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.

Appetizer Idea: Basil-Tomato Margarita Bites

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So continues my obsession with egg roll and won ton wrappers.tres tomato aerial

If you’ll recall my post “Appetizer Idea: Bite-Sized Fajita Bowls,” I picked up a pack of  Nasoya egg-roll wrappers at HyVee. It’s been true love ever since.

Another one of the won-ton wrapper apps I see floating around on Pinterest.com features a combination of tomato and mozzarella.

For this first one, I wasn’t feeling mozzarella. I’ve been using a soy-based garlic-herb cheese a lot lately, so I crumbled that over the top instead, tossed in some basil, parm, and spice, and felt my eyes roll back in my head when I tasted the crispy-cheesy-flavorful crunch of this appetizer.

Hope you get a pow in the yum like I did. These appetizers are right up my alley. I’m sure I’ll continue to make them for myself, but I suspect they might become my new favorite stand-by for potlucks and dinner parties, too. Very easy, and very good.

Ingredientsbite tomato

1 egg roll wrapper (Get a good healthy brand like Nasoya)

1/2 Roma tomato, diced into medium chunks

red pepper flakes

1 oz. cheese of choice, mozzarella or a heartier herb one will do

dash of parmesan

1 t basil

Directions

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

Take the egg roll wrapper and slice into four equal squares. Press into pan, folding sides to fit down as necessary, but not pushing too hard.

In a small pan, saute the tomatoes in a little cooking oil for a few minutes, adding in the basil, then the red pepper flakes. Evenly  distribute among the wrappers.four bore tomato

Bake for about 7 minutes or until edges of wrappers turn golden brown. Top with cheese of choice (cubed or crumbled), dash of parm, and more basil if you like. Bake another 2-3 minutes until cheese melts.

Serve right away and warm, if possible. Enjoy!

S’ghetti Squash Bake

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I eat a lot of squash. I’m no paleo fanatic, but I can’t get over how much I love these sweet noodles. So tasty!SAM_5825

So I’ve had my eye on some spaghetti squash bakes for a while. I finally decided to try this one. A lot of them are overloaded with cheeses–which you know will make me so sick–but this one is fresh and zesty. Plus, a sprinkle of parm on top gives it a nice cheesy taste that won’t upset the lactose intolerant.

Interestingly… When I went to make these, I thought it would be cute to place them in a ramekin. (You know, to be more single-serving like.) Imagine my surprise when all the noodles could fit into 3! What does this tell me?

First, these would make adorable sides.

Second, I eat a lot of squash noodles on a regular basis. I usually eat an entire one–a small one, but an entire one no less. And maybe that’s another reason why I like them so much. You get a lot of food that will fuel your body in a healthy way. That’s pretty great.SAM_5844

And pretty tasty.

Ingredients

1 small or half of one medium spaghetti squash

1 small roma tomato or a handful of grape tomatoes

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2 T onion, chopped & to taste

1 T parmesan

chopped basil

dash of cayenne

1 T olive oil

spritz of lemon
DirectionsSAM_5848
-To “bake” the squash in the microwave, you’ll want to halve the squash and spritz with cooking spray. Microwave on high for 3 minutes facing down. Turn squashes upward and microwave another 3 minutes. You may need to microwave for another minute if you can’t take a fork to the squash and pull out a few tender noodles with ease. Scrape out all the noodles into a medium bowl and set aside.SAM_5835
-Meanwhile, prep ramekins by spraying with cooking spray and setting broilers on high.
-Meanwhile and meanwhile, you can start sautéing onions and tomatoes in a small frying pan with cayenne, to taste.
-Now once your squash is finished and your veggies sautéed, mix both together in one large bowl. Now spritz with lemon and toss in oil and basil.
-Dish out the squash mix evenly into ramekins. Top with a little Parmesan, if desired.
-Broil until desired crispiness is achieved. I waited about 4 minutes, once the Parmesan crumbs had melted down a bit.
-Serve right out of the oven, nice and warm.
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Baked Mozzarella Bites

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Know what’s ooey and gooey and good?SAM_5463

Hot cheesy mozzarella bites. And even lactose-deprived individuals like myself like to pull apart these delicious snacks.

