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.

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.

 

Sesame Steak Salad

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Women in my life are always complaining about salads. They don’t like them. They leave them feeling hungry an hour later. They’re not worth the hassle of makingSAM_5859

My goodness. If I had a penny for every time I heard that, I could buy a lot of salads. And most of those salads would probably be the Thai Chopped Chicken Salad at St. Louis Bread Co. or Panera to those not from St. Louis.

And I’d give a lot more than a penny to hear a man long for a salad. When pigs fly…

Ever on my mission to spread some helpful advice, I give the sad salad Sallies (and Sams) of the world one word of advice: protein.

Protein keeps you full. It helps you build muscle and powers you through the day. SAM_5864

And if you add protein to your salads, you will enjoy them more and stay fuller longer.

When I threw together this Sesame Steak Salad the other day, I meant to add edamame–an excellent source of protein–and completely forgot. I wish I had, so if you’re considering following this recipe and have some on hand, it would be a great addition!

Ingredients

1.5 cups Romaine lettuce

3 oz. sliced steakSAM_5863

1/2 red pepper, sliced lengthwise

a few red onions, chopped or lengthwise slices

1 t sesame seeds

radishes and chopped cabbage to garnish (although the cabbage makes for a nice crispy crunch if you need that and want to avoid fried wonton strips)

Directions

-It’s a salad, so: lettuce first, veggies next, protein on top, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and toss in dressing of your choice. If you’re taking this to work, you’ll want to add the dressing later so the salad doesn’t get soggy.

And in choosing a salad dressing, choose a good one. I love Newman’s Own Sesame-Ginger dressing. So good, good for you, and does good by giving proceeds to charity.

Mandarin-Edamame Salad

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You always know it is potluck season when you see me posting recipes for groups. This could be easily made into single-serving recipe though, just cut everything back. Use your best judgment.SAM_5482

I was reading around on a bunch of foodie sites I found on Pinterest.com about edamame salads. I still have a lot of shelled edamame leftover from my nutrition study, and wanted to incorporate it into this group recipe.

The funny thing was that I gave up. With salads, you can follow an exact recipe or—as anyone can read in my culinary philosophies & such—you can do a little guess work and create something you like even better. Don’t get caught up in the tiny differences. Just go with your gut. Trust what you know about flavor pairings and you’ll surprise yourself.

That’s what I did this time. I knew ginger and sesame flavors are often paired with mandarin oranges or edamame. You don’t see both together often. Overwhelming?photo (1)

Hardly. My co-workers didn’t think so either. They raved about how much they liked my salad. Part of me wonders if it was the bright contrasts in colors. I’m still a firm believer that eating is 50% visual.

But part of me thinks it was the surprise of the beans with the fruit. Americans don’t see that much, but I think edamame can be bland and so the mandarins perked it up, plus some crunch red onions and sweet red peppers for pizazz.

Hope you like it as much as my co-workers did!

Ingredients

1 large or 3 small heads of romaine lettuce

½ cup red onion, sliced into strips

½ cup fresh mandarin oranges

½ cup shelled edamame

½ red pepper, sliced into strips

Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Dressing

Optional: sprinkling of sesame seedsSAM_5479

Directions

Prepare lettuce as you normally would and place in large glass bowl.

Around the rim of the bowl, sprinkle the onions and the red peppers evenly.

In the center, add the edamame and then the oranges.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you’re using those. And at this point you can drizzle the dressing on, but I wanted to be kind to fellow potluckers like myself who hate with salads are drenched in dressing. That’s gross and inconsiderate, not to mention unnecessary, really. So I left it off and let them add as they liked. I know some people, like my step-dad, like their salads drenched, while others, like myself, do not. I always let guests choose because if I go light on the dressing, I know I’ll leave some wanting more.

You can toss the salad once you’re there, but again, presentation is key. I waited, was the first one to serve and so I tossed in front of them. Maintaining the pretty contrast in colors only heightened the experience, I’m sure.

Spicy Salmon Rolls

If you’re like me…SAM_5383

You grew up on fried chicken and Oreos.

If you’re like me…

You’re just now discovering health food is delicious.

A recent surprise:

Cabbage.

I’ve been trying it a lot as a mix-in for soups and pastas by sauteeing it. But recently, I boiled those healthful little leaves. My eight-year-old self would have cringed at the very word of such things. My twenty-three-year-old self was more open-minded.

And then, she was pleasantly surprised.SAM_5370

A spicy tuna mix can make anything delicious, but the boiled cabbage I used as wrappers was such a nice compliment of flavors/ textures. I think I’m in love.

And I feel a little bad for my anti-cabbage younger self. Missed way too much good eating because I was way too stubborn.

