My Attempts at Eggrolls

I came across this website and was inspired to try eggrolls. It seemed simple enough and the ingredients didn’t seem to be too obscure..but it turned out to be a bust for several reasons. Here is the original recipe that inspired me: Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Here are the ingredients I used, basically the same:

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Quick story: so I go all the way to Trader Joes because I assume that’s where all the healthy food and do-it-yourself eggroll stuff would be. I was surprised to find that they didn’t have eggroll wraps! I ended up just getting the blue cheese, broccoli slaw and like two other items which came to a total of like $30..which shouldn’t surprise me but it did catch me a little off guard. Then, I go to Target because they are supposed to be this upscale version of Walmart that would have exotic foods like eggroll wraps right? Wrong! Next I go to ol’ faithful, Walmart, and lo and behold there were the eggroll wraps! In conclusion, the grass is not always greener..lesson learned. However, it turns out those wraps didn’t turn out so good so maybe the search is still on.
 
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I fried the chikn strips and then marinated them in hot sauce and teriyaki sauce. I also crumbled the blue cheese.
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I put the chikn, slaw, and cheese in the middle of each wrap and followed the instructions from the original recipe on how to wrap them.
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Put it in oven (400 degrees) for 12-15 min..I tried to eat it with sweet and sour sauce.
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It looks decent right? Well the taste wasn’t what I expected..I’ve never had blue cheese straight up like that before and I completely underestimated the strength of that cheese! I did not like it at all..The wrap was chewy in some parts and burnt in other parts..It was just all bad..But guess how many I ate? Almost half of them over the next 2 days..There’s something within me that refuses to waste food. I think it came from my parents always forcing me to clean my plate when I was a child.
 
My second attempt, I wanted to try more traditional Chinese-food type eggrolls.
Ingredients: broccoli slaw, eggs, teriyaki and soy sauce
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I put the eggs in the pan with the slaw and seasoned it a little bit.
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And I failed again..The more I think about it, I realize one of the things that make the fast food Chinese eggrolls better is the grease..and the crispy wrap. I had none of those things. Maybe I’ll try again someday.
I don’t want to leave this post on a fail so I also made some pasta from a recipe I got on another blog and it turned out great! Spinach Pasta Casserole << Thanks!
I scaled it down a bit but here are the ingredients I used:
frozen spinach, cheddar, onion, sour cream, mushrooms, mayo, spiral noodles, parmesan cheese
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Sautee frozen spinach, onion, and mushrooms. Boiled the spiral noodles, then drain and mix everything together. Add some seasonings.
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Put in oven (350 degrees) and bake for 30 min.
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Sorry for the bad lighting, but here is the final result with some Texas toast garlic bread and sprinkled with parmesan. It was really really good but I couldn’t have too much at one time. It is pretty rich and since I’m slightly lactose intolerant, I had to be careful not to over do it.
Welp, thats it for now. Let me know if any of yall have ever been successful in making eggrolls from scratch and please tell me your secrets!
 
 
**Update**–After posting this, a few of my friends enlightened me that the only way to make good eggrolls is the fry them..Thats what the Chinese restaurants do so I should’ve known that..No more trying to be healthy with the baking lol
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Appe-teasers!

I love the holidays for several reasons. First and foremost being that I am officially on break from school! I took my last final of the semester this morning and half of me is elated that it’s all over and the other half is frustrated with my performance this semester and anxious about the grades that will soon be posted. All of those are pretty normal post-final emotions for me..I can never fully relax right away. The good thing about being married during this time is that we can lean on each other. The bad thing is that I still have to cook for two lol. I do enjoy cooking but during finals week, eating becomes less of a priority.

Anyway, I’ve learned how to make some simple appetizers (or teasers as I so cleverly entitled this post) that you can serve at a holiday party or any dinner. For me, they are more like light meals since we won’t be entertaining.

Quick story: My husband’s department had a holiday party at this swanky country club. It was a really nice space with gorgeous decorations, and the professors brought their families. But I didn’t really know a lot of people there and it was not that entertaining. We started talking to a German student who is graduating this semester, and he happened to be eating a slice of German chocolate cake. Of course I had to say something about it, and he went on to tell me that German chocolate cake is NOT from Germany. He said that once he got here, he was surprised at the name and looked it up..turns out the dessert is named after a man whose last name is “German”. He was like, “it’s kind of weird tasting.” I was like “yeah, I’m not a fan of coconut on cake.” And he was like, “We don’t even have coconuts in Germany! Oh yea, Germany is known for its lush beaches and coconut trees!”

