I would have to say that one of my all-time favorite things to enjoy for lunch is a chilled, Asian-style noodle salad. There’s something so utterly irresistible and enjoyable about the slight chew from the cool noodles, the savory-sweet and fragrant sauce that they’re drenched in, the crunch from the bright and colorful bits of veggies and peanuts, and the deliciously tender pieces of shredded chicken all tossed together to create a happy little lunch-time salad to go. And years ago, before I used to cook for a living, I would occasionally grab one of those “gourmet” prepared salads from a special refrigerated section of the grocery store in a pinch; one that had a creamy, peanut-y sauce on the side, and I always ended up feeling a little guilty about it, truth be told. I couldn’t help but think that I was probably spending more money than I should’ve been for a salad that I could surely make myself, to my own exact taste. So the next time I got the craving for that tasty salad that I so adored, I decided to make my own nutty little noodle salad; and you wanna know something? I haven’t looked back since. (Sorry, Wolfgang Puck; I like mine better. No hard feelings?)
These days, I prepare a lot of lunches for a lot of people. Not only do I prepare them at work for my clients, I also prepare them at home for my husband to take to work and for my son to take to school. I guess you could call me the “Happy Lunch Lady”. For us as a family, it could get pretty expensive rather quickly if everyone was eating lunch out every day, not to mention it wouldn’t really be all that healthy either. And though my son pretty much prefers to stick to sandwiches for his school lunches, my husband loves to have a variety of things to munch on, all with a good balance of protein, veggies and carbs. And whenever I make this Asian Peanut Noodle Salad for us and then pack some for his lunch the next day, he considers it a scrumptious little treat. The flavors in the sauce are smooth and complex from the warm flavor of the peanut butter, and the honey and soy give it the perfect, sweet-savory balance with a hint of heat from the Sriracha; and, of course, then there are the noodles, veggies, peanuts and chicken, which create each deliciously textured bite. Really, what’s not to adore? And the best part is that it’s easy to whip up, store in a snap-top container and take to work, which means that lunch will be anything but boring, and practically “gourmet”. Made with love at home with healthy ingredients, what more could you ask for from your lunch?
Sometimes, a nutty little noodle-y lunch-on-the-go is just the perfect thing. Flavorful and well-dressed, it can provide your body with the energy and sustenance it needs, while providing your mouth with the joy of tasting something fantastically satisfying. Being a bit nutty can be a whole lot of fun sometimes, not to mention a whole lot of delicious; and when it’s as easy as it is to just pack-n-go, you can say goodbye to perusing the refrigerated “gourmet” packaged-food section of the grocery store during your lunch hour looking for inspiration, and bring oodles of nutty noodles from home!
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Asian Peanut Noodle Salad with Chicken, Shredded Carrots, Red Cabbage and Green Onions, in Sweet-Spicy Peanut Sauce
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(Makes about 1 lunch portion)
2 cups cooked linguini noodles (cooled), drizzled with a touch of olive oil to prevent sticking
1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
¼ cup red cabbage, shredded thinly
¼ cup carrots, shredded thinly
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons crushed peanuts
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped
• Sweet-Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below)
-Add all of the ingredients through the chopped cilantro leaves into a medium-size bowl, and toss together gently until well combined; to pack up and store, add these ingredients into a container, either a plastic Tupperware with lid, or glass container with lid that you can take with you, and store the Sweet-Spicy Peanut Sauce in a separate small container, and keep refrigerated until ready to enjoy.
-To assemble at lunch time or when you’re ready to eat, just pour the Sweet-Spicy Peanut Sauce as over the noodles/chicken/veg (you may or may not use all of it), gently toss together to coat, and enjoy.
Sweet-Spicy Peanut Sauce ingredients:
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon peanut butter (I used all-natural, creamy peanut butter)
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
3 to 4 drops of Sriracha sauce (this is spicy, so use to your liking)
-In a small dish, combine all of the ingredients with a fork or small whisk until very well blended and smooth; keep in a small, snap-top container in fridge until ready to use. (*If the sauce gets a bit too thick from being in the fridge, just warm the container that it’s in under some hot water for a moment or two to soften the sauce and make easier to pour.)