Bok Choy Noodle Bowl

03 . 04 . 12

The first few days after we say goodbye to a foster are a little funk. The house feels different. I would even call it melancholy if not for the memory of that one moment where the new family waves goodbye with the dog in their arms, new loving arms. There are few other  smiles more sincere I’ve seen that that moment. It zaps the emptiness in the kitchen immediately. I grind the coffee, I prepare the kettle, and I think of how different, how much richer the new family’s story will be with their new canine friend.

People often tell me that they could never foster dogs because they’d want to keep them all. I’ll admit it’s tough. Shaun and I sat in silence for a bit when we drove away from Tex’s new house on Thursday. Wind from the open windows held back tears. We held hands and smiled. For what was, what all will be. My heart was so, so full. Honestly, I felt like it would burst. Words needn’t be spoken. It was a perfect silence. Joy filled the car knowing that everything was just as it should be.

Each dog over the past year has given us a chance to practice love, patience, flexibility and prepares us, ultimately, for the inevitablity of goodbyes that the future will always hold. The whole process requires an accountability to truly live in the present. The dogs, just like most other people and things, come into our lives without much warning and we never really know how long they’ll stay. It encouarges us to let go of expectation, give all of our love with all of our hearts, stop holding back, and make everyday a new adventure because you don’t know how long you’ll have together. It’s amazing how a little creature that has such limited means of communicating can deliver such a profound lesson on life, on life and time.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Fostering teaches how to absorb the waves of change instead of letting them knock us on our toosh. Nothing stays the same for long. Nothing lasts forever. The good stuff, the not so good stuff — it all comes and goes, as it should.

Thanks Tex. You and each of your friends that came before you have loosened us up a bit for the big changes, the big excitements, and the big disappointments we’re destined for in the future. We’re better equipped to handle the waves because of you.

Braised Bok Choy Noodle Bowl 

serves 2-4

  • 1 lb baby bok choy
  • 1/2 lb shitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1-2 packages 100% Buckwheat noodles
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • thumb sized nub of ginger, grated
  • 1 lemon + 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp white or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt

Start with the noodles. Bring a large pot of water to boil with a bit of oil to keep noodles from sticking. Buckwheat cooks in 8 minutes so keep a close watch and remove from heat and rinse immediately. Set aside while you prepare the veg.

Remove the bottoms of the bok choy and place leaves in a bowl of cool water to let the dirt and bits fall to the bottom. Bring a heavy pan (or wok, if you have one) to heat with 2-3 tbsps of coconut oil, 1 tbsp of sesame oil, and the garlic and ginger. Simmer to brown the garlic then add the damp bok choy leaves and braise in the oil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set greens in a small bowl. There should still be a bit of oil in the pan for the mushrooms. Slice them into 1/4″ slices and sauté for 2-4 minutes, depending how hot the pan is. Remove ‘shrooms and set with the bok choy.

Add a bit more coconut and sesame oil back to the pan with the juice of one lemon and vinegar and let simmer. Add the dried and cooled noodles until coated and warmed. Assemble the bowl with noodles as a base, layering the mushrooms and boy choy on top. Sprinkle with salt, a bit of lime juice, and the fresh green onion.

  • I hate goodbyes… I’ve experienced too many of them but it is something you will never get used to… However, it does teach you to be stronger and to be flexible. Change is inevitable and we have to learn to accept, however sad it may be. You are brave people to be foster parents to those dogs and I admire you for that and for this delicious noodle bowl.

  • SO WEIRD! I made this exact recipe last night (apart from the shitake). It was so yummy and you posting this today is beyond stragne!

    I hope your house will be filled of joy soon again!

    Love!

  • This is some gorgeous bowl food, lady. Love that you used coconut oil. And the dogs, gosh. They teach us so much and make us about a hundred times better at living and being with the world. Patience, preparation and endless love/slobbery kisses. Best.

  • I remember bringing Cookie home, she was this black and white spotted stranger who jumped and walked all over me with absolutely no regard for personal space (she still does). It took a couple of days to get to know each other, but on the third day, after waking up to find her snuggled under the covers with me, my heart melted. I don’t know how I could let the foster dogs go, but I suppose it would be different knowing that they were going to go someday. It’s a marvelous thing you two are doing for those dogs. Your noodle bowl looks delish. I’ve been seeing lots of pretty, local bok choy lately and haven’t known what to do with it. Problem solved!

  • I love a big bowl of noodles and I can’t wait for bok choy to make an appearance!

  • I love how you describe the fostering experience, makes me see things in a new way. :)

  • I admire you guys for taking fosters in while they await for a more permanent home. I can’t imagine how hard it is to say goodbye. These photographs are beautiful. I love all the green in your noodle bowl. Bok choy is so delicious. I made some noodles last night as well.

  • Vanessa

    Yikes, I’ll pay you any amount you need for you to prepare this for me! I am serious!

  • I’ve never fostered, but had a little companion for about 16 years. She taught me so much that I never expected. We’re between dogs right now, but mulching our lives getting ready for one. Loved reading about your fostering experiences.

