lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings

Dumplings are so much fun to make and there are a lot of things you can stuff them with.  I’ve already shared my recipe for my classic pork and cabbage dumplings but if you love vegetables and are looking to eat a little healthier, these steamed veggie dumplings a creative way to start.

Of course, you can make these veggie dumplings with whatever vegetables you like. I made this batch with lots of colorful veggies: purple cabbage, carrots, asparagus, yellow bell pepper, shitake mushrooms, and zucchini.

lola rugula what veggies to use in vegetable dumplings

The thing to remember with dumplings is that a little bit of filling is going to go a long way.  This recipe calls for only 2 1/2 cups of veggies and it makes around 70 dumplings. It’s easy to get carried away with tons of filling but then chances are good that you’re going to:

  1. Run out of dumpling wrappers
  2. Run out of patience

Consider yourself warned.

I like to make my filling a day ahead of time so that I can easily put the dumplings together when I’m ready.  If not making a day ahead, allow at least an hour for your filling to cool before assembling your dumplings.

You will need a steamer to make these – there are a number of different kinds of stovetop and electric steamers out there. In a pinch, you can also use a colander over a pan of boiling water, you just won’t be able to steam as many at one time.

lola rugula homemade vegetable dumplings

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings Recipe

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup shredded and chopped red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped asparagus
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Wonton or Dumpling wrappers
  • Dipping sauce (recipe below)
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, and mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, until all start to soften
  3. Add the cabbage, carrot, asparagus, mushrooms, and bell pepper and saute, stirring often, 2minutes
  4. Cover and cook for 1 more minute
  5. Remove from heat
  6. Transfer to a glass or heat-proof dish, add scallions, toss and let cool

You barely want to cook your vegetables – just enough to cook the garlic and ginger and basically steam the rest of the veggies just a bit. When you remove it all from the heat, the vegetables should still be bright and colorful. They will continue to steam a bit as they sit and cool.

lola rugula vegetables for veggie dumplings

When your veggies are cool and you’re ready to start making your dumplings:

  1. Add sesame oil and soy sauce to your veggie mix and stir well.

To assemble your dumplings:

  1. Have a large clean counter area or cutting board ready to assemble your dumplings on.
  2. Have a shallow bowl or short glass of water ready to moisten the edges of the wrappers. I just use my finger to dampen the edges but you can also use a small pastry brush.
  3. Spoon a small amount of filling onto a wrapper.
  4. Moisten the edge of the wrapper and gently fold and press, fold or crimp the edges together until well sealed.
  5. Set your finished dumpling aside and repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers (Alternatively, you can also start steaming a batch and then wrap more as each batch steams)
  6. Steam dumplings for 10 minutes in the steamer of your choice
  7. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish
  8. Serve with dipping sauce (recipe below)

lola rugula vegetable dumpling

Now, I make dumplings enough that I invested a whopping couple of bucks in an inexpensive dumpling maker, which actually works pretty well.  Before that, I always hand-pinched my dumplings and here’s an example:

lola rugula how to make vegetable dumplings

Not perfect but works beautifully and proof that no cheapo dumpling maker is necessary.

Here’s my high-tech dumpling maker and a couple of dumplings made with it:

lola rugula how to make veggie dumplings

As you can see, they’re a little more uniform but basically the same, the dumpling maker just makes faster work of these. Of course, if you’re a pro dumpling maker, you can probably make handmade ones as fast as I do with my dumpling maker.

And here’s my dumpling dipping sauce:

Dipping Sauce Recipe

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Top with sliced scallion before serving.

That’s it! You’ve achieved veggie dumplings and dipping sauce and trust me, these are not only delicious, they’re a little addicting.

lola rugula easy veggie dumplings and dipping sauce

Again, you can make these with whatever veggies you love, so feel free to mix things up and add what you like.

Of course, you can also add tofu to these, if you’d like.  Shrimp is a delicious addition, too. Don’t be afraid to play with your food!

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls with Tahini Dipping Sauce

I’m a huge fan of spring rolls. They offer a delicious way to stuff lots of veggies into a small package and they can be paired with a number of different dipping sauces. This recipe is basically just an appetizer-size of my previous recipe on spring rolls. What I do here is cut the rice wrappers in half after dipping them in water, making them more finger food friendly, while still packing huge flavor and a nutritional punch.

I also want to share my tahini dipping sauce recipe with you, not just because it’s delicious but because tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds, is full of nutrients that are good for you.

lola rugula mini veggie spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce

Miniature Vegetable Spring Rolls with Tahini Dipping Sauce

While it’s hard to say exactly the quantity of veggies and noodles you’ll need for rolling these, this is approximately what I used for 24 small spring rolls. A lot will depend on how much you stuff into each one of them. 🙂

Try and slice your veggies thin and uniformly, keeping them about 2-3 inches long when possible. Don’t make yourself crazy here – they’re all getting stuffed into rolls, for Pete’s sake.

