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Fun Friday Night Recipes

Kick off the weekend with this easy meal

It's the end of a long, hard week. TGIF. We don't have to be up tomorrow at dawn so we can relax into the evening. As often as my husband and I can on Fridays, we do just that.

Sometimes we take in an early movie and go out for a quick bite. Sometimes we stay in and pop in a DVD. Unlike Saturday or Sunday, when we've got more time to food shop and prepare, Friday night's menu needs to be fast and fun! I have some recipes for you this week that are just that.

Enter AARP VIVA's Cookware Sweepstakes.

So fry up the egg rolls and shake up the cocktails. Once you start the lo mein, get the movie ready to go, because dinner is nearly done and a good night is just minutes away.

French Gimlet
Serves 2

If there's ever a night to enjoy a good cocktail, it's Friday. A French Gimlet is the perfect blend of all my favorites — gin, St. Germain and lime juice. If you don't have a bottle of St. Germain in your stash, buy one. Unlike a lot of syrupy liqueurs St. Germain — floral and not overly sweet — will not fade in the closet over the years. Made from wild elderflowers, it partners well with the gin's juniper while lime juice balances the sweetness. Shaken over ice, this drink is bracing, yet fresh, perfect with the appetizer and main course to come.

1/2 cup gin
1/4 cup St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
2 tablespoons juice from 1 large lime

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker; shake well. Strain into a coupes or martini glasses and serve.

Next: Quick vegetable egg rolls. >>

Fun Fridays: Egg Rolls

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These veggie egg rolls don't require that much prep time.

Quick Vegetable Egg Rolls
Makes about 8 egg rolls, but recipe easily doubles

Egg rolls — you'd think they'd be hard to make. Not these. Check out the ingredient list. Besides frying oil, it's just 4 ingredients — coleslaw mix, peanut butter, scallions and egg roll wrappers. And here's the good news, you can par-fry the egg rolls ahead (a trick I learned at a Chinese restaurant a few years back). Once they're par-fried you can refrigerate them for a few days, so fry up half tonight and save the others for another night. When you're ready to enjoy them it's just two minutes from dropping them into the frying oil to dipping them into the sauce.

For added flavor and a great look, halve the egg rolls diagonally and dip each cut end into 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus another 2 cups for frying
1 package (8 ounces) coleslaw mix
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
8 egg-roll wrappers

Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce (optional, see below)

Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet until it starts to shimmer. Add coleslaw mix; stir-fry, seasoning lightly with salt, until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour mixture into a medium bowl; stir in scallions and peanut butter until evenly distributed.

Place an egg-roll wrapper on a work surface, one of the point ends facing you. Place a generous 2 tablespoons of filling just below center, forming it into a log. Fold in both sides of the wrapper over filling. Starting at end closest to you, fold wrapper over filling, then roll it as tightly as you can; moisten wrapper end with wet fingertips and press it to the roll to seal.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven to 300 degrees. Fry egg rolls, 4 at a time and turning once, until fried through, but still blond, about 2 minutes. Drain on a wire rack until ready to serve. (Par-fried egg rolls can be wrapped and refrigerated for several days.)

About 20 minutes before serving, heat oil again, this time to 375 degrees. Cook egg rolls, 4 at a time and turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce.

Lime-Ginger Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1/3 cup

Mix 2 tablespoons each: Asian fish sauce and lime juice; 1/2 teaspoon each: ground ginger and hot red pepper flakes; and 1 tablespoon each: sugar and water in a small bowl. Serve!

Next: Veggie lo mein. >>

Fun Fridays: Lo Mein

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Make lo mein with your spaghetti leftovers.

Veggie Lo Mein
Serves 4

If you make spaghetti during the week, cook a big batch and save the leftovers for tonight's lo mein. The key to a good stir-fry is to get the skillet blistering hot and cook in batches. Otherwise you'll overcrowd the pan and the lo mein will stew instead of sear.

You can change out the vegetables — trade in a colorful red pepper for the mushrooms, asparagus for the broccoli — it all depends on what you've got around, what you've got a taste for.

8 ounces each: broccoli crowns, cut into small florets, and sliced mushrooms
1/2 box (8 ounces) spaghetti
7 to 8 ounces drained extra-firm tofu (1/2 package), cut into bite-size chunks
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 recipe Lo Mein Sauce (see below)    
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion, halved from pole to pole, each half cut into sixths
1 tablespoon each: medium fresh garlic and ginger

Bring 2 quarts of water and a generous sprinkling of salt to boil in large pot. Add broccoli; cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add spaghetti, cook, stirring frequently, until just tender; drain and set aside.

Toss tofu with soy. Mix Lo Mein Sauce.

Meanwhile, turn on vent and heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onion; stir-fry until crisp and spotty brown, about 1 minute. Add another tablespoon of oil and add mushrooms; stir-fry until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add tofu; stir-fry until lightly browned, about 1 minute longer. Add broccoli; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger; stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the empty skillet; heat until shimmering. Add spaghetti; stir-fry until heated through, about 2 minutes. Return vegetable mixture to pan, along with Lo Mein sauce; stir-fry to combine. Serve immediately.

Lo Mein Sauce
Enough for 1 recipe Veggie Lo Mein

Mix 1/4 cup each: low-sodium chicken broth and low-sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons each: rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon each: hot red pepper flakes and sugar.

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