  • What a beautiful and poignant post. I have to admit, I’ve never thought about fostering in those terms before, but now that you’ve put them in my head, I doubt I will ever be able to get them out. I look forward to a time when I can foster dogs as well. :)

  • I’ve never owned (or fostered) a dog, but even looking after my aunt’s one for a single weekend left me pretty heart broken when it had to go! I love the way you’ve embraced fostering though and see the moving on as a positive experience.

    These noodles look gorgeous – fresh and simple and utterly delicious.

  • yum, I’m drooling.. I love noodles like this.

  • I popped over here off Tastespotting because this recipe looks so delicious but your story of fostering was really moving. We’ve got a rescue pittie of our own and an apartment that has a strict pet policy (1 dog under 50 lbs, no vicious breeds, etc etc) so we’re a family of 3 for now but I can’t wait to foster a dog when we move into a house someday.

    A friend of mine fosters rescue greyhounds, she’s on her 53rd now and I’ve always so admired and respected her wide and generous heart. And yours, too! Those dogs and their forever families are so lucky and surely grateful. I’ll be back to read more of your great writing!

  • Another lovely post [do I write that every time? Well, it's true]. I love how you let loss enter your life in such a positive way – I tend to run from it, scared of the letting go. This has given me so much to process!

    And, the noodles look delicious.

  • I can’t have foster dogs ‘cuz I’d want to keep them all! It must be gut-wrenching to let them go!

    BTW, I absolutely love your blogs and pictures!

  • Funny you posted this because I was just thinking about your previous dog fostering post and wondering how it was going. I think I’d love to do something like this and you definitely make it sound worth it!

  • I love a good bowl of noodles. We have been devouring every now and then, since it’s quite chilly these days.

    Love the photos. So ethereal :)

  • Looks delicious! I have a huge package of soba noodles that I need to use up. This looks like a perfect recipe :)

  • love the fresh green color of this dish combined with the comfort and warmth of the brown noodles. isn’t food so visual too? adding it to my spring list of recipes I can’t wait to try!

  • Love this variety of noodles. My next to make recipe.

  • I could say so many things — the memories of all the pets we’ve loved and lost over the years. We’ve adopted our pets for years now, and although we’ve not fostered as your have — which is pretty wonderful — we’ve felt we’ve done something to help. There’s nothing quite like that wag of a tail when you reach down to scratch that space right between the ears and say, “Would you like to come home with us?” We’ve been dogless for two years now since our sweet Jones passed away, and although we’ve talked about getting another doggo wistfully, still have not committed. Thanks for reminding me how much a dog can fill a home and life. I’ve missed it so much. (And thanks for the recipe. It sounds delicious).

  • I’m sorry to hear that you had to say goodbye to Tex. I think that it’s so wonderful that you bring foster dogs into your home!

    As for this recipe? It’s lovely. It’s simple, yet a bit unexpected. I can just tell that this is one of those dishes that my body would thank me for eating.

  • Gosh, how did I miss this post? So timely for me. I need extra help absorbing the waves of life right now. I picture you standing in the way of a big wave and diving into it as it comes close. Love your adventure and zeal. Rub off on me, wont you?!

  • again, such peaceful pictures. what a great combo you two!

  • In many ways you’ve summed up how I feel about fostering animals. I haven’t personally been able to foster any cats or dogs (my apartment doesn’t allow them) but my mom has probably fostered over 100 animals in the last 4 or 5 years, and for a year and a half of that time I was living at home, so I have plenty experience with the process between that, and talking to my mom about it. I try to recommend it to friends (and lets be real, relative strangers with whom I somehow strike up a conversation about it) who have lost a pet and perhaps aren’t quite ready to adopt again yet, but could use some furry company to fill the void, but I’m often met with strong disinterest out of fear that they’d become animal hoarders.

    I understand how one might think that, if they hadn’t experienced it themselves, and I will fully admit that it has been harder to send some animals off to their new homes than others (we also have adopted two cats that were former fosters) but for the most part I find it to be so fulfilling to help shape/raise/rehabilitate an animal that might not otherwise have had a chance at life. To each their own, and I’m sure some would have more trouble with it than others; we’ve become a bit more detached to the foster animals that are ever present in the house out of necessity, but no less caring. I think it’s necessary to have some small level of detachment in order to be able to give them up to their new family (my mom also has fostered a host of sickly kittens, so sometimes its necessary to forestall heartbreak when the likelihood of their living is slim).

    Essentially, rambling comment aside, I really appreciate your words on the subject, and commend you for doing something that is difficult, but ultimately so rewarding. Think of all the animals (and people) whose lives you’ve made an enormously positive impact on! Also, this soba noodle salad sounds fantastic, and consequently I just bookmarked it for a dinner soon!

  • I came here looking for something to do with my leftover bok choy and was instantly struck by your lovely pictures! I especially like the first one!

  • Kara Shure

    yum

  • kaity

    Great recipe idea- however I had to improvise a bit because the instructions were not structured very clear. I also added some finely sliced red chile and cilantro. Perfection!

  • Carrie

    Very tasty recipe, however my family all agreed – too much “sour stuff” (vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice). I would cut the sour stuff in half. I would also cut the oil in half. We used red peppers in place of the shiitakes, since the family doesn’t like mushrooms. This was so good I would add some even if you used mushrooms. We also threw in some edamame, which was very tasty. Thanks for the recipe! Even with the additions, it is a keeper.

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