Summer Rolls

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Were stuck in this constant back and forth weather change of is it spring or is it winter? Ohio doesn’t even know! While the weather in OH is trying to figure out what season it want’s to be, I’m over here dreaming of summer and the warmer days ahead. Clear blue skies, sun shining, birds chirping, people out running, kids playing or screaming whatever it is they do best, firing up the grille in the backyard, sipping wine on the patio with the girls laughing and reminiscing on the best of the past, playing 18 holes and then sitting on the patio with the boys throwing back a few ice cold IPA’s and snacking on potato chips, the time of the year where yard work never ends. Yes, good old summer time, sweet sweet summer. Snapping out of it, were less than 50 days from spring so that’s something to be happy about! 

I literally rolled into this last weekend by starting meal prep with some Vietnamese Summer Rolls. Although, these are great for warmer weather, I feel I may have put on a little bit of a fur coat myself if you catch my weight gaining drift LOL. I need a better balance of lighter fare to keep in my diet so I thought about one of my favorite summer dishes. These rolls are great with Chicken or Shrimp, I just did a simple vegetable roll. I recommend Hoison sauce for dipping if you have it or a sweet chili sauce, which is what I used. If you have a mondoline with a shredder attachment, that works the best for getting the matchstick size you will need for the vegetables. If you don’t have one, just finely slice the veggies as thin as you can. These rolls are a definite crowd pleaser. Make them as a great appetizer to share or as a meal for yourself! 🙂

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Yield: 8 Rolls

Mise en Place:

  • Large Spring Roll Wrappers
  • 1 Head Boston Bibb Lettuce, washed, leaves picked from core
  • 2 Carrots, peeled, shredded (or thing matchstick cuts)
  • 1/2 Large Cucumber, shredded (same as above)
  • 2 Scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 Small Bunch Cilantro, leaves picked
  • 1/2 Pack Rice Noodles, cooked according to package
  • 1 Large Mixing Bowl Warm Water
  • Sweet Chili sauce, for dipping

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Method of Prep:

  • Prepare all mise en place and have all ingredients kept in separate bowls of the order you want to build the roll.
  • Lay one sheet of rice paper into bowl of warm water. Allow to sit for 10-15 seconds or until soft. Remove from water and lay on a clean surface. Gently roll out the edges to form the circle (This part can become tricky because when you remove paper from the water, the sides with begin to tuck in. Carefully try to spread out to original shape keeping your fingers wet and being sure not to tear the paper. If you cause a tear, start over).
  • Going down the center of the circle, lay one large piece of lettuce (or two small), then a pinch of cucumber, small bunch of rice noodles, pinch of carrots, pinch of scallions, and then a pinch of cilantro(keep in mind this paper is very delicate, the more you put in the harder it will be to roll and will causing tearing, keep your portion sizes small).
  • To roll, fold the bottom part up, then the top down. Working from left to right, Keep the sides tucked in using both hands and begin to fold from left to right (Be sure to have enough work space for this part as it could become difficult if space is limited . Should seal easily, if not rub a little water on the outside to seal. Roll as tight as you can without causing a rip. Should the paper rip upon rolling, just keep going, it happens and is still edible, doesn’t need to be perfect. 🙂
  • Continue each step above until all mise en place is used.
  • I recommend eating these within 2 days of making them. Store in a sealed ziploc bag or air tight container in the refrigerator.
  • Enjoy!

**Make sure the bowl of water your using is warm at all times. The longer it sits, it will become colder. Switch out to warm water every so often to help the paper soften quicker.

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Thai Coconut Soup

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With the Winter season in full swing, everyone is looking for the heavy, hearty, warm dishes to savor on a cold brisk evening. Folks will often say that the cold weather is the best for soup season,  I respectfully disagree. I love a nice bowl of Tomato Bisque with a grilled cheese sandwich in the middle of the summer, or a bowl of Pho just because It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed one.  Soup is the one thing I haven’t made yet this winter and I had a craving for something spicy, a dish with a little heat and something out of the ordinary aside from the common split pea, chicken noodle, chili and beef barley that everyone showcases this time of the year.

