Monday, June 28, 2010

Summertime Lunch

When Bob was home recovering, we had the pleasure of being able to have lunch together; not something we normally get to do. I tried to make our lunches light and as low in calories as I could, since he wasn't very physically active (and we all know I'm rarely physically active if I can help it!). Some days we were lucky enough that the weather cooperated and we got to have our lunch on the deck.

This lunch was one of his favorites. As you can see, the preparation of each food on this plate did not require a rocket scientist. (No, we are not going there today, I promise you!) But the combination just worked.

The main event was a big scoop of chicken salad with a few fresh mint leaves tucked in (left over from the Vietnamese Spring Rolls). A deviled egg, slices of baby Swiss cheese, carrot stick and cucumber sticks rounded out the plate. On the side was a fresh sliced tomato, and a plate of multi-grain bread. Top that off with ice cold lemonade and you have a summer lunch that is absolutely delicious!

As we sat at the table and listened to the birds sing and watched the squirrels play out in the wooded area behind the house, a tiny female hummingbird came up to the feeder a few feet from where we sat. She perched on the feeder and fed right before our eyes; turning a good lunch into a fantastic lunch!

I love summertime!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

It is so stinkin’ hot outside that I cannot stand it! I should be swimming! I should be in a pool with crystal clear water swishing around me and enveloping me as I dive into the cold, delicious water! Oh dear. I lost control for a minute. I’m sorry you had to see that.

Ahem. Okay, I’ve pulled it back together. It’s not easy to do when it’s 95 degrees out and you’re not sure if your air conditioner is going to hold out. It’s almost too hot to eat. Almost. I don’t know that I’ve ever really been too hot to eat. In fact, I don’t think anything gets in the way of my eating.

So when the thermometers are screaming with high temperatures, I want something that is refreshing. Enter Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I have wanted to make these forever. Well here was my chance. These would taste great on days like these. They are fresh and light and just the thing when the temperature is on the rise.

Now, I’ve never made them before but they didn’t look too difficult. One of my absolute favorite blogs is Jaden Hair is amazing. You really should check out her blog. It is one of the best around. She had blogged about the spring rolls a while ago and I knew I had saved the post. I dug it out and used this as my main guide, plus I made the sauce from her post.

The thing about these Vietnamese Spring Rolls is that they are not baked or fried. They are totally fresh. And you can put just about anything you want into them. I stayed pretty traditional on my ingredients. I did all of the prep work in the kitchen and then Bob and I made them at the table. It really was a lot of fun!

The ingredients I used were small shrimp that I had sautéed with chopped garlic and basil. (Jaden marinates and grills hers.) I had mango, red peppers, carrots and seeded cucumber. In addition, there were fresh mint leaves, Boston Bibb lettuce and vermicelli rice noodles. And of course, the round rice paper wrappers

We began by taking one rice paper, dipping it in the water. Then we started constructing our rolls. First up was the shrimp. Next the lettuce, vermicelli noodles, carrots, red pepper, cucumber, mango and finish with 2 mint leaves.

Then it was time to roll it all together. Jaden says to “try to keep the filling compact and piled on top of the shrimp.” She instructs to start with the side closest to you, “roll up the roll tight, stopping halfway to gently tug back on the roll to tighten.” As you will quickly find out when working with rice paper wrappers, they stick to themselves very easily. So as you roll and the paper comes in contact with itself, it will seal. We just folded ours up like a burrito.

This is Bob’s roll. Isn’t it gorgeous? His is prettier than mine because I don’t put the red pepper in mine. You will not believe the taste! Oh my gosh! The mango and the mint absolutely sing in your mouth! The shrimp and the vegetables are so refreshing and taste so incredible together. And you can see the dipping sauces I made to go with them; sweet chili sauce and cashew butter dipping sauce. I kid you not, these things will make you swoon.

This is my roll. Doesn’t it look yummy? Look how nicely rolled it is and how the wrapper is tight around the filling? Doesn’t it just look like a picture?

Okay, time for true confessions. This was the second time we had them. The first time we made these we took pictures of the first roll I made. We were so hungry that we didn’t really take a good look at the picture before we polished off dinner. I about fell off of my chair when I downloaded the pictures. I yelled for Bob. He came hobbling over on his crutches to see why I was darn near hysterical. Ah hell; I can’t explain it. Take a look for yourselves.

See? There was no way I could blog and use that picture!!! I’d have to put a disclaimer on here and post an X rating for the blog … and it wouldn’t be referring to my size!

And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Please disregard the picture of my first attempt and rest assured that these are fun to make, healthy, and a perfect meal on a stinkin’ hot day.

By the way, the cashew butter dipping sauce is so incredibly delicious it defies explanation. And the sweet chili sauce is every bit as good. We couldn’t decide which we liked better so we would alternate bites until we got to the point where we slathered both sauces on at once.

You simply have got to make these! And ladies … uh, like I said, that’s all I’m gonna say about that!

