Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Refreshing Spring Roll for your brown bag

Packing lunches have multiple benefits-you know what you are eating and its cheaper.Of course, if you compare what you pack with a fast food value meal, anything you make is expensive. I love spring rolls, usually the fried ones. But I decided to try the soft spring rolls once at a nearby Thai restaurant as a quick lunch-to-go and I loved them.
Spring rolls come from different parts of the Far East-Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese.There can be many ingredients that you can add to them- but they mainly consist of vegetables, noodles, herbs and some kind of protein(tofu, chicken ,shrimp or pork). I like making mine with shrimp as they give it the added bite without adding too much flavor. Some people like the refreshing mint, but I prefer the more subtle cilantro in my spring roll. You will find some of the ingredients in your neighborhood Chinese store. So have fun making them - my Soft Spring Rolls with Shrimp. They look colorful and taste yummy too. You can enjoy them with some duck sauce with toasted peanuts.

Ingredients: Make 4 spring rolls
Medium sized carrot -1
Scallion or spring onion -1
Cilantro-2-3 sprigs
Shrimp – 16
Toasted peanuts – 2 tablespoon
Teriyaki Sauce – A few dashes
Rice paper or Spring roll paper-4
Cellophane or rice noodles- 1 cup
Duck Sauce -to serve
Note : The last three ingredients are available in a Chinese store.

  1. Wash the shrimp, clean and devein them. Cook them in the microwave for about 1 minute and let them cool to room temperature.
  2. In a saucepan, heat some water till it comes to boil.Switch off the heat and soak the cellophane noodles in it with a pinch of salt.
  3. Rougly grind the toasted peanuts .They should be tiny bits and not a fine powder.
  4. Once the noodles are soft, drain them and let them cool to room temperature.
  5. Grate the carrot.
  6. Chop the scallion and the cilantro.
  7. Warm some water( should not be boiling hot) and pour it in a plate.
  8. Soak the rice paper in the warm water. The rice paper has some ridges and is crisp before it is soaked.It will turn soft and transparent as shown. Add some noodles, carrots, scallion, cilantro and 4 shrimps in each rolls. Add a dash of teriyaki sauce.Fold in the sides like you would fold in a package and then roll the paper to shut it close. Lay it seam side down to let the rice paper stick together. Repeat for the rest of the spring rolls.
You can serve this along with some duck sauce with toasted peanuts on top. You can also serve them cut in halves as an appetizer or as a side for your summertime barbeque. The great part of making these is they can be made a few hours ahead. Another important thing to note- no extra salt is needed as the teriyaki sauce gives it the necessary flavor.

Continue reading: A Refreshing Spring Roll for your brown bag...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Power Pesto to suit a weeknight dinner

Where ever I look these days, I hear about power foods; foods that are good for your heart and which contains the nutrients you need. I decided to combine that with my love for Italian food. I have always been intrigued by uncooked sauces and dips and I love making them. After eating pesto at a nearby Italian restaurant, I wanted to make it at home. I searched high and low and finally could get my hands on some pine nuts. But seeing the cost of a fresh bunch of basil and a bag of pine nuts, I changed my mind and saved them for a special occasion. I took the easy route on a weeknight and tried keeping it healthy.

Here is what I have for you : A Spinach Walnut Pesto with whole grain rotini pasta with store bought crab cake. The pesto was power packed with olive oil, spinach, garlic and walnuts. The whole grain pasta took care of the carbohydrate needs. The crab cake was just 145 calories and added some more yum to the menu.If you want to go even healthier, have baked salmon instead. So here you go, have fun cooking it.

Ingredients: Serves 4

Packaged and washed spinach : 3 cups
Walnut : 1/2 cup
Garlic : 2 cloves
Extra virgin olive oil : 1/4 cup
Grated parmesan cheese: 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Note: You can use any container kind parmesan instead of grating it from a block if needed for a quick solution.
  1. In a pan, dry roast the walnuts. You can smell their nutty taste once they are toasted.
  2. Mince the garlic with the back of your knife.
  3. In a food processor add the walnuts, spinach, parmesan cheese,garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Close the processor lid and start the processor.
  5. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil from the hole in the lid till it reaches a batter or saucy consistency( chunky and not paste like).

Combine the pesto sauce with the cooked pasta(as per box directions) and enjoy it with your choice of seafood or any kind of protein. You can also serve the pesto as an appetizer at your party with slices of store bought bagette.

Continue reading: The Power Pesto to suit a weeknight dinner...