Meatless Monday - Baked Vegetable Wontons

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

Hop on over to A Life Less Sweet Reviews to enter the giveaway for a gift box full of Ayala's Herbal Water!  Enter by the end of Wednesday for a chance to win and try this unusual flavored water!

Today is not the first time I've talked about wontons.  They're such versatile and simple little wrappers.  Stuff with whatever you want, seal with a little water, fry or bake, and voila!  Deliciousness! 

I love, love, love the cream cheese stuffed fried wontons that you can buy at cheap Chinese restaurants.  So, when I saw a recipe for Crispy Vegetable Wontons in Linda McCartney's World of Vegetarian Cooking, I thought that I would take the recipe and make it my own.  My ingredients are slightly different from Linda McCartney's recipe, and her recipe called for frying the wonton.  I wanted something a little lighter, so I decided to bake them instead. 

We all loved these wontons.  (Well, to be honest, my daughter wasn't thrilled with them, but give her 5 seconds and she might have a different opinion.  Can you say picky?)  I paired them with some edamame and brown rice and a little bowl of soy sauce for dipping.  In the words of my son, "This is a keeper, mom!"

Baked Vegetable Wontons

1/3 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup cabbage, finely shredded
1/3 cup mung beansprouts
2 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp sesame oil
small wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Heat a tsp of oil in a saute pan.  Add the carrots through mushrooms and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Set vegetables aside and let cool.

Add the cooled vegetables to the rest of the ingredients and combine well.  Put a generous teaspoonful in the center of each wonton.  Dampen the edges of the wonton with water and fold the wonton wrapper in half, pressing at the damp edges to close. 

Place each finished wonton on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.  Cook wontons in hot oven for about 15 min or until wontons are slightly browned on the bottom.  Serve with a little soy sauce on the side.


Water with a kick!

>> Thursday, February 18, 2010

Have you ever been really thirsty and craved something refreshing like water but with a little flavor?  Not one of those sweet flavored waters, but just water with a pure flavor?  Then you need to check out Ayala's Herbal Waters

Click over to A Life Less Sweet Reviews for more on Ayala's Herbal Waters and a chance to win a gift pack of these waters in a giveaway!


It's almost Mardi Gras! Time for king cake!

>> Monday, February 15, 2010

I'm diverging from Meatless Monday to share a wonderful king cake recipe with you to celebrate Mardi Gras. IS meatless, so feel free to think of this as a delicious (and maybe unusual if you aren't from southern Louisiana or Mississippi) dessert edition of Meatless Monday!

Even though I grew up in coastal Mississippi where every town has their own Mardi Gras parade and schools get Fat Tuesday off, I don't have any memories of king cake until moving to Louisiana as an adult.  I'm sure that I had my share of king cake as a child, but in Lousiana, I had lots and lots of king cake.  It's a way of life down there during Mardi Gras season.  We've continued the tradition in our current home of Wyoming to help my son, a Louisiana native, celebrate his heritage (not to mention it's just fun and tasty).

If you're not familiar with Mardi Gras, it's the season just before lent culminating on Mardi Gras day - the day before lent starts.  It is the American South's version of Carnival.  Mardi Gras is known for lots of rich foods, parties, and parades, and is celebrated from the Florida panhandle through southern Louisiana (and other places too, I'm sure).

What is King Cake?   This traditional cake of Mardi Gras was brought over by the French settlers and has morphed into what we eat today.  The cake is a sweet brioche often with a slight cinnamon flavor.  Modern variations can be found stuffed with a cream cheese or fruit filling. 

Everything about the king cake is symbolic.  The circular or oval shape is to honor the three kings.  The traditional Mardi Gras colors that decorate the cake are traditional too:  purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold represents faith.  A small plastic baby (or bean) is often put inside of the cake to represent the baby Jesus.  In Louisiana, whoever found the baby had to bring the next king cake.  We're adding our own twist and saying that whoever finds the baby will have good luck the rest of the year.

King cakes are a Mardi Gras season tradition, but they've become so popular that bakeries make them and people buy them year round now.  Seems like most bakeries in southern Louisiana will ship their king cake nationwide, but we choose to go the cheaper (and just as tasty) homemade route. 