Yall, I don’t know why I laughed so hard when he said this. I think his accent made it funnier..I probably laughed a little too hard like it was the funniest thing I had heard all night (and it was). Moral of the story: If you’re not having great time at a holiday party, find someone interesting with a good sense of humor to talk to and your night will be saved.

Now for the recipes, first up is hummus! In one of my past posts, I’ve complained about no one buying us anything on our registry. My mother heard this and for my birthday she got me a blender and a food processor from our  list. So for my first use of the processor, I decided to try something simple.

1.Hummus: 2 cans of garbonzo beans, cumin, lemon, curry powder, paprika, olive oil, minced garlic

First time I made this, I completely drained and used 2 cans of beans.

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20121125_152434<<My new food processor

I squeezed the whole lemon in there because I like the taste. Overall, the taste was really good and flavorful but the texture was a bit too dry and pasty. You can see the papers in the background..I was in the middle of a 8 hr study session.

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I eat it with pita chips or regular tortilla chips..The second time I made it, I used only one drained can of garbonzo beans and poured in a little water. It came out better texture but I lost some of the flavor. I’ll get it right one of these days. To make it pretty for a party, you should garnish it with a parsley leaf or something.

2. Deviled eggs: 4 eggs, mayonnaise or miracle whip, sweet relish, mustard, season salt (It depends on how many you want, 4 eggs makes 8 and 6 eggs makes 12 and so on.)

I’ve always loved deviled eggs and once I found out how easy it was to make, I started making them all the time or whenever I have leftover eggs (usually right before the expiration date which probably isn’t the best policy).

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After I boil the eggs, I’m too impatient to wait for them to cool completely so I put them in a bowl of ice and peel them. Cut them long ways and put the yolk in a bowl. Mix in the other ingredients including a little salt. I like a lot of sweet relish in mine.

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Put the mixture back into empty eggs.

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3. Spinach cheese quesadilla: tortillas, frozen spinach, shredded cheese, chopped onion (optional), season salt and other seasonings

Earlier I gave a recipe for Mushroom Cheese quesadillas and this is fairly similar.

20121125_220357<<Heat frozen spinach in pan and season

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Put spinach and cheese on tortilla and top with another tortilla (I forgot but make sure to put cheese as first layer, then spinach, then cheese again so the bottom tortilla can stick). I used our panini grill again! You can use a regular frying pan and it’ll turn out the same. Of course, you can cut them smaller to feed more.

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That’s it! Since I’m not a professional, I gravitate to simple recipes that can satisfy anyone and these appe-teasers will definitely make your guests think that you know your way around a kitchen.

Now that I have some time, I will be doing more experiments from some of my cookbooks so stay tuned for possible disasters! lol

Vegetarian Lasagna

Every banquet or event I go to that is held in a hotel including wedding receptions, I am very limited in my options. Lasagna or a plate of steamed vegetables and rice are usually  the only vegetarian plate options. I’ve never been a fan of hotel catering because of this and I usually love all kinds of pasta especially lasagna. Their rendition is always tasteless..I have to make sure the salt shaker is within reach. Anyways, I have come up with my own recipe for a vegetarian lasagna that tastes great..and get this, it includes a little tofu 🙂

Vegetarian Lasagna: frozen spinach, Morningstar griller crumbles, Ragu tomato sauce, onion, minced garlic, oven-ready lasagna noodles, tofu, and shredded cheese.

Side note: I also occasionally use griller crumbles with tomato sauce on regular angel hair pasta with some seasoning

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OK now back to the lasagna: First, I cook the frozen spinach, griller crumbles, garlic, and onion in a frying pan with some olive oil.

