December 31, 2019

Dear friends,
I wonder what you were obsessed with this year. For me it was a mix of the old and the new — the clams on toast I made in September and have dreamed about every week since then; a detox smoothie from Florida; the ricotta and meat sauce-stuffed spaghetti squash I’ve made a half-dozen times since March; and as always, gingerbread, Cuban sandwiches and coconut anything.

One of my new cravings is the sauce for the Mongolian beef ribs I made last fall. I may turn it into an alligator stir fry in Florida, where I’m headed soon with Tony and the dog. Then again, I may be too busy eating Cuban sandwiches to cook.

Before we leave town, I’m sharing a recipe for the post-holiday noodle stir fry I made for Tony. I call it “post-holiday” because I haven’t felt like cooking since our duck extravaganza on Christmas Eve, and this stir fry practically assembles itself.

I adapted the recipe from Bon Appetit.


16 oz. yaki soba or 12 oz. spaghetti noodles
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups thin-sliced napa cabbage
2 tsp. sesame oil
8 oz. ground pork
5 green onions, sliced
2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. (or more) red pepper flakes or (preferred) Szechuan chile oil
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Chop and measure all of the ingredients before starting, as usual.

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water according to package directions. At the same time, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok and stir fry cabbage over high heat until tender and beginning to brown on the edges. Drain noodles and toss in a large bowl with the sesame oil. Add cooked cabbage and toss.

Heat remaining tablespoon vegetable oil in the same wok or skillet. Cook ground pork, over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spatula, until no longer pink. Continue cooking until meat begins to brown and crisp on one side.

Push meat to one side of pan. In the bare spot, stir fry onions, ginger and red pepper until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes or chile oil and hoisin sauce. Add noodles and cabbage and mix well over high heat. Add mirin and soy sauce and cook, folding, until meat and vegetables are glazed with the sauce.

Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Meatloaf, potato salad; wild rice salad with pecans and oranges; roast Brussels sprouts with bacon; Szechuan duck steamed then roasted with a sesame-orange glaze; Japanese Christmas cake.

What I ate out last week:
Fried chicken, french fries, hot rice and slaw at Belgrade Garden in Barberton; grilled chicken salad and Christmas cookies at my niece, Heidi’s; a sesame-ginger chicken salad at Butcher & Sprout in Cuyahoga Falls; Italian wedding soup from Acme.


From Peggy:
Your newsletter last week inspired a Christmas Eve search for the elusive “Aldi’s salted chocolate dipped cashews.” Twenty minutes into the search at Aldi’s, we found the cashews. They were awesome!

This was the most extensive shopping of the season for two avid Amazon users. Thanks for the adventure.

Dear Peggy:
Glad to have sweetened up your Christmas Eve. Many of Aldi’s products are seasonal, so you might want to load up. I already miss the glass jars of cherries in juice I bought until a week ago to spoon over ricotta cheese.

From Virginia:
The Brie soufflé sounds wonderful and easy for our New Year’s Eve party but I don’t know what underripe Brie is. Will you please explain?

Dear Virginia:
The term momentarily puzzled me, too, when I read it in Sarah Leah Chase’s cookbook. But after grating the Brie, I realized that soft, oozy, perfectly ripe Brie would not work. No matter, because I haven’t seen any Brie like that since I vacationed in France. Any Brie you find in a store’s refrigerator case will be firm enough to use. Just make sure it is well chilled before you try to grate it. Freezing it for 15 minutes or so wouldn’t hurt, either. Then use the wide horizontal holes on one side of a box grater.

From Dawn:
I see in your Gut Check you made pumpkin custard — twice! It must be good. I love anything pumpkin. Please share.

Dear Dawn:
It is just pumpkin pie without the crust because I love pumpkin but am watching my weight. I use basically the recipe on the can but replace the sugar with 1/2 cup Splenda and the canned milk with 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk. I bake it in a sprayed pie pan at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes. One-fourth of the custard has just 115 calories.

From Christine O.:
Thank you for the past 20 years of newsletters… I have been following you since the 1990s in the Beacon Journal.

It would be fun to see how far your newsletters have spread around the country.

Dear Christine:
Yes, it would be fun. Let’s do it! If you subscribe and live outside Ohio, could you drop me a line? Just send a brief email with your location to Thanks!

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