Appetizers Sides Vegetarian

Homemade Takeout-Style Veggie Egg Rolls

Just because you’re having a craving for egg rolls does not mean that you have to order takeout. It’s quite easy to prepare your own egg rolls at home, using fresh ingredients. This version of homemade egg rolls happens to be veggie-based and does not contain any meat, but you could easily add ground pork, chopped chicken or diced shrimp to the cabbage mixture for a protein boost. Obviously adding meat is your choice, but I don’t feel these egg rolls really need it because these are so delicious dipped in Chinese mustard sans meat. Mmmm. 

Be advised, though, that you must use a deep, heavy frying skillet in order to be covered in gruesome-looking, polka-dot burns all over your arm and face. I made the mistake of using a more shallow skillet because I was too lazy to dig out the “big gun” cast iron skillet. Trust me, the burns really hurt and I look like I have leprosy, so don’t go there. Other than that little mishap, making these egg rolls was super easy and they were absolutely divine. 


1 package of egg roll wrappers

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 16 oz. bag of coleslaw mix 

½ onion, chopped finely

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch knob of fresh ginger, minced

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1-2 c. vegetable oil (for frying)

Small cup of water

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the coleslaw mix, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and rice vinegar and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool in a bowl until you can handle it (but not too long because you don’t want the cabbage to get mushy). 

To fill the egg rolls, place each egg roll wrapper on a flat surface. Place the cabbage mixture in the center. Brush the edges of the egg roll wrapper with water. Fold the sides in and roll like a burrito. Set the egg rolls aside as you continue the process with the rest of the eggrolls. Be sure to lay them side by side, as they will stick together if you try to place them on top of each other. 

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep cast iron skillet over medium high heat. The oil should be about 350 degrees. Place 4-5 egg rolls at a time in the oil and cook until crispy and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Place the egg rolls on a wire rack or paper towels on a plate. 

Serve with Chinese mustard, duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or your favorite dipping sauce!


Thai-Style Avocado Fried Rice with Shrimp

Fried rice AND avocado? Together? Yes, and it might be the most delightful combination of flavors you’ve ever eaten. Don’t like hot avocado? Open your mind and try this, because you will probably change your mind forever.

This Thai-style avocado fried rice with shrimp features all of the deep, lovely flavors that make Thai food delicious, and then one-ups all other fried rice recipes by including creamy, scrumptious avocado to the already-amazing symphony of yumminess. C’mon, try it. I think you’ll be a forever fan.   


½ lb. shrimp

3 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 inch knob of ginger, minced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3-4 c. white rice, cooked

3 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

1 Tbsp. mirin

¼ c. shredded carrots

¼. c. cilantro, chopped

¼ c. green onions, chopped

1 large avocado, cubed

2 eggs, beaten

Juice from one lime

Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over medium high heat. Cook the garlic, carrots, and ginger for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook through, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and heat through, being sure to mix the garlic and ginger throughout the rice. 

Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and mirin and toss to combine. Create a well in the center of the skillet and drop the eggs into the center of the wok. Scramble them quickly and then mix to combine with the rice. Add the avocado to the fried rice and heat through, tossing carefully to combine but not break apart the cubes. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the green onions and cilantro. Serve hot!


Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

For me, buffalo chicken with the fixins is a craving that I can’t always control. Once I think about that taste, I NEED to eat some kind of buffalo chicken-something. When I’m trying to eat healthy foods, this craving can rear its head and be problematic for reigning in my overindulging. Too bad calories actually do count.

With this recipe for buffalo chicken zucchini boats, I have found a meal that I can justify (and actually enjoy) eating when I’m craving buffalo chicken AND trying to live a healthy-ish lifestyle. The saucy, tangy chicken, creamy cheese, crunchy veggies, and yummy dressing work together so well to make sure I’m satisfied and happy. Score one point for the angel on my shoulder. 


4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

2 c. shredded chicken, rotisserie works great

Buffalo sauce 

4 oz. cream cheese

½ c. shredded cheddar cheese

Green onions

Blue cheese or ranch dressing (for topping) 

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Cut the zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the fleshy part in the middle. Spray with olive oil on all sides and place onto a lined baking sheet. 

Combine the chicken, buffalo sauce, and cream cheese in a large skillet and heat through while stirring to combine.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Scoop the chicken mixture into the zucchini boats and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender and the cheese is melted and lightly browned. 

Top with green onions and drizzle with blue cheese or ranch dressing. Enjoy!

Pasta Vegetarian

Creamy Tomato Pasta Bake with Fresh Mozzarella

Now that it’s fall and it’s starting to get dark earlier, I am in full comfort food-craving mode. All I can think about is rich, satisfying, warm meals that make me feel cozy and smell amazing while they’re cooking. There’s something so special about eating a comforting meal with a glass of wine and your loved ones after work. Maybe even – gasp- in front of the TV, with a blanket on your lap. Heaven. Hey, we eat at the table most of the time, so a little TV time is an indulgence once in a while.

This creamy tomato pasta bake with fresh mozzarella is one of those meals that you think about all day at work before you even make it because you know it’s going to be so good. It’s rich, flavorful, and oh-so-cozy. Just writing about this meal makes me want to make it again.  


