Appetizer Idea: Unfried Mac-and-Cheese Bites

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Taste the unfried side…photo (18)

That rings in my head. It’s got to be a slogan for some company, although I’m not sure what at the moment. It’s possible that it’s just a rhyme I’ve made up to.

But it’s sticky. No, not like fried sticky. It’s an idea–and a health habit–that sticks, i.e. has staying power. Nothing truly good comes from anything fried, not in the long-term (health wise) or in how you feel right after eating something fried.

A quick vignette to illuminate my point:

Shortly before the 4th of July this year, a friend of mine indulged in a fried mac-and-cheese burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines. The thing was a spectacle with it’s layering of mac and cheese and “buns” made as large mac-and-cheese bites, similar to the ones made popular by Sonic and other fast food chains. Was it comical? Absolutely. Did it make everyone cringe a little? Yes. There’s something appealing to us Americans about indulgence and extremes. I get that. But we also know better.photo (16)

Epilogue: Dear friend did not finish that burger. He took the rest for lunch the next day, his girlfriend squealing uncomfortably at the thought of it being reheated.

My purpose in telling you this story is to lead you to another option. You know I’ve been experimenting with egg roll wrappers lately, and so with some cheesy cauliflower left over from my Healthier Mac-and-Cheese You Can Microwave, I set out to make an appetizer comparable to the cheesy, carby bites so many crave, sans the grease.

How’d they turn out? In my humble, disapproving-of-all-things-fried opinion, REALLY GOOD! Perfect crunch. Perfect amount of cheesiness, and anything but hard to make.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappersphoto (19)

1 single-serving container of Green Giant Cheesy Cauliflower

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or a regular cookie sheet if you don’t have a mini-muffin one. Set aside.

Using a pizza cutter, slice the egg roll wrappers in half to get two triangles for each square sheet.

Gently press the middle of each triangular wrapper into the tin or lay flat. In the center, spoon in warmed cheesy cauliflower mix. Be conservative in how much you spoon in. A little dollop goes a long way.

The next part is tricky. Fold the edges of the wrapper over and tuck them under the bottoms to form the ball. You’ll have to finagle them a little to get them just right, but keep calm and fold gently. When you’ve achieved folding that makes them look like small balls or popovers, pop them in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, or until the outer edges are brown and crispy. photo (15)

Serve warm in a favorite dipping sauce or with a sprinkle of pepper as I did. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Hash + Egg

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If you love fun food like I do.IMG_1293

If you adore anything avian (birds, nests, eggs).

If you love comfort food.

You’ll love this.

Sweet potato hash gets a salty-sweet kick with a little onion salt and an egg bakes in the center for a most delicious pairing that would be fun to make with kids.

Or even, fun for a twenty-something gal who likes breakfast for dinner every now and then.

If you think it’s hard to make, think again. Nothing I make is very challenging, really. I have limited time and limited patience most nights, like most people. So I try to cook fast, but well. IMG_1296

So don’t let a spud and a bird’s egg scare you. Try this recipe. You can even try it in the microwave.

Ingredients

1-6 or 7 oz. sweet potato

1 egg

dash of onion salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a ramekin. Set aside.IMG_1283

Cut your potato into four pieces. Heat for 30 seconds to soften a tad. Then take to the scraper and begin making hash with your shredder. You could process in a food processor, but you won’t get hash shreds, really.

Once your shreds are ready, put them in the ramekin. Shape a little hole in the center for the egg. Crack it and drop it in the center. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the egg and shreds are fully cooked.

Alternatively, if you want to try this in the microwave–which I also did once because I really didn’t have any patience that night–microwave your shreds in the ramekin for 3 minutes. Add in the egg as you would if you were baking, and microwave for another 1-2 minutes, being careful to listen for overheating or that unwelcome yolk-pop sound.IMG_1295

Sprinkle with a little pepper, hot sauce, or whatever else you like on your eggs and potatoes, and enjoy!

