Takeout Fakeout: Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

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¬†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 ‚Äď 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)

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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.ūüôā

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Muffin Smoothie 

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¬† 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.ūüôā

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!

Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays, everyone! ¬†Whatever you’re celebrating, I hope you’re doing it surrounded by your family and friends and having a ton of fun.

For me, I feel like the Christmas season really starts with preparations for our annual Ugly Sweater party. ¬†This is the third year we’ve done it, and I actually went around the neighborhood and dropped invitations into everyone’s mailboxes. ¬†We had a great turnout of neighbors, coworkers, and friends–it’s always a blast!

¬† A few days after the party, my family came to Pittsburgh and we hosted Christmas at our house. ¬†It’s a ton of fun! ¬†We had french toast casserole, a giant fruit salad, and bacon/spicy veggie sausage (my brother went veggie!! This is epic news!) for breakfast before we opened gifts.
  

¬†¬†¬† I actually think the pets got more gifts than anyone, which was pretty hilarious. ¬†Have you ever experienced Christmas with a kitten? ¬†It’s amazing and terrifying. ¬†For some reason, no cat toy from the store could ever top an ornament! I keep glass bowls of them around as decorations during the holidays, and thank goodness the ornaments themselves are plastic. ¬†Nothing makes that little guy happier than fishing them out and knocking them around the house!

We had unseasonably warm weather, so we did walk around the city a bit, but for the most part we just stayed home and enjoyed each other’s company–and ate ALL the cookies.

I’m back at work today after seven days in a row off, and although it’s a little bit of a bummer, I’m happy to get back into a routine. ¬†That is, a routine that’s not “wake up and start eating all the cookies.”

Mulligatawny Soup

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What are you going to do when you REALLY just want to go to the Indian buffet for dinner, but your husband insists on eating soup at home because it’s gross and rainy outside? ¬†Make an Indian-spiced soup!

What the heck is “Mulligatawny” anyway?! ¬†It’s a traditional Indian curry soup–I’d never had it before, but it sounded like it fit the bill. ¬†Most of the recipes I found online had chicken, but¬†I found this recipe, which is vegan,¬†and didn’t have exactly the ingredients to make it–so as usual, I just edited it to fit what I had and it came out awesome.

Bonus points for the lack of that gut-busting feeling you get for a few days after indulging at the Indian buffet. ¬†I know I’ve given this warning before with a couple curry recipes–but please, please do not shy away from making this because the ingredient list is a mile long. ¬†Half the ingredients are spices! ¬†You probably already have them all if you’re into making any kind of curries, which I definitely am. ¬†It’s so easy!

It comes together in a little over half an hour if you include simmering time, it makes the house smell amazing, and it makes plenty of leftovers for lunches later in the week, especially if you serve it over rice.

 


  
  

Mulligatawny Soup

Ingredients

  • ¬ľ c. butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and¬†sliced into thin coins
  • 1 red jalapeno, ¬†minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2¬†T.¬†peeled and minced ginger root
  • 2 small apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used one macintosh and one honeycrisp; doesn’t really matter what type!)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used muir glen with garlic)
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • ¬Ĺ t. paprika
  • ¬Ĺ t. ground cinnamon
  • ¬Ĺ t. turmeric
  • ¬Ĺ t. dried thyme
  • ¬ľ t. cardamom
  • ¬ľ t. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 C.¬†vegetable broth
  • ‚ÖĒ C. canned¬†coconut cream (from trader joe’s!)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • ¬Ĺ C. raw cashews (optional)
  • rice to serve over

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and jalapeno and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are almost translucent.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger, and apples to the pot and saute for another 2-3 minutes. ¬†Add the diced tomatoes and let them heat through,¬†then add in all of the spices (get them ready first or you’ll burn it!!) and stir. Add in the¬†chickpeas¬†and broth and bring¬†to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree most of the ingredients using an immersion blender, but leave some of the chunks whole, as it adds a nice texture and consistency to the soup. Stir in the coconut cream, making sure it all melts in. Taste, and adjust salt and black pepper as needed.
  4. Serve over rice, topped with cashews if desired.

