Crunchy Summer Rolls with Sweet and Savory Dipping Sauce

Crunchy Summer Rolls

I’ve had a terrible case of snack attacks this week.

Chips, fruits, bagels, yogurt, granola…uh, chocolate covered pretzels. Sure, that’s not all terrible but when you’re eating almost every hour on the hour, it’s time to admit to yourself that things have gotten out hand.

Not wanting to slide back into old, unhealthy habits, I knew I needed a veggie detox stat. It’s what I always do when I feel out of sorts. I had a plan but there was one more hurdle.

This week included a killer schedule that had me running all over the place. Getting to play around with new veggie recipes just wasn’t possible for me.

So, on the menu for this Meatless Monday was a super fast, super easy, super healthy mean-green dish that could get me back on track.

These crunchy summer rolls? Perfection.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

A bit of prep to chop, grate, and grill your fillings is worth the effort. Trust me.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Forget the rice paper. Go for big, dark, leafy greens. Not only are they packed with healthy nutrients, they’re built to easily roll up whatever you want. How cool is that?

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Having attempted and failed to roll burritos and wraps in the past, I have to say this was simply done. There’s no way to screw this up.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Sweet and savory with a dash of heat? Sign me up.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

And bonus points for being so pretty to look at.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 red beet root, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut in half if thick stalks
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced in thin sticks
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 6 large mustard green leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ Haas avocado, sliced
  • Olive oil spray
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Dipping sauce

  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsps of warm water
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar (or fish sauce)
  • 1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ¾ crushed red pepper (or sriracha sauce)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsps grated carrot

1. Heat a grill pan and spray with oil. Once hot, place half the asparagus bunch in pan. Spray oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side and set aside with the rest of the fillings.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve warm sugar in water. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Allow the sauce to chill in the fridge.

3. Working with one leaf at a time, trim the stems. Place a small amount of each of the fillings in the center. Fold the bottom up towards the center, then tuck in the sides and keep rolling until the fit is snug with the seam on the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the leaves.

4. Place rolls on a serving plate with the dipping sauce and slice in half. Done!

Wasn’t that easy? You can customize this with whatever ingredients you want. I’m not a fan of tofu, but that would go perfectly here, as well as mushrooms, micro greens, or even quinoa.

The next time I feel that snack attack coming on, I can roll up one of these veggie bad boys. Problem solved.

What’s your favorite healthy snack?

Do you have a Meatless Monday recipe to share?

As always, please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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Meatless Mondays: Simple Lentil Soup (With Paleo and Gluten-Free Option)

Perfect lentil soup that's easy to make and easy on the wallet.

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Let me start by apologizing to my mom. I’m sorry Mom.

Thankfully, she doesn’t use the internet and I don’t really go into detail with all of my posts so she can remain blissfully unaware of what I’m about to say.

I don’t like my mom’s beans.

There, I said it. My mom is an incredible cook, truly, but growing up I always hated eating beans and anything in the bean family. It doesn’t help that I’m Latino and rice and beans are staples in our diet so there was no avoiding it no matter how much I disliked them. Once I was old enough to start serving my own food, I discreetly added more rice and less beans and just sort of pushed them off to one side of my plate for easy disposal once I was done. Given my strong reaction against the things, I figured I just wasn’t a fan of beans and moved on.

That was until I started to go out for meals on my own and had my first real religious experience with beans. Okay, maybe religious experience is a bit extreme, but it was the first time I ate something in the bean family that not only didn’t want to make me hurl, but made me want to shovel more onto my plate and into my mouth because it tasted so damn good. It was when I realized that it wasn’t the beans fault, it was just the way my mom prepared them. Yikes. How was I going to avoid this landmine?

Luckily, I went away to college and I had four years to experiment with beans on my own to figure out the best flavor combinations that suited my tastes. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of figuring that out, but one particular legume that’s given me some trouble has been lentils.

Lentils are much simpler to make from scratch than say, red or black beans which require hours of soaking and boiling to get them soft and tasty. But you have to be careful with them too. Since they’re smaller and grittier in texture, you could end up with a mushy mess or end up in bland city. I’ve had issues getting this just right, but I think I finally figured it out with this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

Lentil Soup Ingredients

  • 1 cup of green lentils, washed and rinsed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • ½ large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cups of vegetable broth, low-sodium
  • 1 generous cup of baby spinach
  • 1 ½ tbsp of tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • ½ tsp of ground black pepper

*If you’d like to make this Paleo-friendly, just omit the red wine vinegar and replace with lemon. For gluten-free, check that the tomato paste, broth, vinegar, and lentils (if you’re using from a can) were produced without gluten. That’s it! 

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Place a 4 quart stock pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Allow it to heat for 30-45 seconds or until you can smell the oil, then add the garlic.

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2. Saute garlic for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and onions and mix well. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the tomato paste. Mix well.

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3. Let the onions, carrots, garlic and paste to cook for 3-5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and then throw in the lentils, salt, pepper, and thyme. Raise the heat to high and stir everything together. Wait for the soup to boil before reducing to a simmer and placing the lid.

