Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls

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Every now and then I get a craving for terrible-for-you americanized Chinese food.  With this recipe I successfully satisfied this craving with a healthier alternative!  These delicious egg rolls are baked instead of fried, and contain only vegetables, so they are a lot more healthy.

Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls

Ingredients:

– Pre-made egg roll wrappers

– 2 cups grated carrots

– 2 cups shredded cabbage

– 1 finely chopped bell pepper

– 3 stalks diced green onion or 1/2 diced sweet onion

– 1 clove minced garlic

– 4 tsp. cornstarch

– 1 tbsp. water

– 1 tbsp. light soy sauce

– 1/8 tsp. ground ginger

– 1/2 tsp. brown sugar

– 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

– 1/4 tsp. salt

– 1tbsp.  olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare all vegetables and cook with a small splash of the oil in a sauce pan until veggies are tender.

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In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, water, soy sauce, and all other spices (minus the remaining oil) with a whisk.  Whisk until no longer lumpy.

Add cornstarch mixture to the vegetables and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat.

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Roll about 1/4 cup of the the vegetable mixture into the egg roll wrappers.  This is not difficult.  Just be sure you roll the egg rolls diagonally as illustrated in the pictures below:

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Place all egg rolls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper with the loose end of the wrapper down.  Brush all egg rolls with remaining olive oil.

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Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly brown.  Remove from oven and turn carefully with tongs and bake again for about 10 more minutes.  Watch them carefully so that they don’t get too brown, but you do want them crispy!

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Serve with a side of your favorite dipping sauce like soy sauce or sweet and sour.  I served mine with something a little odd, but it is a family favorite from our favorite hole-in-the-wall-chinese restaurant in Utah.  They serve them with cocktail sauce and mustard.  It’s probably a sentimental thing.  Another delicious sauce is the Sweet Chili Sauce from Trader Joe’s.  If you are lucky enough to live near one of these awesome stores, you definitely need to pick this up sometime.  I also served the egg rolls alongside some egg drop soup.

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Enjoy!

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Salad Mountain

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Salad is a plant-eater’s best friend.  At my house we eat salad 1-2 days a week for dinner, and I usually eat it 1-2 days per week for lunch as well.  The trick to making a salad feel like a meal is to really dress it up and make it feel special with lots of toppings and textures.  A great dressing also can help!

My husband endearingly nicknamed my salads “salad mountains” because they really do look like a big pile.  The awesome thing about green leafy salads is that even if the salad is nice and big, it is very low in calories (assuming most of the bulk is from greens.)  My biggest salads with the most decadent toppings (boiled egg, cheese, creamy dressing, etc.) usually are still only about 600 calories, which is a great amount for a healthy dinner.

Here are the basics for creating your own Salad Mountain.

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Ingredients to prepare and mix ahead of time: Making your own salad mix saves you lots of money and time. Plus, have you ever noticed how quickly bagged salad goes bad? Also, did you know that a lot of pre-chopped veggies that you buy in the store are sprayed with chlorine to prevent bacterial growth? Eww! Just buy the ingredients and create your own salad mix! No chlorine and it lasts longer in the fridge, too.

Lettuce – I usually buy 3-packs of romaine hearts.  It’s quicker, easier, and I usually discard the outside leaves of romaine heads until they are about that size anyway!  I rinse and chop a whole heart at once and put it in a large bowl.  I cut my lettuce with a knife because it is fast and easy. I know it supposedly makes your lettuce brown faster, but I find my chopped lettuce still lasts well for 2-3 days without browning.

Cabbage – green cabbage is a seriously underutilized salad green. It adds another dimension of flavor and texture, and goes great when chopped and mixed with romaine.  It’s also generally pretty cheap, so it can really stretch your pricier ingredients.  I chop both the romaine and the cabbage, toss it together in a bowl and keep it in the fridge. This makes salad quick and easy to prepare, and costs way less than buying bagged salad.

