Appetizer Idea: Southwestern Egg Rolls

photo (40)

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.


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!

Appetizer Idea: Bite-Sized Fajita Bowls

pretty lime fajita

With this post, I begin the first of what I imagine will become a long series of appetizer ideas using my new favorite ingredient for entertaining…fjita aerial

This weekend, I picked up a package of egg-roll wrappers. And since I opened them tonight and starting playing around with them, my mind has been racing with ideas.

I often see won-ton wrappers used to make lots of creative appetizers on I finally picked up a package for my own culinary experimentation. But note, I went with egg roll wrappers instead. Why? They’re similar, but bigger. So if I want to cut them to different shapes and sizes with a knife, then I can have whatever I need, including won tons, by slicing accordingly.

Occasionally I am clever.

For this first one, I had some venison steak strips leftover, some peppers, limes, chiles, and tomatoes. The rest is history. I love these. It’s like a perfect appetizer compliment to my own meal and I can’t wait to try them out on a group.tres fajitas


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

2 oz. steak, sliced into strips

red pepper flakes

1.5 T red and green chiles

1 slice of lime

a few diced tomatoes

a few thinly-sliced peppers

dash of cumin and chili powder


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

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, sear the steak with the vegetables, cumin, and chili powder. You can use other vegetables, of course, I used common fajita ingredients I had sitting in the fridge, but you might also try corn, avocado (not seared in pan though), tomatoes, black beans, etc. Saute for a few minutes, then evenly  distribute among the wrappers. Spritz some lime juice over the top to keep the steak moist–and a little more after it comes out of the oven–but not too much or else they’ll get soggy.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges of wrappers turn golden brown. Top with chiles and a dash of red pepper flakes. Serve right away and warm!

Appetizer Idea: Enchilada Minis


So many times I go to potlucks and watch friends, especially my gluten-free friends, fret over partaking in a dish that won’t agree with them or is simply too large in terms of portion size. Our culture has a predilection for wanting “the whole enchilada!” not just a tiny taste.SAM_5503

But wouldn’t it be delightful if tasty treats, like enchiladas, were put on portion check AND made with healthful ingredients?

Behold a new little appetizer idea: enchilada minis.

Yes, just make them mini. And don’t douse them with sauce and cheese so they become mushy. A crispy, smaller than normal enchilada can be just as delightful as a big soggy one, or in my opinion, better.

Plus, guests find finger foods delightful. And a clever idea like this might spark good foodie conversation and sharing.

Ingredients (for a single serving, double for more)SAM_5517

1 large whole-wheat burrito wrap, cut in two halves

¼ cup black sliced olives

¼-1/2 cup enchilada sauce (preferably preservative  free)

filling: pulled pork, chicken, ground beef or turkey, or a veggie filling of sauteed beans, spinach and tomatoes

optional: sprinkle cheese (soy is great, but keep sprinkling light to avoid sogginess)



-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Set aside.SAM_5495

-In a medium-sized skillet, add a little oil and sautee whatever veggies you chose or brown your meat. If you’re going for meat, be sure to drain grease well so tortillas don’t get soggy. (Clearly, the aim of this endeavor is avoiding soggy enchis at all costs.)

-Once veggies or meat filling is prepared, get ready to roll. Don’t overestimate the filling. A little goes a long way. Spread a thin layer over each tortilla half. Roll and pin down with several evenly-spaced toothpicks. Transfer to baking sheet.

-Cut the enchiladas between the toothpicks. I made 4-5 out of each half of the tortilla. Drizzle sauce over the top and drop an olive down each toothpick. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they get golden brown and crispy. Add more sauce if necessary, but again, don’t let soggy happen.