Appetizer Idea: Southwestern Egg Rolls

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Another egg roll wrapper recipe comin’ atcha!photo (42)

Why? Because I had a bajillion of them and a hankering for some crispy appetizers! Yes, the egg-roll-wrapper saga is not over. And I question whether or not its crispy goodness should.

Since I’m headed to Texas, I thought I’d try a Tex-Mex recipe, for festivity’s sake.

And like anything I do, this recipe is simple, easy, and fast. Planned for the live-alone girl (or guy) in mind, and made to pack a flavorful pop the “Everything’s Bigger” state can love.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappers, sliced in halves

1/4 cup black beans (or pinto)

1/4 cup fresh corn kernelsphoto (41)

1/2 small Roma tomato or 3-4 grape tomatoes

1 T chopped onion

dash of minced garlic

dash of: cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro

twist of lime

optional: Chipotle Ranch dressing

Directionsphoto (39)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a small skillet, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, garlic, spices, and lime. Saute until veggies appear fully sauteed and seasoned.

Transfer veggies to your four eggroll strips. Parcel out less than you think to each. Divide evenly, but “eyeball,” as my mother would say, to see if you might add a bit more. Before you start to roll, be careful to overlap to create a longer roll and make sure the ends connect up so none of the filling comes out. This is also why you have to underestimate how much veggie filling is needed because more often than not, you’ve added more than can fit.

Bake until crispy and the wraps start to flake up with air bubbles. Serve hot in cool dipping sauce if you like. Que bueno!

Burgie in a Nest

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Burgers are coming in all kinds of packages these days. I’m always happy to see restaurants that offer whole-wheat bun options, less happy when I see disgustingly indulgent bun options, like the fried mac-and-cheese buns at Zombie Burger. Yes, ZB in downtown Des Moines is an excellent restaurant, very tasty choice with lots of creations, but the mac-and-cheese burger that has mac on a burger between two fried mac-and-cheese patties as buns: disgusting.CC Pics 018

And then there are those who offer protein-style options, like lettuce wraps, which I really like. Quesadilla wraps are big now, too.

So in my quest to use up all 21 egg roll wrappers purchased for a single-serving recipe way, way back at the start of summer, I had another idea. Most have been appetizer ideas, but this is a wrapper idea. Wrap a burger in an egg roll wrapper for a crunchy alternative to buns that adds a nice texture.

And it’s just cute. To me it looks like a little infant burger poking out of a little nest.

The reality is that it’s actually a substantially-sized venison patty that packs a lot of delicious flavor, but back to being cute…

Here’s how to wrap your burgie in its nest for an alternative to the bun that’s a little more fun.

Ingredientsphoto (27)

1 egg roll wrapper

4-6 oz. burger, cooked

toppings of choice

Directions

Preheat broiler to high or set your oven to bake at 450 degrees. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.

Lay the burger on the egg roll wrapper, in the center. Now slide it down closer to one corner. Not all the way, but close. Fold the two perpendicular corners over the sides of the burger, tuck the closest corner over the top of those and fold under. With the flap that hasn’t been folded yet, curl that underneath the burger for extra support/ crunch.CC Pics 038

Note: Make sure your burgers aren’t dripping in grease as that’ll cause the wrapper to not crispy up, just stay soggy.

Broil for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. If baking, expect the crisping to take a little longer, more like 6-7 minutes.

Let cool a tad and then tuck in your favorite toppings. Crunch in and enjoy!

 

Appetizer Idea: Healthier Mozzarella Sticks

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Guess who was still trying to eat her way through 20+ egg roll wrappers after a month or more of coming up with egg roll wrapper ideas?CC Pics 016

This girl.

When my own creative mind fails, Pinterest does not. I took to the pin boards and happened across lots of recipes using cheese sticks to make baked mozzarella bites with an egg roll wrapper coating. I’ve already tried the breaded bites, so I thought why not the wrapped ones. Let’s see which is better.

Well to no surprise, they were both equally good. I think my baked mozz bites made with whole-wheat breading looked a lot prettier, but these had a nice crunch.

