Takeout Fakeout: Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

 There is a fantastic, wonderful, amazing Thai place in our neighborhood called Nicky’s.  If you’re ever in or around Pittsburgh, go there!!  I have had minimal success recreating Thai dishes at home, largely due to my fear of turning the heat up to high–my wok skills are a major work in progress.

Luckily, my favorite thing on the menu isn’t stir-fried–in fact, it isn’t cooked at all.  I order fresh spring rolls (or summer rolls) literally every time we go to Nicky’s, but just recently thought to try making them at home.  I was a little skeptical, especially once I picked up the rice paper in the Asian grocer, but hey–this is for science!–I continued on.

Using this recipe from Minimalist Baker as a guide and the menu at Nicky’s to inform my choice of fillings, I shopped, prepped, and rolled.  These rolls came out AMAZING!  For the same cost as a two-roll order at the restaurant, I made TEN at home.  I gave half to my friend across the back alley, snap-chatting her a picture and the words “NAILED IT.”  The only thing bad about these is that they stick together and wouldn’t keep well for long because of that, unless you could individually wrap them in saran wrap or something, but ain’t nobody got time for that.  I trust that you will be able to take care of these in one night, anyway.  Have a friend help!

 Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

Ingredients
Spring Rolls
  • 8-10 spring roll wrappers (rice paper)
  • 1 small head leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 4 ounces vermicelli or rice noodles (the thinner the better)
  • 1 recipe pan-fried tofu (see below)
Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3 cup salted creamy almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • Fresh lime juice from half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce (Sambal Oelek–you could sub sriracha!)
  • Hot water to thin
Crispy Tofu
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and thoroughly dried/pressed (I actually used smoked tofu that I got at my local Asian grocer because it’s already dry and I’m the worst/laziest tofu presser.)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp avocado or other light oil for pan-frying
Instructions
  1. Start by preparing rice noodles in boiling hot water for 8 minutes (or prepare according to instructions on package), then rinse in cold water and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and cut pressed tofu into small rectangles. Toss in cornstarch and pan fry, not crowding the pan.  This took me two batches–each batch took about 5 minutes to fully brown.  Make sure you’re flipping to brown all sides evenly.
  3. Prep veggies–rip lettuce leaves in half if they are large, and pull basil leaves from thick stems.  Make sure everything is rinsed and very dry.  Mise-en-place is IMPORTANT here, because once you get to rolling, you’ll need to work quickly.  Arrange veggies in bowls near your rolling station in the order you want them in your roll.  I did basil-noodles-tofu-carrots-lettuce.
  4. Prepare almond butter sauce by adding all sauce ingredients except water to a small mixing bowl and whisking together. Add enough hot water to thin until a pourable sauce is achieved. Adjust flavors as needed (I added extra chili sauce, which if you know me, doesn’t surprise you!)
  5. To assemble spring rolls, pour very hot water into a shallow dish (I actually used my pizza pan) and immerse rice paper to soften for about 10 seconds.  It will get slimy, transparent, and weird.  It’s supposed to. Don’t stress.
  6. Transfer the paper to a damp towel and gently spread out edges into a circle. A few wrinkles are okay.
  7. To the bottom third of the wrapper add a layer of basil, a small handful of vermicelli noodles, a few tofu pieces, some carrots, and a few lettuce leaves.  It seems like a lot, but it will fit!  Gently fold over once, tuck in edges, and continue rolling TIGHTLY until seam is sealed.
  8. Place seam-side down on a serving platter and cover with damp warm towel to keep fresh. Repeat until all fillings are used up – about 8-10 spring rolls total.
  9. Serve with almond butter sauce and extra sriracha or sambal oelek.  YUM!  Serves 6+ as an appetizer or 2-4 as an entree.

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Review: Suja Lavenade (& some words on perfection)

Hello, world!  It’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything here.  This is not news to those of you who know me in the real world, but I’m a total perfectionist.  I tend to be all-or-nothing…it’s either perfect or it’s worthless.  When it comes to blogging, that means either I’m knocking it out of the park or…I’m not touching it.  Being a “perfect blogger” isn’t realistic in my life, in fact, even a normal posting schedule may not be–and I’ve thought about just taking the thing down many, many times–every time, in fact, I 1) missed a Monday/weekend update, 2) missed Friday favorites, 3) didn’t post at least two recipes each week…etc, etc, etc.

