Most days I wake up craving fresh fruits and vegetables, raw foods, and earthy flavors. They energize me and leave me feeling pure and on top of the world. But other days…I really miss junk food. That is to say I miss the warm salty flavors and reassuring feelings I get from eating familiar foods. What I don't miss is the inevitable can't-move, bloated, sick feeling that comes along with junk food, not to mention the unseen havoc it causes my digestive and immune systems.
It was on one of these junkfood-minded days that I came up with this recipe. My perspective is that eating should be fun and intuitive and not about deprivation so when I feel like I need comfort foods, I embrace it. I wanted to make something comforting to satisfy my craving without the heavy feeling and negative repercussions. With this criteria in mind I came up with Vegetable Pockets stuffed with eggplant, mushrooms, cashews and more. It's not quite Indian, not quite Chinese, although it hints at both dumplings and samosas. Usually stuffed foods are wrapped in white flour based pastries or noodles which offer little to no nutritional benefits. White flour also spikes your blood sugar (hello, disease fuel) and is one of the most common triggers for people with food sensitivities. Instead I used rice paper because they are light and gluten free. Rice paper wraps hold everything together without adding much to taste, allowing the vegetable flavors to shine through.
Hopefully this recipe will find you when your body and mind are at odds over what to eat. It offers a humble compromise of comfort and nourishment. Enjoy.
Baked Vegetable Pockets + Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes 15-20 small pockets
1-2 tbsp coconut oil for cooking plus 1 tbsp for brushing
1 small eggplant, diced
2/3 cup diced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/3 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/3 carrots, shredded or finely sliced
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1/3 cup cashews
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
A pinch of salt
15-20 sheets of rice paper, depending on how full you make them
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large frying pan or wok, heat coconut oil. Once the pan is hot, sautee eggplant, mushrooms, cabbage, peas, carrots, onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until tender. While the veggies cook break the cashew into small pieces. What works best for me is to place them between to sheets of parchment paper or in a bag and use a rolling pin to break them up. Once the veggies are done, transfer to a large bowl and add cashews, thyme, and salt and stir.
To make the pockets take a sheet of rice paper and submerge it in a tray of warm water for about 15 seconds to soften it. Then lay it flat and cut it down the middle. Place a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of your half-moon rice paper. Now, fold one corner across and to the widest part of the circle. Do the same with the other corner. If you have any over hang fold it over as well. Don't get too hung up on making them the perfect shape. As long as all of the vegetable stay contained in the rice paper the pockets will come out fine. Or if you are overwhelmed by this process you can simply eat the vegetable combination in a bowl and skip the pockets all together.
Place the finished pockets on a parchment paper lined backing sheet and brush the tops with coconut oil. Bake for 12 minutes on each side or until lightly golden and crispy. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with dipping sauce.
1/4 cup tamari sauce (any soy will work)
1/4 cup peanut butter, heated until runny
Juice of 1/2 orange
About 1 tbsp Sriracha or other hot sauce (more or less to desired heat intensity)
Whisk all ingredients together and serve.
This is a great dish to serve for company who are perhaps not as open to health conscious foods or to make believers of people that don't think they like vegetables. And they also taste great with the peanut sauce from the Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash recipe.