education after noon.

Ages ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was still in high school, I developed a compact little e-book entitled Lunchbox Bites, filled with all the sweet and savory morsels that got me from homeroom to sixth period. No longer available for sale, it’s been languishing among all the forgotten recipes gathering dust in my digital archive. It seems such a shame to waste this potentially helpful resource, as new generations of young vegans grow up with the same hunger for quality nutrition as I once did.

For the love of food, for the good of the community, I’m now making Lunchbox Bites completely free to download. Bringing back old favorites like Coffee Buzz Energy Bars and Root Beer Pudding, there’s plenty for students of all ages to enjoy. Even if you’re just a student of life, there’s never a bad time to enjoy a big batch of Hummus Crackers, too.

Forgive me, if you would, for the antiquated terminology and terrible photography. Consider it an heirloom, a relic of a bygone era. “Margarine” should be read as “vegan butter,” “soymilk” simply as “non-dairy milk” (any variety will do), and canola oil, while fine, would be better if replaced by a light olive oil, avocado oil, or rice bran oil. There’s still a whole lot of good to reap from these basic concepts, and I must admit, it’s somewhat charming to take in the full glory of this throwback to a simpler time.

Prepare yourself properly for a brand new school year; don’t show up hungry, and if you’re feeling particularly generous, make sure you bring enough to share with the class. Cafeteria food doesn’t hold a candle to anything homemade.

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Snack Happy

Blindly groping through my overstuffed bag, I fumble with the house keys, stray business cards, forgotten orphaned earrings, but of course not the target of my increasingly urgent search. It’s pushing well past the dinner hour and I’m still stuck in transit, stomach rumbling, far from a proper meal. Where are those meatless jerky strips I always tuck into the side pockets? There should at least be an old, slightly smushed protein bar languishing at the bottom. Hell, I’d even take an stale pack of crackers, pulverized to a finely powdered state right about now. Just when my desperation reaches fever pitch, I hit pay dirt: Olives.

Majestic purple Kalamata olives, briny and rich like red wine, these edible jewels are a gift straight from the Greek gods. They say that hunger is the best spice, but even without a gnawing emptiness in my stomach, they’re a real savory treat to behold. Sometimes it’s the firm bite of a pimiento-stuffed Spanish Manzanilla olive that comes to my rescue, or a meaty black olive, whole or sliced. It’s not your traditional snack pack; it’s far more satisfying.

Providing the antidote to sugary packaged snacks, Lindsay Snack and Go! Olives offer satisfyingly savory relief for the everyday snack attack. No excess liquid to spill, no refrigeration necessary, these perfectly portioned little disposable cups are the ultimate travel companions.

Olives are cultivated all over the world, so shouldn’t they have a place in your everyday adventures, near and far? Personally, I would never leave home without reliably delicious sustenance on my side. Have snacks, will travel!

Use the promo code LINDSAYVIP19 to receive 20% off your order of Lindsay Snack and Go! Olives on ilovelindsay.com.

This review was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Lindsay Olives. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

 

 

 

If it Ain’t Got That Spring, Then it Don’t Mean a Thing

Fleeting warm breezes tease on cool mornings, while sporadic rays of sun manage to break through cloud cover, gently kissing still frozen earth. Tempting, taunting, spring arrives in maddening snippets too short to savor at first. Right when you begin to peel back layers of heavy sweaters and fold up thick comforters, winter rages back in with a vengeance, more brutal than before, crystallizing budding sprouts into frosted popsicles or piling on a fresh coat of ice, depending on your locale. Every time it seems certain that the seasonal shift has taken place, hopes soar high on those fresh winds of change, and crash hard like a kite with no string, back down into the forbidding frozen tundra.

For the first time in recent memory, the calendar date actually seems to align with the weather. Spring resonates through dewy grasses, shouting its arrival from the rooftops of micro gardens across the urban landscape. At least in the bay area, the changing of the guard has officially occurred, and I’m more than ready to reap the benefits.

Spring is all about fresh greens in so many forms. Tender, sweet curlicues branch out from between soft pea leaves, one of the best if underappreciated parts of the whole plant. Though it’s a tough sacrifice to cut these vines down in their youth, before pods appear bearing those toothsome green caviar, the greens themselves are a true delicacy that are worth a splurge. Typically found in Asian cuisine, stir-fried very simply with a splash of wine and a handful of garlic at the most, their full potential has yet to be realized in western culture.

Borrowing inspiration from Spanish tapas, the term “cazuela” simply indicates the terra cotta cooking vessel for the dish, much like you would refer to a tagine. Contents of that pot vary widely across countries, always encompassing some sort of vegetable, though sometimes meat as well. The version from Barcelona Restaurant, based on spinach and chickpeas, inspired my springtime spin-off.

Deceptively rich and complex but full of verdant, simple vegetables, think of it like a warm spread that falls somewhere between hummus, pea puree, and spinach dip. Masses of fresh pea leaves wilt down into a concentrated tangle, amplified by the fruit of the pods themselves with a garlicky, cumin-forward taste that will linger with each bite.

If Mother Nature remains stubbornly resistant to embracing a timely spring conversion in your area, sunflower sprouts or baby spinach might just be able to suffice in a pinch… But the best things remain for those who wait. Ask around at local farmers markets, search ethnic markets for dòu miáo (豆苗,) or head to the backyard and get growing. Though it may sound like great lengths to go for just a handful of tiny sprouts, you’re only 1 – 3 weeks away from the best taste of the season, and it won’t get any fresher than that.

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