Happy Girl Nachos

I have fluctuated between vegetarian and “vegan-ish” diets for much of my adult life.  I feel best when I eat a mostly vegan diet, but I tend to get to a certain time frame and then I cave because there’s some food that I just can’t quite replicate and I really miss it.  Often, that food is nachos.  I will fully admit a serious need for nachos in my life.  I heart them.  Really.

About a month ago, I was feeling the need for a plate of nice warm chips with their oozy, cheesy goodness and some of my favorite toppings, but with a true and concerted effort to stick to my vegan eating this time, I figured I’d just have to deal with it.  I was sitting sadly outside of my son’s beat band class when I made a desperate attempt to find some online recipe on my phone that I could at least attempt.  I ran across this blog where some crazy girl wrote that I could have my vegan cheesy sauce with a simple scoop of red pepper hummus, some unsweetened almond milk, and a pinch of Daiya cheese?  Um, no.  I was thinking she’d lost it, but I was willing to try.

Now I love her.  Truly brilliant, I say!!  And scrumptious.  It even got a semi-thumbs up from the hubs who is from Wisconsin, so you don’t mess with his cheese.  This is seriously good.  And seriously simple.  I now enjoy my nachos anytime I like…which actually I should be mad at Happynhealthy for because it means I either better get off my ass and re-kickstart my running program, or resign myself to being fat and happy on my couch eating nachos.

Here’s how she says to mix it up, but honestly I don’t measure anything anymore.  It always turns out good~

Vegan Cheese Sauce – 70 calories per serving (approx 1/4 C)

  • 2 T Roasted red pepper humus
  • 1 T Unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 T Daiya dairy free cheese
  • Mix and heat in the microwave for 45 secs

nachos

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Tex-Mex Shrimp

I rarely cook with shrimp.  Like, literally hardly ever.  I don’t know what came over me, but I blame it on Kate posting this last week.  Anyway, I made a little different version tonight and I must say, they are delish and versatile, just like Kate’s.

Tex-Mex Shrimp

Borrowed from here….

Cooking spray

1 1/2 cups chopped white onion

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce  of your choice

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add cumin, chili powder, shrimp, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and add butter, salt, and hot sauce. Stir until the butter melts. Stir in juice and green onions.

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I can imagine these little guys would be delicious over rice, or on top of a taco salad, or just about any way you serve them.  I made them in to tacos for D.Jones by putting a dollop of homemade guac on a slightly warmed corn tortilla (doubled up, actually so they don’t tear and fall apart), and then layered some shrimp on top of the guac, topped that with a sprinkle of crumbled cotija cheese, some fresh cilantro and sliced green onions.

For myself, I crisped the corn tortilla in the oven and made it tostada-style, all nice and crunchy, then a layer of guac and the same toppings as above.  D.Jones and I taste-tested and it’s impossible to say which was better..they were both really good.

Taco Style

Or tostada style

Baked Sweet & Spicy Pickle Chips

I love pickles.  I really love all kinds of pickles, but one of my faves are the Tony Packo’s Sweet Hots, as seen here.  They don’t have them in many stores by me, so my father-in-law brings them to me from Wisconsin.  It doesn’t take me long to empty a jar and now I have a whole new way to enjoy them.  Of course, you can use any pickles you like, this was just an interesting twist on the recipe for me.  If you use regular pickle chips, of course they won’t be “sweet and spicy”, but you get the idea.

Sweet Hots

When D.Jones and I go out on the town for a cold beer, we like to order deep fried pickles.  We both like them and they are a nice complement to an ice cold beer.  That said, it’s not like I’d eat them all the time.  This little version that I found here allows me to enjoy the crunchy, salty snack without the deep frying, which is a bonus.

It was super easy, too.

Baked Sweet & Spicy Pickle Chips

Approximately 16 pickle “chips”

1 c. panko bread crumbs

1 egg

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Preheat oven to 400*.  Cover a baking sheet with tin foil.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg.  On a small plate, dump your cup of Panko bread crumbs.

Remove the pickle slices from the jar and lay them in a single layer on a paper towel.  Use another paper towel to dab the liquid off of the top of the slices.

Dip each slice in the egg and then in the Panko, being sure to coat the whole slice.

Lay the panko breaded chips in a single layer on your baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes, flip them over and bake another 5.  If they are still not as brown as you’d like them, turn the oven to broil for a couple of minutes.

Serve with ranch dressing.