Ingredients

5-6 cabbage leaves

2 packet of shredded salmon

handful of kale

chopped onions, radishes, and any other veggies you like. SAM_5384

1/2 t minced garlic

squeeze of lemon

tiniest dash of cayenne, and a heftier dash of red pepper flakes

Directions

-Peel and clean off your cabbage leaves. Boil for only a few minutes or until tender. Remove and let dry as much as possible while you…

-Set broilers to high (or bake setting to 400 degrees). Prepare broil-safe pan with cooking spray.

-Prepare salmon mix in skillet with cooking spray on the pan first. Then add in garlic, spices, and chopped veggies. When it starts to look the like the heat is drying it out. Use the lemon juice you’ve been armed with. Sautee for a few minutes; ’til warmed through completely.SAM_5372

-The wrappers are the tricky part. Let them face up and spoon some of the mixture on the fullest end. Not too much salmon, though. You’d be surprised how little it needs. You don’t want it spilling out the edges. Fold the sides in, roll, tuck the bottom of the leaf under. Repeat.

-Line up your salmon rolls. Broil or bake until they’ve turned a bit more translucent and yellowish in color. Remove and serve warm.

You can, of course, also try them cold. I’m sure they’d be just as delicious.

My lunch was delightful. How was yours?

Spring Pan Noodles

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Last week at my friend Sareena’s Paint’n’Pour Ladies’ Wine Night–where decorative pots were painted and wine was poured, FYI–my other friend Snezana was telling me about eating for your blood type. She’s a B+, and apparently her type likes Asian cuisine, especially rice.SAM_5327

I do not know my blood type, but if it had a food preference, it would most definitely be Mediterranean. You all know I’m a pasta+protein+veggie addict. Honestly, sometimes I have to encourage my creature-of-habit ways to try something new.

That’s exactly why this recipe (adapted from Lillian’s Spring Noodles) was sought out and tried. Yes, it is still a pasta, but it breaks my routine preference for a thick and hearty red sauce.

And you know what else I find interesting? I loved it. I’m always reminded of how much fun it is to try something new when I leave my “food comfort zone.” It’s a small challenge, but I think those are the ones that make big differences in terms of day-to-day happiness. Making myself try new things, especially fun recipes, is just about as satisfying as eating them.SAM_5325

And this dish is really good!  A nice, light veggie noodle with a little salt, and just enough ginger sweetness. You can’t beat that.

Ingredients

2 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti or rice noodles

dash of minced garlic

a few sliced onions

handful of diced cabbage

1/3 cup broccoliSAM_5309

1 T low-sodium soy sauce

1 t freshly ground ginger

1 t honey

2 T sliced carrots

2 T sliced celery

1/4 cup cucumber, sliced into sticks

optional: shrimp

DirectionsSAM_5320

-Boil noodles as directed on package. Drain water. If broccoli and shrimp are frozen, defrost in microwave now and drain in collander over noodles to remove excess water–but over noodles ensures that nutrients in broccoli water aren’t lost entirely (!).

-In a small- to medium-sized pan, simmer garlic and onions in cooking spray. Then slowly add in noodles, broccoli, and shrimp. Stir a bit. Add in half of the soy and ginger. Stir a bit more. Add in the rest of the soy sauce and ginger.

-Once noodles seem coated in soy sauce and ginger, drizzle honey over the top. Then toss in carrots.

If you’ll be serving this warm, remove from heat, plate, and sprinkle cucumber and celery on top.

If you prefer a cold noodle dish, then remove from heat and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight. Top with cucumber sticks and celery prior to serving.

Crispy Edamame Snack

 

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Chips are boring.SAM_5094

 

Fries are gross.

Nuts are boring.

Fries are still gross.

The only routine with my lunch routine is no routine at all. I’m constantly switching up what I eat, especially with sides. You probably would have guessed on your own that I detest anything fried or processed. Another lunchtime challenge is that by this point in the day I haven’t had any veggies yet. So if I don’t get 2 servings of vegetables at lunchtime, my health-nut side feels the need to overcompensate at dinnertime, effectively stuffing myself and inducing lethargy to follow. Not ideal, but you’ve got to have them…SAM_5083

Back to my point with this post, I eat a lot of vegetable sides, but I’m picky about their preparation.

When in doubt, I always broil a vegetable. You’ve read about how I’ve done this with sweet potato fries, chickpeas, greenbeans. There’s nothing this girl can’t turn crispy and delicious with a broiler, seasoning, and a few minutes of patience.SAM_5091

Remember that 8-week nutrition study I participated in, the one that required me to have an incredibly high-fiber diet? In addition to breads, tofu, and black beans, I was given a generous supply of edamame. Yum! I could eat those little beans raw all day long.

But on a wet, April-showers-kind-of morning, I wanted something warm and crispy. So I tried roasting.

