Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Korean Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Garlic and sugar crystals, not coffee grounds, just so's you know

Happy Halloween, everyone!  While it's not my favorite holiday, I like watching my 4 year-old get into it.  When we drive down the street, she likes to shout out the neighborhood decorations:  "Mommy, I just saw a skeleton!!!"  "Oh no," I cower, "I'm scaaaaared!"  "Don't worry Mommy, it's just pretend!"  And she really loves seeing jack-o-lanterns.

Sunday we chose our pumpkin, then took it home and carved it up.  Actually it's a "she", since my daughter named her Rose, and enjoys saying hello to her when she gets home from school.  She loves the jack-o-lantern, and I love its guts!  Mwah hah hah!  

Thank you, Rose the Jack-o-Lantern, for your tasty guts!

My Mom always toasted the pumpkin seeds for us when we were kids, and I loved them so much!  I found a recipe at My Retro Kitchen, which I think is the way my Mom made them.  Unfortunately, I was all out of Worcestershire sauce!  Frugal Girlmet to the rescue - I decided to keep the technique and use a different flavor.  Innovate, experiment - voila!  Korean Spiced Pumpkin Seeds!

These have everything you want in a snack - crunchy, salty, spicy (but not TOO spicy - unless that's how you roll, in which case, double the dried chili pepper powder!) and just a bit sweet.  These would be a great bar snack (in the name of science, I had to test my hypothesis, and these are fantastic with a cold beer!)

Korean Spiced Pumpkin Seeds


  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic (not to be confused with garlic salt!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Korean chili powder (or use Cayenne or sriracha)
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything but the pumpkin seeds.  Make sure you have no lumps of garlic or sugar.  Stir in the pumpkin seeds, then scrape it all out onto the baking sheet.  Spread the seeds out on the sheet so they can cook evenly.
  3. Cook for one hour, stirring every ten minutes.  They get a little sticky, so use a silicon spatula.  After an hour, remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour.  Don't worry, they're not sticky anymore.  Remove to a bowl and get snacking!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spam Musubi

Spam is one of those polarizing ingredients.  You say Spam, and people automatically think, Yuck, mystery meat, fake food.  And if you've ever eaten it cold, you probably scrolled right past this post.  But I am here to tell you one thing:  Americans created Spam, but Asians perfected it!  Your Korean, Chinese, and Hawaiian friends know something you don't - you can make magic with Spam if you treat it right.

The first thing to know about Spam is it is not ham.  You can't eat it like lunchmeat on a sandwich.  I mean, you can, and when the zombie apocalypse comes, if I can't heat it, I'll just eat it.  But really, it needs to be pan-fried for its best qualities to become apparent.  My favorite way of eating it is fried, with a few drops of sesame oil, and lots of pepper, with hot rice and kimchee.  My second favorite way of eating it is in Spam musubi.

Musubi is a Hawaiian original.  They are bundles of rice and meat, wrapped tight in seaweed (known as nori, when it's a flat sheet.)  They are everywhere in Hawaii, sold in supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.  They are like an island energy bar!  And the best and most popular kind are made with Spam.

You'll need a package or nori, found in Japanese or Korean markets, and also in many grocery stores.  I also like to season the rice with a Japanese concoction called Furikake.  Furikake is salt, sugar, seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, and MSG.  If you can't find it, or you're allergic to MSG, you can season the rice with sesame seeds and salt.  Also, be sure you use short-grain, sticky Cal Rose style rice, not the Uncle Ben's long-grain kind, or it won't stick together like it should.

This is definitely one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts recipes.  So simple, yet satisfying, snacky, salty, and delicious.  I challenge you to eat just one!

