Sushi Salad and Beer

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

It’s no secret that I love beer… and especially trying new-to-me beers. I’ve even dabbled in the arts of brewing my own beer, which I need to get back to doing. So when the opportunity to try Kirin Ichiban beer presented itself, I jumped at the offer. I mean, what could be better than getting some Japanese beer and pairing it with some Japanese inspired food? Not much if you ask me!

I was sent both the Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light to sample, and really enjoyed them both. Kirin Ichiban is a 100% malt beer and only uses the first strain of malt liquid, which results in a crisp, clean, and refreshing taste. Kirin is one of the oldest breweries in Japan, and their mascot is the mythical Kirin beast (which is on their label), which is believed to bring serenity and prosperity. Since I’m currently in taper mode for my half marathon in two weeks, I’ll take all the serenity and prosperity I can get! I had the first beer pretty much as soon as the package arrived, but saved some to serve as inspiration (and as a pairing) for a light and delicious dinner.

Sushi Roll Salad |

My original plan was to make a noodle dish, but after receiving some goodies to help with sushi making (sushi rice, nori sheets, and some wasabi paste), I figured I could put them to good use with some veggie sushi rolls. As I was cooking the rice, though, I had another thought… what if I turned the sushi rolls into a salad?! Serving all of the sushi ingredients deconstructed over a bed of lettuce was genius; it really cut down on the labor (I’m not exactly skilled when it comes to rolling sushi), and was just as delicious. I really can’t believe I haven’t thought of making a sushi styled salad before – it was wonderful! I definitely plan on making this salad a lot more… and paired with a beer it was perfect.

Sushi Roll Salad |

Sushi Roll Salad
– Serves 2 –

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup cooked sushi rice
4 cups spring mix or chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 sheet nori, roughly chopped

Dressing Ingredients:
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp chili oil [or sesame oil if you don’t want any heat]
2 tsp wasabi paste

1. Add all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk to combine.
2. In a large bowl, add the spring mix, carrots, avocado, cucumber, cooked rice, and shredded nori. Toss the salad with the dressing.

Bulked Up

When it comes to salad, I tend to think of it as a side dish, or acceptable lunch entreé, but rarely as the focus of dinner. My main reasoning for that is simple – I eat, a lot. I’ve come to learn that with the right ingredients a salad can be quite filling and in fact be a very appropriate dinner. Of course I made some frozen french fries just in case the salad wasn’t filling, but it was! We even wound up having leftovers that I was able to take for lunch the next day.

The recipe comes from Betty Crocker, and I was drawn to it because it had vegetarian in the title. Since the beginning of my vegetarian month wasn’t very successful, I’ve been sure to stick to it since then. I couldn’t help but laugh out-loud when reading the first ingredient was chicken broth. There were a few comments on the recipe bemoaning the vegetarian title, since obviously chicken broth is far from it. That was easy enough to adjust with vegetable broth to make it a truly vegetarian dish. In all honesty, that probably could have been omitted as well, and the bulgur could have been cooked in water.

This was actually my first time making bulgur wheat, and I’ve only ever had it before in tabouleh. If we’re going to be honest here, it smells like bird food before it’s cooked. It kind of looks like it too. But thankfully after cooking, it doesn’t have much of a flavor – if anything it’s a bit nutty, and for this particular salad it added a nice contrast. The other surprise of the salad was the dressing – it had a nice kick and was flavorful without being too oily or too salty (something I find a lot with “Asian inspired” dressings).

While I wouldn’t recommend this being your dinner after a full day of work and a workout, I think it’s appropriate for those rest days. Conveniently my entire week was a rest day. I like to use the excuse that I was adjusting to my new schedule. The truth of the matter is that it was cold, windy, and I was exhausted. Once the snow clears I’ll be back out on the roads – April’s half marathon isn’t going to PR itself.

Salad with a twist

Since I’ve been all about keeping the kitchen cool the past few weeks with the summer heat, I’ve been trying to come up with healthy (and easy!) dinners that both myself and my fiancé would enjoy throughout the week that require little to no cooking. Enter, the salad.

Last week I made another taco salad, but that still required me to use the oven. Since just a “regular” salad (i.e. on a plate or in a bowl) didn’t seem adventurous enough for dinner, I decided to give lettuce wraps a try. I know they’ve been around for awhile, but aside from ordering them once at Chilis about 10 years ago, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to them. They’re typically labeled as Thai or Chinese, and include chicken, some type of cabbage mixture (with carrots), scallions, and a ginger sesame dressing. At least those were the common ingredients I found when doing some research.

