Vietnamese Spring Roll Salad

After years of unsuccessfully trying to roll a simple rice wrapper, today I finally tossed the remnants of my pitiful efforts into the garbage and made a quick deconstructed version instead. The end result might be one of my new favorite vegan and gluten-free lunches – the Vietnamese Spring Roll Salad!

By no means novel, this salad certainly fit the bill for me and highlights some mind-blowing Asian condiments I discovered in recent months – Tsang Bangkok Peanut Sauce and Japanese Rice Seasoning. Over the years, my kids have also grown to really love mung bean (or “glass” or “cellophane”) noodles tossed with a sesame oil and soy sauce dressing, so I tend to keep these ingredients pretty stocked up in the pantry, which came in handy today.

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The bed of fluffy cool lettuce and crunchy vegetables tossed with sweet, pungent herbs of basil and mint are woven with strings of salty cold noodles and topped with extra cold, extra firm tofu right out of the fridge to make a really light lunch that is packed with protein. Glass noodles contain no sugar or cholesterol, and even though they are high in carbohydrates they have actually been proven to rate as a low-glycemic carbohydrate. If you’re note a fan of uncooked tofu, baked or fried would work or even edamame as an alternative – there’s no wrong way to do this. The best part is that the ingredients can be doubled or tripled and will last in the fridge all week.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped lettuce (any kind will work)
  • 1 Persian cucumber or 1/2 seedless English cucumber, diced with skin on
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 TB basil, chopped
  • 1 TB mint, chopped
  • 1/3 block of extra firm tofu, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked Vermicelli “glass” mung bean noodles
  • 1 TB soy sauce or tamari sauce
  • 1 ts sesame oil
  • 1 TB Bankgkok Peanut Sauce, diluted with 1 TB water to make a creamy salad dressing
  • 1 TB Nori Komi Furikake Rice Seasoning

Boil noodles for 6 minutes on medium heat, then drain and immediately rinse under cold water to cool temperature. Keep in mind the noodles comes in dry blocks with 8 to a packet so you’ll likely need to cook one to two blocks at a time and keep the leftovers. Toss with the sesame oil and soy sauce and let sit while you prep the components of the salad. Slowly mix in the noodles, top with cubed tofu, rice seasoning and peanut dressing.

Tuscan White Bean, Kale and Acorn Squash Soup

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau

In preparing for the Thanksgiving week of feasting, I recently found an absolutely addictive and delicious vegan version of a white bean, kale and sausage soup recipe from Veggie Society using puréed acorn squash and leek as the broth base, and I have happily made four times already! Like me, most people are familiar with sweet roasted butternut squash tossed with fall spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but to my surprise the acorn squash purées into a very smooth and surprisingly buttery soup base with a mild sweetness which pairs really nicely with fresh Italian spices like rosemary and thyme. I love the simplicity of cooking with ten ingredients or less, and I especially love a good soup to stock up the fridge all week, and this is one is going to be my new standby this year!

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, seeded and diced into chunks
  • 1 bag or bunch of Tuscan kale, chopped
  • 15 oz can Cannellini beans, extra can if you like it chunkier
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 package of any vegetarian Italian sausage (we prefer Trader Joe’s brand but also enjoy Lightlife brand), sliced
  • 2 TB Better Than Bouillon soup base OR 10 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 TB fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 TB olive oil

Sauté leeks with olive oil and garlic in a soup pot on medium heat until wilted and started to caramelize. Toss in acorn squash along with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves then add vegetable broth or 10 cups water with Better Than Bouillon and stir everything together. Once boiling, turn down to simmer and let cook for 25 minutes, or until squash is soft. Remove bay leaves then use hand blender to purée everything into a very smooth thick consistency. Stir in the beans, sausage and kale, then let simmer for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. According to original recipe your can also add lemon, red pepper or liquid smoke for additional flavor. So easy!

Hazelnut and Chard Ravioli

Some pasta dishes are best served room temperature on a cold day when you just wanna stress eat like a pro with little prep, AKA Thanksgiving.

This year we avoided airports and opted for an overnight stay at the nearby Great Wolf Lodge waterpark with friends followed by a lovely dinner with family. I love the simplicity and versatility of this fresh lemony, chard recipe combined with the sweet caramelized onions from 101 Cookbooks. I skipped the fresh pasta prep and used fresh, ready to eat ravioli from Trader Joe’s which means lunch was ready in about 20 minutes total — not bad!

Ingredients

  • 1 container Trader Joe’s butternut squash ravioli
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cups chopped Swiss chard, deveined and chopped
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (I purchased whole toasted at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Prepare ravioli as directed, about 3 minutes in boiling water and cooled in colander then tossed gently with about a teaspoon of olive oil to prevent sticking. In pan, caramelize the onions over medium high heat with 1 TB olive in a pan, turning constantly for about 10 minutes and then cooled. Meanwhile, squeeze the lemon juice over the Swiss chard and top with salt, then massage the leaves gently for 2 minutes in a mixing bowl and set aside. When you are ready to serve, combine Swiss chard salad with ravioli on serving dish then top with crunchy hazelnuts and Parmesan cheese. My version was heavy on the Swiss chard and looked more like salad but next time I would serve on a long, flat dish to really make the ravioli shine.