Spam Musubi

  • 1 can Spam (I used the Low Sodium kind, because it can be pretty salty.)
  • 1 package nori sheets
  • several cups cooked sticky rice
  • furikake or sesame seeds and salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (any kind, or honey)
  1. Use leftover fresh rice, or cook up a batch.  I've been using half white rice and half brown rice.  Set it aside and let it cool a little so you don't burn your hands.
  2. Remove Spam from can.  Don't chicken out now!  Cut it into 8 slices, lengthwise.  They should be about 1/4 - 1/2-inch thick.  
  3. Mix the soy sauce and sugar in a little bowl.  Fry the Spam slices in a non-stick pan, about 4 minutes on one side.  Let them get crispy!  When you flip them, drizzle the soy / sugar mix on them.  Again, let the slices get crispy, then remove from heat.
  4. To assemble:  cut a sheet of nori in half and lay it in the bottom of a small rectangular container.  I'm sure you have a Tupperware container that would be perfect for this!  Other people recommend using a can opener to remove the bottom of the Spam can, and using this as a mold for your musubi.  That seems like a lot of trouble to go to.  I suppose if you were concerned with making them perfectly uniform, go ahead, but the prettiness of the wrap job does not affect the taste.  Anyway, lay a half-sheet of nori in the container you're using, and spoon some rice on top - about 1/4 to 1/2-cup.  Press it down so it sticks to the nori.  Shake some furikake on there, or sesame seeds and a little salt and maybe a pinch of sugar, and then place a Spam slice on top.  Most people finish with another scoop of rice.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I just close it up then. 
  5. Push down on the rice and Spam, either with the back of a spoon, or with a smaller container, just to make sure it's compact and won't unravel on you.  Wrap the nori around and seal with a few grains of rice, or wet your finger in water to seal up the edge.  
At this point, you can either eat one while you make more (which is what I always do), or if you're not going to eat them right away, wrap each one in plastic wrap.  I would say this recipe feeds four, two musubi per person, but if you love them like I do, you'll be hard-pressed to share!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Braised Red Cabbage

Say what you will about Martha Stewart, she puts out some great magazines!  We get Martha Stewart Living, and just received the November issue, which means it's time for thinking about Thanksgiving!  Browsing the pages filled with beautiful side dishes, pies, and gravies, I was ready to put on an apron and make the whole thing!

I settled on one recipe to test out for my own family's Thanksgiving:  Braised Red Cabbage.  I even had all the ingredients, no need for a trip to the store for me! This recipe is very easy, like beginner-level, but has a complex depth of flavor.  I served it with sausages, since to me it has a slightly Germanic-feel to it, along with a green salad and some extra sliced apples.  Try it and see - will this make the cut for your Thanksgiving feast?

Braised Red Cabbage
(Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine)


  • 4 ounces bacon (about 4 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head red cabbage (2 1/4 pounds), halved, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a Fuji apple and didn't peel it, and it was fine!)
  1. Cook bacon in a large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes.  Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add cabbage, vinegar, wine, water, sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; stir to combine.  Raise heat to medium-high, cover, and cook 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to cook, covered stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.  Stir apple into cabbage, and cook, covered, until cabbage and apples are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.  Season with pepper.
When you first stir in the wine, cider, and sugar, the smell is very pungent.  Don't despair!  After the cooking time, it mellows considerably, and got very favorable reviews from the family.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cranberry Apricot Cheerios Treats

A good way to be frugal is to make what you want out of what you already have.  What did I want?  Rice Krispie Treats!  But I wanted them healthier than the snap-crackle-pop kind.  Oh, and I didn't have any Rice Krispies (my girls aren't really that into them, and their small size makes them a bad choice for   a finger food.)  What I did have was every toddler's favorite:  Cheerios!

These are basic - if you've ever made Rice Krispies Treats, these will ring a bell.  Feel free to sub out the dried apricots and cranberries for another dried fruit.  I bet dried apples and butterscotch chips would be tasty too!  These are a little looser in texture, in part because I used fewer marshmallows, so keep them in the fridge, covered.  Don't worry, they won't be in there long.  We ate these really quickly and my four year-old was very excited to get one in her lunch box!

Cranberry Apricot Cheerios Treats


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups Cheerios (I used the original kind, but try the multigrain or other flavors too!)
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit - I used 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • Pam cooking spray
  1. In a large pot over medium-low heat, stir the butter and marshmallows together until melted and smooth.
  2. Turn off the heat and stir in Cheerios and fruit.  Stir well to combine.
  3. Spray a 9x9 square pan with Pam, then press the Cheerios mixture into the pan.  Press it down and squish it into the corners.  Put the pan in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let them firm up.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homemade Egg Noodles

To reheat cooked noodles?  Pan fry with butter, salt and pepper.  Don't drool in the pan!

Didja notice those fat, delectable noodles supporting my Beef Stroganoff?  They're homemade egg noodles, and you can make them too!

I got the recipe from my Facebook friend Christi Wilson.  Five ingredients and four steps?  I'm in!

Egg Noodles
(recipe courtesy of Christi Wilson)


  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 pinch table salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten

 1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt.  Stir in milk, butter, and eggs.
Yup, it's dough.

2.  Knead dough until smooth.  (I had to add a little extra flour - maybe my eggs were big, or maybe it was the rainy weather.  Anyway, keep your flour handy, just in case.  You'll also need about 1/4 cup for when you roll out the dough.)  Let the dough rest for about ten minutes.

Roll, roll, roll your dough, gently on the board...

