Spring Rolls

Welcome to my latest obsession.  These spring rolls are completely addicting, gratefully in a healthy and good kind of way.  I love spring rolls and have eaten them out on the town for years, but I only recently became a do-it-yourself-spring-roll-aficionado.  If you have not tried making spring rolls, I urge you wait no longer!  If you have made a tortilla roll up, burrito, or even a sandwich, you can master a veggie filled, protein packed spring roll on your very first try.

There are three components to the perfect spring roll: rice paper, julienned vegetables, and a fabulous dipping sauce.

Rice paper is available just about everywhere. And, by everywhere I mean all four five of the grocery stores I happen to frequent. Most grocery stores have an Asian aisle or imported food section.  You should be able to find spring roll/rice paper there.  I have found three brands consistently around the Austin area: Blue Dragon, Mekong Rice Paper, and Banh Trang Spring Rolls Skin.  They are inexpensive and will last through your impending spring roll obsession.

There really is no recipe for spring rolls, but for inspiration, I’ll tell you what I’ve been filling mine with lately.  And, if you aren’t in the mood to whip out  your mandoline or test your knife skills making perfectly julienned veggies, you can always buy pre-sliced and diced vegetables. I did a little of both.

Spring Roll filling inspiration

cucumbers (really a must for me!)

carrots

bell pepper

zucchini

broccoli slaw (I buy an organic package and toss it in salads too)

spring onions or red onions

purple cabbage

sprouts

cilantro (a must!)

mint (a must!)

shrimp

Chances are you have most of these ingredients already in your kitchen.  Promise me, you won’t leave out the cilantro and mint!  You will love, love the fresh flavor these handy herbs bring to the rolls.  I’ve been adding small slices of left-over meat to the rolls too. I’m on a grilled shrimp kick right now, but thinly sliced chicken or beef would be heavenly too. Whatever you have left over, be creative!

Here’s the kicker.  This sauce really should be outlawed.  I can’t even tell you what Husband dubbed it.  I found the recipe at My New Roots and am smitten with the flavor. Go ahead and double the recipe…you’ll thank me later.

Divine Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup almond butter

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsp tamari

1 Tbs agave nectar

2 Tbs water

1 lime, juiced

crushed red pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Add more water if sauce is too thick, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Once you have the veggies prepped and the sauce made the assembly is a breeze.  Take one sheet of rice paper and place it in a pie pan or large plate filled with warm water.  Soak the paper for 5-10 seconds and place on a dry tea towel and blot dry.  Place rice paper on a cutting board or plate.  Spread a generous layer of Divine Dipping Sauce across the diameter (center) of the paper.  Add your julienned veggies and protein.  Fold the top side of the paper over the sauce and veggies, then bring the short sides of the paper up each side.  Then gently roll the folded parts over remaining rice paper until a nice neat (or not so neat!) wrap is made.

Voila! Spring Roll bliss.

Keep extra chopped up veggies and sauce in the fridge so you can make these delicious treats anytime.  They hold up well in lunch boxes – yes, two of the four Littles love spring rolls.  And I’ve sent Husband out the door with spring rolls in his lunch too.

What are your favorite spring roll ingredients?

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Tomato Basil Salad

What’s your favorite lunch?  My favorite spring and summer lunch is hands down tomatoes tossed with basil, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Husband’s garden is beginning to show glimpses of the seeds he’s planted.  It won’t be long until our backyard bears the fruit of his labor and our CSA begins delivering bushels of freshly, hand picked produce.  My taste buds can hardly wait!  Just this past week, really yummy tomatoes started popping up at the various stores around town.  I indulged in our first pint (or three) of the season and bought these succulent, sugar plum cherry tomatoes.

I believe simple is best, and this salad is best left unadorned.  Although, I have to admit it’s super yummy with goat cheese tossed in too.  But, then I feel like I need to add olives, and grilled chicken or salmon for protein.  One thing leads to another and before long my simple sweet tomatoes are just part of the mix (albeit a good one). Today I wanted them to be the star of the plate.

Tomato Basil Salad

1 pint tomatoes (cherry, grape, or mix), some halved, some left whole

4-5 large basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade

splash of balsamic vinegar

splash of good olive oil

coarse sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Lunch is served.

What are your favorite add ins to a simple tomato & basil salad?

Chobani Cheers!

Sometimes lunch requires a recipe.  And sometimes, like today, lunch just makes itself.

chobani

Sorry friends, no recipe today.  But, I am sharing one of my fav O rite treats.  You’ve probably eaten Chobani for years, secretly keeping it from me just for fun, right?

