When my kids were particularly little, we had a little house set far back from the road. It was like a cocoon, a nest where they could run free. Our front porch only provided the slightest of views of the road.
In those days, a swingset in the backyard provided hours of enjoyment, and playhouses created a setting ideal for creative play.
But sometimes it’s less about the stuff you have and more about where you allow the imagination to go.
Maybe that’s why one of their favorite outdoor playthings was simply chalking.
I used to let my kids draw on the house foundation. Sticks of pinks, blues, yellows and oranges drew lines that became flowers and rainbows and cars and robots adorning the concrete. Out of green? No biggie, leaves would just be a different color that day. Rain — or the hose — would wash away the drawings, giving my kids a fresh surface to start over another day.
It was an activity born from necessity — we didn’t have a paved driveway — but it became something special, something memorable.
Sometimes when I enter the kitchen to start cooking, I’m reminded of the little lessons that time provided. It’s not about having all the colors in your chalk box — just what you do with the ones you do have.
In the kitchen, my chalk box — or rather supplies — almost always include a package of soba noodles tucked away. There’s often onions too and Brussels sprouts when they’re in season. I keep soy sauce on hand as well as rice vinegar and honey too.
This recipe was born from a thought of creating only from what I had. The results were more than I imaged — a sweet-savory noodle dish that’s filled with veggies and so satisfying on the warmer days of spring.
Soba noodles, which can be found in most grocery stores as well as the Natural Living Center in Bangor and Tiller & Rye in Brewer, are made from buckwheat flour. With a pleasant, smooth texture and a lovely nutty flavor, these noodles commonly used in Japanese cooking are excellent warm or cold.
In this recipe, the soba noodles are mixed with a sweet-savory sauce, spinach and stir-fried Brussels sprouts, red onions and carrots. It’s light and flavorful — a perfect spring dish.
Making it takes about 30 minutes, which for all the time-stretched cooks like myself out there is ideal. Also, this is one of those dishes that improves as it sits, so don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time. Although it’s good warm, it’s also really great chilled.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1 cup diced red onions
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 pkg soba noodles (about 8 oz)
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp dark sesame oil
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the brussels sprouts and onions, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Once softened -- about 7-8 minutes -- add the carrots and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, until golden brown in places.
- Meanwhile add the spinach and cooked soba noodles to a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauteed veggies on top and toss well to combine.
- Whisk together the vegetable stock, soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, dark sesame oil and ginger. pour over the soba noodle mixture and toss well to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss again. Taste, and adjust seasoning as desired.