Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry

I have a confession.

Stir-fries make me a little nervous.

Why you ask?

All that heat!
You have to cook everything very quickly, and at a really really high temperature.
The result?

Spitting oil,

excessive smoke,

smoke detector going off,


At least, that’s pretty much how it goes in my head.

In reality it’s not quite as dramatic. It’s more like I just get really busy flinging everything in the skillet, stirring it around, trying to avoid any spitting oil (okay, that part is true), and not being able to hear anything my husband is saying because the vent for our stove is so ridiculously loud.

So, I honestly don’t make all that many stir-fries. Plus, I have an electric stove, and I think you really need a gas stove and a wok to make really good stir-fries, but that’s just my opinion.

I decided to try out this stir-fry recipe from Jamie Oliver, however, because it sounded interesting yet yummy, is really fast, and quite simple, really.
I wondered if such a simple and fast recipe could be really good or not, so I tried it out.
And it was really good!

It’s called Chicken Goujons with Noodles, but I call it Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry. Whatever you call it, it’s definitely tasty, but not your average stir-fry. If you have a really busy night coming up, give this a try. The five spice powder gives it an intriguing flavor that’s delicious with the chicken. Did I mention it’s fast?

Five Spice Chicken and Noodle Stir-fry

(serves 2)

  • 8 oz. dried flat egg noodles
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil (or any high heat cooking oil)
  • 2 medium chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried red chili
  • 2 tsp. five spice powder
  • 5 – 6 green onions, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • large handful of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
  1. Cook noodles according to package instructions (typically these only need to cook for a few minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken, ginger, and chili. Stir around quickly, then add the five spice powder.
  3. Once the chicken is browned, add the green onions, soy sauce, and honey, and mix everything.
  4. Add the drained noodles and cilantro to the skillet. Toss everything together, adjust the seasoning to taste (add more soy sauce, honey, or five spice powder as desired), and serve.

recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Goujons with Noodles


November 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Fish Chowder

I love fish chowder.

When I was a kid, it was my favorite dish that my mom’s cooking. I even found my old diary from elementary school, and in the beginning it had a fill in the blank section where you listed your favorite things, and for favorite food I wrote, “Mom’s fish chowder”. Incidentally, one of my brother’s hated this soup as a kid, but only because he hated carrots (he still hates carrots as a matter of fact…).

It’s a a very simple soup, but really good. The secret is the seasoning. You use one package of the Ranch Buttermilk Salad Dressing spice mix as the seasoning of the soup. If this sounds odd, trust me, it’s not. It doesn’t make the soup taste like ranch dressing either. It just gives it great flavor.

And it goes great with plain scones (made the same as my dark chocolate chip walnut scones, just without the chocolate and walnuts) with honey and butter on them. That’s how my mom always served it. Ah, memories!

To start, chop up a whole onion, a few carrots, and a few potatoes, and saute them in some butter or olive oil in a large pot for about 8 – 10 minutes.

Add as much fish as you want, but on average use 15 – 16 oz. boneless skinless white fish fillets. Saute them in a skillet with some butter or olive oil until slightly browned, then flip them and cook them on the other side until cooked through and flaky.

Add two cups of water and the fish to the vegetables. Break up the fish into chunks with your spoon, and turn up the heat. Bring the soup to a boil then turn down the heat so it’s just simmering, cover the pot, and let it summer until the vegetables are tender, about 5 – 8 minutes.

Whisk together two cups of milk (or 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup cream or half and half) with the contents of one package of Ranch Buttermilk Dressing mix. Pour the mixture into the soup, mix well, adjust the seasoning to taste, and then heat the soup through before serving.


Fish Chowder

(serves 4 – 6)

  • 3 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large russet potatoes, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • About 16 oz. boneless skinless white fish fillets
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 c. milk (or substitute 1/2 c. of the milk with cream or half and half)
  • 1 package Ranch Buttermilk Dressing mix
  1. Saute onion, potatoes, and carrots with 2 Tbsp. butter in a large pot over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes.
  2. Saute fish fillets with 1 Tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat until fish has slightly browned on one side. Flip the fillets and cook on the other side until cooked through and flaky.
  3. Add water and fish fillets to the pot with the vegetables and turn up the heat. When mixture starts to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 5 – 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Whisk together milk (and cream/half and half if using) and dressing mix in a small bowl. Pour mixture into the soup, mixing evenly, and then return soup to heat and cook until heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

October 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday for Oct. 29 – Nov. 2

What a weekend it was here!

Because….(dare I say it? Do I even dare?!)…

…It was COLD here in Houston!

I know! Right?!

It’s been awesome! It finally feels like fall!

Hisa and I were so excited about the cool weather Saturday, that we went to the Armand Bayou Nature Center in south-east Houston to hike around on some of the trails there. We’d heard a lot about the place, but never been there, so since the weather was so wonderful we thought we’d finally check it out.

It was a really nice place too! It’s not huge, but there are three really pretty trails, each about a mile and a half long with bayou overlooks every so often. It was much more wooded than I thought it would be, which was great, because I love hiking in forests with a lot of shade.

