Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yakisoba - Easy Dinner for Less Than $10 a Meal

We're big on finding cost-effective meals that everyone likes - which is tough, when everyone has very different food preferences! One of the meals we've come to use as a staple is Yakisoba. Noodles, veggies, meat, and sauce - all pretty much customizable to your specific tastes.


Here's our standard ingredient list:
  • Yakisoba noodles (Costco has a 2-meal pack in the cheese area for about $5.50)
  • Chicken thighs (again at Costco for about $2.20/lb) or other meat - leftover is fine
  • Carrots (4-5)
  • Cabbage (1/2 a head)
  • Onion (1)
  • Yakisoba sauce: can be teriyaki sauce, stir fry sauce, or - my favorite - Yoshida's Original Sweet and Savory Sauce (also available at Costco; I don't recall the price, but a container lasts us for several many meals)
  • A LARGE wok or frying pan and a LARGE bowl!
You can use whatever meats and vegetables you like, cut up however you like. We often use sliced bell peppers, broccoli, celery - you name it, it's game! Basically, the process is such:
  • Prepare meat, tofu or seafood. I typically use whatever I have leftover or bake some chicken thighs ahead of time, then cube and set to marinate in a small amount of teriyaki sauce. 
  • Stir-fry your vegetables. Feel free to use seasonings or not (I typically add garlic and ginger to the oil before adding veggies). Set aside in a large bowl once cooked to crisp tenderness.
  • Stir-fry the meat to heat through (or cook if starting from raw). Add to veggies in bowl and mix until evenly distributed.
  • Cook yakisoba noodles according to directions, adding a small amount of your chosen sauce for flavor as it cooks.
  • Once noodles are cooked or heated through, add the veggie and meat mixture in, turn heat down to low, and cook just until everything is warmed through.
... That's it! With a reasonable amount of veggies and meat added, this feeds 4 growing children and 2 adults fairly well, though typically without any leftovers. If you do have leftovers, I highly recommend picking up some hoagie buns and making Yakisoba Sandwiches. It sounds freakishly bizarre, but trust me (and our teenage daugher) - they are REALLY good for lunch the next day.

Have fun, and enjoy!!  :D

Monday, February 27, 2012

Onigiri - Easy, Healthy Lunch or Snack for Kids

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Onigiri (rice balls) are probably one of my kids' favorite lunch or snack foods, and definitely one of the easiest to make! I usually use whatever rice is leftover from dinner, add a little sushi vinegar, and voila - rice for onigiri. :)

Besides the rice, you can use whatever filling you like (if you want any filling at all) - many people use a little tuna or smoked salmon mixed with mayonnaise, or some dried fish flakes (bonito) mixed with a little soy sauce, chopped sour plum (umeboshi)... the possibilities are endless.

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Making onigiri is deceptively simple. I use a sandwich-sized ziploc baggie and put a little rice in one of the corners and squish it down, making an indentation in the center. Put whatever fillings you like in the indentation, add some more rice over the top, and squish that onto the already squished rice. That's it! You now have totally kawaii little balls of goodness for your munchkins to munch on! I often make a simple bento with onigiri, sliced veggies and fruits, and some leftover meat (teriyaki chicken or what have you) - both healthy and ridiculously easy, and the kids all love them.

As a side note, these do NOT refrigerate well - though you can freeze them. I have heard that microwaving a frozen onigiri for a minute or so makes them warm and tasty, though I have not tried this yet. If you have experience freezing onigiri, please let us know - busy moms love freezer food!  LOL