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    • Thai Spring Rolls

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    •  1/24/2011 6:59:03 PM

      A few months ago I hired the owner of my favorite Asian store to come and do a cooking class for me and my sisters

      and mother-in-law.  We had a fantastic time and one of the items she taught us was this delicious Spring Roll.

      I did a horrible job wrapping these spring rolls (I was is such a rush to get dinner on the table), but you get the idea!

      These are  fantastic for vegetarians and omnivores alike.  I added shrimp to these for my meat loving husband!





      Step 1 : Peanut Sauce (not just any peanut sauce, but so-ridiculously-good-peanut-sauce-you-want-to-drink-it!)

      1/4 cup of coconut milk

      1/4 cup of Hoisin sauce

      1/4 cup of Peanut Sauce

      1/4 cup of plum sauce

      1/4 cup of water

      1/4 cup of agave nectar

      Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.



      Step 2:  Rice Noodles


      Purchase any kind of rice noodle (also known as vermicelli noodles).

      I highly suggest you find a local Asian store.  There is one about 20 minutes from my house

      and I drive their specifically for all the amazing options they have.  In general the prices at

      these "specialty" stores are significantly cheaper than buying Asian products at the chain

      grocery stores. I thought I would find the opposite to be true and was astounded by

      the prices   - so cheap!

      Our 'instructor' told us to remember the 3 minutes rule when cooking the noodles.

      3 minutes in boiling water

      3 minutes still in the same water but with the heat turned OFF

      3 minutes being rinsed under cold water (while running your fingers through the noodles)

      These instructions were different than the ones printed on the package, but has proven to be a fool-proof

      way to cook these noodles.  These are served cold on the the spring rolls.




      Step 3: Chop the vegetables

      While the noodles are cooking I prepare the "toppings" for the rolls.




      Lettuce, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, sliced English cucumber, mint leave

      and cilantro.  Feel free to add as many vegetables as you like keeping in mind

      you are going for a Thai flavor.



      Step 4:  Rice Paper

      Fill a large pot with very hot water.  It does not have to be boiling, but probably

      as hot as you tap water will go.  Gently immerse about a third of the paper in

      the water and then rotate it in a clock-wise fashion until every part has gotten

      wet.  Set it on a plate and it will begin to soften as you put on the toppings (it

      takes less than a minute).



      Step 5: Prepare the rolls

      Here I have shrimp, then noodles, followed by cucumber, lettuce, carrots, sprouts

      and then herbs.  Begin to wrap it tightly remembering to tuck in the sides halfway

      though the rolling.  You'll want to work a little quickly before the rice paper gets to

      soft (which will still work but is just a little trickier when it gets sticky).

      Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.  Delicious!

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    • Crazy Good Vegetarian Pizza

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    •  4/12/2010 9:01:14 PM
    • Tonight I decided to make pizza and really wanted to make something fantastic.  My kids only know "pizza" as the very

      greasy cardboard stuff they get at school.  Of course I wanted to make vegetarian pizza, but I also wanted my kids and

      meat-loving hubby to enjoy it.  It was a complete success!  Each of my 4 children asked for seconds (which NEVER happens

      no matter what's for dinner).  And my sweet husband didn't scourge through the fridge afterwards looking for something else

      to satisfy his appetite.  I'll be honest, it was delicious.  Now keep in mind, I used real cheese which always makes things taste better

      but doesn't make this the healthiest of options.  Truthfully tonight I didn't mind too much, because I just wanted them to try (and love)

      something other than the pizza they were used to.

      To start, I made a very basic pizza crust.  Normally I do half wheat and half white flour.  Tonight  I was in a HUGE rush so I didn't have

      time to grind my wheat into flour.  I used Organic, unbromated white flour instead (once again adding to the flavor but not to the nutrients).



      3 cups of flour

      1 tsp yeast

      2 tsp salt

      1 and 1/3 cup of warm water


      Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir with a spoon until it forms a rough ball shape.  This is a very quick and easy process so I didn't

      even get out my mixer for this.  Dump the "ball" onto a floured surface and knead for 3 minutes (adding flour if the dough sticks to your hands

      or surface).  Then put the dough back in a greased bowl, cover it, and let rise for about an hour and a half.  After the dough has risen roll it out into

      the desire shape of the pizza.  I rolled mine onto parchment paper, and will then transfer the whole thing directly onto a pizza stone using a pizza peel.

      This is when I started preparing the toppings, which allows the dough to rest.

      One of the keys to a great pizza is using a pizza stone.  I usually put mine in the oven for at least 30 minutes

      before I cook the pizza.  Ideally, you want the oven at about 500 degrees with the pizza stone in it, and then turn

      the temperature down when you put the pizza in.


      For the topping:

      1/2 an onion, chopped finely

      4 cloves of garlic, minced

      4-6 large leaves of swiss chard, stalks removed and finely chopped

      14 oz can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped in small pieces

      1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes, chopped

      sauteed mushrooms (as mush as you want)

      cheese for the top

      Saute the onions for about 6 minutes and then add the garlic and swiss chard.  Saute for 4-5 minutes and then

      add the artichoke hearts and tomatoes (to chop theses I just put them in my food processor together and pulsed it





      Add pizza sauce to the prepared dough and then add the swiss chard mixture.  Top with sauteed mushrooms and

      then add the desired amount of cheese. Using a vegan cheese would be a great option too.



      Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is gold brown.

      Dig in and enjoy -- I know we did (maybe a little too much :)!


      • Made this for dinner tonight-LOVED it and so did my hubby!! Thanks for the recipe!:)
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    • Simple vs. Complex sugars

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    •  4/3/2010 7:54:25 PM
    • So here's a little tidbit that I just learned. I have always known about simple sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, etc.) and simple carbs (basically anything made with white flour).  I have also heard about complex carbs (whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet etc).  But I hadn't heard about COMPLEX SUGARS!


      As you already know, sugar is my addiction, and as a result, I need to try and steer clear ('try' is the operative word there).  Just a little bit sends my blood sugars soaring leaving me aching for more...and more...and more.


      While I was reading Alicia Silverstone's latest book, she mentioned using brown rice syrup and barley malt in lieu of the simple sugars.  Supposedly these don't affect the spikes in blood sugar the way regular sweeteners do.


      With that in mind I did a little research!  Here is a list of SIMPLE sugars:


      white sugar (in all its forms)

      brown sugar


      maple syrup

      agave nectar

      and even fruit sweeteners



      It seems that grain based sweeteners are the best quality sweeteners, mainly because they come from complex carbs.


      I am currently reading "Cooking the Whole Foods Way" by Chrisina Pirello.  Here's what she has to say on the subject:

      "The beauty of grain sweeteners is that they are complex sugars, not simple sugars, so they are relased into the blood slowly, providing fuel for the body instead of the rush and crash we get from simple sugars.  They are also not all that refined a product; they are simply whole grains, inoculated with a fermenting agent and then cooked until they reduce to a syrup."


      In baking just remember that these sweeteners are a liquid so you will need to adjust your recipe accordingly to accommodate them.  About half a cup of syrup for every 1 cup of sugar called for. 


      I am very excited to try out some new treats using grain sweeteners!  By the way, don't even think about using artificial sweeteners, and here's why!

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