Pickle Chips

Friday: Gougeres

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I cooked on Friday.  About 4 1/2 years ago, frustrated with having to plan and prepare every meal every day of the week, I unilaterally declared Fridays to be Pizza and a Movie Night.  I have to admit there was about a one year period where I ended up making my own pizzas because I had made our pizza delivery boy cry (pregnancy and hunger induced rage) and I was too embarrassed to use the pizza company again, but then we moved apartments and just like that, a fresh start and the ability to order pizzas again without the shame. I do, on occasion, still like to cook on Fridays. It’s definitely more enjoyable when it’s something you do because you want to rather than because you have to. Today, it was gougeres, or French cheese puffs. This is my go-to recipe whenever I need to bring something in for a school event. It’s quick and simple, easy to eat, and sounds impressive when you tell people you brought gougeres (make sure to say the French word rather than saying you brought French cheese puffs. Cheese puffs just doesn’t have that same ring to it).

This is another seven ingredient recipe which almost guarantees that I won’t need to make any special trips to the grocery store. It’s also great for using up leftover bits of cheese since you can use pretty much any hard, sharp cheese. I’ve made this with vintage cheddar, manchego, parmeggiano reggiano, emmentaler, gruyere, as well as different combinations of leftover cheeses and they all turn out wonderfully (although my boys definitely didn’t like the manchego version). My favorite cheese to use is gruyere. I love gruyere but find it to be a bit too strong and pungent for some recipes, but somehow it’s just nice and smooth and mellow in these. Again, you’ll find a hundred recipes out there for this, but David Lebovitz’ version is the one I use most. They’re all pretty much the same, but I love his addition of chile powder which gives the puff that extra oomph at the end.

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Gougeres, makes about 30 bite-sized puffs
Adapted from David Lebovitz

1/2 cup water
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
Big pinch of chile powder, or a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
12 chives, finely-minced or 1 to 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme (I used a lavenderless herbs de provence for mine)
3/4 cup grated cheese

Preheat the over to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the water, butter, salt, and chile or pepper in a saucepan until the butter is melted. Dump all the flour in at once and stir vigorously until everything in the pot starts to come away from the sides of the pot cleanly forming a big ball. Remove from the heat and let rest two minutes. (you want the batter to cool a bit before adding the eggs to ensure that it doesn’t cook them).

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring quickly and vigorously. The batter will appear lumpy at first — just keep stirring and it will all even out. (At this point, the dough is called pâté à choux, and is the beginning of all sorts of wonderful — profiteroles, eclairs, and beignets just to name a few.)

Add about 3/4 of the grated cheese and the chives or whatever herb you’re using. Stir until well mixed.

Spoon or pipe the dough into mounds onto your prepared baking sheet. The mound should be about the size of a cherry tomato. Make sure they’re evenly spaced. However, they won’t expand too much so you can find quite a few. I can usually fit an entire batch on one sheet. Top each puff with a bit of the remaining cheese and put in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden brown. For extra-crispy puffs, five minutes before they’re done, poke the side of each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam and return to the oven to finish baking. Serve warm.

Wednesday Twofer: Lumpia and Lentil Soup

When you make beef bourguignon on a weeknight, you end up with a lot of time to kill while it’s in the oven. I ended up being really productive last night and used my two hours to prep Wednesday’s dinner — lumpia, also known as Filipino egg rolls — which is one of Noah and Julian’s favorite dishes. I had a batch of lumpia rolled up and ready to fry for dinner but as luck would have it, we experienced a 13 degree drop in temperature overnight — going from a warm 75 degrees to a chilly 62 (don’t laugh Kristin) — making Wednesday perfect soup weather. Also happening on Wednesday — Mark left for Singapore, meaning I could cook whatever I wanted to, and Smitten Kitchen posted a new recipe for lentil soup with sausage, chard and garlic. Quite possibly the best soup-making conditions I would have in a long time.  So despite having dinner all ready to go, I ended up making the soup for me anyway.  The soup had amazing flavor and depth — I could taste every layer of flavor in each bite — and despite being a hearty soup, it never felt heavy.  It also felt like I was eating something healthy — not a bad combination.  I don’t remember feeling this full in a long time.  Definitely a keeper recipe for me.

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Lumpia
makes about 60 3″ eggrolls as an appetizer, or about 4-6 servings as a main course

Note: This is a family recipe so all the amounts are approximate. It’s also a very basic recipe so substitute as you see fit — omit the shrimp, use a different type of ground meat, add a handful of chopped green onions, jicama, and/or water chestnuts…just to name a few examples that my mom has done in the past.

