Rolling into spring

Spring roll finished


The first day of spring has come and gone, and we are getting sunnier and warmer weather here in Knoxville. Fittingly enough, I made spring rolls! A few years ago, my mom and I took a cooking class at Sur la Table that was Thai themed. We made a bunch of dishes, including Thai spring rolls. I love these because they are full of flavor and veggies, and wrapped in a light rice wrap rather than a fried, doughy shell. Not to mention the yummy peanut sauce that accompanies them! Perfect protein punch to match a veggie-loaded meal.

You can buy rice wraps at an Asian market, and they keep for a very long time. They have a thin, papery texture. You submerge them in water for about 15 – 20 seconds to soften them.

Spring roll 1

After that, you load them up with whatever fillings you like! I used lettuce, cucumber, carrots, mint, and shrimp this time. Avocado and red cabbage would also be good.

Spring roll 2.jpg

The last step is to roll them up and enjoy!

Spring roll 3

I made these a few hours ahead of time, and to keep them fresh I stored them in a plastic container with a damp paper towel over them. I attempted to make a peanut sauce to dip them in, but it didn’t turn out quite as I expected so I will still need to experiment with that. I was so happy to have these ready for me after a long day. Not to mention, they look fancy and a little complicated (even though they’re not), so I felt proud of myself! I hope you try out this quick and easy spring dish. You can experiment with any fillings you like!




So over spring break, Jesse and I went to DC for the evening with our friend Ryan to see an NBA game. Jesse LOVES the NBA! We went to dinner at a place called Cava, that Ryan said was awesome. It was! It is sort of like a Chipotle-style place, but with Mediterrannean food. Jesse and Ryan had pita sandwiches, and I had a bowl with greens, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and yummy toppings like hummus, tahini, cabbage, and quinoa tabbouleh. It was delicious! I decided right then and there that I had to try to replicate something like it at home. I was pretty sure I could make it so that Jesse would like it too. Well tonight, I did just that!

Jesse is visiting for Easter weekend, and we have been so lucky to have beautiful weather. We played tennis this morning and went to the driving range to hit golf balls this afternoon. (We did not have as much luck without our coach, my dad, fixing our grip and stance). We had a great time though! Then we went downtown to Market Square and had drinks while sitting outside. It was truly the perfect afternoon. When we got back home, we attempted a Cava-copycat recipe! Here is what we did:

Toss Brussels sprouts and cauliflower florets with onion, olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, and roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook brown rice. Top with roasted garlic hummus, (butternut squash for me), parsley, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Yum! Jesse rated it an 8/10! He explained to me that 10/10 is solely reserved for steak, so that 8/10 is basically a 10/10 for anything plant – based. I’ll take it! It makes my heart so happy that we can enjoy a plant – based meal together, knowing that we are nourishing our bodies while playing a small part in saving the environment.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of my dinner at Cava and our at-home replica!

Cava Bowl.jpgHomemade Cava Bowl

(Cava on the left; At-home on the right)

Definitely try this out, it was delicious! And I have leftover roasted veggies… always happy about that 🙂

The Renowned Cauliflower Crust Pizza


It’s pizza night! Okay like I promised earlier, I pulled out my food processor and made delicious cauliflower crust pizza for dinner tonight. You could say Jesse was a little happy about it! Side note – the food processor makes this a BREEZE. Before I finally broke down and ordered one on Amazon a few months ago, we used to use a cheese grater to grate the cauliflower into a fine “rice” like texture for the dish. It took forever and made a huge mess, so yeah, I was pretty excited to use the food processor to do the same thing in seconds!

First I baked the crust, then added the toppings and broiled it to melt the cheese. Here is a picture of just the cauliflower crust in case anyone is wondering. It seriously is delicious!IMG_4880

If you don’t believe me, ask Jesse because he is a much tougher critic. And this is his FAVORITE thing I make! Now if I could only convince my 18 year old brother to try it… He is a whole different story!

Anyways, this is a great way to sneak more veggies into dinner and to eat pizza without feeling heavy after. Not to mention it is a crowd-pleaser!