I like to make my dipping sauce ahead of the rolls, so it’s ready to go.

Tahini Dipping Sauce Recipe

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini – make sure it’s been stirred very, very well before using
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • Juice of 1 large lemon; about 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In a food processor, blend garlic until finely minced.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well blended, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. If sauce is still a little thick, add a tablespoon of water and blend well again.
  4. Transfer to a small ramekin or serving bowl and set aside.

Miniature Vegetable and Rice Noodle Spring Rolls Recipe

  • 10 spring roll rice paper wrappers (I find these next to the tofu, sprouts and egg roll wrappers at my local store). These are typically refrigerated but if you bring them to room temperature about an hour before using them, you’ll find they’re less brittle and easier to work with.
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice noodles
  • 6 medium asparagus spears, thinly sliced
  • 10 snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1/2 medium sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced (I used an orange one here, but you can use yellow or red)
  • 3 scallions, trimmed to white and tender greens, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 cup julienned zucchini
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumber that’s been peeled and seeds removed
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

  • Cook the rice noodles, run under cold water until cool. Drain very well and set aside. (I heat boiling water, add my noodles, cook about a minute and then set aside for 10 before draining and cooling)
  • In a small pan or microwave steamer, add asparagus and 1/4 of water, cover and steam about 2 minutes
  • Add sliced snow peas to asparagus and steam about 1 minute more.
  • Drain asparagus and snow peas, run under cold water and drain well. Set aside.
  • Fill a bowl or large plate (I’ve found that a large plate works best for this) with lukewarm water, for dipping your wrappers in.

Here’s where you need to have everything ready to go.

  • Have all of your veggies, noodles and cilantro ready to go
  • Have a large cutting board or serving platter ready, to place your finished rolls on
  • Have your plate of lukewarm water ready for dipping the spring roll wrappers
  • Have a sharp knife and cutting board ready to use solely for the spring rolls

Are you ready? Let make some spring rolls!

  1. Dip 1 spring roll wrapper in the plate or bowl of lukewarm water, swishing it around to make sure all of it’s moistened. Flip and do the same to the other side. Hold the wrapper above the plate for a couple of seconds, to let the excess water run off.
  2. Lay the dampened wrapper on a cutting board and, very carefully, using a very sharp knife, cut the wrapper in half.
  3. Add a few noodles and then a couple of each of the prepared veggies and a few cilantro leaves on top of the bottom third (towards you) of each of the 1/2 wrappers.
  4. Like you’re rolling a burrito, wrap one end around your fillings and use the end of the wrapper you’re holding to pull all of the fillings toward you tightly and then tighten your wrap around the filling. Roll once, fold up the round end and then continue rolling until complete.
  5. Place on serving platter and repeat with remaining rolls.

lola rugula mini vegetable spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce

Spring rolls are always best served fresh or at least within an hour or so. The wrappers tend to dry out and become crispy and weird again if left to sit too long. I’ve covered them with damp paper towels to extend their time and this works better than just leaving them to their own devices.

If you want to save yourself the trouble of wrapping these, turn them into a fun party appetizer by creating a spread and letting your friends roll their own. Maybe not so appropriate for a formal dinner but great for a casual get-together and definitely a conversation starter.

lola rugula spring rolls with tahini dipping sauce appetizer

Crunchy, antioxidant-packed, delicious and fun! If you’ve ever wondered how to make spring rolls, now you’re a pro. Don’t be discouraged if your first roll or two don’t turn out – this still happens to me sometimes and I make these pretty often. Just keep pushing on and you’ll get the hang of them in no time.

And of course, don’t be afraid to play with these – mix up your veggies and herbs for a new flavor every time you make them. The prep work in these is really most of the work, so it’s easy to have fun with changing them up.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

ten easy homemade soup recipes

Soup is a wonderful, versatile thing. It’s warm and steamy when we’re cold, it’s comforting and nourishing when we don’t feel well, and it can be cool and crisp on a hot summer afternoon. It can be chunky and rustic or it can be smooth and rich. Soup is also often a great way to use leftovers and that’s one of the reasons I’m a huge fan. If you’ve been a follower of mine for a while, you know how much I love soup, so I decided to put together a collection of some of my favorite soup recipes to date. Here’s a list of my most popular soup recipes, links to each included. Enjoy!