Green Onions (scallions) – Green onions are a great, mild onion perfect for eating raw in salads. If you like the flavor of onion but hate getting a powerful, crunchy mouthful, these blend nicely with the lettuce.  You get the flavor without noticing the bulk of a bulb onion.  I chop these semi-fine into rings and toss them in with the lettuce. They store just fine when chopped.

Shredded carrots – Prepare your own easily with a cheese grater or food processor.  No need to peel them either, as long as they are being eaten raw!

Ingredients to add only when assembling:

Diced Tomato – Does not store well diced, so best to dice right before serving or at least the day-of.

Bell Pepper – I love them sliced in big pieces, but you could also dice them up.

Cucumber – You can’t go wrong with this mild and crunchy vegetable.

Cheese – This is what MAKES a salad for me. Just a little goes a long way. I love using feta, blue, or even just shredded mozzarella. About 1 serving is around 100 calories.

Boiled Egg – About 100 calories each, and when used on the carnivorous man in your life, it may just convince him that he’s had his fill on only salad.

Chia seeds – A little goes a long way! These are packed with healthy, plant-based fats.

Croutons – My 2-year-old was converted to eating green salads by the presence of croutons.  Now she loves greens, too!

Beans – Of course! Any kind!

Fruit – Fresh or dried fruit like dried cranberries add a delicious and unexpected sweetness in contrast with the savory dressing and greens. Diced apple or pear are also among our favorites. Strawberries and blueberries are excellent as well.

Dressing –  It is worth it to splurge on the good salad dressing. No Hidden Valley Ranch crap… that is just gross.  If you aren’t making your own dressing (see my excellent sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing recipe!), find the refrigerated dressings in the produce section. They cost a little bit more than the shelf-stable kind, but taste SO much better, and have way fewer preservatives!  My favorites include the Opa greek yogurt dressings or the Bolthouse yogurt dressings. There are beautiful flavors like feta dill, jalapeño ranch (my husband’s fave), etc.  Trust me. It’s worth it.

I use a combination of anything from this list, and will occasionally throw in anything else that is in my fridge that sounds good, like leftover Mexican rice.

Having all ingredients on hand makes for a VERY quick meal.  I can throw together a great salad mountain in about 10 minutes. Yay for healthy, quick dinners!

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Veggie Jambalaya

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Jambalaya is a delicious southern food that fits my favorite qualification: one pot cooking. I am always trying to reduce the amount of dishes I produce while I cook.  This makes it so easy. All you need is a cutting board, knife, and a large skillet/pot with a lid. Jambalaya is also very easy to make vegetarian by using a lot of veggies, and (you guessed it!) BEANS!  I love this recipe with pinto, kidney or black beans. Just pick your favorite!
Ingredients:
– 1 sweet or yellow onion
– 1-2 bell peppers
– 1 poblano or other moderately spicy pepper (optional)
– 2 ribs celery
– 1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
– 3 cups broth (or water with bouillon equivalent)
– 1 cup rice (brown or white)
– 1 cup beans (black, pinto, kidney, or red)
– 2 tbsp. paprika
– 1 tsp. ground cumin
– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp. black pepper
– 1 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp. sweetener (agave nectar, sugar, real maple syrup, honey, whatever.)
– 2 tbsp. cooking oil (I use coconut or canola, not olive since the veggies are cooked at high temps.)
Clean all vegetables and either chop finely by hand or process in a food processor.  Chop/process fresh tomatoes separately if using so that they don’t get too mushy.
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Heat cooking oil in skillet until hot but not smoking. Cook all veggies (except tomatoes) in the oil until onions are translucent and all veggies are tender.  Add tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add all other ingredients and stir well. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until all water is absorbed, usually about 15-20 minutes. Be aware that if using brown rice it may take 25-35 minutes to absorb all of the water.
Once everything is done, stir well and taste.  You may need to adjust the seasonings to your personal taste. Enjoy!
*Optional: sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top of each individual serving to counteract a little spiciness if it is too much for your taste. This recipe is also great garnished with fresh chopped cilantro*

Portobello Mushroom “Burgers”

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I have to give the credit for this delicious recipe to my friend Kelly.  She shared this awesome recipe with me and it has become a regular in our household.  This is a great way to satisfy a hamburger craving without having to use actual beef, which for many reasons, I generally don’t like very much. This recipe is also REALLY fast to make, taking a total time of 30 minutes or less.