The recipe for this sweet treat looks daunting, I know, but it really isn't that bad.  You need some time, but each step is actually pretty easy.  It's even easier if you have a mixer with a dough hook to do the kneading for you!  (I use the mixer to do most of the mixing, taking a little time to mix in the butter with my own hands.  If you're using a mixer, 6 minutes of kneading with a dough hook seems to do the trick.)  Enjoy!

I didn't use the traditional colors on my king cake - just what I had on hand!  And if you look close, you can see the little plastic baby (totally optional) sitting on top waiting to be hidden inside.

Mardi Gras King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
4 cups of flour, plus extra if needed
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm milk
5 large egg yolks
1 stick butter, cut into slices and softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Filling (mix all ingredients together):
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (low fat is fine)
2 cup confectioner's sugar
3 TBSP flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of milk

Icing (Mix together using more or less milk to reach the desired consistency.):
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
3 TBSP milk

Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast and 2 tsp of sugar into it.  Stir and let the yeast/sugar mix set in a warm place for 10 min.

In a bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg, and salt and mix well.  Pour yeast mixture and warm milk into flour mixture.  Add egg yolks and mix well using hands, spoon, or mixer.  When mixture is mostly smooth, add in butter a tablespoon at a time.  (I use my dough hook to get this going, and then use my hands to finish mixing the butter in.)   Mix until dough forms a smooth ball.

Place ball of dough on a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary.  When dough is no longer very sticky, knead 10 more minutes until shiny and elastic.  (Or use a mixer with a dough hook for about 6 minutes.)

Coat a large bowl with a little butter or oil.  Place dough ball in the bowl and cover with a towel.  Let rise in a warm place for a 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. 

After rising, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and punch it down.  Sprinkle the sinnamon on, then pat and shape the dough into a long snake or cylinder.  Use a rolling pin to flatten the cylinder into a long rectangle.  Spoon the cream cheese filling along the center of the rectangle lengthwise.  Pull the lengthwise edges of the rectangle together and fold under to surround the filling with dough.

Carefully move the long, cream cheese filled rectangle onto a baking sheet so that the seam is on the bottom.  Shape into a circle and pinch the ends together.  (A pizza pan works great for this!)

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place again for 45 minutes. 

After the second rising, bake in an oven preheated to 375 F for 25-35 min or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby (or bean) inside the cake.

Spoon icing over the cake (it will be thin), and sprinkle green, purple, and gold colored sugar over the icing.


Will you watch? The Olympics and other stuff worth looking at

>> Friday, February 12, 2010

The Winter Olympics start this weekend!  Living in a place that is snowbound much of the year and home to several past winter Olympic atheletes, I have a thing for the winter Olympics.  And this year there is a little extra buzz in the area as several US and French Olympic skiers are in my area - skiing on my hill! (though admittedly on runs that I do not ski) - as their last training/racing stop before the Olympics. 

A lot of the competitors have been training their entire lives for this one opportunity.  If you want to follow and support Team USA, head on over to  You can register through the site and get the latest info and exclusive updates throughout the games.

Do you have an old ipod just collecting dust?  The Autism Alliance or MetroWest in Natrick, MA is collecting old ipods to repurpose to autistic children and adults with sensory issues who could really benefit from the sensory isolation that an ipod can offer.  Read more about the program here.  And read more about how an ipod can help those with autism at MOM - Not Otherwise Specified.

 Finally, a few recipes that I'm drooling over.

  • Homemade goat cheese from Kiss My Spatula.  That's right.  It looks surprisingly easy to make, and as I am crazy for goat cheese, this is a must try for me! 
  • Indian Lental and Rice Pancakes compliments of Vegan Dad.  I'm not the biggest bean fan (to put it mildly), but these really look good to me.
  • Chicken Enpanadas from Short Stop.  I love my corn and cheese empanadas.  These chicken empanadas don't look difficult and even come with a good looking empanada dough recipe!


Meatless Monday - Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

>> Monday, February 8, 2010

There is still time to enter the Equal Exchange Chocolate and Coffee gift bag giveaway!  Hurry over to A Life Less Sweet Reviews for details!