Since I’ve never made them before, and have only had them once, I really didn’t know what to expect. However, I figured it would be nearly impossible to screw up, and I was right! You can really wrap almost anything in lettuce. I remember when the no-carb diet was huge, and everyone was eating their burgers with lettuce “buns” and I thought it was insane and gladly ate theirs in addition to my own bun (swimming will do that to you), but now I see the appeal. Though I’m not planning on wrapping my burgers in lettuce any time soon, I definitely want to try some other variations of this nice twist on a salad! But be prepared – it’s messy!

Unfortunately I had grand plans to make my own ginger sesame dressing, but Wegmans was out of ginger. I was so annoyed, but when I stumbled upon a Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce in the Asian aisle, all was forgiven. This sauce rocked my socks. It has a light peanut flavor with hints of ginger, rice wine, garlic, and most importantly, it has a nice kick to it! I’m looking forward to using it in other stir-fry styled dishes.

Thai Styled Lettuce Rolls
– Serves 2 very hungry adults –

10 pieces of butter or Boston lettuce, washed (I used Boston)
1/2 bag rainbow cabbage mix (about 6 oz.)
handful of soybean sprouts (make sure to wash them well, no one wants e.Coli!)
2-3 Tbsp Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce
4 scallion stalks, diced
1/4 cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped in half

1. In a medium bowl, combine cabbage mixture, soy bean sprouts, diced scallion, water chestnuts, and peanuts. Add peanut sauce, using a spoon toss to coat.
2. Add about a Tbsp of the mixture to each individual piece of lettuce. Roll like a miniature burrito (tucking the sides in), and have napkins handy!

Spicy Quinoa Salad

Promising myself two legitimate dinners in the kitchen this week, I went for a Spicy Quinoa Salad and paired it with just some chicken breast we had hanging out in the freezer. I’m trying to use as much of any perishable items I can, which is why I decided to pair this with just some plain ole chicken.

I actually had a hard time spotting Quinoa at the grocery store on Sunday. I found Bob’s Red Mill right away in the organic section, but it was $8! I know, I know, that’s not much. But for a grain I’d never had before and wasn’t sure what else I’d be using it with, I just couldn’t plunk that down. We also try to stay under $75 a week, and I knew we wouldn’t if I grabbed it. I headed over to the rice and pasta aisle, and spent a solid 5 minutes staring at all the different rice trying to find it. Turns out I had my back to where it was, and after almost giving up, I found a nice box for $3.50! Sure, it wasn’t whole wheat or organic, but sometimes you just have to cut corners.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I struggle with cutting onions. Over the summer I had the great idea of using my swimming goggles to help combat the tears, and it works. I thought it was about time I shared a little treat with my readers. So here’s a picture of me from my Macbook in the kitchen (I bring it with me to read off recipes), post run and gleefully holding a red onion and a knife while sporting my goggles. Laugh away!

The recipe was super easy, and quick, which in these final packing days has been much appreciated. Trying to finish up packing and cleaning, doing homework, and trying to finally get back to running has jam-packed my week. I was able to tackle 2 miles on Monday night, and another 3 Tuesday. It’s definitely on it’s way to recovery, and feels a lot better than it did when I tried to start running last time. I’m really hoping I can be smart about this one. At this point, I’m not concerned about PRing the Disney Half Marathon, rather I just want to be able to finish the 13.1 pain-free. I’ll set my sights on a PR for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in April.

This was my last “real” dinner in this kitchen. In retrospect, I’ve really come into my own here. I started off making burritos and stir-fry, and really blossomed to making intricate desserts, scrumptious dinners, and just having a lot of fun. I’ve also given my fiancé plenty of opportunity to work on his camera skills (thanks babe)! Aside from making my work BFF/bridesmaid a sweet birthday treat on Thursday night which I’ll be sure to post about, next week’s food blogs will be from a new kitchen. How exciting!

I didn’t have any good pictures for the recipe, so head over to Serious Eats for a picture, which is where I got this glorious recipe!

Spicy Quinoa Salad
– Serves 4-6 –

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt
2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
3. Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.