Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

A cool and rainy spring in Saint Paul keeps me cooking indoors.  Typically I’d be raking together a salad while Dave grilled chicken or salmon.  Instead, just back from our happy daughter Emily’s graduation from seminary at Princeton, I’m slaving over a hot stove.  Well,  not really.

Here is Emily with her proud parents.  We sang in the choir! Go, Emily!

I will say that once I decided to make and blog some Asian noodles, they were everywhere I looked online.  Like this version from FOOD AND WINE.   I ignored all that and forged ahead.  Hmph; great minds think alike, etc.

If you’re looking for something luscious, filling, and healthy for dinner with plenty leftover for a cold lunch or tomorrow’s dinner, this is your meal.   The short story is that you cook up some noodles with snow peas, asparagus, and shrimp.  You stir in all kinds of things to make it taste good, and let your family or guests choose their toppings — a variety of chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, lime and nuts– at the table.

OR:  Add just the vegetables and “sauce” ingredients (skip the shrimp), along with the peanut topping, and you have a great side for meats you might be grilling for Memorial Day.  I picture this with  salmon, pork chops, or chicken, perhaps those that have been lolling around in an Asian marinade before grilling.

Try this photo recipe:  (Ingredients are in bold type.)

sesame-shrimp noodles with fresh vegetable toppings

4 servings
8 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points per serving

Place 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until light brown.  Remove from heat; pour into a small bowl and place on table.  Chop 1/4 cup plain peanuts, scoop into another small bowl, and place on table.

Pour 2 tablespoons canola oil into the skillet over low heat and add 1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic.  Cook a minute or two or just until garlic begins to color.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring 5-6 quarts of salted and peppered water to boil for the pasta.  While it heats, chop 1/2 cup each bok choy, fresh cilantro, scallions (green onions), and cucumber.  Chop all of one red bell pepper.  Cut a lime into wedges.   Place the vegetables and the lime wedges side by side in a large bowl or in separate small bowls and put them on the table by the sesame seeds and peanuts.

To the by now boiling water, add one pound whole wheat linguine (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best) and cook for about 7 minutes.   Stir in 3/4 pound (12 ounces) fresh peeled and deveined shrimp, a cup each of stringed+ fresh snow peas and chopped fresh asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp is firm and pink and noodles are nearly tender.

  Drain pasta, shrimp, asparagus and peas.  Pour back into the pot and, while hot, stir in garlic-ginger oil,  a generous pinch of crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1/4 cup  soy sauce and 1  tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of Sriracha,  and the juice of one lime.   Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, or lime, if needed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in shallow pasta bowls; pass fresh vegetables, extra lime slices, soy sauce, and chopped peanuts so that guests can add what they’d like at the table.

Cook’s Notes: 

+Destringing snow peas  If you don’t destring your snow peas, you’ll be flossing (without meaning to) during dinner. 

If you have a vegan or vegetarian in your group, cook the shrimp separately and place it in a separate bowl on the table.  You could add sauteed tofu, if desired, or 2 -3 tablespoons peanut butter to the soy sauce mixture.

If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can add sliced chicken with the garlic-ginger oil instead of cooking shrimp with the noodles.

Vegetables are very interchangeable; please add what you have or you like.  For instance, julienned carrots could be used instead of asparagus or sliced celery in place of the snow peas.  

My lilac are in bloom–finally.  But it’s too cold and rainy to go enjoy them.  Hopefully tomorrow!

Sing a new song,

One-Pan Salmon with Whole Wheat Pasta and Vegetables–A Picture Recipe

My friend Jill says, “We’re always looking for something else to do with salmon.”    My friend Jim says, “Give me a side that I can make on Monday, but have enough leftover for lunch or dinner; I just want to grill a little fish or chicken each night.”  As for me,  I like cooking anything in one pan, and while this isn’t exactly in one pan, it could be if you use fresh pasta.

This simple, but filling, healthy, and tasty entree fits the bill for all three of us and I hope for you, too.  Serves two with a lot of vegetables and pasta–good hot or cold– leftover for another meal.    Adding another two salmon pieces would be no trouble and cold salmon is good salmon.  This is  meant to be the impetus for improvisation, not an exact recipe; you’ll see why. Ingredients are in bold print.   Here’s how in the PHOTO RECIPE:

Begin with bringing a large pot of water to boil (add 1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, and some fresh herbs like thyme) for pasta– unless you have fresh pasta.  Cover it so it comes to a boil more easily.  When it does, drop in 1/2 pound whole wheat linguine (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best.) and cook for ONLY about four minutes. (Add a couple of minutes if you’re at altitude.)  Do not cook until done.