I must admit, when I want to make spaghetti fast, I generally turn to a jar (Newman's Own Marinara to be exact).  When I have lots of extra time, I'll make a delicious 3 hour meat-filled spaghetti sauce that the adults love, but my kids...not so much.  My kids would so much rather have a meatless spaghetti sauce.  Somehow, I managed to forget about my quick homemade spaghetti sauce along the way.  Last week, I made it again and remembered how good and easy it is.

I came up with this recipe years and years ago.  In the beginning, I was lucky enough to have an abundance of home-canned tomatoes from my husband's grandfather made from his home-grown tomatoes.  Those tomatoes made the best sauce in the world.  My mouth still craves them.  Luckily, this sauce is still good with regular old store-bought canned tomatoes.  I add a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to give the sauce a little depth.  I also like to use fresh herbs, but you could use dried instead - just use less if you go the dried route.

The kids absolutely loved this spaghetti sauce.  Next time, I think that I'll try replacing the sugar with a 1/4 cup of sweet potato instead.  Oh - and don't be afraid to make extra!  This sauce freezes beautifully!

Cathy's Quick Spaghetti Sauce

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb 12 of canned crushed tomatoes
2-3 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp sugar
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pepper to taste
6 oz mushrooms, chopped
1-2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1-2 TBSP fresh basil, chopped

Saute the onion in a sauce pan for 3-5 min.  Add pressed garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add next 7 ingredients (oregano through mushrooms).  Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes until desired consistency is reached.  Add salt to taste.  Add remaining oregano and basil at last minute.  Serve over spaghetti noodles.

I took a moment and used an immersion blender to puree the onion a bit after adding the crushed tomatoes.  That step is completely unnecessary, but it made the sauce more appealing to my kids who have a thing about onion chunks. 


Chocolate and Coffee Giveaway! You don't want to miss this!

>> Thursday, February 4, 2010

I adore chocolate.  A few years ago, if I was eating chocolate, you can be sure that it was milk chocolate.  Then we went dairy free for my then infant son for an extended period of time, and I discovered the bliss that is dark chocolate.  Deep chocolate taste that is good for you (in limited quantities)?  Sold! 

So, I was thrilled when Mambo Sprouts contacted me about doing an Equal Exchange Chocolate and Coffee gift bag giveaway.  Now...head on over to A Life Less Sweet Reviews to read more about Equal Exchange products and to enter this delicious giveaway!


Meatless Monday - Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

>> Monday, February 1, 2010

Have you ever tried spaghetti squash?  Growing up in the deep South, my family just didn't eat winter squash - ever.  But I do distinctly remember having spaghetti squash as an older child.  My mom and I thought that it would be super-cool to eat it like spaghetti noodles with spaghetti sauce.  Now, lots of people absolutely enjoy spaghetti squash this way.  I liked it so much that we never ate spaghetti squash again.  Spaghetti squash was just not a flavor for me.

Fast forward a couple of decades to the next time I ate spaghetti squash.  It was served as a side to my entree at a restaurant.  I tried some - skeptically - and loved it!  My taste has definitely changed over the years, but I think that the preparation of this spaghetti squash made all of the difference.  This side was so simple - spaghetti squash, a little butter, and some cheese.

What is spaghetti squash?  It's an oblong, pale colored winter squash whose flesh becomes stringy when cooked.  It's really quite amazing how much it resembles spaghetti when cooked.  It's has a mild flavor and a slight sweetness.  Like most winter squash, spaghetti squash will keep for a long time after buying - as long as a month at room temperature.

On to the recipe!  Give this a try some night - so easy and very tasty.  We like to have meals of just vegetable sides.  With it's unusual texture, spaghetti squash makes a wonderful addition to all vegetable meals.

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
3 TBSP butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 30 min or until squash is tender all the way through.

The baked spaghetti squash
When squash is cool enough to handle (but still warm), use a fork to flake out the stringy strands of squash into a bowl.

The baked squash after using a fork to flake the strands

Add in butter, cheese, and salt and mix well.  Serve warm.

(As always, you should fiddle with the ingredients so that it suits your tastes.  Add more or less butter.  Use Asiago or Cheddar instead of Parmesan.  The sky is the limit!)

I'm a one trick pony when it comes to spaghetti squash but would love to add some more tricks to my repertoire.  What's your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash?


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