Ten Easy Homemade Soup Recipes

  1. Easy Lamb Stew Recipe (okay, while technically a stew, this is so simple, easy and popular on my site that I had to include it.)
  2. Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup with Potatoes (my most recently-posted soup recipe and a staple in my house for a long, long time)
  3. Rattlesnake Bean and Vegetable Soup (great with any dried bean, so feel free to use your favorite)
  4. Navy Bean and Ham Soup Recipe (a great way to use that leftover ham and ham bone after your holiday get-together)
  5. Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup (so versatile and delicious as a hot soup or a chilled soup)
  6. Miso Soup with Shitake Mushrooms and Tofu (if you’re looking for a restorative soup recipe, this is the one)
  7. Tuscan Soup (another classic that is easy to make and packed full of flavor)
  8. Lobster Bisque (creamy, decadent and oh, so worth a little extra effort)
  9. Cream of Mushroom Soup (pictured below – made with a variety of mushrooms, you will never go back to canned soup)
  10. Classic Summer Garden Gazpacho (lets the flavors of your beautiful homegrown tomatoes shine through!)

wild mushroom soup recipe

There you go! A compilation of some of my best soup recipes. And most of my soup recipes are easily-customizable to fit your taste and use what you have on-hand.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your soup….or food. 🙂

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

i don’t think you’re ready for this hot pepper jelly recipe

Break out the cream cheese and crackers because I’ve got on an old-school classic for you that I just can’t resist sharing. This is an easy holiday appetizer recipe and guess what – it also makes a great gift! If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can swap out the cream cheese for goat or feta cheese but, no matter how you serve this, I promise that almost everyone will love it. Hot pepper jelly or jalapeno jelly is a silly-simple thing to make but it’s something I love and this is a perfect time of year for it.

This is an unprocessed hot pepper jelly recipe, as most of them you’ll find involve water-bathing or steam canning and honestly, as much as I enjoy canning, this stays just long enough to enjoy a batch without the extra work. I hot pack my jelly, so the jars seal and that, along with the vinegar in this, will be enough for a lot of people to tell you that you can put it up and preserve it without any refrigeration. Though I clean and dry my canning jars for this, I don’t sterilize them, so I refrigerate mine after processing. I have no problem keeping this batch for a month or more in the fridge and again, that’s thanks to the vinegar and hot packing process.

lola rugula canned hot pepper jelly

hot pepper jelly (aka jalapeno jelly) recipe

  • 2 large bell peppers – I typically use red, yellow or orange for the color. Remove stems and seeds and discard.
  • 4-8 jalapeno peppers or other hot peppers. Remove stems and discard. Remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat.
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1.75 oz. package less or no-sugar needed Sure Jell

For me, this makes 5  of the 1/2 pint canning jars. Wash and dry your jars and lids and set aside.

Cut the bell peppers into quarters and the jalapenos in half and place in food processor. Pulse a couple of times and then scrape the sides of the bowl. Pulse again a couple of times until all of the peppers are minced. Be careful not to liquify the peppers – you just want to chop them until they’re minced. There may be a tiny bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, but that should be all.

Here’s what they should look like:

lola rugula peppers for jelly

  1. Scrape the minced peppers out into a large saucepan.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar to the pan and stir well.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 7 minutes.
  4. Add package of pectin, stir well with a fork or whisk and bring back to a boil.
  5. Make sure all of the pectin is fully incorporated and there aren’t any lumps.
  6. Boil 1 more minute.
  7. Be careful here to not let the mixture boil up and over the pan.
  8. You should actually start to see or feel with a spoon the mixture start to thicken and gel a bit.
  9. Quickly and carefully pack the hot mixture into clean canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace, wipe the rims of the jars clean, and seal with lids and bands.
  10. Let cool at room temperature. Typically, my lids will seal in about 35-45 minutes.
  11. When completely cool, refrigerate.

Tada! You’ve achieved simple no-canning-required hot pepper jelly. Easy, right?

The heat of this totally depends on you and the peppers you want to use. Want to make ghost chili or Carolina Reaper hot pepper jelly? You can, but you probably should only use one of them and not six, as my recipe calls for. You’ll need to taste your peppers first, to gauge the heat, although peppers often get hotter when cooked so only let this be your guide.

Serve with softened cream cheese (or goat or feta) and some crackers. People are going to love you for this, I promise. 🙂

lola rugula hot pepper jelly and cream cheese

As I mentioned earlier, this can also make a really nice little gift by simply putting a jar of it into a gift basket or bag, along with a brick of cream cheese or tub of feta, and some nice crackers.

I’ve read where people add food coloring to their hot pepper jelly and I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, look at the beautiful colors in this:

lola rugula hot pepper jelly preserves recipe

I also consider this a low-sugar hot pepper jelly recipe, as a lot of recipes call for twice the amount of sugar that I do. I think the sugar in this is more than sufficient and provides just enough sweet foil to the heat of the hot peppers.

The real beauty of this is that if you make some now and have some cream cheese and crackers on hand, you can whip up an easy appetizer in no time at all. I can’t tell you how nice this is when you’ve got people dropping by unexpectedly, not only at the holidays but all year round.

lola rugula hot pepper jelly photo

This is so much fun to serve to guests – most just aren’t’ expecting the heat but enjoy it, once they’ve tasted it. And you know if there’s anyone who loves an easy holiday appetizer recipe, it’s this girl. I’ve got enough things to do this time of year, so this just makes life a little bit easier.