However, when I go to pull the plug, I just can’t.  I enjoy sharing my life and recipes with all of you, and connecting with bloggers near and far (when I can be bothered to put in the effort to do so).  I’m a much better blog reader than a blog writer–but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.  Instead of holding myself to a rigorous schedule here, I think it’s better to just post what I can–when I can–and have it mean something.  In the meantime, know that I’m out there being the best wife, dog mom, nurse, epidemiologist, sister, friend, daughter, home chef, public health advocate, and neighbor I can be.

That doesn’t mean I can’t TRY to be a great blogger, in fact, I should try much harder than I have been lately–but it’s best that I (and you, reader friend!) realize that I’ll probably never be PERFECT at it.

That being said, I am going to try to do more posts that aren’t so R&D heavy, so I can continue to write new posts here!  When something works out in the kitchen, I’ll try to be better about taking photos of it.  I’ll try to be better about sharing, even if it isn’t perfect.  Some of my most popular posts are reviews, so I will try to post some more of those.  I love trying new things.  I should post about them, right? Right.  So here you go:

Suja Lavenade.

This is a new Suja classic juice that I picked up at a recent trip to Whole Foods.  I am in LOVE with lavender–in bath products, in food, in tea, in anything!  I also like it in combination with vanilla, so I was really excited to try this.

Unfortunately, it mostly tastes like watered-down lemonade.  There’s not much sugar (only a gram, it says so right on the bottle!), so it’s not too sweet–but it’s not too sour, either.  The red cabbage isn’t too noticeable aside from the fluorescent pink color, which is obviously amazing.

The ingredients according to Suja are “purified water, lemon, red cabbage, honey, maqui berry, stevia, vanilla and lavender.”  At only 10 calories and 1g sugar per serving (two servings in the bottle), it’s not at all bad for you but doesn’t have much to offer either nutritionally (6% of your vitamin C in a serving, but that’s about it) or flavor-wise.

Next time, I would probably pass and get kombucha–now there’s a flavorful beverage. :)

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Muffin Smoothie 

  Hey, strangers!  How have you all been?  (I actually can’t believe you’re still reading, I’ve been posting so irregularly!  I really am sorry about that!)  I have been really struggling to get to writing lately.  I haven’t been too busy–well, I was for a while, which I talked about, but lately I just feel like I’m in a rut (albeit a healthy one?)  and haven’t felt much like blogging.  Those of you who write blogs probably know what I’m talking about, and I envy those of you who can stick to a posting schedule and crank ’em out.  It’s something I’m working at–I guess that’s why I’m a scientist and not a writer. :)

One thing I have felt like doing lately is making smoothies–lots of ’em!  My wonderful husband got me a Vitamix for Christmas and we have been putting that bad boy to WORK!  Usually my morning creations are a wicked shade of green, but this guy here is a nice blue purple–blurple, if you will.  Now, you don’t need a fancy Vitamix to throw this together, any old blender would do.

This was one of our favorites from the last week for sure!  It tastes just like a blueberry muffin–the oats give it a really nice texture and add a nutritional boost to what would otherwise be a pretty average fruit smoothie.  Oats are full of good vitamins like manganese and biotin, and can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart failure when eaten in moderation.  (And actually, this data is supported by the Framingham Heart Study, a data set which any good epidemiologist  is familiar with…back to that whole scientist thing!)

Anyway, the TL;DR is that this smoothie tastes great AND it’s healthy.  Something we can all appreciate after the holidays, right?!

Blueberry Muffin Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 C. almond milk
  • 1/2 C. rolled oats
  • 1 banana (frozen or not, but if you use a non-frozen (regular?) banana, add a few ice cubes also)
  • 1 C. frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 T. maple syrup, or to taste if you like it sweet
  • Optional: 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder

Directions

Put ingredients into your blender in the order listed above.  Blend until smooth!