And you know what, it never fails to please.

Ingredients

1/2 cup edamame beans (thawed if frozen)

cooking spray

seasonings of choice

Directions

-Preheat broiler to high.

-Prepare boiling pan by spritzing lightly with cooking spray. Too much spray will actually make it harder for the beans to crisp up, and if you leave them in too long waiting, they’ll burn.

-Place beans on pan. Coat lightly with seasonings. Use hands or utensils to toss them around a bit so they’re evenly coated and sop up just a tad of the oil.

Note: you can use just about any seasonings you like. I used a garlic-pepper blend, but a spicy Tex-Mex version might feature chili powder and cumin. Or you could go Asian-inspired with a sweet ginger rub or a curry powder.

-Roast beans until the outside shells begin to crisp and turn brown. About 5-6 minutes in my broiler.

Easy Fried Rice

Ever since I eliminated preservatives from my diet, I’ve been missing an old, favorite. Many a Friday night, homemade fried rice was my go-to comfort food. The problem is that the seasoning packets I used to use were chalked full of preservatives–more than I care to think about, even now.

But a few weeks ago, I noticed a new post on Iowa Girl Eats’ Facebook page, called “Take Out, Fake Out: Easy Chicken Fried Rice.”

I investigated, and most of the ingredients were pretty acceptable by my standards.

Naturally, I’ve adjusted a bit and figured out how to create one healthful, heaping serving for one.

Did it taste the same though? Actually, yes! I was shocked at how good fried rice could taste, sans all the salt and preservatives.

The final verdict: I see more fried rice in my Friday night future (probably very soon).

Ingredients

2-3 oz. chicken tenders, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup cooked rice

1/4 cup frozen vegtables (I used carrots, peas, radishes)

optional: a small handful of sliced cabbage

1/2 t crushed garlic

dash of onion salt

1-2 t ginger (depending on how much you like)

1 T low-sodium soy sauce

1 egg

Directions

-In a small or medium skillet, cook chicken pieces in crushed garlic, salt, and part of ginger.

-Once the grease from the chicken begins to collect in the skillet, add in vegetables, cooking for another 3-5 minutes. But if you’re going to add cabbage, save for the end.

-When chicken and vegetables are almost cooked, push to sides, making a hole in the center of the skillet. Crack egg and let fry for a few minutes in the middle.

-Once egg is almost cooked, add in rice. Mix in remaining ginger and soy sauce. Turn until rice is sticky and well-coated in chicken-vegetable mixture.

Carrot Pinwheels

carrot pinwheels

Lunch is always a fun challenge for me. I’ll tell you why.

The best thing I can do for myself, I think, is take a break in the middle of the day. Lunch forces me to do this. So I like to make my lunch fun, if possible, light, but filling enough to hold me over ’til dinner.

That’s why I like these carrot pinwheels. They’re cute. They’re healthy. And they’re easy to throw together–even in your office kitchen. Just throw the ingredients in your lunch bag and prepare on site.

Ingredients

-1 whole-grain tortilla

-3 oz. grated carrots

-1-2 T vegan cream cheese

-1-2 T raisins

Optional: 1 T walnuts

Directions

-Lay out tortilla. Spread on cream cheese.

-Sprinkle on carrots and raisins.

-Tightly roll the tortilla and then slice into pinwheels.

Looks like sushi, right? Like I said, easy, fun, and different. It’s a small change for lunch, but mixing it up always makes a big difference.

Miso Soup for Health

It was a cold, cold day and warm comforting soup was in order.

The problem was this: standard chicken noodle soup wasn’t going to do the trick. I was craving something warm and thick, but not too heavy.

My I’m picky! Well, having high standards hasn’t hurt me yet.

I don’t think.

Or at least it didn’t with this soup selection from Chocolate-Covered Katie.

A single-serving version…

Ingredients

  • 6 oz sliced mushrooms (I used a combination of oyster and shiitake)
  • 2 T chopped onion
  • 1 t garlic, minced
  • splash of olive oil
  • 8 oz broth of choice (low-sodium chicken is what I used)
  • 1 t fresh thyme
  • 1 packet white miso powder (or red)
  • optional: greens for garnish

Directions

-In a pot, heat oil and garlic. Stir in onion and mushrooms. Saute for approximately 5-6 minutes.

-Then add in broth and thyme. Let cook on medium-high for a few minutes. Then simmer for the next 30 minutes or so.

-Remove soup pot from stovetop. Mix in miso powder. The soup should begin to appear thicker and cloudier.

Serve warm over a bed of rice or with noodles.

Also, this recipe freezes well. I made a big batch and saved the leftovers in individual containers in the freezer, which I pull out whenever I need a quick lunch.