I hope you try this and love it. Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

I’ve been trying to photograph and post some of my super easy soup recipes lately, such as my Roasted Garlic and Veggie Soup and my Summer Garden Gazpacho. We love soup in my house and I love them because they can be easy to throw together while still being incredibly nutritious.

If you scan through my soup recipes, you might notice the word “roasted” used quite often. That’s because roasting your soup ingredients adds a nice boost of flavor and depth, and this recipe is another perfect example of this. This is a soup I’ve made for many moons and beyond, mostly because I’m seriously obsessed with garlic. Roasting garlic, as many of you know, smooths out its harsh edges and brings out a sweeter, smokier flavor. This is the case with roasting most things as long as you bring it to the “roasted” point and not the “burnt” point. When roasting, you just want to get everything to golden, with a hint of browning. Burning garlic, or any other ingredient, is only going to get you sharp, harsh, bitterness and that’s not what you’re looking for.

Okay, enough of my rant. Let’s make some soup. And stay tuned, because I’m going to give you a number of variations on how to make this creamier, smokier and more.

lola rugula roasted garlic and leek soup with new potatoes

roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 medium to large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed, but left mostly whole
  • 2 medium leeks, white and tender greens only, cut into 1-inch pieces and rinsed well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (optional – if you don’t want to use wine, use vegetable stock instead)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (again, optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 medium potatoes – preferably red or gold – peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces
  • turmeric and freshly-chopped parsley for serving (optional)

In a large stockpot, add olive oil and heat over medium heat for about a minute.

Add garlic and leeks and toss well with olive oil.

Cover, turn burner to lowest setting and let roast on the stovetop for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful to not let anything burn.

You’re looking to have the garlic and leeks soften completely and turn golden, with a few pieces start to gently brown. You’ll also start to notice some browning on the bottom of the pan.

lola rugula how to make roasted garlic and leek soup with potatoes

When you’ve reached this point, add the wine and, using a large spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and stir well.

Add stock, black pepper, pepper flakes and thyme. Stir well.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the garlic and leeks are all fully soft and cooked through.

Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth and then return to pan.

Add diced potatoes and simmer about 17-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, spoon into bowls, sprinkle with a pinch of turmeric and parsley and serve.

lola rugula garlic leek and potato soup

This soup is a huge antioxidant boost to help protect you from all the nasty winter bugs that circulate this time of year. Adding a bit of turmeric just ups the antioxidant factor, but it’s totally optional.

Garlic is good for your heart, your blood and your gut, so it’s good to add it to your diet whenever you can. Roasting it removes the sharpness while still keeping its health benefits.

I promised you some variations on this and believe me, there are many.  Here are some of them:

  • If you want a creamier soup, add 1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream
  • If you want a creamier soup without adding dairy, when the potatoes are done cooking , scoop out a cup or so and puree it and then add it back to the pan. Viola! Creamy soup without the dairy.
  • Want a smokier flavor? Crisp up some diced bacon when you’re browning the garlic and leeks and cook it with the soup.
  • If you prefer to keep the bacon crispy, cook it separately and sprinkle on top of soup before serving.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

roasted garlic and vegetable soup

This is one of my clean-out-the-fridge soups. I hate to see veggies go to waste and honestly, sometimes I just buy too many and end up with more than I know I’m going to use before they reach their death-by-lack-of-use phase.

This is super simple and can be used with a myriad of veggies, so use what you have and love. Roasting the vegetables first just gives this a nice, deep flavor…much more so than just tossing veggies in a pot and simmering them. (Not that I’m opposed to that, because it’s also a delicious way to make soup). And yes, this is loaded with roasted garlic so feel free to take it down a notch if you want.

roasted garlic and veggie soup recipe

  • 6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (Yukon Gold’s are great in this)
  • 1 medium leek, white and tender green, cleaned well and sliced
  • 2 cups small cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 400º

Place garlic and veggies on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss everything around to coat well.

Roast for 30 minutes, tossing everything around about halfway through the cooking time.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to a stockpot.

Squeeze roasted garlic from their skins and add to pot.

Add stock and thyme and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend about 5 minutes until soup is smooth. Seriously, I do this for about 5 minutes, tilting the pan and really blending it. I like this smooth and creamy.

lola rugula roasted veggie soup

Easy, right?

This is so good with all kinds of veggies. Think squash, asparagus, zucchini, onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts…don’t be afraid to just use what you have and love here. Make this soup yours and don’t be afraid to add different herbs. Rosemary, chives, tarragon…go with what you like.

Soups on…who’s ready?