I opened up the pantry to dig through the dry goods and see what I could come up with. I came across two cans of Coconut Milk and said “boom, a Coconut Curry Soup!” Unfortunately the only curry I had on hand was yellow curry powder, not what I was looking for, so I made a version of  Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) instead, minus a few key ingredients because I didn’t have them on hand. Coconut milk has a thick consistency, and a rich, creamy texture. Coconut milk comes from the flesh of mature brown coconuts (not to be confused with coconut water which is found naturally in immature green coconuts). This milk is found in many cuisines around the world ie: Southeast Asian (Thai), Hawaiian, and the Caribbean. 

I’ve personally always loved coconut. From the dried shavings that are in desserts, to the cream used in Pina Coladas. I know plenty of people that don’t enjoy coconut as much, but I believe it’s because they’re consuming all the wrong stuff! The battery on my Nikon died and until I replace it, I’m stuck using my camera phone for pictures, so I apologize if the photo quality isn’t the best. The pictures don’t do this soup justice! If you like heat, coconut and ginger, this soup is worth a try! The coconut milk adds a wonderful sweet balance to smooth out the spice from the chili paste. 

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Mise en Place:

  • 2 Cans Coconut Milk (full fat, be sure it’s milk and not cream!)
  • 1 Cup Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger, minced
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, julienne
  • 2 Cups Stock (I used homemade Chicken stock, vegetable works fine!)
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Chili Paste
  • 6 Oz Pack Rice Noodles, prepared according to package
  • 1 Small Bunch Fresh Cilantro
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add a tablespoon Oil and cook onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic, and fresh ginger, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in Mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper.  Stir and allow to cook for an additional two minutes.
  • Pour in Stock and coconut milk, mix well. Season with more salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add in chili paste, fish sauce and lime juice. Stir and allow to simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if needed.
  • In a serving bowl, add in 1 handful of rice noodles. Add in hot soup and garnish with cilantro.
  • Enjoy!

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Chickpea Sloppy Joes

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Since working with more plant based proteins, I’m finding alternatives for popular dishes that work well. Depending on your diet, these substitutions will never be as good as the original protein in the recipe (some things shouldn’t be changed), but i’m learning to adapt well to these changes if I want to continue on a healthier lifestyle journey. One common plant based protein that I have been working with more often is the chickpea, a type of legume that is high in protein and very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. 

You might love the chickpea in one of my favorite snacks, hummus or perhaps you’ve had it in a good Indian dish. I’ve always loved this plant and have never had a problem finding new ways to add it into my cooking. More commonly when you think of vegetarian BBQ dishes, the protein that is used is one I worked with a month ago in my taco recipe, the Jackfruit. I determined that although Jackfruit is a delicious alternative to pork in a sandwich recipe, BBQ itself is not the best condiment choice for a taco. I wanted to make a dish with a twist on pulled pork with BBQ so I began flipping the pages of multiple vegetarian cookbooks for inspiration. A fun sandwich I think of when I hear BBQ is a Sloppy Joe. It’s been years since I’ve bit into one of those big gooey messy burgers, the one recipe it seemed like the cafeteria in Elementary school always got right. Not much of an exciting thing to eat as an adult but when it’s packed with protein, why not? 

This recipe is very similar to the one from a book “But I could never go Vegan!” I was curious to see just how well chickpeas would work with BBQ. So I put a twist on this Vegan version to create my own “Sloppy Sammie” (not Vegan). I finished it with Cheese and pickles for some extra flare on the sandwich. Overall, I enjoyed this recipe and would consider using it again. Great for a summer picnic if you have any vegetarian friends/family members! 

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Mise en Place:

  • (2) 15 Oz Cans Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 Red Onion, small dice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/2 Orange or Red Bell Pepper, small dice
  • (1) 15 Oz Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 8oz Mustard Based BBQ Sauce (vinegar base)
  • S&P, TT
  • Hamburger Buns
  • Toppings of choice

Method of Prep:

  • Drain and rinse chickpeas. Using a food processor, lightly pulse beans until mashed (don’t puree, you still want the mix a little chunky)
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow sauce pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
  • Add bell pepper and chickpeas. combine, cook for two minutes. Mix in tomatoes, sugar and tomato paste, season with Salt and Pepper.
  • Add in BBQ sauce, mix well. Simmer stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. If mixture begins to stick, add in more BBQ sauce or water to deglaze the pan, reduce heat if needed.
  • Scoop filling onto prepared buns and add toppings if needed. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
  • Enjoy!

