Experimental Dinner: Vegetarian Wontons with Sweet Chili Sauce & Kale Chips.

I ended regular dining at Chinese buffet places about 4 years ago. One thing I have always missed was wontons. I would always get the cream cheese wontons and just eat the cream cheese parts, leaving the rest of the wonton behind. πŸ˜€ I saw some National Geographic program once about Aboriginees who eat honey ants. Basically, the ant abdomen is filled with food storage that they’d normally survive on, but people have different ideas…and literally suck their little honey-filled butts off. (Abdomen=butt in the ant world. Don’t ask me how I know these things.) My point is that whenever I’d eat just the cream cheese out of those wontons, I’d always feel like I was doing it the same way the natives would eat the honey ants. They discard the head…I discarded the rest of the wonton.

Anyone following me here?

Moving on.

I’d passed wonton wrappers for months at the grocery store. I picked them up once and my eyes bulged at the 160 calories per serving, and I quickly moved on. The next time I picked up the wrappers to see if the nutritional information had changed since the last time, my eyes bulged in excitement as I noted the serving was 8 wrappers! HA! I guess I hadn’t noticed that part before. Into the cart it went and my ideas started churning.

Kale chips are a true and trusted winner in our house. TOO simple to make and mega-delicious. More on this in a bit.

I used trusty FoodGawker for wonton cooking inspiration, since I’d never dealt with these little babies before. I was pleased to find instructions on steaming the wontons, as opposed to all-out frying. I’d remembered eating them steamed before and enjoying that texture a lot. The closer to anything doughy for me, the harder I’m going to love it.

So with cooking instructions and a mind of what I wanted them to taste like, the experiment began. Here’s what we started with tonight…knowing at the very least these items had made the cut: leftover brown rice/quinoa, tofu, cream cheese, and the wonton wraps.

Next, I started to create the filling. Cabbage sounded Asian-y to me, so I thought that would be a good base. You can’t tell in the photo, cause I photographed early, but I shredded this pretty finely, just by slicing thinly one way and then the other.

I love to stare into my fridge with the door open. This may be because I was reprimanded for it as a child. Not too long…just long enough for the food to speak to me. What? What’s that calling? Ahh…the red bell pepper that stayed hidden during Veggie Frittata Morning. Definitely. We needed something bright and cheery in the land of neutral-colored food at the moment.

I used just under half of the pepper. When I do this, I just cut the piece I want right from the pepper and leave the rest in tact. I hear that any veggie left with its stem on will last longer. I diced my piece up and in she went with the cabbage.

We love raw onion around here, but I didn’t want chunks tonight…just the essence. Oooohhh fancy! I sliced the onion paper thin & added it to the bowl. I hoped the light shining through the onion would show how thin it is. πŸ˜€

Having had no foresignt into tonight’s meal, I didn’t marinate the tofu like I normally would when using it. Sooo…more experimenting! After rinsing and gently pressing the tofu with paper towels, to get most of the moisture out, I tossed the pre-cubed pieces in a bowl with some chili powder, salt & pepper, and just a little fish sauce (no, this doesn’t taste like fish), just to make the seasoning stick to the tofu. I was pleased when this worked. πŸ™‚

I heated sesame oil in my skillet and tossed the tofu in to start to brown.

Before we get a little dirty in the kitchen with our wontons, it’s time to work on the kale chips.

Now. Kale. You usually see it as the unappetizing garnish on your plate when you order something meaty at a restaurant. I worked at Logan’s Roadhouse once upon a time and I garnished every plate with kale. Looking familiar? Looking appetizing? NO! Heck no.

Never once did I consider it to actually be edible, let alone tasty. Never once did I even try a piece then. Never once have I tried a piece un-kale-chippified at this point either, but I would! I found a kale chip recipe a couple years ago, and it was an instant hit with us.

After pre-heating to 350, I covered a baking sheet with aluminum foil and drizzled EVOO on it, using a pastry brush to evenly coat the pan. I sprinkled a little sea salt over the pan as well.