Meanwhile, take a large, deep saute pan or skillet, and pour in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil along with a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add and saute about four cups of  assorted (your choice) chopped vegetables over medium heat –such as onions, celery, red peppers, thinly sliced carrots, zucchini, summer squash, fennel, asparagus, green beans, etc.– along with 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc) or 1 teaspoon dried and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.   Let cook about five minutes, stirring regularly. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic during last minute or two.

When pasta has cooked about four minutes, remove it from the water using tongs (or drain in a colander) and add it to the vegetables in the saute pan.  (If you have fresh pasta, add it now.) Pour in a 1/4 cup each white wine wine and chicken broth or 1/2 cup pasta water.


Place two salted and peppered salmon filets (4-6 ounces each) on pasta with vegetables and drizzle with olive oil (if desired). Sprinkle with a generous pinch of the herbs you used in the vegetables and cover with lid.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook 8-10 minutes until salmon is nearly done–deep pink and very moist at center, firm and pale on the outside.  Remove salmon to a plate and  let rest two minutes.  To serve, use tongs to add  pasta and vegetables to a plate or pasta bowl and top with salmon.  Garnish with chopped fresh tomatoes and a teaspoon of chopped parsley other fresh herbDrizzle each serving with fresh lemon juice.  Eat while hot or at room temperature.  Store remaining pasta and vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner side.

{printable recipe}

Cook‘s Note:  I didn’t try this, but see no reason why you couldn’t do a bit of an Asian twist on this dish.  Add chopped fresh ginger with the garlic and vegetables.  Stir in a tablespoon of soy sauce with the broth or pasta water (with more at table).  Perhaps even a  little fish sauce.  Top with chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts.  If you try it, let me know.

Sing a new song, 

Ina Fridays — Sides, Soups, and Salads– Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Since I’m writing a soup cookbook, I’m always interested in soups others make.  Not only family, friends, and neighbors, but also famous cooks like Ina Garten.  If I’m home and I’ve been working all day, I’m in front of the tv with my feet up at 3:00 Central Time when Ina makes one of  her appearances on Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa.  While doing a little background reading for this post, I discovered this on FOOD NETWORK’S “10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Barefoot Contessa”:

She’s never watched herself on TV. “I couldn’t possibly. If I watched a show, I don’t think I’d ever do it again,” she laughs. “Filming is still the most frightening thing I’ve done. It’s just sheer terror. I haven’t gotten used to it yet.”

Of course, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not she watches herself, but I get it.  As a longtime singer and choir director, I cannot stand to hear a recording of me singing.  In fact, I don’t like performing as a soloist; I’d rather direct.  So Ina’s words resonate with me.

Another comment she made was about cooking from recipes; she always cooks from her own books.  She doesn’t wing it at all.

“I trust them,” she says. And after all these years, she still prefers a recipe over winging it. “I’m a science person. I measure everything.”        Read more here.

 That, I don’t get.  I absolutely cook by the end of my apron strings nearly always.  I dream things up daily despite a huge shelf full of cookbooks.  Dave, my husband, says, “That was good.  Do you think we’ll ever have it again?!”  For instance:

Here’s my Ovenbaked Vegetable Soup with Poached Egg

This week, our group of veteran food bloggers is cooking up all Ina “S’s” — Soups, Sides, or Salads.  My choice was:

easy tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

The simplest of soup ingredients (onions, garlic, chicken broth, tomatoes, orzo, cream) make up the bulk of this quick soup and, while the soup (all rights reserved) is part of Ina’s newest book, FOOLPROOF, you can also get the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa site. The most unusual aspect of this soup is its use of saffron, that lovely warm floral seasoning made from the stigma of croci, or crocuses if you will:

  CROCUS:  a small, spring-flowering plant of the iris family, which grows from a corm and bears bright yellow, purple, or white flowers.  (Oxford English Dictionary.)

So:  What did I think?  It was tasty, tasty……….