-If you’re adding cheese, do that last, a few minutes before serving. The heat will melt it for a pretty contrast. And your guests will think you’re pretty great letting them have as much healthy enchilada minis as they like.SAM_5493

Do It Yourself: Healthy Doritos


I am not gluten-free, but I love the creativity of gluten-free cooks. You can learn so much about cooking when you’re forced to be resourceful due to limited options.SAM_5531

At a “Gourmet and Gluten-Free” class my friend Sara and I attended in mid-May at Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames, we learned that a delicious, dairy- and gluten-free Alfredo sauce can be made with cashews and gets its cheesy flavor from…

Nutritional yeast? Really?

It was true! We tried it and it was so delicious. The flavor was more robust, I’d say, and my lactose-fussy tummy and her anti-gluten tummy weren’t churning in pain, much to our pleasant surprise.

The health coach mentioned that the cheesy flavor comes from the nutritional yeast, and she often adds it to the chia trips she makes in her dehydrator, which we also sampled (and found delicious).

So I thought I’d try this on my usual baked tortilla chip (2)

You know, because I still have a bajillion and five tortillas left from that high-fiber study I participated in this spring. My freezer will never be tortilla-less it seems.

So for those needing a Dorito fix—or just a change of pace from your normal chip—try this new, cheesy favorite of mine.


1 tortilla

A little cooking spray

1 t chili powder

1 t cumin

½ t garlic powder

1 packet of nutritional yeast


-Preheat broilers to high. Lightly grease a cooking sheet. Set aside.

-Using a pizza cutter, slice your tortilla into as many triangles as you can manage. Separate and transfer to prepared sheet. Spritz the other side with a little cooking spray.

-Sprinkle each spice evenly over the chips, using the order listed. The nutritional yeast should be sprinkled last and use your best judgment as to how much. I used most of the packet, but you may want less. If you prefer to have both sides coated—I don’t because flavor on one side is enough for me—flip and season the other side.

-Pop them in. My broiler toasts both sides perfectly in about two minutes flat. They’re thin, so they crisp up fast. Watch them. If you’re baking at a lower temperature, start with 7 minutes, checking every 1-2 minutes after that. Take them out once they’re golden brown and crispy.

Gluten-Free Enchiladas


The cabbage kick is more or less over, but during my fascination I snapped a few pics of all the crazy recipes I tried.SAM_5423

Okay, they’re not that crazy. But because the Standard American Diet is something that doesn’t feature many veggies, especially not as grain replacements, it seems odd.

With this recipe, I boiled cabbage leaves as tortilla wrappers and used some leftover enchilada sauce from my Enchi-lotta Pasta recipe to make a quick and satisfying lunch.


4-5 Cabbage leaves

3 oz. cooked taco meat (turkey is what I went with!)

¼ cup enchilada sauceSAM_5426

Olives for topping

Optional: cheese


Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add in leaves and boil ‘til tender.

Meanwhile, you can be preparing your taco meat. I added in lots of mix-ins to add more bulk, so onions, sautéed tomatoes and kale. If you need a healthy taco seasoning in a pinch, try my recipe for Preservative –Free Taco Seasoning.Preservative-Free Taco Seasoning

During this time, you’ll also want to get your oven ready. You can either broil the enchiladas on high if you need it faster (as I usually do) or preheat to 400 degrees. Prepare a pan with cooking spray.

When leaves are boiled and tapped dry and taco meat prepared, spoon equal portions of meat on the end of each leaf. Tuck in the sides and roll, leaving the end of the leaf tucked under the bottom so it doesn’t come undone. Transfer to pan. Drizzle the enchilada sauce and olives over the top.

If broiling, you only need only a few minutes. If baking, you’ll want longer, probably 18-22 minutes or until the leaves become somewhat translucent and crispy.

Enchi-lotta! Pasta with Turkey Taco Meat


For The Register’s Datebook last week, I wrote an article on 5 ways to celebrate the fifth. The most memorable part of that interview/ gathering process, talking to the owner of La Tapatia Grocery in Des Moines, who laughed at me for being like so many other silly Americans celebrating what Mexican-Americans consider “a normal day.” It was a pleasant jab–oxymoron intended. I hung up smiling.SAM_5395

But how did I spend my Cinco de Mayo? Did I partake in any of the very exciting festivities I wrote about?