3.  Flour your counter or a large cutting board, and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut into desired shape.  I made mine about 1/2-inch wide, and long, but I ended up cutting them shorter after they were cooked, so the kids could handle them easier.  Let them air-dry for a few hours until you are ready to cook them.

I used the little metal basket I keep my spatulas and wooden spoons in.  Ideas are everywhere!

4.  To cook, boil until al dente.  Mine went for about 7 minutes.  Just until they are chewy but don't taste like flour anymore.

These were awesome with the Beef Stroganoff!  Big and chewy and fantastic when covered in stroganoff sauce.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chickpea Curry

Not pictured:  fluffy naan to soak up the curry sauce

Two of the biggest gripes I hear when people talk about eating meatless meals are, "Not enough protein!" and "Not enough flavor!"  I gotcha covered on both counts with this recipe.  (This is my own recipe, and I've never made it for Indian friends, but I think it is spiritually, if not actually, authentic.)

Between the two cans of chickpeas and the large helping of spinach, you are totally caught up on your protein.  And with the fiber content through the roof, this will leave you feeling full and happy (but not bloated and gross.  Big difference there!)  As for flavor, fresh spices, two kinds of curry, and oven-dried tomatoes pack a potent punch and are the opposite of bland!

If you don't have the whole spices, you can use ground, but there is such a huge difference in quality that I really urge you to splurge for the whole spices.  If you go to an Indian market you will find whole coriander and cumin for a steal, way cheaper than the ground (flavorless, odorless powder) at the American grocery stores.  Also, find a few curry powders and pastes that you like.  I always have Madras curry paste in the fridge (it lasts forever) and two different curry powders.  Some are sweeter, some are more bitter - experiment!

Serve this with a green salad and bread, or with brown or jasmine rice.  I also like to eat the curry the next day, with a sunny side egg on top.  Like bacon, a fried egg makes everything better too!

Chickpea Curry


  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup oven-dried tomatoes packed in oil (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, or fresh
  • 2 cans chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) - do not drain off water
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Madras curry paste
  • salt to taste
So pretty and festive before it all cooks down into curry!
  1. Drain the oil from the tomatoes into a large non-stick pot.  Over medium-low heat, add the coriander and cumin.  When you can smell them, about 3 minutes, add the onion and stir.
  2. When the onion softens, add the tomatoes, spinach (go ahead, throw it in the frozen), and chickpeas.  Add the chickpea water too. If you must rinse them, or are using rehydrated dried chickpeas, add 1/2 cup water or broth.  
  3. Add curry powder and paste, stir to combine, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste for salt and serve.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beef Stroganoff, Quick and Easy

Beef stroganoff was one of my favorite meals as a kid.  I remember it being pretty quick for my Mom to make, and along with buttered noodles and a green vegetable, it made a filling and warming dinner.  This version is "just like Mom made," with a few exceptions.

First, the way my Mom made it, and the way most recipes online present it, is with sour cream.  I don't know about you, but I never have it in my house.  It's expensive, and honestly, if I had it in the fridge, I'd eat most of it with Fritos.  (Try it and you'll see how quickly you can consume hundreds of pointless calories!)  What I do have, always, is plain yogurt.  Fewer calories, cheaper per ounce, and indistinguishable from the original.  Done!

Another thing I saw in a lot of the internet versions was either cognac or cream sherry.  My rule is, if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.  I don't care for cognac, and I don't even know what cream sherry is!  What I do have, always, is red wine.  Open the bottle, pour yourself a glass, and add a little to your food.  Done!

I served the beef stroganoff over homemade egg noodles.  You can put it on noodles, rice, or for an English-meets-Russian combo, try mashed potatoes!

Beef Stroganoff, Quick and Easy


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, button or cremini, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound ground beef (ground turkey works too!)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 cup broth - beef, chicken, or mushroom stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  1. In a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add butter and onions.  Stir occasionally until onions turn translucent.  Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir.  Get out all the lumps!  Then add the ground beef, stirring to break up.
  3. When beef is browned, stir in dill, mustard, broth and wine.  Turn the heat down and let simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for about ten minutes.
  4. When the sauce is thick and you are ready to serve, take pan off the heat and stir in the yogurt.  Ladle over noodles (or rice or mashed potatoes, whatever you're eating) and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of parsley.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Project: Instant Lunch from Leftovers, or Emergency Kabocha Risotto

What's the emergency?  There's no risotto in the house, that's the emergency!

 In a bowl, add equal parts kabocha squash and rice.  Stir to combine and microwave until very very hot.