Next, I tore off bite-size pieces of kale and placed them into a bowl. I added 1 tbsp EVOO to hand-toss onto the pieces.

Next, all you do is arrange them on the baking tray so that they’re not overlapping and re-sprinkle with sea salt. Go lightly here. These things bake to be paper thin and a little salt goes a long way. Typically I also sprinkle shredded parmesan onto the kale…I just forgot tonight! πŸ˜€ They were delicious anyway. But if you have shredded parm, by all means, add it! Go lightly with the cheese too. Into the oven it goes for 15 minutes.

I gave some painstaking attention to the tofu at this point and used tongs to turn each little piece over in my skillet. The tofu sizzled on low-medium heat for about 6 minutes per side, browning just 2 sides.

Now! Time to get messy!

I wanted to re-created my honey-ant/cream-cheese dream, but I wanted a healthy-ish wonton tonight. I used half a package of Weight Watchers brand (cheapest brand at Wal-Mart), low-fat cream cheese and hand-squished it all into the veggie blend.

The sounds that emit from squeezing cream cheese by hand are…entertaining. This was fun and it certainly ensured the cream cheese was worked into all of the veggies. Honey took the photo of my hands before I scraped them clean and washed them off. Umm…make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before the squishing begins! I did. πŸ™‚

By now the tofu should be finished. Turn it off and remove tofu from the heat and onto another surface. I put the pieces on my cutting board.

Now, it’s time to put together the wonton. It was only when I began to open the wontons that I noted this on the package..

Instructions AND delicious recipes??? Well. It maybe could have saved me some research today, but right now, I didn’t have time to stop and ponder…just move forward! There were about 10,000 wonton wrappers in this package, which was $1.67…I took out half the package. Pretty lil things. My research also shows these wrappers are simple to make. Maybe next time!

I started to pile ingredients into the wrapper. These little guys seemed really small, suddenly…I had to play around with proportions so I could just get them closed. I started with a 1/2 tsp brown rice/quinoa leftovers.

Atop this went 1/2 tsp of our cream cheese/veggie concoction, and on top of that, two cubes of tofu. Literally, this was all that would fit.

I went ahead and heated 1 tbsp sesame oil in the skillet to await our wontons.

Egg white was recommended on the packaged instructions, but I used water instead and it worked what I am assuming is just as well, to aid closure when pinching together the corners of the wonton. I’m not sure I had any other option in closing these things…I would have had to use less filling, and that just wasn’t something I was willing to do. I wanted a hearty wonton!

I decided that 8 wontons at a time would be good to work with, and not overcrowd the skillet, so in they went for 3 minutes to brown on the bottom.

Yes, a couple of these were a little ugly. Good thing appearance is only a portion of taste! πŸ˜‰

After the 3 minutes, to steam these to perfect, I shielded myself (and the rest of the stove) with a lid while quickly pouring 1/4 c water into the skilled on the side & even more quickly lidding this while the water & oil popped & got crazy. I turned the heat to low. This was a brand new experience for me and the violent reaction in the skillet was a little unnerving!

After 6 minutes in this steam environment, these wontons were DONE! I love that shiny, steamed texture. YUMMM!

I removed them to a paper towel on a plate to try to de-grease just a little and started on the next batch. I believed I could eat 8, and Honey believed he could eat a lot more, so I made 2 more batches just for him. πŸ™‚ Honey doesn’t have to be mindful of calories. MUST BE NICE! Grr. πŸ˜‰

Sometime around now, the kale chips should be done. We pulled these amazing treats out and started chowing right away! You can’t just have one. I don’t care if you get sick just looking at veggies, you will LOVE kale chips. They are crispier than any potato chip I’ve ever had, and they just get paper thin and delicate. GAH!!! SO YUMMY!!!