1 lb. rigatoni pasta

2 c. marinara sauce

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 c. heavy whipping cream

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated

2 c. chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place the pasta in a large baking dish. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the marinara sauce, tomato paste, and fresh tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft, about 6-7 minutes. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Stir, and heat through quickly. 

Pour the sauce into the baking dish with the pasta and mix thoroughly so that the sauce and pasta are well combined. Top with mozzarella slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Top with fresh oregano, serve, and enjoy!

Vegan Vegetarian

Coconut Curry with Chickpeas and Zucchini

In today’s episode of the overly-scheduled teacher/mom/friend show, our heroine (me, of course) needs to whip up a delicious, healthy, and lightning-fast dinner. Something that can be eaten between school pickups, volleyball games, high-school football games, homework, and all of the other craziness that goes on when school is in full swing. Enter this amazing vegan coconut curry with chickpeas and zucchini. It’s scrumptious and ready to eat in under 30 minutes. 

Not only is this meal incredibly easy to prepare, it’s healthy, warm, and is even more delicious the next day when you get to eat it for lunch. Who says leftovers aren’t the best thing ever? Not me! Just don’t tell my kids or they’ll start taking my secret stash of amazing leftovers. 


1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

2 tomatoes, pureed 

1 Tbsp. garam masala

1 tsp. turmeric

½  tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 15 oz. can of coconut milk

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas

1 small zucchini, cut into small pieces

Salt to taste

Serve with:

Lime wedges

Chopped cilantro

Steamed basmati rice

Heat the coconut oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook, being sure to stir frequently, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper and cook for 30 seconds. 

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and stir until combined. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft. Stir in the coconut milk and combine. Add the chickpeas and zucchini, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10-15 minutes so that the flavors and meld together. Season with salt to taste. 

Serve with steamed rice, lime wedges, and cilantro. Enjoy!


Easy Palak Paneer

I used to think that palak paneer was some sort of magical meal I could only get at a proper Indian restaurant. I never imagined that I could make this incredibly delicious vegetarian meal at home in very little time and with so little effort. I’m not sure why I used to think this meal would be so difficult to get “just right,” but after many rounds of practice (and admittedly, some failures), I think I’ve got it! 

This recipe for palak paneer includes a subtle blend of decidedly-Indian spices, fresh, bright green spinach, salty paneer, and plenty of flavor-boosting add-ins, like onions, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. All of these items married together make the most yummy meal that leaves behind just enough sauce to soak up with some fresh naan. Yes, please. 


6 cups of fresh spinach leaves

3 Tbsp. butter or ghee

2 small onions, pureed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

2 tomatoes, pureed

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 c. paneer, cut into cubes

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Boil water in a large pot. Add the spinach leaves and blanch for one minute, or until the leaves are soft and bright green. Remove the spinach and drain. Then, puree the spinach in a food processor until it is smooth. Set the spinach aside in a bowl.

Puree the onions in a food processor and set aside in a bowl. Puree the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl. 

Heat the butter or ghee in a large skillet and add the cumin seeds. Add the pureed onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one more minute. 

Add the pureed tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, cumin, and cayenne. Stir and simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the pureed spinach and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Then, add the cubed paneer and cook until it is soft, about 2-3 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. 

Serve with basmati rice, naan, and additional heavy cream, drizzled on top, if desired. 

Vegan Vegetarian

Sesame Tofu with Steamed Broccoli

This healthy, baked version of sesame tofu is perfect for those hectic weeknights when you need to come up with a dinner that is both simple-to-make and tasty. In this version of sesame tofu, no animal-based products are included in the recipe, making it an all-vegan meal that is substantial, flavor-packed, and super satisfying.


Baked tofu:

2 blocks of extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 Tbsp. corn starch

Sesame Sauce:

½. soy sauce or tamari

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c. maple syrup 

¼ c. rice vinegar

¼ c. water

1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce

2 Tbsp. corn starch

2 tsp. sesame oil 

Serve with:

Steamed rice 

Steamed broccoli

Green onions

Sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. About 30 minutes before cooking, drain the tofu, wrap it in a kitchen towel and press it. You can do this by placing a plate on top of the tofu, and then a heavy item, like a stock pot, on top of the plate for about 10 minutes. This will help remove excess water from the tofu. 

Cut the tofu into cubes and place them in a large glass bowl. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, corn starch, and mix together carefully with your hands. Spread the tofu cubes evenly on a lined baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until browned and crispy. 

Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, rice vinegar and sriracha in a large skillet and allow it to simmer. Combine the water and corn starch in a small bowl and combine to make a slurry. Add the mixture to the sauce in the skillet and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the sesame oil and remove from heat. 

Toss the baked tofu in the sesame sauce until it is coated. Serve with rice, steamed broccoli, green onions, and sesame seeds. 


Roasted Heirloom Tomato and Garlic Sauce

My garden is currently bursting with huge amounts of beautiful heirloom tomatoes and gorgeous herbs. There’s no way I can eat all of that bountiful produce fresh, but what I can do is make amazingly tasty pasta sauce that we can enjoy throughout the winter months. 