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Roast Chicken with Garlic & Brown Butter Green Beans

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I’m stepping aside from the plant based proteins for one post and going back to a former recipe upon request. If you have been following my blog, you understand that I have made a choice to eliminate land animals (chicken, beef, pork) from my diet due to personal health goals. Striving towards a healthier lifestyle with diet is a very difficult task but i’m choosing to take it one step at a time, day by day to get by. I’ve learned to discipline myself and hold back on buying and cooking with the usual animal proteins I once loved to work with. A trick I have found to keep active with this change it to meal plan every week. Come up with a menu for what I will cook that week, write up a grocery list and shop for only those items. It not only saves me time and money but it keeps me motivated to cook again as I actually have a plan as to what I am going to prepare for that day or evening.  I am also married to a Chef, keeping a strict vegetarian diet is almost near impossible when food and culture is everything to us. I have to at least keep dairy, eggs and seafood in my diet or I wouldn’t be able to keep this blog going!

About two weeks ago on a cold Sunday evening, I went about the usual relaxing after dinner to a netflix show with the hubs until I decided to come into the computer room and check my emails, per usual I was distracted by facebook before doing anything else. Scrolling through the feed I came across my dear friend Tony who had posted about his apartment catching fire. Shortly after reading his post, I had seen numerous reports of an apartment fire very close to me which happened to be the same building my friend Tony lived in. I was worried for him and his girlfriend, however via his post, everyone was okay and out safely, their belongings and apartment were to be determined after the fire report. I was just happy to hear everyone was okay. The next day I messaged my best friend April who happens to be Tony’s sister about the fire, she confirmed everything and agreed to meeting with me as I wanted to help with anything I could. She told me over lunch that a gofundme page was set up in their name to help raise money in any funding they might need towards new housing, clothes and all personal items to start over. I offered to give money but was quickly denied as they requested I provide nothing more than a full meal for them to enjoy as Tony & his Girlfriend Moira were living off pop tarts and pizza rolls for the time while lodging at a friends house until they get their life back on track. 

When you lose everything in a fire, you also suffer personal traits you once enjoyed such as cooking because you don’t have your own kitchen and equipment to work with. Working in someone else’s can become challenging and most often awkward as you don’t want to abuse your welcome. I asked “What should I make?” and the answer was simple, “Just cook a whole bird with their favorite sides, green beans & broccoli.” This was literally the easiest task I’ve ever had and I couldn’t be more excited because I knew exactly what I wanted to do and it felt good to go back in time and pull from the archives one of my favorite techniques for a great meal, a simple brine and roast method. This recipe is comparable to the one I was provided when I worked at the Greenbrier. Working in the Forum-an Italian based restaurant, we would brine whole Chicken and then roast the next day. Then pulling the meat from the bone to be used in one of our pasta dishes. If I ate Chicken still, this would be one of my go to recipes. This brine not only adds great flavor, but keeps the right amount of juices in tact for a moist texture. 

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Mise en Place for the Brine:

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Small Bunch Parsley Leaves
  • 1 Small Bunch Thyme
  • 1 Whole Chicken ( I used about a 5 LB bird, insides removed)

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Mise en Place for the Roasting:

  • 1/2 Stick Butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Thyme
  • 1/2 Lemon, sliced in rounds
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped small
  • 2 Carrots, peeled, chopped small
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped small
  • Vegetable Oil for brushing on top
  • S&P, for Seasoning

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Method of Prep:

  • In a wide 3 gallon pot, bring water, both sugars and salt to a simmer, continue to mix until both sugars are dissolved. Turn off heat, add in peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and thyme. Allow the herbs and spices to steep for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and place in refrigerator to cool completely.
  • Remove pot from refrigerator, place whole bird in the brine. Fill with water until the Chicken is completely submerged, about 8 cups more. Cover and set in refrigerator overnight (or at least 4 hours).
  • When ready, set the oven to 325 degrees. Remove Chicken from brine and place on top of a roasting rack. Stuff the end of the Chicken with celery, onion, carrots (Mirepoix),  thyme sprigs and Lemon rounds. Under the skin of the breast, stuff with the butter cubes. Using a pastry brush, lightly oil the top of the chicken and season with s&p. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Enjoy!