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4. Leave the soup to simmer. Keep your eye on it and stir often to make sure the lentils are mixed well . After 15-20 minutes, check to see if they’re softening up. If the soup consistency is too dry for you at this point, you can add another half cup of broth or water and mix well. Cover with the lid and give it another 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are completely cooked through.

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5. Pour in the vinegar, mix well, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes. Lastly, add the spinach and stir into the soup until it begins to wilt. Turn off the heat after about 2-3 minutes.

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6. Pour your serving into a bowl and…that’s it: ENJOY!! Serve with a side of crusty seeded bread or just eat it by itself as I did.  It works either way. 🙂

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This is a perfect base for any variation that you’d like to try with lentils. Consider removing the garlic and add curry spices (coriander, garam masala, cumin, cardamom, etc) and yogurt to give it a South Asian flair. Or you can keep it in season by adding leeks, sweet potatoes or squash, and hearty greens like Swiss chard. There’s a lot that you can do to really adapt this to what suits your taste.

Also, keep in mind that one cup of lentils gives you about 18g of protein, 16g of fiber and is also a great source of iron, potassium, folate and a number of vitamins and minerals, which makes this a hearty option for a healthy, meatless meal. It’s also incredibly cheap! I made all of this with what I had on hand in my kitchen and it cost me less than $10 to put it all together.

Cheap, healthy, meatless, and most importantly, delicious! Sorry mom, but this recipe is a keeper. 🙂

Meatless Mondays: Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

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One of the things I enjoy most about cooking, is discovering how to adapt flavors that I’ve grown to love in new and interesting ways. Some of my favorite cuisines do just that by elevating simple dishes into the realm of extraordinary by focusing on key ingredients and allowing them to shine. Mexican food is no exception.

Now, you say Mexican food and people have a pretty broad idea of what that means for them. You’ve got your ooey-gooey cheesy variety of tacos and burritos that makes up the staple of supermarket frozen food aisle Mexican food and their fast food counterparts. You’ve also got your Tex-Mex which blends the best of Southwestern cooking and south of the border specialties. And then you’ve got your truly authentic Mexican food which is regional, unique, and incredibly delicious. Fast food aside, you’ve got a tremendous array of beautiful, vibrant foods that lend robust flavors to your dishes that I believe make a great foundation for all kinds of vegetarian recipes simply because they’re packing so much goodness as is.

I decided to go back to one of my basic super ingredients, quinoa, as a base for this Mexican-inspired salad.  This recipe is packed with all sorts of nutrients including fiber, protein and good fats from the avocado which makes this a great go-to for a healthy and filling meal that’s easy to make. I also wanted to have a bit of fun with this one by taking it one step further and including a brand new ingredient I’ve never used before: jicama.

I’ve seen dozens of recipes with jicama but I had no idea what to expect from this potato look-alike. Upon learning that it’s native to Mexico, I thought, I have to give this a try. I’m so glad I did because it’s a yummy addition, providing a nice sweet crunch (similar to an apple) and an extra boost of fiber and vitamin C. It can be cooked or eaten raw which gives you a variety of ways to add this to do your meals and is in season from late autumn through spring, although it’s available year-round.

Without further ado, my Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing:

Southwestern Quinoa Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

  • ¾ cup cooked white quinoa
  • 1 can of black beans, no salt added and rinsed
  • 1 cup of whole kernel corn, no salt added
  • ¼ cup red pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup cubano pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • ½ jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 green lime
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic powder
  • Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste

 Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • ½ cup plain 0% greek yogurt, (I used Fage)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste

Special Tools

  • Food processor

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Make your quinoa ahead of time.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly before cooking. For this recipe, I used 1.5 cups of salt-flavored water in a microwave-safe bowl, placed the washed quinoa inside, covered with a lid, and cooked in a microwave set on HIGH for about 8 minutes. *I only had white quinoa on hand, but this recipe would work great with red quinoa. Flavor your liquid by either using salt and lime juice, or a vegetable broth to create a more flavorful quinoa. 

2. Prep all of the ingredients by peeling, rinsing and chopping. Set aside.

3. Place the cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl and fluff with a fork.

4. Now here’s the easy part: just toss everything into the bowl! Save the cilantro and seasonings for last, but really, it’s just that simple. Mix well, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary, and set aside.

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5. Make your avocado dressing. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and set to mix until the dressing is at a smooth consistency. You can add more lemon and oil to make the dressing less thick. * This dressing is VERY versatile! You can keep it fairly thick and use it as a vegetable dip or topping. You can also add any number of herbs like dill or tarragon if you have it on hand.

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6. Scoop some of the quinoa salad on your serving plate and drizzle the avocado dressing over the top. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve!

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Next time you’re craving a bit of Mexican, ditch the cheese, fat and the preservatives (and the meat!) of the fast food stuff, and go for a Mexican-inspired dish like this one to keep yourself healthy and satisfied. See you all next Monday. 🙂

Do you like cooking with quinoa? What are your favorite Mexican foods and how would you  make them healthier if possible? Drop me a line- I’m curious!

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