No, but I still had un gigante amount of fun.

Saturday I went to El Azteca in Ames. A little skeptical, I went for the festive feel and friends. I was pleasantly surprised. My shrimp tacos were fairly good. The rest was standard Tex-Mex fare, the kind and quality that you may be picturing right now. Average. But my friends are far from average, so it was a great time.





On the actual holiday I was in for dinner. A long day of editing and researching for a bus-comm textbook left me cooped up in my apartment most of the day, but hankering for an exciting dinner. No friends were free, but my overabundance of whole-wheat pasta from this semester’s nutrition study gave me some ideasSAM_5403

So my favorite dinner fare (pasta+veggies+protein) headed south of the border, and for 10 minutes or so, my taste buds did, too.

So easy. So spicy.

And a nice break from my usual Italian taste.


2 oz. dry pasta (elbow, rotini, or even spaghetti noodles would work)SAM_5389

1/4 cup enchilada sauce

2-3 oz. ground turkey

dash of minced garlic

1.5 T taco seasoning

1 cup veggies of choice (I sauteed tomatoes, onions, kale, and olives)

optional: cheese

Directions SAM_5408

-Prepare pasta as directed. Meanwhile prepare veggies in pan, simmering in cooking oil and garlic.

-In another small pan, grease with cooking spray and brown turkey meat. Add in taco seasoning slowly ’til covered. If it starts to dry out, add a little water. Or if you like it spicy like I do, Tabasco.

-Now put it all together. Get a large bowl. Layer one is pasta. Drizzle with half of enchilada sauce. Layer two is meat. Layer three is veggies, the rest of the enchilada sauce, and cheese if you’re adding it on. Serve hot.

Cucumber & Dill Flatbread


For me, meals at the beginning of May need to be everything fresh. Whatever is fresh, in season, and preferably local is best.SAM_5241

So I had a cucumber.

And some leftover Neufchatel cream cheese from a complimentary brunch I pulled together for my thesis defense, which was hardly touched.

And I had a jillion or so whole-wheat tortillas from the high-fiber nutrition study I participated in this spring. I have probably had a large tortilla for lunch everyday since February. I do not understand how I haven’t made a dent in my tortilla supply.

But I do understand that toasted tortillas make for excellent burrito bowls, crispy chips, and now flatbread ‘zas.

I like this recipe a lot. It’s fresh and light, sort of like the cucumber sandwiches I remember my Nana making for us when we were little. And the serving of cream cheese is pretty small, so it did not cause my stomach any agony–for which I am thankful.SAM_5233

Try it!


1 whole-wheat tortilla

1 T Neufchatel cream cheese

as many cucumber slices as you like

dash of dried dill

(optional) sliced spinach leaves for garnishSAM_5240


If you’re working with refrigerated cream cheese (and impatient like I am), scoop out your 1 T and place on tortilla. Warm in microwave for 11 seconds or less. Spread to desired consistency. If you’re wanting a cold flatbread, then pop this in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes.

-Slice cucumber. Arrange on cooled flatbread, and then season with dill. SAM_5243

-At this point, if you’d like yours to be “grilled” you can toast it in a toaster oven or broil for just 1-2 minutes.

-If adding spinach for garnish, top it off with that after toasted. Use pizza cutter to slice, and enjoy!

This would also be really delicious with grilled zucchini, I think.

And it would be really easy to pack these ingredients up for lunch and take them with you to work. A good way to mix up your normal routine.

Even if you’ve been eating tortillas. For three months. 🙂

MexiCali Burrito Bowl



Get your burrito fix! Get it on the half shell!SAM_5105


No, no oysters in this burrito recipe, but it’s innovative enough to make onlooking eaters shellfish. (HIMYM reference. Had to go there.)