Isn’t that one reason we garden, after all? So that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor, even months after growing season has passed? Something about prepping and freezing food for the winter just feels so prairie woman-ish, and that appeals to me. Perhaps not the whole prairie woman life is ideal, but the growing and cooking part is right up my alley. 

This roasted heirloom tomato and garlic sauce is flavorful, herby, and garlicky, and is adorned with the subtle sweetness of the fresh tomatoes. It is wonderful on pasta when it is freshly made, but also freezes very well and still tastes great months after it was made. So if you have an abundance of tomatoes right now, make loads of this sauce. It’s so good that I promise you will run out of your supply before next growing season. 


2 lb. ripe heirloom tomatoes, or any other fresh variety of tomatoes

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

½ yellow, onion, diced

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped

⅔  c. white wine

¼ c. tomato paste

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. red chili flakes 

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil on a lined baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and roast for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven.

Dump everything from the cookie sheet, including the oil, into a large skillet. Add the onion and cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, honey, and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the sauce until it is somewhat smooth, leaving the other half chunky. Add the fresh basil and oregano, and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the sauce thickens.

Season with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes and serve with pasta. 


Tartlet Duo: Pear, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Shallot and Garlicky Oyster Mushroom and Gruyere with Herbs

Fall is officially here, and this year there won’t be Zoom holiday gatherings (so glad that’s behind us). That means that we get to start doing one of the best things about the magical season that awaits: entertaining and enjoying the company of friends and family in real life. And what’s definitely one of the most magical things about these gatherings? The food, namely appetizers, of course!

Appetizers are so much fun to eat. They’re usually smallish, loaded with flavor, and just so much fun to eat. But for me, there’s no appetizer that can quite measure up to homemade tartlets – both savory and sweet! They look fancy, taste amazing, and don’t take long to make. 

This tartlet duo offers the best of both worlds. One is all savory, the other savory-sweet. I can’t decide which one is more magical, but I’ll tell you this: there won’t be any leftovers of these tartlets at a party. In between the oohs and ahhhs from your guests, they will definitely be sneaking more than their fair share of these. But appetizer calories don’t count, am I right?

Pear, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Shallot Tartlets:


2-3 medium ripe pears, thinly sliced

1 package of puff pastry dough, thawed

4 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. butter

3-4 goat cheese, crumbled

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper

Honey, for topping (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Heat 2 Tbsp. of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook slowly (about 10-15 minutes), or until soft and browned. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the vinegar is cooked down and resembles syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside. 

Lay one sheet of puff pastry out on a floured surface. Cut the sheet into six equal-sized pieces (or 12 pieces if you prefer smaller appetizers). Place on a lined baking sheet with about 1 inch between each piece. 

Place the cooked shallots in the center of each piece of puff pastry. Top with a few slices of pears, followed by the goat cheese crumbles. Sprinkle a little rosemary on top. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown around the edges. 

Serve with honey drizzled on top, if desired. 

Garlicky Oyster Mushroom with Gruyere and Herb Tartlets


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

2 c. oyster mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. butter

½ c. gruyere cheese, shredded

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. rosemary

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. 

Lay one sheet of puff pastry out on a floured surface. Cut the sheet into six equal-sized pieces (or 12 pieces if you prefer smaller appetizers). Place on a lined baking sheet with about 1 inch between each piece. 

Place the mushroom mixture in the center of each piece of puff pastry. Top with the shredded gruyere. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown around the edges. 

Top with extra chopped herbs, if desired. 


Spicy Sesame-Seared Tuna Bowl with Wasabi Sauce

This quick and simple-to-make spicy sesame-seared tuna bowl with wasabi sauce is like a deconstructed spicy tuna roll in a bowl. It is full of all of the ingredients that make sushi rolls amazing: the fresh, tender pieces of fish, vibrant and crunchy veggies, sweet white rice, and the ubiquitous and wonderful wasabi-soy flavor. Perfection.

In other words, this meal has all of the qualities that make sushi so craveable and appealing. Going out for sushi can be a problem for the wallet though.  But because you can make this awesome meal at home, you’re going to save yourself a lot of cash. It’s everything you want and less. Less cash, that is. Which is definitely a good thing; at least in my world. 



2 ahi tuna steaks or 1 lb. ahi

1 Tbsp. avocado oil

3 Tbsp. sesame seeds (white, black, or both)

Salt to taste


2 tsp. wasabi (I buy it in the tube)

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

2 Tbsp. mirin

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. honey or agave

Red pepper flakes


2 c. white rice

1 avocado, sliced

1 serrano pepper, sliced

2 green onions, sliced

1 cucumber, sliced 

¼ c. cilantro, chopped 

Cook the rice according to package directions. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set aside. 

Divide the rice, avocado, serrano pepper, green onions, cucumber, and cilantro evenly among two bowls. 

Pat the ahi dry and season with salt. Coat all sides with sesame seeds. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Let the oil get hot in the pan for about 2 minutes before adding the tuna. Add the tuna and sear for one minute per side. 

Allow the tuna to rest for 2 minutes or so. Slice into strips. 

Place the tuna on top of the rice. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!