Filling
1 clove garlic
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 egg
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. oyster sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Eggroll wrappers (I use 6″ square wrappers), separated
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying

Using a food processor, process the garlic until chopped. Add carrots and process until carrots are finely chopped. Add shrimp and process again until shrimp is minced. Add the ground pork, egg, soy sauce, oyster sauce (if using), and salt and pepper. Process until everything is well mixed. [If you are adding other ingredients, the general rule is to add ingredients in order of what needs more processing to least amount of processing. Jicama and water chestnuts, for example, don’t need too much processing or else they’ll get mushy so it’s usually best to add them right before the pork rather than at the very beginning.] To check seasoning, take a dime-sized portion of the filling and microwave it until fully cooked (30 seconds is normally enough). Taste it and adjust seasoning accordingly.

To wrap, beat the egg with about 1 Tbs. water. Lay the wrapper down on a flat surface and spoon or pipe a thin line of filling about one inch from the bottom. Roll tightly and use the egg wash to moisten and seal the end. Repeat until all the wrappers are used up.  Egg roll wrappers come in different sizes.  I usually use the 6″ square wrappers and then cut them in half after they’ve been rolled.  If preparing ahead of time, cover the wrapped lumpia in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.  They also freeze well once they’ve been rolled.

To cook, these are traditionally deep-fried but shallow frying works as well. Pour enough oil in a pan to come up about 1/4″ and heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot and working in batches, add the lumpia, making sure to leave enough room that they aren’t touching each other. Cook until all sides are golden brown (about 3-5 minutes per side). Drain on paper towels and serve. I like to eat these as is, but you can also serve them with a sweet chili and plum sauce or with ketchup.

Lentil soup with sausage, chard and garlic
Serves 6 (I halved the recipe)
Source: Smitten Kitchen, who in turn adapted it from the book Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts

Note: To make this vegetarian, she suggests omitting the sausage.  And for a vegan version, skip the sausage and cheese.  Easy as that.

1/2 cup olive oil, divided
4 large links of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
Kosher salt
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves or kale
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot) in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch fo salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water, more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick, though we preferred ours on the thick side.)

When the lentils are cooked, add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.

To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh Romano, passing more at the table. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge.

Healthier Veggie Egg Rolls

These egg rolls are baked, not fried, and still turn out crisp and delicious.  Oh, and for all of you folks who say you don’t like tofu, or have a spouse who doesn’t dig tofu, well, this is your recipe.  I used an entire container of tofu and my husband couldn’t even tell it was in there…and he likes tofu!

Egg Rolls

1 pkg egg roll wraps

1 pkg extra firm tofu (I bought cubed, but you can certainly cube your own)

1 T. or so of minced, fresh ginger

1/2 small onion, diced

2 c. broccoli slaw

1/2 pkg of bean sprouts

2 T. soy sauce

1 1/2 T. olive oil, + 1/2 T. for the wraps

Small cup of water

Non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 400*.  If tofu is not pre-cubed, drain the package, pat with paper towels and cut in to small cubes.  Heat approximately 1 1/2 T. olive oil in large skillet.  Add tofu, minced ginger, soy sauce and diced onion.  Cook, stirring with wooden spoon until heated through and onions are slightly soft.  Add in broccoli slaw and bean sprouts.  Cook, stirring to mix for about 2 more minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Take first egg roll wrap and lay in diamond shape in front of you.  (The directions for how to do this are also on the back of the package of egg roll wraps).  Scoop a few tablespoons full of the tofu/broccoli mix across the center of the wrap (diagonally).  Fold the bottom corner half way up, enough to cover the filling.  Fold in the left and right corners.  At this point, it should look like an open envelope with the opening toward the top.  Roll toward the open side, and then dip your fingers in to some water to moisten the edges of the final corner to close.  Place on to a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, or use parchment paper.

Repeat until all of your filling has been used.  Use remaining olive oil to lightlly brush the top of the egg rolls and bake in the oven for approximately 12 min or until you see them beginning to brown.  Flip them over, spray lightly with cooking spray and bake for about 5 more min.

Serve with any dipping sauces you like.  I made 2 easy ones that I’ll share with you:

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/4 c. peanut butter

1 T. Sriracha sauce

1 T. soy sauce

1 T. lime juice

1 T. sugar

warm water

Mix all ingredients except water.  Pour in a little amount of warm water and continue to whisk.  Add warm water until desired consistency.

Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

2 T. soy sauce

3 T. rice wine vinegar

1 T. Sriracha

1 tsp sesame oil

1 T. sugar

sesame seeds to garnish

Whisk all ingredients and then add sesame seeds as desired (not needed)

Completed egg rolls with sauce