First, I must offer some kind of a disclaimer.  There has been much ado throughout the blogosphere and social networking land about blogging and disclaimers. The FTC is enacting guidelines for blog writers and companies who offer products for bloggers to review.  Yackity. Yack.

I do not offer product reviews. No one (but you) knows I’m here. And if it weren’t for my PR agent mother, you probably wouldn’t have found me either. Seriously, there are many bloggers who choose to review products either for monetary compensation or for the gift of the product they endorse, or toss.  The FTC has decided that since bloggers have a major influence in the market place, rules should apply in the form of disclaimers.  You know, so everyone is crystal clear about who’s getting paid by whom for what. Only no one is clear about anything yet. The trend among leading bloggers in the sphere is to add a personal disclaimer policy to their site. Policies drafted by lawyers.  My disclaimer? I hope I never have to eat my words.

For the record (argh that harkens back to my former PR days), Chobani did not send me, my daughters, or any other representative of The Schell Cafe the yogurt we just enjoyed for lunch. I was not paid in yogurt, private school tuition, or anything in between for this post.  It just sorta came to me while I was enjoying a simple lunch with two of my Littles.

Now, let’s get back to the moment shall we?

chobanianna

This Little is home sick.  Despite her ear to ear grin, she’s got the swine flu. But losing a tooth last night pretty much trumped any H1N1 negativity.

chobanisarah

Littlest has not  yet joined Piggypolooza! (Shout out to KimmieFTW for coining that phrase) Here she is minutes home from pre-school enjoying her logurt. Dabedy logurt, to be exact.

In a rare and very unexpected moment, I enjoyed lunch with half of the Littles.  We laughed, made logurt mustaches, and coined the phrase Chobani Cheers! This is when you find  yourself surrounded by those you love eating Chobani and you raise a spoon to cheer.

chobanigirls

So cheers to Chobani! While I didn’t get paid for this lunch, I didn’t have to make it either.

P.S. I do think if there were ever  to be The Cheeks of Chobani ad campaign, I’d have at least one contender.

Curried Chicken Salad

Since I broke in my new ovens and cooktop on such haute cuisine, I thought it was time to kick it up a notch and try some healthier fare at the Schell Cafe.

What do you eat for lunch?  Seriously, I’d love to know.  It could be an overlooked meal for me as my default mode is to skip it entirely.  However, skipping lunch is not smart and always catches up to me by late afternoon just in time to hunt and gather all the children.  In an effort to avoid being crankier than my super cranky children, I’ve learned that it is in everyone’s best interest at the cafe for me to eat lunch.  But, what? And how to make it simple? I clearly don’t need another meal to plan, right?  Lucky for me, I tend to have super yummy left overs which is definitely a bonus.  But there are certainly days when I need a nutritious lunch and on the double.

After the move weekend, we were all carbed out from an overload of pizza and grilled cheese.  So, I started the week off making a double batch of curried chicken salad.  I found this recipe in Oxygen Magazine last winter and I make it all the time.  It’s packed with protein, very low carb and is quite tasty.  I am giving you the recipe as I found it in Oxygen, with minor adjustments.  For the record, please note that I used smoked paprika in place of curry this week.  Half way through making this recipe, I realized my curry did not survive the expired spice purge of last week.  The smoked paprika was a decent alternative, but this salad is best in its original curried state.

Curried Chicken Salad

2 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp curry powder

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/3 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers (jarred or better if you use these)

1/4 cup cashews

1/4 cup raisins

First, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, curry and garlic.  Drizzle in the olive oil slowly as you continue to whisk.  The dressing will begin to emulsify.

In another bowl combine chicken, celery, red peppers, cashews and raisins. Mix in dressing.

Try it and let me know what you think.  And if you have any healthy lunch favs let me know!  I’m sure we could all use more ideas to keep us well fueled for the day.

Chicken Salad Recipe

I love to  make chicken salad with left-over chicken.  I feel so efficient and full of bang-for-my-buck. And given the current financial crunch I am all about making multiple meals out of one! Husband is traveling so dinner will be a casual affair for me and the Littles.  I’m making a simple chicken salad I knocked off from my favorite Whole Foods version.  I’m sure it’s not an exact match, but it’s tasty and I make it every time I have chicken to spare.

I’ve left off the amounts of the ingredients as they will vary depending on how much chicken you have.  Just eye ball it and adjust according to your taste and what you have on hand.

Left-Over Chicken Salad

1-2 cups (or whatever you have left over) cooked chicken

mayonnaise

toasted pecans

red grapes, sliced

red onions, minced

s&p to taste

What extras do you put in your chicken salad?  And do you prefer your chicken left in chunks or finely pulled/shredded?  Tell me…I must know.