Fresh coffee in my favorite mug. A phone call from an old friend. The feeling of little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. A surprise package from Grandma that smells just like her house.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about things that bring me pure joy. There is a new book I keep hearing about that is all about the art of de-cluttering your life and only keeping the things that bring you pure joy. I've yet to buy this book because 1: I've already got a stack of half-read books on my nightstand that could easily be mistaken for part of the permanent decor, and 2: following the advice of this book could get expensive fast because, let's be honest, after having a baby, there are only a few items hanging in my closet that bring me any sort of joy.
I'm not sure if the intention of the book is to de-clutter or just to replace all your old stuff with new stuff, but regardless, it really got me thinking about the things that bring me happiness and how drastically those things have changed in recent months. The other day I caught myself laughing aloud from pure elation while watching Little Man master a new, somewhat complicated sippy cup. He cackled with pride from feeding himself as I watched him delight in his new discovery.
Another thing that makes me happy lately? Dinner parties with neighbors. Despite having little knowledge of our new town and doing most of the home-buying process from afar, somehow we hit the neighbor jackpot. The "parent figures" to our left, the nice guy who occasionally snow-plows our driveway to our right, and the super-friendly couple across the street with two little boys. Do you know how easy dinner parties are with little ones? They're not. Unless you live right across the street and can cart your food and kiddos over in a wagon....and then just walk home. Ah-mazing.
I made this noodle dish for our most recent get together with those neighbor friends across the street. The theme was "Asian invasion" and it didn't disappoint. She made potstickers... from scratch. I'll be adding those to my list of things that make me happy. I love this noodle salad because it's something a little different than your standard potluck side dish and can easily be made ahead of time. The crisp summer veggies, nutty sesame oil, and bright cilantro come together to create a slightly sweet and slightly spicy noodle dish.
I found all the produce for this at our local farmer's market and the rice noodles and sauces can be found in the ethnic section of most grocery stores. If you can't find rice noodles, you could also use soba noodles. One tip: I would ignore the package instructions about soaking the noodles in boiling water. I once tried soaking them for 20 minutes, and they still had too much bite, which would be great if you planned to stir fry them for pad thai, but not for a cold pasta salad. Just boil them like regular pasta for about 5-7 minutes or until tender, and be careful not to overcook.
I hope you have a good week full of things that bring you joy. And if you have a minute, I'd love to hear about those things below.
Asian Rice Noodle Salad
Yield: about 10-15 side portions (a good amount for a potluck...feel free to halve the recipe)
16 oz. rice noodle sticks (1/4" thick)
2 cups green onions, chopped
2 cups carrots, julienned (really thin strips)
2 cups red bell pepper, julienned
2 cups cucumbers, insides scraped out with spoon and thinly sliced on a bias
2 handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup sweet chili sauce
Boil the noodles with a splash of vegetable/canola oil for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Strain in colander and rinse under cold water.
Prepare all the vegetables as indicated above.
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until incorporated, reserving a little cilantro and green onions for garnish. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve in a large bowl with tongs for easy serving. Garnish with the reserved cilantro and green onions.
You can find the rice noodles and sauces in the ethnic food section in most grocery stores.
If you want to cut down on a little chopping time, you can usually find bags of julienned carrots ready to go.
Look for pure sesame oil, not the blend. It's more expensive, but you need less.
Look for the rice noodle "sticks" about 1/4" thick. If you can't find them, you could also use soba noodles which are made with buckwheat.