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Then, I add the tomato sauce and seasonings like oregano, season salt, etc and mix it together in the pan. In a separate bowl, I crumble the tofu and add some salt and pepper. The reason I decided to add tofu is because it kinda looks like the ricotta cheese that is usually in lasagna and since I’m slightly lactose intolerant, I decided not to have too much cheese..also, tofu makes it healthy right? I use a casserole dish (wipe it with some oil so it doesn’t stick) and start layering. First layer is the sauce/meat mixture and then add the crumbled tofu, then add the cheese. Next layer the pasta..I used the no-name brand lasagna noodles and broke them in half to fit the baking dish. Then repeat the layering until the dish is full (oh yea and preheat oven to 350 degrees)

 

 

 

20121102_19413320121102_19500120121102_195408 <—Cover with foil and put in oven for an hour and then you get the following:

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It would probably look a little better without layering the last tofu so the white stuff isn’t on top. My husband isn’t a fan of tofu but he really likes this dish because you barely get that “tofu taste”, it kinda just blends in with the rest of the ingredients. And let me tell you, this is delish! Better than any hotel catering, that’s for sure. Enjoy!

Soup Season!

Ah yes, November is here which means time for hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies or Oreos dipped in hot chocolate (my personal fav), and soup! It’s soup seasoooon!! *in my Oprah voice*

I would like to share two recipes from two different cookbooks. I don’t follow the recipes exactly but both are fairly easy and inexpensive (music to my frugal ears) to make. The first one I started making because my husband (then boyfriend) mentioned that he liked TGIF’s French Onion Soup. I didn’t like their soup too much because I thought it was too salty so I decided to take a crack at it. I found this recipe in a book that I’ve featured before on the blog (pictured below)..This is the same fancy cookbook with whom I’ve had a love/hate relationship; but every once in a while, I will find a recipe that’s not too complicated or doesn’t have weird ingredients within its pages.

Click the link here for the entire detailed recipe—>>> frenchsoup

I must warn you that this takes forever to make! I only do it when I know I have time, like if I know I have time to start dinner around 5 or 6pm so it’ll be ready by 7 or 8pm..and I’m not pressingly hungry.

Ingredients: 4 large onions (it might seem like a lot but they saute down if that makes sense, also be prepared to cry your eyes out), olive oil, butter, vegetable stock, mozzarella shredded cheese, salt and pepper

After cutting the onions, put the onions, butter, and oil in the pot until they turn into a yellowish color at the bottom of the pan. Then, pour the broth and season it and let simmer. The recipe says 45-60 min but it probably takes more like an hour and half..especially to get the right flavor.

The recipe also suggests french bread which would’ve been great if I had some but I settled for regular sandwich bread. The mozzarella is also a nice touch. Personally, I like it better the day after, when it’s been sitting in the fridge over night. I had it for lunch the next day and it was delish!

Next up, vegetarian southwest chili! I got this recipe from the cookbook pictured here:

This is actually a vegan cookbook that my loving and health-obsessed mother gave me as a gift. Needless to say, I substitute some ingredients like cashew “cheese” with real cheese. To set the record straight, I have nothing against being vegan. It’s definitely a lifestyle that I admire but it’s not for me. Never say never though, maybe later in life I will have the time to make everything from scratch. Anyways, the detailed recipe can be found here–>> chili

The ingredients I used are pictured here:

<Let the onion and bell pepper simmer a little.

<<Mix it all together!

Now this soup/chili only takes about 30 min to cook, and I let it boil a little to get the beans and corn soft. I also include seasonings like chili pepper, black pepper, and season salt to name a few.

As you can see the toast is a little crispy..but my mom always said a little charcoal is good for you. Quick story: after making the soup, I realized we only had 3 slices of bread left..As the self-less wife that I am, I was going to give my husband two and only take the butt end. But then I realized how awesome the chili is when eaten with bread so I made him split the last slice. Hence, the one and a half bread pictured above. This soup is also awesome with crackers which we didn’t have. Next time I’ll be more prepared.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do! Next on my soup list is attempting to make Brocoli Cheese soup..I’ll let you know how that goes..

Aunt Judy’s Veggie Meatloaf

One of my favorite cooks growing up was my godmother, Aunt Judy. She made the best veggie meatloaf and potato salad. All throughout college whenever there was a potluck after church, I would make this meatloaf and it would be a big hit. Soon, it was pretty much the only thing I would make for dinners that I was invited to, and I did this for two reasons. One, its pretty easy/inexpensive to make; and two, it would give me something to eat at the dinner since it would generally be the only vegetarian dish.

