Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

It may be a week until Christmas, but I’m already kind of done with the cookies. Maybe it’s because everyone’s Christmas parties start back into the beginning of December, or maybe it’s because I joined some friends in a cookie-baking-bonanza that resulted in a whole tin of cookies to myself. I kind of don’t want at all mashed potatoes or stuffing or ham or holiday comfort food. I’ve been jamming on avocados and goat cheese, and I got into my mind that I could really go for an Asian salad. You know the kind, the Americanized version with ginger and wontons.

Well, of course, I didn’t have the ingredients for the giant salad of my imagination (which mirrored that of California Pizza Kitchen fairly precisely), but I did recognize I had a bunch of kale, a threatening-to-die carrot, and maybe some impromptu dressing ingredients. Out of a basic pantry and sad representation of a refrigerator… I created the best dinner I have had in months.

No, really. Admittedly, I freaking love the dumplings from Trader Joe’s. I used to buy the pork gyoza all the time, but somehow hadn’t in awhile… maybe it was a grad school thing. But I don’t eat pork or pigs anymore, and the frozen isle caught my eye (I’ve been excessively lazy recently). I saw Thai gyoza and thought I’d give it a try. The dumplings, while absolutely important, sit atop a salad so flavorful and balanced, that the whole (giant) bowl just satisfies every salty, tangy, savory craving you didn’t even know you had. I was not at all a believer in kale salads; I usually sauté my kale or put it in soups (read: why I had kale in the first place… soup season). But by massaging in the dressing, the kale becomes perfectly crunchy with just the right bite to offset the soft, fluffy little dumplings. I must say, the fresh ginger makes it. Which I totally would not have had if Thanksgiving had not been so recent, but please buy some if you’re making this salad tomorrow (as you should).

And, so long as you have this, or just a normal bottle of Sriracha, you are totally ready to go.

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Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

Serves 1 hungry person (per usual); easily multiplied

Thai Peanut Dressing

½ tbsp. canola (or other mild-flavored) oil

½ tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

1 tsp. natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt)

1 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp. sriracha

2 inch ginger knob, peeled and grated finely, juice included, stringy remnants discarded

Dash crushed red pepper flake

Salad and Dumplings

2 cups organic curly kale, chopped finely

1 golden carrot, peeled and minced/ chopped finely

½ tbsp. canola oil

5 Thai vegetable (or shrimp) gyoza/ dumplings (from Trader Joe’s)

2 tbsp. roasted and salted peanuts

Sriracha to serve

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the kale and toss, with your hands, massaging the dressing into the kale leaves. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients (time is your friend).

Use a food processor to finely chop the carrot (or your own determination and knife) and add to the greens. Toss.

In a small, non-stick sauté pan, prepare the gyoza according to package directions, which I’ll include here. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the gyoza to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is browning. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and quickly cover with a lid. Steam for 4-5 minutes until the gyoza are softened and cooked through.

Sprinkle the peanuts over the top of the salad and place the gyoza on top. Drizzle Sriracha over everything.

Absolutely dig in.

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Real question: should this blog be titled “Sriracha to serve”? Seems that’s at the end of every recipe. Also, I hate how dinner time in the winter means it’s pitch black outside. Try taking a good photo in your dark, poorly lit living room… sigh. At least dinner is good.


Trail Mix Baked Oatmeal Squares

Due to my dog’s intense separation anxiety, I get dressed in the dark. I sneakily pack a pre-prepared breakfast in my purse, and I (as silently as possible) grab my lunch from the refrigerator. I throw a bone into his dog bed, put on my coat (but don’t zip it), and grab my shoes (but don’t waste time putting them on). I slip out the door and walk to the elevator, and I finish getting ready to bear the cold. I probably spend 15 minutes in my house once I get up in the morning before I’m out the door, and I hear Oscar ruffle out from under the blankets in about that time, eager to see what’s been going on while he’s been asleep. My point is: I need quick, I need quiet, and I need ready-ahead-of-time breakfasts. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of hand-held breakfasts I can eat while I drive to work (once I’m at work, I’m at work, and I can’t eat). There are a slew of internet references to breakfasts on-the-go, but how many can you eat while you drive? This has been the sticking point. Also,my microwave beeps too loudly, so this breakfast must come at room temperature or directly from the refrigerator. It seems superfluous to toil over breakfast ideas so much (it’s just food), but I go a solid 6 hours until lunch time, and I like to start my day on a healthful track. So I revise my statement: I need quick, I need quiet, I need ready-ahead-of-time, I need hand-held and truly on-the-go, and, very importantly, I need healthy and delicious.

I loved oatmeal as my breakfast of choice back when I luxuriously dawdled over breakfast at home, but it is impossible to eat with a spoon in the car (I tried once- very risky and unstable). I perused the internet for awhile, as I often do, and saw a few recipes for baked oatmeal. This was enlightening! It’s like oatmeal you can hold in your hand! And, just like oatmeal, the varieties are endless. I’ve become incredibly in love with trail mix recently- I think it has something to do with Trader Joe’s extensive and fantastic options- and I realized oatmeal is the perfect medium for incorporating trail mix flavors. Thus, my absolute favorite breakfast was born (excluding the few times I’ve made donuts… those were the best. I’ll have a recipe at some point).  Even if you have time in the morning, these definitely warrant a try. I’d imagine they’re delicious heated warm on a plate with a side of coffee.

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Trail Mix Baked Oatmeal Squares

Serves 4

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used peanuts, walnuts, and pecans)

1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins (or other dried fruit)

2 tbsp. chopped dark chocolate

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. honey

1 1/2 cup milk

1 egg

2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare an 8×8 square baking dish with a thin coating of oil or non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add honey to the dry mixture and stir until loosely clumped. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Allow the mixture to set for 5-10 minutes. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the baking dish and put into the preheated oven. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until edges are just browning and the oatmeal is firmly set. Allow oatmeal to cool, then serve warm. Alternatively, oatmeal can be cooled entirely and refrigerated, later sliced into squares to serve for the road.

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I usually am so excited for weekend breakfasts, intentionally and lazily preparing and eating pancakes or eggs and toast. But these oatmeal squares give those meals a run for their money, and keep me functioning at work as well.