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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Cauliflower Piccata

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Winter has officially arrived- all in one weekend might I add- here in Northeast Ohio. We got pounded with over 4 feet of snow, some areas up to 12 feet along the snow belt. Cars were trapped in between mounds of heavy snow, roads became icy where even the snow plows had a hard time keeping up with clearing the roads. The temperature dropped down to 9 degrees with a wind chill of negative 13.  I did recently read that spring is 50 some days away though, good news! Its hard to prepare for a snowpocalypse in Ohio because the weather always tends to be the opposite of what is foretasted. This time however, they were right- it’s a good thing I did my grocery shopping earlier in the week because the grocery stores and gas stations were madness on Friday. 

In the winter, everyone turns to satisfying comfort food, something to warm the soul. Commonly soups, stews, chili, pastas- anything hot and heavy, a kind of amenity to fill you with contentment during this cold and dark time of the year. A favored dish among many-Picatta may not be the first choice for something hearty on a frigid evening, I personally always find comfort in anything with butter, lemons, pasta and everything with a brine.

Piccata is a preparation typically with meat (Chicken or Fish) that is lightly dusted with flour, seared and served with a sauce of butter, lemons and capers.  My recipe is far from the classic as I am substituting a vegetable for the protein and I chose not to do the traditional Beurre Blanc (White wine butter sauce). Not going to lie my sauce doesn’t look the best and I kept it simple as I just melted butter with some aromatics and added in the capers and lemon juice.  If you prefer to keep the sauce conventional, here is a great butter sauce recipe. I found cauliflower to be wonderful alternative as the silky texture from the sauce and pop of acid readily absorbs and gives a great compliment to the produce.

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Mise En Place:

  • (1) Head Cauliflower
  • (2) Sticks Butter, cut into cubes
  • (1/2) Yellow Onion, Julienne
  • (1) Small Jar Capers-in brine
  • (2) Lemons-Juiced, seeds removed
  • (2) Cloves Garlic, sliced
  • Angel Hair Pasta
  • S&P, TT

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Method of Prep:

  • Heat oven to 400 Degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Prepare the Cauliflower steaks by cutting the head in half vertical, then slicing those halves in half again. The steaks will tend to break apart, it happens. Try and keep them together best you can. Drizzle steaks with olive oil, S&P. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes-turning over after 10 minutes to allow even cooking on both sides. If you want to go classic Piccata-try lightly coating the Cauliflower in a dusting of AP Flour and searing on both sides until golden. 
  • Fill a sauce pot with water, bring to a boil and cook off Angel hair pasta. I always add salt to the water for flavor and a little oil to keep the noodles from sticking together. Drain water from the pasta and set aside.
  • Prepare the sauce by first sauteing the aromatics (garlic and onion) until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Begin to slowly add in butter cubes and continuing to whisk until melted over low heat. If butter begins to break remove from the heat. 
  • Whisk in Lemon juice and Capers (drain from brine first). Strain sauce from the aromatics, optional. (I kept the aromatics with the sauce to add to the pasta for a little something extra in the dish). Season with S&P, TT.
  • Place a decent serving of Pasta on a plate, top with Cauliflower and coat in Butter sauce mixture. (Optional-toss pasta in butter sauce upon serving).
  • Enjoy!

**Note: Eat immediately to keep the butter sauce from solidifying or breaking upon sitting**

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BBQ Jackfruit Tacos

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Happy New Year to you & yours! 2019 marks 7 years having this blog. Woah, it seems like only yesterday I was sitting in a new apartment in sunny West Palm Beach, FL in front of my 2010 HP Laptop trying to figure out how to start a blog with the vision of capturing an audience who give a damn to read my words and feel inspired to want to cook my food. This blog just like the food world, has changed a lot over the course of time. I began this website because food blogs were trending. As a writer and food buff, I considered this a way to spend my down time where I can start a personal food journal of recipes that I can share with others in hopes they would embark on the same journey as me. I was uncertain of the direction for this blog until I began writing more. In due time, I understood the meaning behind what I wanted from my audience and that was to encourage taking control of the food you put in your body. I want the public to spend less on going out to eat and more at home in their own kitchens. I wanted to give simple, low cost, healthier food to help create a beneficial lifestyle. With this being said, not every one of my recipe’s is the healthiest but it’s all about balance. When you discipline yourself to eat better every day, it’s okay to reward yourself and indulge in something good, kind of like a treat yo self day. 

I sit here now at a desk in front of my 20″ HP monitor in my first post of 2019 and couldn’t be more excited to head into another year of taking care of myself, for myself. I am going to try new foods and cuisines. You wont see (hardly any) meat recipes in my posts going forward (Please feel free to substitute protein of your choice in any of these recipes!). I made the change last year to eliminate most proteins (with the exception of seafood) so I could focus on higher protein foods with fewer calories and saturated fat. I want more Vitamin and mineral rich meals. Heart disease runs in my family and consuming more heart healthy foods are great start to prevent having to undergo future heart surgeries, etc. Once you turn 30, you start to realize it’s time to take care of yourself better.