Soo here are the ingredients and I must warn you again that I’m not really good with measurements. I usually just put what looks good to me so forgive me if the teaspoon/tablespoon/cups are a little vague. Also you should know that there are two ways to make it..For bigger crowds, I use Morningstar Griller Crumbles but if it’s a small group, I use the regular Morningstar Grillers and just smash them up with a fork (and it tastes a lil better too). And be careful not to get Griller Prime! I am NOT a fan of that one. Since I made this for just the husband and I, I used the original grillers as pictured below:

note: To smash it up, I heat them in the microwave for like 1 or 2 min and then cut them into fours and then proceed to smash with a fork.

Aunt Judy’s Veggie Meatloaf:

1 bag of crumbles or 4-5 grillers smashed by hand/fork

1 onion or 1/2 of onion

2 eggs

1/2 cup bread crumbs or toast like 3 slices of bread and crumble it up

1/3 cup milk and 1/4 cup water or just enough to even out the dryness of the bread crumbs

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

seasonings (pictured below)

ketchup and sugar for the glaze

Instructions: 1) Sautee onions and meat. 2) Mix meat, onions, seasoning, cheese, eggs, milk, bread crumbs in bowl. 3) Preheat oven 350 degrees. 4) Grease pan (olive oil) and put mixture inside. 5) Mix ketchup and sugar in one bowl and spread on top loaf. 6) Bake for approx 35 min.

note: I use Lactaid milk because of the intolerance thing but you can use real or soy milk if you want. Also, that blue can is Italian bread crumbs.

Mixing everything together..mmm lol

The above seasonings are what I put in pretty much everything including regular salt and black pepper (not pictured)

ketchup and brown sugar mixture..I think I put too much sugar though

Note: Whenever I cook, I have a thing about using as few dishes as possible; so as soon as I put the mixture into the baking dish, I rinsed out the bowl and put the ketchup in it to mix.

I will also share one of my good friend’s recipe for quick and easy candied yams:

^^Found in frozen vegetable section at Walmart

Boil 1 or 2 cups of water with 1 or 2 cups of brown sugar and include a dash of each of the above ingredients: cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, butter, ginger. Pour syrup-like substance over the yam patties and put in oven 350 for about 25 to 30 min. I like mine super soft so I keep it in there until I see it boil.

Can’t have those two dishes without some kinda rice dish right?

Make rice separately (follow box instructions). Put beans, onions and seasonings in another pot and cook for a little. Then mix the two and you have a complete meal!

As you can see I made some frozen brocoli in the corner, so I did have some green in there. The rice was actually leftovers from a previous dinner so the whole meal didn’t take too long to prepare. This veggie meatloaf is one of my favorite dishes like ever, I never get tired of making or eating it and I have my Aunt Judy to thank for that! Hopefully, one of you will enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

Failed Experiments and the Law of Substitutions

Today, I will share with you some of my past mistakes in an effort to educate and hopefully prevent others from doing the same. I’ve said it before that I don’t like buying obscure ingredients like couscous that I won’t use more than once. But there are some ingredients in recipes that probably are there for a reason…

Black Bean Cakes:

Supposed to look like this,

Turned out like this:

I got this recipe from a yahoo article: Black Bean Cake Recipe

As you can see, my “cakes” turned out to be black bean mush..I tried to make them look pretty by sprinkling some leftover crispy fried onions on top. However, and I hate to say it, they still looked like poo. The white powdery stuff on it is the flour and it turns out just putting flour on something doesn’t automatically make it crispy.

What went wrong, you ask? The recipe was fairly simple..however, it called for 5 large eggs. And when I looked in my fridge, all I had was basically everything else. So I googled cooking without eggs and I found something about using baking powder as a substitute on some random website. It didn’t work..at least not for this but I made some box red velvet cupcakes without eggs and they turned out pretty good but they tasted more like brownies.

The black bean things didn’t taste too bad, just tasted like refried beans..with flour on it. The recipe also called for panko which I’m still not exactly sure what it is or where I could get it. Now is a good time to introduce the law.

