Citrusy Asian Salad in Crispy Wonton Shells

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It’s been a very hectic week and I didn’t have the chance to go by the grocery store like I had hoped to. There was a potluck BBQ party on Saturday and I had to figure out a no-fuss, yet rather light summery appetizer to take along.  I know I had a tray of shaved beef in the freezer. Since one of my kids has more or less sworn off beef, I figured I could use the meat for an appetizer.

After a mental run down of what seemed like dozens of ideas, I decided on a summery, citrusy salad that could be eaten as a finger food. Ah, what better vehicle to hold the salad than crispy wonton shells! Have you tried those? I must say, this was my first time and I was quite impressed! The shells remained partially crisp the next day, even after a light drizzle of the delicious citrusy-Asian dressing.

It is super easy to make the shells. Just spray a muffin pan and gently mold a wonton wrapper into a general cup shape and bake at 350F for about 7 minutes or so. Similarly, shaved beef is super easy to cook. Fast too! Just season with whatever – in this case, an Asian-inspired marinade, and just saute for a few minutes.

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The salad dressing, which probably is the best part of this entire dish, is a simple combination of lemon juice, honey, teriyaki sauce, few drops of dark sesame oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

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Just layer on the salad ingredients and drizzle the dressing right before serving. These cups were a huge hit at the gathering and people raved about the dressing. Addition of lemon zest does take it a whole new level, so don’t hold back on it!

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So, what are you waiting for? Get ready to impress your friends and family at the next gathering with this super light, yet super delicious Citrusy Asian Salad in Crispy Wonton Shells!

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  • Servings: ”18″
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Ingredients
18 wonton shells
cooking spray
2 cups of Spring green mix
1/4 cup thinly sliced salad radish
1/4 cup finely minced red peppers
1/2 lb shaved beef
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
dash of salt and pepper

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spary a muffin pan with cooking spray. Carefully place a wonton wrapper into each of the muffin cups and gently form into shells. Bake for 8 minutes till golden. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan.
2. In a medium frying pan, spoon a tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the beef and quickly stir around till meat is browned. Add the teriyaki sauce and garlic and saute for another 3 minutes. Turn off heat and let the meat cool to room temperature.
3. In the meantime, remove the wonton shells from the muffin pan and carefully arrange them on a large platter. Place a layer of salad greens into each shell. Place about a tablespoon of the sautéed beef and top with radish and peppers. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, canola oil, honey, salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad cups right before serving.

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Braided Chicken and Spinach Bread

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For all the sighs and groans I hear about working with yeast, I must say, they are not that difficult to work with – that is, provided you have unexpired yeast that you know to keep alive!

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You think that sounds a bit gory – like some man eating zombie or something! May be I feel that way because I forced myself to watch the much anticipated (not by me by any means) return of The Walking Dead last night! Eeewww…to stupid and….stupid if you ask me! After enjoying Will Smith’s “I am a Legend”, I am content with not watching any more zombie nonsense!

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Anyway, back to yeast! Yes, so if you have braved to make a simple pizza dough, you have passed the threshold into the vast untapped potential of bread making! If you are still contemplating your first encounter with these little eukaryotes, then, fear not…just grab yourself a refrigerated pizza or bread dough from the store! Yes, yes, there is always a place for Pillsbury’s in everyone’s kitchen!

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This recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. Make a savory filling of your choice (let your imagination run wild), roll out the dough, place the filling, score opposite ends of the dough (they will look like a millipede or something similar with a gazillion legs), braid, brush with egg wash and bake! Trust me…it’s a fun art project like endeavor. Once you bake these, you will want to make more! They keep well in the refrigerator for a few days and make a great lunch (make them into single-serving sizes) to pack – for kids, for your spouse, for YOU! If you make them small enough, they also make a great snack for a road trip – depending on your filling and your own taste buds, they taste fine at room temperature as well.

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So, I hope you won’t skim this recipe and take a pass! Give it a try and I am pretty sure this will become a keeper!