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

6 oz dried rice vermicelli
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
24 small sized shrimp, shelled
16-24 round rice papers (8” diameter)
1 head of butter or Boston Bibb lettuce, leaves separated
1 cup julienned or shredded carrots
½ cup julienned red bell peppers
½ cup mango, sliced into thin slivers
½ cup julienned seeded cucumbers
24 mint leaves

Sauté shrimp and garlic in olive oil. Let cool. Slice each shrimp down the middle of its back so that you have two identical halves of shrimp.

You will need a dish to dip the rice papers in; one deep enough to submerge the whole paper at once. I found that a deep dish 9” pie plate did the trick. Fill it with room temperature water. Dip one rice paper round in the dish for a quick 2 seconds. Lift round and let the water drip off. Place on clean, dry work surface. Blot the top of the round with a paper towel. You’ll work one roll at a time.

Now it’s time to roll. The wrapper will still be a little stiff. By the time you finish piling on the ingredients, it will have softened enough to roll. Lay 4 halves of the shrimp in a line near the bottom 1/3 of the round. Top with some lettuce, vermicelli noodles, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, mango, and finish with 2 mint leaves. Try to keep the ingredients compact and piled on top of the shrimp. Starting with the side closest to you, roll up the roll tight, stopping halfway to gently tug back on the roll to tighten.
The wrapper is self-sealing. You can use a sharp knife to cut off the two ends to make it look neater.

Cashew Butter Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Oishii Eats

Most recipes for dipping sauce call for Peanut Butter, however a Cashew Butter or even Almond Butter is more fragrant, delicate and oh-so-delicious. I like my sauce a little thin, so that when I dip my roll in the sauce, it lightly coats the roll and I can still taste the fresh, vibrant vegetables inside.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced (about 3 teaspoons)
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons cashew butter
1/4 cup water
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. When it is hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add hoisin, sugar, chili garlic sauce, cashew butter and water, whisk and simmer for 1 minute. You can add an additional tablespoon of water for a thinner consistency.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beautiful Berries!

Every summer I wait for the berries; blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and black raspberries. I love them so. And oh, the possibilities! I quiver with the thought of it all.

How is this for the simple beauty of summer berries?

Bob and I have already put an assortment of them into brandy. I can’t wait to get into those! I’m going to try freezing some in simple syrup. Cuisine at Home magazine recommends this. Of course there will be coffee cakes and shortcakes and muffins and cupcakes. Dear Lord, I can feel my hips widening as I type this!

Tell me, what will you do with berries this summer?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sweet Pickled Beans from Everyday Food Magazine

First let me explain my absence and apologize for it. You know how inside all of our heads we think we’re much younger than our actual age? And how sometimes maybe a lapse of judgment leads us to believe we might be capable of doing something that we really aren’t capable of doing? (Elaine, remember the Christmas decorations in the crawl space?) Yeah. Well anyway, in Bob’s head I think he sometimes thinks he’s 12 years old. And it’s usually when he’s with Brian. On a bicycle. Who knows what Brian’s thinking?

Long story short, Bob was racing Brian and he crashed. Bob that is, not Brian. Results were not pretty. Broken bones, separated shoulder, bruises and contusions … like I said, not pretty. So that pretty much explains what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks. Sorry. I’ve missed my blog.

Now I’m back. Bob’s not completely recovered, but he’s oh so much better! Thank you for asking :-) Now on to business!

I love pickled stuff. I saw a recipe in July/August 2010 Everyday Food magazine that I just had to try. It was for “sweet pickled wax beans”. Since I like green beans way better than wax and the recipe suggests that as one of the swaps, that is what I decided to pickle; along with cauliflower.

It was pretty darn easy. Basically using clean jars, you pack them with your choice of vegetables.

Then you make the brine and bring it to a boil; reduce and simmer. After it cools you pour it into the jar, covering the veggies and leaving headspace.

Seal the jars and refrigerate at least 3 days before serving. We tried them after 3 days and they kind of tasted like new pickles taste. So we resealed them and will wait a little longer. As for the taste, the flavor was really good! But both Bob and I thought that they were way too sour. We expected that sweet pickled taste. So I googled info on Splenda. I wanted to sweeten them up a bit but I also didn’t want to disturb what I’d already done. I added about 1/8 cup Splenda to each jar. We’ll see what they taste like again in a few days.

I have another recipe for awesome pickles that I’ll have to share. Now that I’ve thought of them I am just going to have to make them! They make my knees weak!

Here is the original recipe from Everyday Food. Do you do any pickling? If so, I would love to hear what you do and how you do it.

Sweet Pickled Wax Beans
From Everyday Food magazine
Serves 8


1 pound wax beans, trimmed
4 sprigs thyme
4 cups white-wine vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns


1. In two quart-size glass jars, arrange beans upright and place 2 sprigs thyme in each. In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, garlic, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns and water to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

2. Pour cooled brine over beans, leaving a ½ inch space at top of each jar, seal and refrigerate at least 3 days before serving. (Pickled beans keep, refrigerated up to 2 months.)

Swap It:
Green beans, cauliflower, carrots, or beets would also work in this preparation