One of the bayou overlooks.

We saw quite a bit of wildlife while we were there too. We saw deer four different times, and we also saw some turtles, herons, and jumping fish. There’s supposed to be alligators at the bayou as well, but I think it was too cool out for them, because they weren’t out when we were there (or we just didn’t see them…creepy…).

Here’s Hisa pretending to look at something in the woods.

And here’s me pretending to be hanging from a tree…that I’m obviously not hanging from.
What a cool couple we are, right?

It was a beautiful place, and a fun way to enjoy the great weather. I’m sure we’ll go back again sometime to hike the one trail we missed this time around.

Menu Plan Monday for Oct. 29 – Nov. 2:

Mon: Ham and asparagus strata and tossed salad

Tues: Chicken and butternut squash stew and country wheat bread

Wed: Spaghetti alla puttanesca and tossed salad

Thurs: Slow cooker beef tacos

Fri: Leftovers


October 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Pumpkin Flan

Do you like flan?

It’s super popular in Japan (they call it “pudding” though, not flan), but it seems like you don’t see it all that often in the U.S. Of course you can buy flan, and I’ve seen mixes for it, but it’s not really on the same level as things like chocolate chip cookies, cake, or brownies here.

That’s too bad, because it really is delicious. My husband loves flan. It’s one of his favorite desserts. Sometimes we had it in Japan at restaurants and such, but I’d never actually made it myself before.

If you’ve been reading my posts the past couple of weeks, then you know I’ve been on a pumpkin kick. Well, in an attempt to make some new pumpkin dishes, I decided to make pumpkin flan, and it was definitely a success.

I found a recipe on Martha Stewart’s website, and decided to try it out. I halved the recipe and adjusted a few things for my version though.

One thing I should have done was bake it in a smaller dish. I used a square 2-quart baking dish, which was a little too big for the amount I made, so my flan was a tad on the thin side. Because of that I recommend either using a smaller baking dish or doubling the recipe.

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
In a large bowl, mix together 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Stir in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, and mix well (not pictured).
In another bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream.


Pour the egg/cream mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix until smooth.


Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.


When it turns a rich brown color, and starts bubbling, remove it from the heat, pour it into the baking dish, and very quickly spread it around the bottom of the dish evenly. You have to be really quick with this, because as soon as it’s off the heat, it’ll start turning hard.


Pour the custard into the baking dish over the caramel. Set the baking dish into a deep roasting pan, and fill up the pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
Bake until the custard sets, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to cool.


Run a knife around the edges of the baking dish. Place a large serving dish wrong-side up on top of the baking dish. Carefully hold both the serving and baking dish and flip them so that the flan comes out onto the serving plate.
Cut it into pieces and serve.

You can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, but it’s great just by itself.


Pumpkin Flan

(serves 4)

  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and mix well.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and cream. Pour the egg/cream mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix until smooth.
  4. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar to a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook until it melts and turns a rich brown color, and starts bubbling. Remove from heat, pour it into the baking dish, and very quickly spread around the bottom of the dish evenly.
  5. Pour custard into the baking dish over the caramel. Set the baking dish into a deep roasting pan, and fill up the pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the custard sets, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to cool.
  6. Run a knife around the edges of the baking dish. Place a large serving dish wrong-side up on top of the baking dish. Carefully hold both the serving and baking dish and flip them so that the flan comes out onto the serving plate. Cut it into pieces and serve.

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

October 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Halloween re-post: Pretzel Monster Fingers

Wow! It’s almost Halloween! I didn’t realize that until I looked at the calender earlier.

It’s a good thing I bought Halloween candy at the store yesterday. I thought about waiting until the Sunday before Halloween to buy it (which, I guess would be this coming Sunday), but I thought that all the good candy would be sold out by then. Maybe. I don’t really know. Do the stores usually run out of candy right before Halloween? I don’t remember..

Actually, I don’t even know if we’ll get any trick-or-treaters here. There are a lot of families and a lot of kids at our apartment complex, and a lot of people have their patios decorated for Halloween, so I’m thinking some of the kids might go trick-or-treating around the complex. Of course, this is our first Halloween living here, so I really have no clue. I would love to have some trick-or-treaters come here, but we may have no one come, in which case we’ll have a huge bag of candy on our hands.

Honestly though, I picked out a bag of candy with all the kinds of candy in it that I like just in case we don’t have any trick-or-treaters. If I’m going to be stick with a huge bag of candy, then it’ll be candy that I like gosh darnit!

I’m re-posting one of my posts from last year: Monster Pretzel fingers. Last year, I made them on Halloween, so I wasn’t able to post about them until after Halloween. I thought I would re-post this before Halloween this year for everyone who hasn’t seen it, and to give ideas to anyone looking for Halloween themed foods to make. These take a little bit of time, but they’re so fun, it’s worth it.


[originally posted November 1st, 2011]


Did everyone have a good Halloween? Or for those of you in the U.S. (and similar time zones), are you having a good Halloween?