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Braided Chicken and Spinach Bread

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1 container refrigerated pizza or bread dough (like Pillsbury’s)
OR
1 recipe (equivalent of 1 loaf of bread or 1 12-16″ pizza) of your choice
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken* (thighs or breast), seasoned with salt and pepper
1 8oz package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated mozzarella or cheddar, optional

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken breast or thighs on each side till golden brown, lower heat to medium and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes on each side till the chicken is cooked through and all juices run clear. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the meat.
3. Remove cooked chicken to a platter and let rest. Once the chicken is cool, shred the meat or dice into tiny cubes.
4. Return the pan to heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Saute onion and garlic till fragrant (about 2-3 minutes). Add the ground cumin and paprika, stir to mix. Now, stir in the spinach.
5. Cook the spinach mixture till any remaining liquid evaporates. Add in the shredded chicken and heat through to blend in all the flavors.
6. Let the chicken-spinach mixture cool down to room temperature.
7. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle.
8. Place 1/4th of the filling along the center of the dough, lengthwise, leaving about 2-3 inches on each long side.
9. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch strips along each side of the filling like shown in the picture. Criss-cross the strips like braiding and tuck in the ends. Brush with the egg wash.
10. Place all the braids on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 18-20 minutes till the tops are golden brown and the dough is cooked through.

You can serve this immediately with a dipping sauce of your choice or refrigerate for later enjoyment!

* Instead of cooking the chicken, you can certainly substitute leftover grilled or poached chicken. Just skip steps 2 and 3!

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Chickpeas

Now that the weather is getting warmer (although I wish it would just stay warm and keep getting warmer!), it is time to lighten up the meals a bit. And so enters quinoa – again!

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One of my earliest post is for a slightly different version of quinoa salad. This recipe inspired by a traditional tabbouleh using bulgar goes to show how versatile these little seeds are! Just have a container of cooked quinoa handy and you can make a salad, quinoa breakfast cereal or southwest quinoa patty in a jiffy.

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Although the veggies listed under ingredients are what I used for this batch, you can go crazy with your favorites. Chickpeas not only amp up the fiber content, but also make this salad more substantial – a plus in my opinion ‘cos that means you don’t have to rummage through the pantry for a snack soon after dinner. Dressing is very light and refreshing with lemon juice, garlic and a bit of ground cumin. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a large bowl and start tossing in your favorite veggies and quinoa!

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Quinoa abbouleh with Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4 entrée portions
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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa, cooled
4 cups of cut up fresh salad veggies of your choice
1 15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Zest from half lemon
Juice from half lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably freshly ground
Optional, Pita halves to serve alongside “tabbouleh”

Preparation
1. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, cut up vegetables, chickpeas, lemon zest and fresh herbs. I used broccoli florets, purple cabbage, cucumber and tomato.
2. In a small bowl, combine lemon rest of the ingredients except pita halves. Whisk to make a dressing.
3. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and other “tabbouleh” ingredients and toss to combine.
4. Serve with a pita half or just by itself. Salad will keep refrigerated for next day’s lunch.

TIP: Feel free to sauté the broccoli florets in a tablespoon of olive oil to develop the flavors.

Citrusy Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Spaghetti Squash Strands

Citrusy Quinoa Salad with Edamame and Spaghetti Squash Strands

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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citrusy quinoa salad with edamame and spaghetti squash

Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cups cooked spaghetti squash, loosely packed
1/2 cup boiled, shelled edamame
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced green pepper
1/2 cup chopped tomato (or 1/2 cup cherry tomato, halved)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced/grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbls of chopped cilantro leaves (or more if desired)
2 tbls of feta cheese, if desired
Preparation
1. Prepare quinoa according to cooking instructions (usually cooked in twice the amount of water on stovetop or in rice cooker)
2. Combine all vegetables in a medium sized bowl.
3. Combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk well to combine.
4. Add to vegetables and toss to coat.
5. Serve and sprinkle with cilantro leaves and feta chees, if desired.