What helps? Soy cheese sticks. But of course, you don’t have to use cheese sticks. You can use just about any cheese or imitation cheese you like, just get it in stick form.

Or come to think of it, cheese curds would work great, too. Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

2-3 cheese sticksSAM_5471

2 T Panko crumbs

hefty dash of dried basil

olive oil cooking spray

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a pan, set aside.

-While waiting for oven to preheat, cut sticks into small cubes or balls. Toss in a bowl.

-Spray bites with cooking spray, too–somewhat heavily. Now sprinkle your Panko over the top. Toss around ’til well covered. Sprinkle basil on top.SAM_5472

-Place on pan and bake for about 8-9 minutes or until warm, gooey, and golden brown.

Note: if they’re not gooey enough, keep in the oven a little longer. A slow heat is better, because if you pop them in the microwave for more than a few seconds, they’ll overcook, getting hard and brown. You don’t want that; trust me.

Dip in marinara and enjoy!

Pizza Hummus Dip

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Having eaten more St. Louis-style Italian dishes than one can imagine, I know all too well that what makes a perfect Italian dish is a perfect blend of seasonings. I have my favorites. This recipe, modified from Drizzle and Drip’s version, is similar to the season blends I love, plus I add in a few twists.SAM_4910

I actually prepared this hummus for a Super Bowl Party in early February. Even though I wasn’t thrilled with the somewhat chunky consistency of my hummus–the enriching aspects of being a graduate student also come with less enriching realities, like mediocre food processors–it was still a big hit at the party. Again, I blame a good blend of seasonings and one of my favorite all time flavors, simmered tomato.

Try it out! It’s especially good with lightly toasted pita triangles. And if you’re looking to make it even more similar to regular pizza, throw some cheese on top.SAM_4902

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T chopped onions
  • 2 T  tomato paste
  • 2t dried oregano
  • 1t  dried basil /or finely chopped fresh (I used fresh because I didn’t have dry)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tin of  chickpeas /garbanzo beans , drained and rinsed – (but save the liquid)
  • 2 T cup tahini
  • 1T fresh lemon juiceSAM_4907
  • optional: 1t  sea salt / kosher salt
  • optional: ground caraway seed

Directions

-In a small pan, add olive oil, onions, and the first two herbs. Simmer for a minute or so, then add in tomato paste. Simmer another minute.

-Add in chickpeas and garlic. Simmer 3-4 minutes so the flavors become more robust.

-Transfer to food processor. Start processing.

-If your food processor is awful like mine, gradually add in the chickpeas and paste. Alternate settings. Stir frequently and gradually start introducing the tahini, lemon juice, a little more olive oil if you like, salt, and caraway. (Caraway gives a nice pizza spice flavor, I think, but that may be a uniquely St. Louisan preference.)

-Continue to process until you reach a consistency you like. If the dip starts to look too dry, you can add in some of the chickpea juice or more olive oil to keep it moist. Sprinkle with some more Italian herbs and serve with your favorite veggies or pita triangles.

Ricotta-Stuffed Salmon Roll

Doctors recommend that we eat salmon at least twice a week. My favorite health benefit of salmon, and there are many, is knowing that the omega-3 nutrients can help keep a brain sharp. It’s a little expensive, yes. But in my opinion, health and well-being are always worth splurging on.

I usually eat my salmon atop a bed of fresh pasta and veggies. This is pretty routine for me. Routines are nice some nights, but I’m always looking for something new.

I came across this idea while pinning.

It’s perfect.

Ingredients

-4 oz. salmon (a long, thin slice will work best)

-2 T ricotta

-1 T flowering kale, chopped

-Italian seasonings of choice

Directions

-Set oven to broil. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.

-Mix ricotta, kale, and seasonings in a small bowl. Place on the thicker end of the filet. Slowly roll and pin together with oven-safe skewers.

-Broil for about 4-5 minutes or until the salmon has cooked fully. A little pink color is good, but know that the insides of the roll will need more time than the outsides.

Serve warm, possibly atop a bed of pasta if you want to follow suit.

Toasty Breakfast Egg Pizza

You know I love creative meals. Here’s another fun meal idea: Breakfast Egg Pizza!

It started as a wrap, but what gets me about breakfast wraps and burritos is that they’re gone in what feels like seconds. Yes, I realize most people need a few minutes to finish a wrap; I do, too. But you can’t help but always want more.