Overall, a lovely, basic and inexpensive tomato soup made more filling with the addition of orzo, small rice-like pieces of pasta.  The grilled cheese croutons were cute and yummy–a great idea and a fun addition.  You just make a grilled cheese and cut it into 1-inch segments. 

I’ll admit I had to change a few things in the soup AND the croutons for personal reasons…

CROUTONS:   Ina’s white bread, 2 T butter, and 4 ounces of cheese were changed to whole wheat, 1 teaspoon butter, and one thin slice of cheese so that I could eat it without going off program.  
  •  The fragrant saffron was lost on me as the tomatoes were almost overwhelming in their sweetness. (At least mine were. ) Making it another time, I would increase the amount of saffron.  Ina’s “large pinch,” might become two. 
  •  I cut the salt in the interest of health, but also in the interest of taste– from one tablespoon to one and a half teaspoons. Salt, like sugar, cuts acidity; acidity, however wasn’t the problem.
  •  I included the entire amount of black pepper, one teaspoon, but pretty much wished I’d put in a pinch of crushed red pepper despite the warm mouth buzz left when dinner was done.  Of course, I’m addicted to crushed red pepper.
Saffron threads from Penzey’s
  •  I skipped the heavy cream and instead topped my soup with a little spoonful of  plain Greek yogurt as I’m watching my caloric intake. (I’m on Weight Watchers.)  Just to see, however, I did try one single spoonful with the cream to see if it dulled the sweetness of the tomatoes.  No.  Not so much.  It was creamy and luscious, of course!  I think I’d do without if I had to choose.
  • One last thing:  as the soup sat, the orzo grew AND GREW (as pasta will do in soup) and, by the time it cooled enough for me to refrigerate it, the pasta was dominant.  Pretty much appeared to be pasta and sauce in the pot.  There are two possibilities:  one, use a small orzo (there are different sizes) or use less.

What’s cool about this is you have pretty much a little pot of sweet marinara with tiny pasta--and it’s good.  And it’s not nearly as caloric as a big plate of spaghetti, yet you still get the whole deal taste-wise.  This soup is also darned quick.  You could be eating in forty minutes total, including grilling the sandwiches.   Family-friendly, leftovers would make great lunches at work or school.  A little hot sauce and your big-eater guy friend would be swooning.  Is it foolproof?  I’d say so. Yes, I’d agree; she’s definitely got that down.  Just watch the salt.

Would you like it?  Yes, I’m sure you would.  Is it a recipe you can trust?  It says  you can on the front cover of the book.  Definitely.  Trust it.  But make it your own.

What else might you do?   

You might brown up  a couple of links of top-flight Italian sausage (slice it) and either use it for a “crouton” instead of the grilled cheese or add it to the sandwich.  If you’d like something green (imagine), chop up a half cup each of fresh basil and spinach and stir in for the last minute or two (having left out the saffron.)  You would definitely have a good glass of zin or reserve Chianti along side.  You’d probably skip dessert.  I think you’d be full.

stop in and see what our fine writers are cooking up on the first Friday of each month:

Are you a food blogger?  Want to join in one time a month? Email Alyce @  or link in to join us once in a while (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina!  We’d love to have you.

If you like this, you might like 


or my Tomato Soup Faster Then You Can Say Grilled Cheese

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Fight Hunger Due to Sequester Cuts–Get Involved:

I follow a fine blog called Leave It Where Jesus Flang It, written by the Rev. Margaret Watson, pastor for nine congregations on the Cheyenne River Reservation.  Sequester cuts have left  her elderly, handicapped, and grandparents (who are raising children) in a very troubling situation, unable to pay bills or buy food.  Children are at risk, as well.  If you click on the blog link, you’ll see the letter she’s written her congressional representatives.  If you’d like to help ease this situation, read the blog and write your own representatives or leave a comment asking how you might help directly.  Donations, of course, are always accepted by the mission.

Here are some excerpts from Margaret’s letter:

I cannot afford to feed all the people who come to my door asking for help. I have emptied my own freezer, my own cupboard in order to help these desperate folks.

In the last six months, I have done 40 funerals –six infants, two teen suicides, and many, many folks under the age 40.

Don’t punish the children and the elderly and the poor and the disabled by cutting the programs that at least keep them alive at poverty levels. 

I can only say I am shocked and depressed by my own government. Do better than this. The people you are supposed to serve deserve better.

Sing a new song;