Leftover oven-roasted kabocha squash (or use butternut)

Leftover rice in the rice cooker (half brown rice, half white, FYI)

Then add a little yogurt and butter (or olive oil.)  Stir.

A spoonful of yogurt, plus a couple dots of butter (not pictured)

Then cover it with shaved parmesan.

Grated parmesan, as much as you need

Add salt to taste, and what do you get?  Emergency kabocha squash risotto!  I used up two different leftovers and made something completely new.  The end result is greater than the sum of its parts.  Is it as good as real, slave-over-the-stove Arborio rice risotto?  Not quite.  But it only took 3 minutes to make, and it's a hell of a lot better than the grilled cheese sandwich I was going to eat for lunch!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dubu Buchim -- Korean Basics

I would guess that most people think of Korean barbecue and kimchee when they think of Korean food.  For good reason - that's some tasty eats!  But it's quite easy to put together a vegetarian Korean meal.  For this week's Meatless Monday meal, I turned to tofu.

Tofu, or "dubu" in Korean, is used in many dishes, from banchans like this one, to soups and stews, in both firm and soft varieties.  This dish, dubu buchim, translates simply to "fried tofu."  You could stop there, and eat it as-is, with lots of salt and pepper, with kimchee and some mushroom banchan.  But Koreans LOVE the spicy, so here it is served with a sauce called "yang nyum jang".  I don't know what that translates to, but it is a combination of very basic Korean condiments that dresses up plain tofu and elevates the simple bean curd banchan to higher levels of deliciousness!

Yang nyum jang:  Eat the fire!
I made this for my husband last night and asked how it was.  "Great!" was the reply.  "Thank you.  But how is it, as far as authenticity goes?  Does it taste like your Mom made it?"  He said they only got the yang nyum jang when company or family came over, and usually they just had the tofu fried, with salt.  "But I like it better like this," he told me, and when the tofu was gone, he dragged his roasted broccoli through the leftover sauce.  "Koreans will put gochujang on anything!", he said with a grin.

Dubu Buchim with Yang Nyum Jang


  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or grape seed oil
  • 1 heaping teaspoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Drain the tofu, then squeeze it between two salad plates.  You can use whatever method you want - some people wrap a brick in tin foil and place it on top of the tofu!  Just squeeze that block of bean curd, then squeeze some more - but be careful, you don't want to crush it!  Lay it on your cutting board, and slice it half lengthwise.  Then cut it crosswise into squares about 1/2-inch thick.  I got 16 squares out of mine.
  2. In a large non-stick pan, heat the sesame and grape seed oil.  Salt the tofu and add to pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, and when it gets crispy and golden, flip it and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together remaining ingredients to make the yang nyum jang.  The gochujang is thick, so this may take a little effort to get it incorporated.  Spoon the sauce over the tofu.  You can eat this hot, warm, or cold.  Slather the leftover sauce on vegetables or mix it into rice.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hawaiian Wedding Cake

Have you ever tasted something so fantastic that you never forgot it?  Something that became like a photograph in your mind, where you could see the room you were in when you ate it, the art on the walls, hear the music or conversation you were listening to, as magic happened in your mouth?  I have several foods that became experiences, cemented in my mind:  my first roasted beet and goat cheese salad, my first truffle oil popcorn, and this one - Hawaiian Wedding Cake.

I first had Hawaiian Wedding Cake in high school at a church youth group pool party.  It was luau-themed, so we all had plastic leis on.  I don't remember what was for dinner, but dessert was Hawaiian Wedding Cake.  It didn't look like anything special.  But when I ate my first forkful - Holy Honolulu!  I scarfed it down and went back for another piece, completely without shame.  Coconut, pineapple, vanilla - this was like eating a vacation in pastry form!  It was fruity, creamy, rich, and delicious - everything something called Hawaiian Wedding Cake should be.

Luckily for me the recipe was easy to find online when I had a craving for it last week.  It was my birthday, and I wanted to taste this amazing cake again.  I've shaved down the original recipe, since it was supposed to make a 13x9 cake, and I didn't want to be eating leftovers for 4 days.  It's tasty, but it's not calorie-free!  The original recipe also calls for a jar of maraschino cherries to be dotted on top.  It looks pretty, but I don't eat maraschino cherries unless they're in my girlie cocktails.  Their texture kind of skeeves me out.  I would suggest maybe strawberries instead!