Some of the recipe pins on are–in my humble opinion–the best development for crafty cookers since the cake pop revolution a few years back. And this recipe is much easier to make, even easier than cake pops!SAM_5095

Gather your favorite burrito fillings and let’s get started. Oh, and you needn’t set aside much time. It really doesn’t take long.


one delicious, whole-wheat burrito tortilla

cooking spray


Find a small broil-safe dish that you can tuck your burrito into to achieve the shape you desire, i.e. smaller dishes for a smaller burrito bowl with more folds or larger dishes for wider shell with less folds.

Prepare the dish by lightly coating with cooking spray. Preheat broilers. When broilers are ready, fold the burrito into your greased dish. Place in oven for 1-2 minutes to get the bottom crispy. Then add in your filling ingredients of choice. Broil another 2-3 minutes or until edges are crispier and browned.SAM_5116

Serve warm.

By the way, this burrito bowl could also function nicely as a crunchy taco-salad holder or a fun, visually-interesting bowl for entertaining. You could impress guests for some time with this trick.

I even wonder if this would work well as a soup bowl? Okay, you probably don’t want to try that as a freestanding bowl, but like a breadbowl from Panera, it could be  a nice tear-and-peel twist on soup service.

Veggie-Bean Tacos


Last Wednesday I wrote all about the high-fiber study I was participating in, and about how I was Tex-Mexing with tofu for lack of meat in my diet (as required by the study). Well, the study is over, but these little veggie-bean tacos aren’t, not for me.SAM_5050

Why do I love them? First of all, I almost never eat beans, which is a shame considering all their health benefits. More so than that, I love this recipe because anytime I want a protein-packed, filling meal, it doesn’t require thawing. Defrosting meat is something I hate. It’s disgusting. It’s uneven if you use the microwave, and because I usually prepare whatever I feel like eating when I feel like eating it, I rarely plan ahead.

But beans are ready when you are. Simple and wonderful.

This recipe is very similar to the Southwestern Tofu Scramble because I sautee my beans with my veggies and smash them up a little bit. You don’t have to, but I like them to be infused with similar flavor.



1/4 cup black beans, rinsed

1 jalapeno

1/2 Roma tomato, chopped

garlic and minced onion, to taste

dash of cumin and chili powder

optional: tortillas, kale, cheese, twist of lime


-Warm a skillet to medium heat. Spray with cooking oil and begin adding in garlic, onion, tomato, and jalapeno. Sautee for a few minutes.

-Add in beans and then the seasonings into the veggies. Continue to cook until beans and veggies are heated through fully. Again, I smash my beans down a tad, but that’s personal preference. If you want to keep the texture of your mix diversified, don’t press down on them.

-Serve warm with warm tortillas, which I like to toast for a minute or so in the broiler (and it crisps the edges of the veggie-bean mix quite well).

I add kale and spritz a little lime juice over the top. Not too much though or else the tortillas become soggy. And my salsa rice makes an excellent side.


Garden Veggie Yogurt Dip


Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is so versatile.SAM_4859

I’ve made it into ice cream, mixed it into smoothies, baked it into cakes, whipped it into pancakes, thicken pasta and taco sauces with it, and made more dips with it than I can recall.

Here’s one I really like. If you’ve ever had a craving for a thicker veggie spread for your bagel or chips or raw veggies, this one is really yummy.

And easier than it looks.SAM_4851


1 6-oz. serving of Greek yogurt (plain, non-dairy alternatives work just as well)

2 T finely chopped onions

1 t onion powder

1 T dillSAM_4852

slight dash of garlic powder, pepper, and paprika

Optional mix-in ideas: small carrot shavings, chopped green onions, finely diced red pepper


Simply remove the cover on the yogurt and begin adding in each ingredient until well blended. Chill about one hour. Transfer to a small serving dish.SAM_4860

Hmm… I wonder what else this could top? I’m open to suggestions.