I like to savor food, all its flavors, to really experience it. I’ve heard some call this mindful eating, and I love that idea.

And I love this egg ‘za, too. It seems bigger in appearance, and it’s quite a spread. A nice big meal with lots of complimentary ingredients, all layed out and toasted to perfection. And by cutting it into slices, you have to stop and enjoy each slice all the more. 

Ingredients

1 whole-grain, low-sodium FlatOut wrap

1 T organic salsa

3 egg whites scrambled with 1 T nondairy milk (sprinkled with cumin and onion powder)

1-2 T nondairy cheese shreds

a handful of your favorite veggies

fresh cilantro and red pepper flakes to garnish

Directions

-Preheat broilers to high. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and place wrap flat on sheet. Spread salsa thinly over the wrap. Set aside.

-Prepare scrambled eggs as you normally would. When nice and fluffy, transfer to wrap, spreading out evenly.

-Add veggies, and then cheese. Broil for about 3-5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and edges are crisped.

-Garnish as you like and serve warm.

Zucchini Pizzas

As I continued to eat my way through the infant-sized zucchini I’d picked up at the Des Moines Farmers Market in late July, I remembered coming across a grilled zucchini pizza recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

But my apartment, like so many others, isn’t exactly conducive to grilling, and I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a George Foreman at my disposal. So once again, just like with my Grilled Corn Without the Grill recipe from July, I improvised with broiling.

The little za’s were a huge success! They tasted great. And I felt great knowing that I incorporated more healthy veggies into my lunch simply by swapping out traditional pizza dough crust with squash.

You’ll notice, too, that my zucchini rounds were pretty big, but I think using a smaller zucchini would make for adorable appetizers. Make them for your friends with gluten allergies (or gluten-free diets) and I promise they’ll love them.

Or if you’re trying to incorporate more veggies into your kids’ diets, let them make the zucchini za’s with you! They’ll be smiling bigger than this very happy zucchini face.

Ingredients

-3 large or 9 small zucchini rounds (about5-6 mm thick)

-1-2 T olive oil

-1/3 cup marinara sauce

-1/3 cup cheese

-1 t Italian seasonings

Toppings of choice

Directions

-Set broilers to high. Lightly grease a broil safe pan. Set aside.

-Coat each side of the zucchini rounds lightly with oil. Place on broiling sheet and broil on each side for about 3 minutes. Remove from oven once they’ve crisped up quite a bit.

-Spread sauce on each round. Top with cheese, seasonings, and desired toppings. Broil for another 3-5 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble and melt. Serve warm.

Breaded & Stuffed Italian Chicken Rolls

If you follow this blog consistently, you probably already know this about me–heck, you probably know more than you’d like to about my philosophies on food, nutrition, and the value of a dynamic food presentation.

So you also know that my favorite weeknight supper standby features the following: a hearty whole-grain pasta, a rich tomato sauce, a sauteed veggie or two, and a featured protein. Sometimes I get crazy and top with Parmesan. What can I say? I live on the edge.

No, I don’t. And this recipe isn’t exactly daring, but it is good, and it awakened by old standby one Monday evening.

For a very small amount of effort, it’s amazing how much flavor and texture some breadcrumbs, kale, ricotta, and seasoning can do to an otherwise stolid dish.

Ingredients

1 medium or 2 small chicken breasts, pounded thinly

cooking spray

2 T panko crumbs

1 T parmesan

1 T whole-wheat bread crumbs (or more panko)

2 T ricotta cheese

1/2 t crushed garlic

1-2 cherry tomatoes, diced

Italian seasonings of your choice (I also used onion powder)

a little shredded kale

Directions

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

-In a bowl, mix all bread crumbs with the Parmesan and any seasonings you like.

-Spray one side of each chicken breast with the cooking spray. Dip in breadcrumb mix until evenly coated on one side (or both if you’d like more).

-In another bowl, mix ricotta, garlic, tomato bits, seasonings, and kale. Spread cheese mixture on the thicker end of the chicken breast and begin to roll. Secure shut with toothpick or wooden skewer.

-Bake for about 15 minutes; then broil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool a bit, but serve warm as an entree or over a bed of fresh pasta and veggies.