The Law of Substitutions states that if you do not have a specific ingredient required for your meal, it is completely acceptable to substitute using similar or, if necessary, multiple ingredients to complete the meal. That doesn’t sound as eloquent as I was trying to make it but you get the idea. However, in the case of major ingredients such as eggs, the Law of Substitutions does not apply. It does apply for seasonings like instead of mustard powder I use a combination of onion and garlic powder. And of course since I’m vegetarian, I substitute meat with either Morningstar “meat” or leave it out all together. I also don’t like the sound of heavy cream so if a recipe asks for it, I just use the half and half that’s in my fridge.

I have another failed experiment to share but it wasn’t because of substituting, it was just a lack-of-common-sense type of mistake. I love potatoes..mashed, fried, sweet, scalloped. So I decided to try this au gratin recipe I found online:   Potatoes Au Gratin Recipe

Turned out like this:

<—This is the complete meal with the spinach tart from my last post, MorningStar Patties, and Texas Toast.

It looks decent right? Let me tell ya, the potatoes were hard as rocks! The recipe calls for you to cut the potatoes raw and put them with the rest of the ingredients in the oven for a total of 50 min. I don’t know if it was the type of potatoes that I bought or what but after heating and re-heating, the potatoes were not as soft as I would have liked them to be. The sauce was good but now I know that next time I will boil the potatoes for a little bit so that they are softer before I cut them.

As I said before, this is a learning experience and I am learning a lot on this journey. Soon I will be a masterful culinary artist! *wishful thinking*

Cookbooks: A love/hate relationship

I own several cookbooks and I’ll list all of them on here sometime..One of my policies is that I never buy anything at the grocery store that I will only use once unless it’s for a special occasion like a dinner party or holiday. Alright, that’s phrased kinda weird..what I mean to say is that I look for recipes that use things that are already in my pantry or if I buy it, I know that I can use it again in another meal..like butter.

I also believe in the Law of Substitutions which mostly came from my mother, but at times, this law can work against you. I will explain the law in another post, but first I have something to get off my chest..

Here is where the love/hate comes in: I love the creativity and diversity of cookbooks and above all, I love the pictures! BUT I hate that I have to search the high heavens for “special” ingredients or buy special kitchen utensils and appliances like a blender or electric mixer (side note: I specifically used a blender as an example because it was on our registry and no one bought it for us so I’m slightly bitter). And above all, I hate that my version of the meal looks nothing like the glossy pictures!

The above cookbook is one of my favorites to love/hate. I picked it up at Barnes and Nobles from the sale table (another philosophy of mine, never buy anything that’s not on sale)..I have tried and failed several recipes from this book but I keep coming back for more in hopes of actually creating something that will impressed people (and by people, I mean my meat-eating husband and myself). It hasn’t been all bad..I have “mastered” some of its recipes. Like the one I am sharing with you today: Cheese and Spinach Tart. As you can see from the pictures, this is very gourmet-lookin stuff..after further research, I’ve found that there is actually a career or art form in food photography! There’s a technique involved! Upon this discovery, I have since decided to not feel bad and to stop comparing my creations with that of the pictures. However, there should be some disclaimer or warning on the inside cover like: The objects in this book are not as they seem when you make them at home (or something more clever). Ok I digress.

Below is the pretty picture with the relatively simple instructions for the tart, I’ve also included a pdf file in case you would like to try this at home:

cheeseandspinach  <—click the hyperlink for the full recipe

The following pictures are my attempts at recreating this tart:

First of all I don’t own a roller, so I used this lovely shot glass to roll out the dough. Also, the dough part required “mustard powder” which I don’t have so I used a lil onion powder and garlic powder (see Law of Substitutions).

I also don’t own a circular baking pan like the one in the picture

Voila! The finished product! Now, the recipe calls for you to cut the remaining dough with a “lattice pastry cutter”..So in comparison, I think I came pretty close right?

All in all, it ended up tasting pretty good. Kinda like a spinach quiche and the dough tasted like pot pie crust. We ate it with instant mashed potatoes (since I didn’t feel like making anything else lol) and my husband said it was good. Ya hear that fancy cookbook people?! I don’t need your stupid lattice cutter!

Some professionals might say that cooking is also about presentation and I agree that presentation does make food look and consequently taste better (in some cases). But to those of us who aren’t that great on the presentation side of things, I say find an awesome food photographer in your area and maybe he can make it look better 😉

That’s it for now, remember to eat and be merry!

(Ok seriously, does anyone have any suggestions on a good signing off catch phrase? Cuz that is not the one)