Note: You could definitely substitute coconut milk for the coconut cream, but I find that it gives soups an excellent creamy texture without the dairy.

Hope you add this to your winter soup rotation! ¬†What’s your current favorite soup to make?

Weekend Happenings 12.07.15

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Hello, everyone! ¬†I am feeling like the worst blogger ever lately! ¬†There has just been a lot going on in my life that’s not really blog-able, mostly work stuff. ¬†To make a long story short, I was job-sharing between two hospitals with someone and it was really like having two full time jobs. ¬†Now I’m switched over to one and life should be slowing down a little in a good way!ūüôā

We definitely squeezed all the good out of this weekend–it was so hard to get up this morning and head out the door. ¬†This wreath from¬†The Farmer’s Daughter¬†is definitely helping me get out the door, since I take every opportunity I can to stare at it!

¬† ¬†Saturday morning we hit up our new neighborhood coffee shop (for the second morning in a row)! ¬†Just LOVE having them in the ‘hood.
¬† Then, we made our way down to Canonsburg, about 45 minutes south of us, to visit the All Clad factory sale. ¬†Santa definitely came early this year. ¬†I replaced all my pots and pans except my wok and a small non-stick skillet for eggs. ¬†The anodized stuff we got for our wedding (6 years ago! Wow!) ¬†just wasn’t cutting it anymore–the coating was flaking off and I’d been meaning to replace it for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity to score the good stuff at the lowest possible prices. ¬†They do it twice a year, so if you’re anywhere near Pittsburgh, GO!!! You can stay at my place. ¬†We’ll go together.ūüėȬ† After that circus, we were hungry, so we stopped at Jimmy John’s for a quick lunch. ¬†#6-no-mayo-add-peppers-and-sprouts, like always.
¬† And then a quick coffee break at home. ¬†I’m LOVING So Delicious’s barista style coconut milk. ¬†It foams up amazingly for non-dairy milk.¬† Saturday evening we knocked out the rest of the decorating, cleaned the kitchen and re-organized the cabinets with our All Clad scores, and then hung out on the couch with this goober.
¬† Sunday morning we finished up Christmas shopping for a few of our family members (almost done!), and then I grabbed coffee with a friend. ¬†In the afternoon, we made a few batches of cookies. ¬†Jon helped–so fun!¬† …and then went to our friend’s cookie exchange in the evening. ¬†Look at my little spritz cookies feeling sad next to the ex-professional baker’s platters.ūüôā ¬†Haha!! ¬†It was a great time.
¬†…and now, somehow, it’s Monday again?!

Any big plans for the week?

Weekend Happenings 11.16.15

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Hope everyone had a great weekend!  We had lovely weather here in Pittsburgh- highs in the 60s- so it was just perfect for celebrating our sixth anniversary, which was Saturday.

Friday I was off work and did some damage at the Sephora VIB sale, and then night we hit Mad Mex for an early happy hour.  We came home and just hung out with the pets, who are getting along great!

  Saturday we went up to the outlets in Grove City (about an hour north), but didn’t find anything good except a bag of Thanskgiving blend coffee at Starbucks–our fave!
Saturday evening we had dinner out at Alla Famiglia, which is AMAZING and you should definitely give it a shot if you’re local.

   
Sunday I did a lot of food prep and made Jon a chicken pot pie since he’s been bugging me about it.  One of my fall goals was to perfect my pie-making skills and I’m getting darn close!  I don’t think I have ever posted a non-vegetarian recipe before since I am not a meat eater, but I may post this one since I’m pretty proud of it!

Lately I have been thinking about adding chicken back into my diet for a few reasons, but that’s a whole other post in itself–at this point, I’m comfortable cooking eat but eating it still makes my stomach turn a little bit!

Stig the kitten was on hand and ready to assist with chicken eating–look at those crazy eyes! He’s a beast.

Have a great week, everyone!