There are soooo many things you could do with this pizza. Jesse prefers to top his half with extra cheese and spinach, while I always have to have fresh basil and roasted red pepper flakes if I have them! Sauteed vegetables would also be delicious. I have also heard of using hummus instead of marinara sauce, which would be so yummy topped with cucumbers, tomato, red onion, and parsley. That sounds like something Jesse and I might have to try! It’s hard not to love an easy dish with such endless possibilities. Be inspired!

Link to recipe:


Jumbo Gumbo


Today is the best Sunday I’ve had in a long time, because many of the last ones have been spent saying goodbye to Jesse before we part ways for another week or two. We are almost through with this whole long – distance thing! Phew! Anyways, I am in Richmond for the whole week bShrimp Gumbo and Quinoa Close Upecause I’m on spring break. Needless to say, we have enjoyed spending a Sunday together where we can look forward to the upcoming week rather than saying yet another goodbye. This morning we were even able to play some tennis since it was so nice outside! The rest of the day was mostly laundry and being lazy, but I decided to make us a nice Sunday dinner like my mom usually does for our family at home.

I decided I would make Shrimp Gumbo – a recipe I first tried over winter break that Jesse and I were crazy about. I was really proud of myself for successfully making a gumbo, because I had tried a few years ago and accidentally used powdered sugar instead of flower. Yeah… I didn’t even attempt a gumbo for a long time after that. But this one turned out great! Jesse was very happy to know I would make it tonight, with extra shrimp of course, and served over quinoa.

Jesse rates this dish an 8/10 and says it is one of his favorites that I make, behind cauliflower crust pizza, of course (obviously I will be making that for us this week as well). I am actually a little surprised at how much he likes this dish because it is a tad spicy, which usually deters him, but he gobbled up his whole bowl anyways!

Shrimp Gumbo Close Up

Shrimp gumbo is really easy to make, it just takes some prep. Jesse helped cut the onions (I bawl like a baby every time I try), green pepper, and garlic. We accidentally only bought one green pepper instead of two but we made do! One change that made this gumbo wayyyyyy better than last time is that the recipe calls for crumbling up bay leaves, but this time we left them whole. Last time we spent at least ten minutes picking all the prickly, crunchy bay leaves out of our bowls before eating it! Needless to say it was a change much appreciated by both of us.

One thing I really need to remember to do next time is double the recipe… more leftovers would be great! I’m a huge fan of leftovers.

Happy Sunday! Now it’s time to go make our March Madness brackets for my family competition. I will hopefully blog about the cauliflower crust pizza I mentioned later this week!

Shrimp Gumbo and Quinoa

Link to recipe:


Spring is coming!


Okay, not going to lie, I have pretty much been counting down the days until spring. I am not a winter person, as I have always HATED the cold weather. Even the snow. I just do not like it. Anyways, with today being seventy degrees and sunny in Knoxville, I thought what better time to post about the arrival of spring!

My favorite part about spring is the start of the farmer’s market. It is one of my favorite things – a sunny Saturday morning spent walking around downtown picking out a new, fresh locally grown vegetable to try. The picture above shows some goodies from a trip to the farmer’s market last fall. I had spent time in Italy that summer, and had grown to love their zucchinis over there. They were different than the ones here – they had ridges! I do not know much about plants, so I just called them “Italian zucchinis.” One morning at the downtown farmer’s market, a local farmer informed me that they are called “costata romanescas,” or as I like to refer to them, “the BEST zucchinis ever!” I had no idea they grew in the U.S.! Almost every weekend until the farmer’s market closed for the winter, I would go and get one or two costata romanescas from the friendly farmers downtown. They have such a texture and yummy flavor that I find even better then regular zucchinis (which I also happen to love).

Anyways… I cannot wait until those come back into season (sadly, not until later in the year). However, I am looking forward to trying some new vegetables that I find at the market this spring! I think that a lot of the time I am deterred from buying a vegetable for the sole reason that I haven’t made it before and don’t know how to prepare it. I’m hoping to explore this upcoming season and experiment with new vegetables that I have yet to try. I’ll even test them out on my boyfriend, Jesse. He’s a picky eater! I have to hand it to him though, he will try at least one bite of pretty much anything I make.

Today, I am so thankful for the warmer weather and am looking forward to all of the beautiful produce this warmer weather will bring!