Hisa and I did nothing to celebrate Halloween really, but then Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Japan. You can see Halloween decorations and Halloween themed foods here and there, and some shopping malls even have events for kids these days, but that’s about it. Most people don’t do anything.

Normally not doing anything on Halloween would bum me out, but honestly, we’re too busy trying to get ready to move out, go to my in-laws’ place, figure out our trip to Thailand, and finally move back to the U.S. (phew!).

So that Halloween didn’t pass by us completely unnoticed, however, I decided to make something a little spooky and fun for dinner.

Monster fingers!!! Are these awesome, or what?

So many Halloween treats out there are sweets, but I wanted to make something spooky to have with our dinner, so I decided to make these monster fingers. They’re made with pretzel dough shaped into fingers and topped off with an almond for the nail/claw.

These were a lot of fun to make.

I made a normal dinner (meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and tossed salad), and then merely added the fingers so it looks like a hand emerging from the mashed potatoes. You could have these sticking out of just about any salad or side dish.

These also go great with sandwiches! Ah, you gotta love Halloween!

Pretzel Monster Fingers

(makes 24 fingers)

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. bread flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • sea salt
  • 24 whole almonds
  1. Mix warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes or until bubbles form.
  2. Add whole wheat flour and mix. Add salt and mix.
  3. Add bread flour gradually until easy to handle. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, or until smooth. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450° F (175° C).
  5. Bring a large pot of water on to boil. Add baking soda.
  6. Divide dough until you have 8 balls of dough. As you work with one, cover the others to prevent them from drying out. Divide each ball of dough into 3 pieces. Roll out each piece into a snake, the length and width of a finger.  Pinch the dough twice to create “joints”. Boil the fingers, 3 at a time, for 1 minute, and then place on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Beat egg, and brush egg on each finger. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the “knuckles” of each finger a couple times.
  8. Place one almond on each finger, carefully pushing it slightly into the dough. Sprinkle fingers lightly with sea salt.
  9. Bake 12 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.


October 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday for October 22 – 26

Saturday, Hisa and I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Supposedly it’s the largest Renaissance festival in the world, so I was super excited to go. When I was a kid, my family would usually go to the Medieval Fair in the city of Norman in Oklahoma. We always loved going, and I even dressed up once or twice as a kid. It was one of those things we kids would look forward to for months beforehand, so you can imagine how pumped I was about going Saturday.

I have to say, this festival has forever ruined me on Oklahoma’s medieval fair. It was so amazing, and big! Rather than a festival, it was more like a city. Instead of the vendors all being in tents, they were all in these amazing buildings. I felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings. There were also a huge number of people dressed up in really great costumes. You could just sit and watch people walk by all day, and it would be extremely entertaining.

There were so many crafts vendors and food vendors, performances and demonstrating artists. It really was impossible to see everything in one day. Hisa and I were there for 5 hours, and we only went inside a handful of the shops, saw 4 of the 47 shows being performed, and ate food from 1 of the 31 food vendors there. I really want to go again just to see more of it. I would also love to dress up next year. Of course in order to that, I’ll need to acquire amazing sewing skills between now and then, which may be difficult…

One other great thing. We went to see the jousting in “The Arena” while we were at the festival. They had these amazing horn players and a drummer there who played music throughout the jousting. Before it started when people were gathering and finding seats, they started playing the horn music from Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail. And they played it perfectly. That just made my day. It was awesome.

Menu Plan for Oct. 22 – 26:

Mon: Beef stroganoff and steamed broccoli

Tues: Japanese curry rice and salad

Wed: Baked fish with tartar sauce, baked sweet potatoes, and tossed salad

Thurs: Chicken and butternut squash stew and fresh bread

Fri: Chicken and spinach enchiladas and tossed salad

October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am 2 comments

Curry Chicken Salad

When I was a kid, my mom would often make curry chicken salad. It was the only kind of chicken salad we had at home, and really, it’s all we needed, because we all loved it.

Despite hating celery and olives as a kid, I loved this chicken salad. I still do. It’s a classic.
My husband loves it as well. Heck, he’s loved it since he first had it, before we were dating! How’s that for a good chicken salad, eh?

It goes well on sandwiches, crackers, in wraps, on lettuce, on baked potatoes, and by itself.

I really can’t think of anything else to say about it. It’s self-explanatory in its simple greatness.

Easy. Delicious. What more can you ask for?

Oh, and it’s even better the next day!

Thanks, Mom, for this great recipe!

Curry Chicken Salad

(serves 6 – 8)

  • 2 (10 oz.) cans cooked chicken
  • 2 (2.25 oz.) cans sliced black olives
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1/2 c. diced celery (about 1 1/2 stalks)
  • 1 c. sliced almonds (toasted)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 3 tsp. curry powder
  • salt
  1. Add the chicken, olives, celery, and toasted almonds to a large bowl. Chop up the water chestnuts and add those as well.
  2. Peel, core, and chop up the apple into small chunks, and add them to the bowl. Mix everything well.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and curry powder, and mix until everything is well coated. Add salt to taste.

October 17, 2012 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

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About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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