My amazing friend Shaun once again had dessert covered and prepared the most amazing Coconut Cream Pie – and I don’t even like coconut! Recipe found here.

Tofu Banh Mi with Pickled Carrots and Daikon

Nothing says summer more than street food and beer – but it’s even better when you can make it at home! I was looking for a reason to use the fresh basil, mint and cucumbers picked from our neighbors Dory and Andy’s garden who thankfully have quite the green thumb and are so generous with the neighborhood kids tramping through their carefully tended vegetables and raspberry bushes.

This tofu and veggie Banh Mi with pickled daikon and carrots is fresh, bright and crunchy with a hint of spice and is totally crave-able. Sadly, it doesn’t compare to the outstanding lemongrass tofu Banh Mi we used to buy at Nhu Lan Bakery in Chicago but hey it definitely hit the spot. I also experimented with adding the same ingredients to lower calorie Vietnamese rice paper wraps which was also a big hit.

Ingredients

  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 tofu block of your choice (I would recommend Trader Joe’s baked sriracha tofu)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch free Thai basil
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • French bread roll or Vietnamese bread roll, both toasted slightly in oven or toaster oven until crunchy
  • 2 TB mayonnaise (vegan or regular)
  • 1 TB sriracha
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Pickled Daikon and Carrots

  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 medium daikon, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Bring the pickle mixture to a boil in medium sauce pot, then sit and let cool. Pour over carrots and daikon in a mason jar or glass Tupperware container, then seal and let marinate at least 1 hour in fridge but up to 12 hours overnight is ideal. To make sriracha mayo just combine mayo, sriracha and lime juice in small bowl. If you want it thicker to smear on bread base just leave out lime juice and squeeze on top of sandwich once assembled instead. Assemble sandwich with all ingredients and gulp down with beer!

Lemony Bulgur Tabouleh

Ok. I admit it. I googled what Jennifer Aniston eats. Turns out she’s a fan of salads, no surprise there!

Apparently her favorite go-to salad is a crisp cucumber, bulgur, chickpea salad with fresh mint and parsley. Bulgur is actually a great grain to add to your diet as it’s in rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, iron and other vital minerals as well as making it a solid plant-based protein. Bulgur is also a low glycemic food with fewer calories yet twice the fiber of rice – about 25% of your daily needs in one cup. And seriously it is THE quickest and easiest grain to prepare; just add 1.5 cups hot water to 1 cup of bulgur and let it sit in a bowl for 10 minutes then fluff it with a fork!

For this lemony tabouleh I omitted the feta and pistachios that are featured in The Jennifer Salad but I will try that next time for some crunch. I opted for medium grain bulgur but you can also try coarse grain or fine grain depending on your palette. Just combine all ingredients once the bulgur is cooled. I paired this with kalamata olives, tomatoes and whole wheat pita pocket which was great after a summer’s July 4th bike ride and day outside. Remember – don’t skimp on the fresh herbs!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked bulgur
  • 1 cucumber, skinned and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 – 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mediterranean Fennel Barley Soup

One of my all-time favorite ingredients are lemons. It’s such a versatile citrus packed with vitamin C and adds a distinct tartness to any roasted vegetable. It’s also become my go-to for soup broths that are laden with heavy grains or beans. The lemon juice complements the soft creamy fennel, earthy fire roasted tomatoes and hearty barley in this stew so nicely along with a sprinkle of salty Parmesan on top!

This original recipe came from Eating Well but I switched the white beans to chickpeas and added the lemon juice which really brightened it up. This ones in my fridge for the entire week and only cost about $20 (I doubled the recipe).

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach (6 cups)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, and basil; cook, stirring frequently, until tender and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice then add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

A little summer stroll…

Enjoying a rare date night dance at friend Tom and Haeley’s wedding… whiskey in hand

Totally Awesome Asian Swiss Chard Salad

I love any salad that can be tossed with a cold cup of pasta for a hearty, fresh and easy meal either on-the-go or at home with kids. This Asian Swiss Chard salad recipe relies only on your basic knife skills and a quick assembly time, making it a versatile and vitamin-packed addition to your typical work lunch repertoire. The Brianna’s Home Style Ginger Mandarin dressing was on sale for $2.99 this week and is going to a fridge staple in our house as it packs a punch with its zingy creamy gingery flavor. This dish has potential for a great vegan Buddha bowl and can be combined with other key ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, or nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup broccoli cole slaw
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced into half moons
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 bunch rainbow Chard, stemmed and roughly diced
  • 2 cups edamame
  • Chilled cooked pasta