I also must note that I am still teaching myself to love mushrooms. Right now they are in the “kind of like” category for me, so trying this dish that centers around a giant mushroom was quite a jump for me. I was very pleasantly surprised! When cooked in this way, the portobello mushrooms are not slimy and have a surprising meaty flavor to them. Go figure!

Portobello Mushroom “Burgers”

Ingredients:

-One medium-sized portobello mushroom cap per person

-One small sweet onion

– One slice of cheese per burger (any kind, could also be soy cheese)

– One bun for each burger

– Other desired burger toppings, such as tomato, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, pickles, etc.

– Small amount of cooking oil of your choice

Thoroughly rinse each mushroom cap to ensure all soil has been removed.  Use a paring knife to carefully remove the majority of what is left of the mushroom stems.  Pat dry with a towel.

Slice the onion into rings or half-rings.

Heat frying pan or skillet on medium heat with oil.  Do not allow the oil to become so hot that it smokes. If this happens, you know your oil is beginning to produce carcinogens, so this is a good rule of thumb whenever heating oil for any dish.

Toss the onion into the pan and quickly sauté until semi-transparent, then move to the side of the pan in a small pile.

Place the mushroom caps GILL SIDE DOWN into the hot pan.  Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, or just until heated through.  Continue to tend the onions as needed.  Flip the mushrooms gill side up, and place slices of cheese on each mushroom.  Putting the cheese on the already-cooked gill side allows for the cheese to melt down into the mushroom cap, which is especially delicious.  While still cooking, place a pile of sautéed onion on top of each mushroom/cheese stack. This will help the cheese to melt. Cook for 3-5 more minutes.

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Dress your buns as desired while cooking completes.  It is a good idea to toast your buns because these burgers are juicier than average, and can make a flimsy, cheap bun fall apart under pressure! I also love to find a crusty french bread loaf or artisan bread of the right size and use that instead of buns.  It holds up better, and looks oh-so-much fancier. Place one hot mushroom/cheese/onion pile onto each bun & enjoy!

I usually serve these delicious sandwiches with a platter of finger veggies to share, or if I am feeling ambitious I will make a hot pan of oven fries (look for that recipe in the future!)

Couscous & Beans

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I regularly cook with couscous, and people are always asking me about this strange little food.  It originates in northern Africa, and is actually a close relative to pasta and not a grain like quinoa as is a common misconception. It is quick and easy to make, and can be dressed up in lots of different ways.  This recipe highlights one of my favorite ways to eat it.

Couscous & Beans

Ingredients:

– 2 cups couscous

– 3 cups water (or vegetable stock)

– 1 cube vegetable bouillon (omit if using stock)

– 1/2 tbsp. butter

– 1 can pinto or black beans (or 16 oz. soaked, cooked & frozen beans)

– 1-2 cups sautéed veggies (onion, green pepper, carrot, celery, get creative!)

– Salt & pepper to taste

Bring water & bouillon or stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  If your vegetables are not already sautéed, then do that on the side in a frying pan with a little olive oil. I frequently make this when I have leftovers from stir fry or fajitas, so I often have them pre-cooked.

When the water comes to a boil, stir in the couscous & beans.  If your beans are frozen, add them to the water while still boiling, let the water return to a boil and THEN add the couscous.  Remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, fluff with a fork & toss with butter & vegetables. Salt and pepper to taste.

I usually serve this well-rounded dish as a stand-alone meal, but it could also work well as a side dish to a larger meal.

Couscous can be expensive when purchased in most mainstream grocery stores.  If you are lucky enough to live near a WINCO, they sell it very inexpensively in bulk (meaning the scoop-it-yourself kind, not the COSTCO kind of bulk) in a couple of varieties! You can also find it in bulk at stores like Whole Foods. Buying in scoop-it-yourself bulk is the secret to eating well on a budget.