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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples -- or your seasonal produce -- every which way.
Peanut sauce is my go-to weeknight condiment. I like to make a batch on Sunday evening, then enjoy it throughout the rest of the week. The best part about it is that it goes with a wide variety meals: Thin it with coconut milk and toss it with soba noodles, use it as a dipping sauce for fresh spring rolls, mix it with shredded chicken for an over-the-top peanut salad, or use it in a winter superfood bowl. You can use a store bought brand of peanut sauce, but it's just as easy to whip up your own. Here's how to make your own version at home and use it in 5 creative weeknight meals:
Either use a store bought brand of peanut sauce, or whip up your own. Use it once, and you'll start looking for excuses to incorporate this sauce into all of your meals. Here are 5 creative ways to start you off:
Peanut Chicken Salad Wrap
I'm an enormous fan of wraps -- particularly when they're this crisp and delicious. Mix the peanut sauce with shredded chicken and a few julienned carrots, then wrap the entire mixture in a collard green leaf for a gluten-free lunch. Serve it with extra sauce for dipping.
Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl
Soba noodles are one of my favorite things to pair with peanut sauce -- the rich nuttiness of the noodles is enriched by the slight tang from the lime juice in the sauce. To make a simple dish with the noodles, cook them in boiling water, then toss them with peanut sauce and top them with a roasted chicken breast. Add some roasted vegetables -- I often opt for broccoli and cauliflower, but any roast vegetable will work. Feel free to add peanuts, avocado, or cilantro for some extra flavor.
These kebabs are an interpretation of one of my favorite Thai dishes, chicken satay. To make the kebabs, marinate cubes of chicken breast in soy sauce, grated ginger, and lime juice for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Place the chicken on the the skewers, alternating with slices of potatoes or fresh green bell peppers, then them broil in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes on high (around 500º F), or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve the kebabs over rice with a side of peanut sauce.
Green Salad with Carrots
Plain salads can be boring, but there's also something delicious in the simplicity of this one, made with mixed greens, carrot peels, roasted chicken breast, and peanut sauce. To use the peanut sauce as a dressing, thin it out with some coconut milk. Serve the dressed salad as an appetizer to dinner or enjoy it as a light lunch, and feel free to bolster it with garnishes like toasted seeds and nuts, raw vegetables, beans, or avocado slices.
Vegetable Spring Rolls
These Thai-inspired spring rolls camouflage winter vegetables as a summer dish. To make each roll, follow the directions on the rice paper packaging, then fill it with julienned carrots, broccoli stems, beets, and whatever vegetables you have on hand. Dip these spring roll beauties into peanut sauce and rejoice as each bite transports you to summertime.
Creamy Peanut Sauce
This Thai-inspired sauce is made with natural, creamy peanut butter, a mixture of spices including ginger and dried red pepper flakes, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, miso, rice vinegar, and honey. The ingredient list is long and may look intimidating, but you'll find most of the condiments in your pantry. The beauty of the sauce is that once you've made it, you can keep using it for several meals -- and trust me, you'll want to add it to everything.
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon miso (optional)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup warm water
One 8-ounce can light coconut milk, as desired, to serve
Photos by Becky Rosenthal