And these egg-rolled-wrapper ones are super quick, easy, and mess free. If you’ve got some wrappers to use or company coming over and not a lot of time on your hands, I’d go for these. CC Pics 032

1 serving (Double or triple for more company)

Ingredients

2 organic or soy mozzarella cheese sticks

2 egg roll wrappers

optional: Marinara sauce for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Cut the cheese sticks into three equal parts. Lay on one edge of the egg roll wrapper, and then slice the wrapper into three’s, too, to fit with each of the mini sticks.CC Pics 030

Roll up! I rolled mine sort of at an angle and then tucked in the sides at the end. Use a drop of water or less to seal the egg roll wrappers in place.

Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. The cheese may begin to bubble out of the sides, and if so, that’s just a sign that you did something right. They’re ready to go!

Appetizer Idea: Thai Flatbread Pizza

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The egg-roll wrapper saga seemed like it would never end. I’d tried my hand at every wonton-wrapper-inspired idea I could imagine.photo (38)

And then one day I had lunch at a cool little cafe-bistro in Cedar Rapids, IA called Brewed Cafe. It was at this lunch meeting that I found myself torn between a vegetarian chili and a Thai flatbread pizza. Concerned that the flatbread might disappoint, I went chili. Curious still the next day, I recalled the ingredients and tried making my own version of the ‘za.

It was great. The wrapper I used was a perfect flaky crust to make several mini pizzas. And I’d have never thought cucumber would have worked so well on a warmed crust, but I was mistaken. Slice it thin enough and it can surprise you.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappers

2-3 T Trader Joe’s red curry sauce

1/2 cup cucumber, thinly sliced

a few dashes of basil and caraway seed

Directionsphoto (36)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Spread the curry sauce over the wrappers, being sure not to use to much or the crust won’t crisp up at all. Place on sheet. Arrange cucumbers as you like and sprinkle on seasonings. Bake until wrappers have crisped, about 5-6 minutes.

Simple and tasty, just the way I like it.

Cilantro Sweet Corn Side Dish

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One of my favorite nutritionist bloggers, Snack Girl, was bragging one July morning on her Easiest Corn Salad. It did look easy and tasty. Of course I had to try it.CC Pics 029

But with my own twist of course. Snack Girl’s was more of a salad, whereas mine is more correctly identified as a corn side with a little cilantro sass.

I’ve changed some of the ingredients to make a side that has a hint of sweet alongside herby cilantro and zesty lime. I quite like the outcome.

Per usual, this recipe makes on serving, but you can make more. See Snack Girl’s post for resizing or comment below if you need help adjusting.

Ingredients

1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels

twist of lime

pinch of steviaCC Pics 027

1 T diced tomato-onion mix

dash of freshly chopped cilantro

dash of paprika

Directions

Simply combine the corn and veggies. Squeeze lime over the top. Sprinkle on the stevia and add in the cilantro.

Toss. Toss. Toss.

Top with paprika and more cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!

Appetizer Idea: Shortcake Bites

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With this post, the challenge to think of as many creative ways as possible to use wonton/ eggroll wrappers…CC Pics 008

Continues.

It started with those zesty Mini Fajita Bowls. It may have spiraled out of control. But just maybe. Because now we’re moving into desserts.

The things my brain comes up with. I’m not clever, but I’ve got an unusual resourcefulness (I’m also quite cheap or “thrifty”) and an unwavering interest in trying new culinary creations.

I like this one. The wonton wrapper forms the base of shortcake and gives it an interesting contrast in flavor. I still can’t quite explain it. Not quite a slight of saltiness, but something along those lines.

And of course, who doesn’t love some fresh chopped strawberries and a little whipped cream?CC Pics 004

No, I don’t do Cool Whip. Those sugars and preservatives aren’t kosher with me (or my stomach), but in small does my tummy can handle this wonderful product called “Tru Whip.” I love it. Pick it up in your health food section or store next time you’re ready to call it quites on a recipe that calls for Cool Whip and offers no alternatives.