Next I started on some sweet chili sauce. I’d had this with spring rolls at our local Thai restaurant and could literally drink a cup of it. I pulled this recipe off FoodGawker and although it was certainly tasty, I will make modifications for next time, namely less garlic & less crushed red pepper. We like hot food around this house, but 1 tbsp crushed red pepper and minced garlic was overkill. I’ll reduce both by half the next time…but the sauce was definitely tasty and I can’t wait to make it again! I also didn’t have any cooking sherry, or sherry otherwise, so that was left out. I’m not familiar with cooking the sherry…any insight into the flavor profile this addition would make would be appreciated! πŸ™‚

Since I was busy with putting wontons together (and also because it wasn’t my recipe), I didn’t take a bunch of sauce piccies. Here was everything together in the pot, simmering away for 10 minutes.

Around the time the sauce was done, so were the wontons. It was SOOO time to relax and enjoy this delicious meal!! Honey and I loved the wontons. I am thinking, however, that my next wonton experiment will have to be dessert. πŸ˜‰

The kale chips look a little greasy on the plate, but it’s just the shine from the EVOO! They are light, airy and delicimous!

Ingredients for wontons:

-wonton wrappers (however many you’re hungry for!)

-1 package tofu (I happened to have pre-cubed, which made things easy)

-2 leaves cabbage

-1/2 red bell pepper

-1/4 c red onion

-1/2 package cream cheese (I used low-fat to save calories)

-1 tbsp sesame oil for tofu + 1 tbsp for every batch of 8 wontons

-1 tsp chili powder

-pinch of salt & coarse ground pepper

-1 tsp fish sauce

-1 c cooked brown rice/quinoa (leftovers)

-1/4 c water

Ingredients for kale chips:

-3-4 stalks kale

-2 tbsp EVOO

-pinch of sea salt

-shredded parmesan if you have it!

Recipe/directions for sweet chili sauce: here

Directions for wontons:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over low-medium heat in a skillet.
  2. Rinse and gently press tofu with paper towel to absorb as much water from the tofu as possible.
  3. Put tofu cubes in a lidded container and toss with chili poweder, salt, pepper, & fish sauce until well coated.
  4. Add tofu to the hot sesame oil and brown for 6 minutes on each side.
  5. While tofu is browning, begin on your wonton filling.
  6. Dice cabbage, red bell pepper & onion and put into a bowl.
  7. Check your tofu, and if the 6 minutes is up, carefully turn each piece over with tongs to brown on the opposite side for 6 more minutes.
  8. Hand-squish 1/2 package of cream cheese into your fresh cut veggies until thoroughly blended.
  9. Your tofu should be done by now. Take it off the heat and dump your tofu onto a heat-safe surface, like a cutting board.
  10. Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil on low-medium heat.
  11. Place 1/2 tsp brown rice/quinoa onto the center of the wonton wrapper, followed by 1/2 heaping tsp of your cream cheese/veggie mix, and 2 cubes of tofu.
  12. Using a dab of water on your fingertips, gently pinch opposite points of the tofu wrapper together until it appears relatively together in the middle (this took a little patience, but I realized that close enough would work!).
  13. In a large skillet, I placed 8 wontons at a time in for browning.
  14. Set your timer for 3 minutes.
  15. After your 3 minutes, and with your skillet lid as a shield for you, add 1/4 c water to the skillet and quickly put your lid on top.
  16. Turn your heat to low and set timer for 6 minutes and allow wontons to steam.
  17. After your 6 minutes, remove wontons from heat and enjoy!
  18. Repeat steps 13-17 for as many batches of wontons as you can eat. πŸ˜‰

Directions for kale chips:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil & coat with 1 tbsp EVOO and a pinch of salt.
  3. Tear off bite-size pieces of kale from 3-4 stalks and place into a bowl.
  4. Drizzle 1 tbsp EVOO over the kale chips and gently hand-toss until well-coated.
  5. Place kale pieces onto baking tray, making sure the pieces don’t overlap.
  6. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and shredded parmesan.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and VOILA! Ready to eat!!!
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One Response to Experimental Dinner: Vegetarian Wontons with Sweet Chili Sauce & Kale Chips.

  1. Pingback: Stuffed Peppers & Eggplant Chips. | Ginger al Dente

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