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***You can save the used brine and reuse it again up to 3 times, just continue to use only raw poultry or pork in the brine. This brine will hold up to 1 week as long as it’s sealed tightly.

***Save your chicken bones and use for a stock! Take used bones from the carcass and seal in a ziploc bag. Place in the freezer for up to 3 months and use for homemade stock!

Green Beans Mise en Place:

  • 1 Bag Green Beans, ends trimmed
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • Bring a large pot of water, about 5 cups to a rolling boil. Blanch beans by dropping in water, allowing to steep for 2 minutes. Remove from boiling water and drop in ice water to shock or stop the cooking.
  • Drain water from beans. Bring a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add in butter and allow butter to lightly brown, you will begin to smell a light nutty aroma. Add in garlic and stir until lightly browned about 1 minute. Add in Beans, season with salt and pepper. Toss until coated well with butter and seasonings. Reduce heat, using a zester, zest the 1/2 lemon rind over beans. Squeeze in fresh juice and toss again to coat. Cook until al dente, approximately 4 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Lentil & Chickpea Patties

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Well we made it to Friday, yay! I hope that where ever you’re reading this post from, the weather is better than 14 degrees! Sometimes the frigid temps are okay, it keeps me indoors and allows me to catch up on cleaning and organizing the mess I’ve been putting off all year, plus I get to play with this blog some more :). I have no interest in even going outside  on an adventure – at least not when the wind chill is in the negatives. I’ve been staying productive inside, not sure if it’s because that’s my way of keeping my mind off being bored or because it’s my way of keeping my body moving so I don’t put on too much of a winter coat LOL. 

As I mentioned in my previous post in the winter were all looking for comfort food. Something hearty to keep warm when the weather outside is being weather. While I do enjoy an occasional heavy dish, I tend to find more comfort in healthier, protein packed fare. Normally I wouldn’t share a recipe that wasn’t on my must make again list, but these lentil “burgers” may interest someone else more than me. This recipe was borrowed from “Essential Vegetarian” Cookbook. I found the texture to be grainy and the inside dry. However, the flavor was good! I recommend if you do prepare these, to have some kind of a sauce with them to add moisture. I topped these with hummus which helped a lot in the mouthfeel as well. This recipe suggested a coriander garlic cream as a sauce, I didn’t like that at all with these burgers. I think there is a better alternative to this recipe with the ingredients than in patty form such as a coconut curry or soup. 

Lentils are high in protein and fiber, a versatile and nutritious ingredient. A mini version of a bean and part of the legume family, lentils grow in pods and come in a variety of colors such as red, brown and green. They are quick to prepare, and their low cost makes them an accessible form of high quality protein for many people around the world. If you’re looking to take on another version of a veggie burger, these Lentil patties are right up your alley!

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Mise en Place:

  • (1) Cup Red Lentils, cooked
  • (2) Yellow Onions, Julienne
  • (1) Tablespoon Tandoori Mix Powder
  • (1) Can Chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • (1) Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, grated
  • (1) Egg
  • (3) Tablespoons Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
  • (2) Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro
  • (2) Cups Breadcumbs
  • Flour, for dusting
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • In a large frying pan, heat up a tablespoon of oil. Add onion cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tandoori powder and stir until fragrant, allow to cool.
  • Place the chickpeas, half the lentils, ginger, egg and the onion mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining lentils, parsley, cilantro and breadcrumbs. Refrigerate mixture for 10 minutes.
  • Shape into round patties. lightly toss in flour to coat.
  • Over medium heat, add in some oil to a pan and cook patties 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Serve with choice of sauce.
  • Enjoy!

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