Before we decimated it

Hawaiian Wedding Cake


  • 1 box yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 large can crushed pineapple
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or use vegetable oil or butter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tub Cool Whip, softened
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  1. Make the cake:  Follow the instructions on the box for the cake, but instead of preparing a 13x9 pan, grease a 9x9 square pan, plus about half of a cupcake tin.  When making the cake, instead of adding a cup of water, drain the can of pineapple and use the pineapple juice.  (If you don't have enough juice to make a cup, top off with water.)  Instead of the vegetable oil, use coconut oil.  Then mix in the eggs and beat.  Fill the 9x9 pan about 2/3 full, and pour the rest of the batter into the cupcake tin. I had enough to make 5 cupcakes.  Bake as directed, about 30 minutes, and a little earlier for the cupcakes (which I let cool and froze.  Outta sight, outta mind.)  
  2. While the cake is still warm, spread the drained pineapple on top of the cake.  Let cool completely.
  3. With an electric mixer, blend together the pudding mix, cream cheese, and milk.  It will be pretty thick!  Spread over the pineapple and cake.  Put this in the fridge and let it firm up a bit.
  4. When pudding is cool and kind of firm, frost with Cool Whip, and cover with coconut flakes.  I toasted mine in a pan over medium heat on the stove - looks nicer and tastes even better!
Keep any leftovers covered in the refrigerator.  IF there are any leftovers.  It's likely not something you'll have to worry about.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Japchae -- Korean Basics

This year the Korean holiday "Chuseok" falls on September 30.  Chuseok is a day when Koreans celebrate the fall harvest, and perform ancestor worship rituals - sort of Thanksgiving meets Dia de los Muertos.  One of the traditional foods for Chuseok is japchae, which I love.  In fact, I don't need too much of an excuse to make it!

This recipe is simple and pretty cheap to make, but it does take a little time to prepare  all the ingredients.  There are two "specialty" ingredients you'll need from the Korean store:  the noodles and the mushrooms.

The noodles are made of sweet potato starch and are clear.  They don't have much of a flavor, but their texture is kind of snappy and fun.  I've never made this with a different kind of noodle, but I'm sure it can be done!

I buy packaged "dried mushrooms" at the Korean store.  I'm pretty sure they're dried shiitakes, but the only ingredient listed in English is "mushrooms", with everything else in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.  If you can't find "dried mushrooms" at your Korean grocery store, use fresh shiitakes.

And as far as the meat goes, it's pretty much whatever beef you can slice really thinly.  You don't need much, and it would be very frugal of you to just slice up any steak or bulgogi you have leftover from dinner.

I wouldn't call this a ban chan, exactly, because I like to eat a LOT of it!  To make it a meal, serve with a hearty jiggae and maybe some samgyeopsal or bulgogi.  



  • 4 ounces beef, sliced as thin as possible into bite-sized strips
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 dried mushrooms (or fresh shiitake mushrooms)
  • 2 bunches spinach, tough stems trimmed and washed well
  • 2 large carrots, peeled 
  • 1 small onion, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 package sweet potato starch noodles, about 6 oz. 
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, maybe a little more
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  1. Prepare meat:  Heat sauté pan and add a tablespoon of sesame oil.  Add meat and 3 cloves minced garlic and cook until done.  If you are using leftover, already-cooked meat, heat until hot and the garlic is cooked.  Remove from heat to a very large mixing bowl, and add 1 tablespoon soy sauce.  Set aside.
  2. Prepare mushrooms:  Place mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Place a plate on top to keep the heat in.  Let the mushrooms steep and rehydrate for about a half an hour.   When they are rehydrated and soft, slice thinly.  Of course, if you are using fresh shiitakes, just slice thinly.
  3. Prepare spinach:  Boil a large pot of water, and get an ice bath ready.  Blanch the spinach for about 20 seconds.  (Keep the water boiling for the noodles.)  Remove from boiling water and into the ice bath.  When cool, squeeze out  most of the water, but don't crush the spinach.  Add to the bowl with the meat and stir to combine.
  4. Prepare noodles:  Put the noodles into the boiling spinach water, then turn off the heat.  Leave the noodles in the pot for ten minutes, then drain, and add to the meat and spinach.  Toss to combine.
  5. Prepare carrots and onions:  Peel the carrots and cut into 2-inch lengths, then slice as thinly as possible.  Heat sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and cook sliced carrots, onions, mushrooms, and remaining minced garlic until the onions are soft.  Remove from heat and dump it all into the meat bowl.  
  6. Sprinkle with sugar and remaining soy sauce and toss again to combine.  Shake on some sesame seeds and taste.  You may need more soy sauce, or a little more sesame oil.  What you are looking for:  balanced umami perfection!
I like to eat this very warm.  You can eat it cold out of the fridge the next day, but I would recommend microwaving it for about 30 seconds.