Sweet with a little cream and crunch. Perfect.

1 serving (Of course, you can make many more if you have company.)

Ingredients

1 egg roll wrapper

2 T diced strawberries

1-2 T Tru WhipCC Pics 007

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Set aside.

Using a cookie cutter you like, cut as many shapes out of the egg roll wrapper as you can. I got four with a a small flower cutter, but a slightly larger one would have been perfect. Circles and other shapes would work great, too.

Tuck wrapper gently into each tin slot. Bake until crispy and golden brown, only about 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and let cool.

Once cool, spoon even amounts of strawberries into each and finish off with a pretty dollop of Tru Whip. Enjoy the sweet crunch!

Appetizer Idea: Baked Egg Rolls

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Ever admired an egg roll for its fresh veggie crunch? photo (30)

I have. What I’ve loathed, though, is the fact that the crispiness is usually fried. You know how I feel about that. NOT a fan. I love my arteries a bit too much.

Yes, so my health-snobbish ways have me trying another recipe of my own. My usual approach plays out here. I’m not drawing from any one specific recipe. Instead I snoop around on Pinterest, get a feel for how the traditional, unhealthy recipes are made, get the steps and ingredients down pat, modify to my liking, and

love it.

Everything’s better when you make it to your liking. I wanted a crispy, unfried roll with stir-fry-like veggie filling. You could modify the half-cup of veggies with rice, meats, beans, essentially anything you like. Have fun, experiment, and make it something you would want to eat.photo (28)

Again and again and again.

Ingreidents

3 egg roll wrappers (I love Nasoya)

1/2 cup stir-fry veggies

1 t low-sodium soy sauce

dash of ginger

bigger dash of red pepper flakes

optional: 1/2 t Asian dressing (like Newman’s Own Ginger-Sesame)photo (27)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a small pan, fry up veggies in soy sauce, and then mix in ginger, red pepper, and dressing if you’re using that. Saute it up on high ’til tasty coating forms, then turn down to low after a few minutes. Juices will begin to thicken. Let saute a few more minutes.

When ready, evenly distribute the veggies on the three wrappers, laying them out in a thick line. At the ends of each line, fold edges in. Flip one of the adjacent edges over and roll. You’ll roll ’til you can’t roll anymore. Flip the egg roll over on its side or seal with a dab of water so the wrapper holds (but not much).photo (31)

Bake for about 8-9 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

Hope you love it! I definitely want to try it as an appetizer for a group.

 

Satisfying Salads: Zesty Southwestern Black Bean

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Salads are not for rabbits or desperate dieters. If done right, they are a healthy, filling, nutritionally-generous meal (or side) you won’t regret.

To date, I’ve features these protein- and fiber-packed recipes:

The Sesame Steak Salad

The Garden of Eden Salad

If Asian-inspired beef and veggies isn’t for you and neither is fruit-cheese-and-nut combos–or perhaps you prefer a meat-free option (?)–then try a little Zesty Southwestern Black Bean Salad.image

This is the salad I make when I’m at home and can’t pull myself away from work for long. It’s sort of the kitchen-sink recipe I go to when time is limited. Why?

Because I always have these ingredients in my fridge and pantry, can dump them on top of a bed of lettuce at the drop of the hat, and the protein and fiber in the beans and veggies assures me I won’t be aching for a more filling meal as I work through the rest of my afternoon. The zesty dressing gives it a little bite that keeps my tastebuds happy, too.

Try it!

Ingredients

2 cups Romaine lettuce

1/4 cup black beansimage

dash of cumin

dash of chili powder

dash of red pepper flakes

1 small Roma tomato and a few slices of onion sauteed

-or-

1/4 cup canned tomatoes and green chiles

1 oz. Newman’s Own Southwestern Ranch (or something comparable)

Directions

Toss all ingredients until dressing coats the salad leaves. Or if you’re like me and prefer layers in your salad instead of a mix, start with salad base, and then top with beans, sprinkle seasonings on top, veggies, and finally drizzle dressing on top.