As with a new year, comes a new product I’ve never worked with and have only tried once before, the Jackfruit. A very hipster, trendy plant based fruit exceedingly popular with Vegans as a meat alternative. Once cooked it takes on a texture and resemblance of pulled pork.  This young, unripe fruit soaks up flavor well and is truly versatile. Jackfruit is packed with fiber and antioxidants along with great benefits for your body. More information on this miracle fruit here. This recipe was adapted from the  cookbook “But I could never go Vegan!” The outcome of this was tasty, however I am not sold on BBQ as a taco condiment. I would love to make these as tacos again but next time just using a classic taco seasoning for the Jackfruit. 

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Mise en Place:

Guacamole:

  • (2) Avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • (1) Lime, juiced
  • (1) Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
  • S&P, TT

Tacos:

  • (1) 6 oz Can Jackfruit, packed in brine (not syrup)
  • (1) Cup Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
  • (1) Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • (1) Tablespoon Hot Sauce
  • S&P, TT
  • (1) Medium Yellow Onion, Sliced
  • (1) Orange Bell Pepper, Sliced
  • (1) Yellow Bell Pepper, Sliced
  • Tacos Toppings of Choice
  • Corn OR Flour Tortillas

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Method of Prep:

  • Rinse the Jackfruit thoroughly in a colander. Use your fingers to tear into shreds, set aside.
  • Mix BBQ sauce, tomato paste and hot sauce in a small bowl. Season with S&P if needed. Set aside.
  • Heat a Tablespoon of Oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent.
  • Add the Jackfruit and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the sauce mixture, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Add more salt and pepper if desired.
  • While the Jackfruit is cooking, prepare the guacamole. In a large bowl mash the avocados until creamy leaving a few chunks. Add in remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Heat up a small saute pan. Cook one tortilla at a time 30-60 seconds on both sides or until lightly browned.
  • Prepare tacos with garnish of choice.
  • Enjoy!

*I cooked up rice, added in fresh chopped cilantro and added cooked black beans as well. Both make great sides or garnish!

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Peach & Jalapeno Jam

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Hello world & Happy Fall, Ya’ll! I can finally celebrate Autumn because the weather is slowly breaking here in N.E OH and according to my calendar, tomorrow (Friday) marks the first official day of fall, heck yeah! Who else really enjoys the fall as much as me!? How can you argue sweaters, boots, leaves crunching beneath your feet, crisp air, picking apples and then turning them into a fresh pie, warm days and cool nights, everything fall scented, fall crafts such as pumpkin painting/carving, bonfires, no bugs or sweat running down your body, goodbye to sunburn and busy nights at work! Fall really is the best season.

For those of you that have missed me, I appreciate your patience in waiting for my next blog post, ya’ll are the best! If you are new to following me, ICYMI: Summers for me working as a banquet captain at a Country Club is very busy. I don’t allow myself a lot of free time to work on cooking at home, crafting, photography and anything else that makes this blog what it is. I tend to disappear every so often because this is only a hobby for me and I only have a small window of free time to do what I love. Thank you to those who do continue to read and follow my blog. You can also follow my facebook page if you are on there as well facebook.com/driven2eat

As I was saying, fall is here and August thru September has the best produce available. -If you haven’t stopped at your local farmers market yet, this is the last week to do it before the season ends! I was lucky enough to make it up in time for the last of the peaches hull. I don’t know how the peaches were for everyone else, but the peaches we had here weren’t all the great 😦 I was disappointed in the lack of sweetness and juice that I expect to have from a peach, they were okay.

When I make breakfast at home, I usually almost always have a toasted English muffin with fresh jam. I had been buying Jam from Amish Country the last few years and haven’t made my way up there in a few months, figured it was time to just make my own anyways. With how easy it is to make jam, there’s no excuse whey I don’t make it more often! I took a look around the fridge and noticed that a few Jalapenos I had remaining were beginning to do the pruning effect on the outside, so it was time to do something with those as well. I remembered one thing my Aunt always liked to bring to a family dinner, cream cheese topped with pepper jam to spread on crackers for an appetizer. That’s when the light bulb went on in my head to take my leftover peaches and jalapenos and make a jam! The lack of sugar in these peaches actually made them perfect for this recipe. Sweet meets heats for a great spread. Peach and Jalapeno are a great combination together. This recipe also makes an excellent glaze on pork or fish for a finishing touch on dinner!

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Mise En Place:

  • 3 Large Peaches, Diced
  • 3 Jalapenos, seeds removed, diced
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • Juice 1/2 Lime
  • 2 Small Mason Jars for storing

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Method of Prep:

  • Mix together peaches, jalapenos, sugar and lime juice until sugar well incorporated. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
  • Over high heat, add mix into a pan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and allow to lightly simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Liquid should reduce by half and coat the back of a spoon when ready.
  • Turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Pour into Mason jars and cool to room temperature. Seal shut, refrigerate after opening. *If jam is cooked too long, it may become gelatinous and hard to spread once cooled. Scoop out what you need for spreading. As jam sits on a warm surface it will begin to melt for easier spreading. 

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*You may blend the jam at the end if you don’t like the candied chunks of jalapeno that will be left behind.