Tuesday, March 23, 2010



We’ve been eating a lot of cake lately. Chocolate cake and chocolate muffins, butter & egg-rich striped cake, chocolate chip muffins, cookies and macarons. At some point, even I reach my limit, have my fill and crave for something clean, fresh and light. And something that is definitely not cake! Husband walks around patting his tummy and I am feeling the bite of the belt buckle, and someone, I swear, has been sneaking in at night and, scissors, thread and needle in hand, someone has been taking in my jeans. It is time to start thinking of something other than cake.

I step out onto the sidewalk and am kissed by the warmth of Spring. The sun is shining and barely a whisper of a breeze ruffles my hair. I have always preferred Autumn, but after months of steel-gray skies, dreary drizzle that trickles down the neck of my coat and icy winds that bite at my skin, harsh cold winter without even the joy of fluffy, white snow, I am reveling in this beginning of Springtime. But as I pull off my winter coat and hang it back in the closet, as I begin peeling off the layers of sweaters, unwinding the scarf from around my neck, as I peek in one shoe box after another and remind myself just how fabulous a collection of strappy sandals I have, I am starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, I have eaten a little bit too much cake this winter.

Spring will be upon us before we know it and summer will be nipping at her heels. As many of you know, we are off to Florida this summer, the first vacation we will be taking together as a family for a long time. But the point is: we are off to Florida. And Florida means shorts and swimsuits. Long months of icy cold days packed up in layers of fleece hidden under thick, padded, Michelin-man coats and socks over hose under knee-high boots (not to mention the hats and the gloves) and evenings in flannel jammies huddled under a mountain of blankets have left me numb, groggy and a bit on the mushy side. And like the Eskimos, that extra layer of fat is a winter necessity. But Spring is here and summer is right around the corner and it is at times like this that I start flipping through the cookbooks looking for tempting, light, fresh salads and soups, something to cleanse the system and, yes, I dare say, the palate. It’s time to start thinking about baring the arms and the legs and slipping back into last year’s tops, skirts and pants. Ouch! So, dear, what shall it be?

Husband and I go through phases of miso soup. I love the packets of instant red or white miso soup I can pick up at the Asian market along with packets of Udon noodles. On my way home, I’ll swing by the primeurs, the fruit and veg monger if you will, and buy several shitake, plump and chocolatey brown, a handful of tender, crunchy snow peas all dressed in bright, cheery green, some spring onions and a fragrant bouquet of fresh coriander. A few minutes to bring the water to a boil, add the miso mix, sliced shitake, snow peas and noodles and simmer until everything is cooked to perfection. Divide into two bowls, toss on shopped coriander and sliced spring onions and we are sipping light and flavorful soup, a warming Winter meal when it is time for something lighter than cream sauces, pasta and casseroles.

Well, this time I was in the mood for spring rolls. There is an Asian (Chinese? Vietnamese more than likely) restaurant right next door to my Asian market and they have a take-out counter. Whenever I get the craving, I pop in and pick up a couple of fresh, cool spring rolls, rice wrappers stuffed to bursting with thin rice noodle, crunchy bean sprouts and carrot strips, bits of cooked chicken and butterflied shrimp all flavored with fresh mint leaves and chopped peanuts. The girl behind the counter will add a tiny plastic bag of golden dipping sauce to my purchase. Or I’ll enjoy these babies dipped in spicy sweet chili sauce. But I decided to go wild and make my own spring rolls and my own dipping sauce.

Along with the gorgeous sunny weather comes plans for Food Blogger Connect 2010! Remember Food Blogger Connect 09? Wow was it ever fantastic! A weekend spent with fellow food bloggers from near and far sharing information, plans, ideas, laughter, good times and good food. Well, don’t think that once is ever enough for something this good. So we have planned an even bigger, better Food Blogger Connect for this June! Spread out over 3 days, it will be THE Food Blogger event of the year! Just look at that line up of speakers! You can get loads of information and tips from the biggest and the very best! Check out the itinerary! 3 days chock-full and jam-packed with exciting, informative roundtables and hands-on workshops specifically designed for the food blogger covering everything from finding your writing voice to food styling and photography to networking and monetizing your blog! There will even be a star-studded panel letting you in on the secrets of Food Blog to Book/Magazine! And all of this and more – prizes, prop swap and awards – a wine tasting, barbecue, cocktails and teatime plus fabulous meals in these beautiful London hot spots. Spaces are limited and food bloggers from all over Europe are already snapping up tickets, so give our Food Blogger Connect blog a good once-over then go ahead and register for this fantastic, not-to-be-missed event!

Now, here is a wonderful, tasty recipe to start you on your way to looking and feeling your best for Food Blogger Connect and that great summer vacation!

The sauce is from Annie Somerville’s Everyday Greens

For the Spring Rolls:
9-inch round rice wrappers
Any or all of the following ingredients, as you like:
Rice noodles, cooked, drained, rinsed with cool water & drained again.
Bean sprouts
1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, sliced into thin 2-inch matchsticks
Shredded cooked chicken
2 cooked shrimp per spring roll
Small bunch mint leaves
Lettuce leaves
Peanuts, crushed

Have all of the filling ingredients prepared and lined up on your work surface: vegetables cleaned, trimmed, peeled and sliced as necessary, shrimp cooked and peeled and butterflied (simply slice down the back almost to the end of the tail but leaving attached then press flat), chicken shredded.

Simply dampen one or two rice wrappers at a time and keep them pressed between damp kitchen towels as you are working. This is only the first time I have made them so I learned as I went and mine were not too perfect. I placed two mint leaves in the center of a damp wrapper, placed twp flattened shrimp nose to nose on top of the mint, then lined up some beans sprouts, cooked and cooled noodles and bits of each and the rest (ok, I forgot the carrot strips and didn’t have chicken and only added lettuce leaves to two, but I’ll get better next time!). Bring the sides of the wrappers in towards the center then roll as tightly as possible being careful not to rip the delicate, fragile wrapper.

Spicy Peanut-Hoisin Sauce:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced, about ¼ cup
Salt and pepper
½ cup Hoisin sauce
1/3 cup water
½ tsp rice vinegar
½ cup toasted peanuts, chopped
1 tsp sambal (red chili purée) or to taste

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and sautée the shallots with a pinch of salt over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop and transfer to a small bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients, adding the sambal to taste. Make sure the sauce is well blended before serving with the spring rolls in tiny sauce bowls.


Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I love light oriental food like this. I guess we all need a break from cake now and again! Can't wait to see you again at FBC. xx

Ana Powell said...

There is always a big feast going on here.
Awesome dish x

ABowlOfMush said...

I made similar ones to these just the other day! The rice paper is fantastic!

These look gorgeous, I'm going to make them! :)

A. said...

These days I'm just thinking about spring rolls...you've read my mind :)
Beautiful and yummy creation as always :)

shayma said...

this certainly does represent Spring. i love the photo of the fresh ingredients, such gorgeous, coral shrimp. Hello, Spring! x shayma

Tangled Noodle said...

Not that there's anything wrong with eating lots of cake . . . ! These rolls are definitely a perfect choice for when you want to step back from all the rich foods. My last attempt at making them were less than successful but seeing how well these turned out, I may just have to give it another try!

Ria Mathew said...

I adore spring rolls, just made a batch 2 days ago! :) Yours look gorgeous!!

Heather Davis said...

Know exactly what you mean about the tightening belt buckle! I can't give my baked goods away fast enough.
My parents live in Florida so I have spent a lot of time there. Funnily enough we are heading to France for our holiday this year!
I am really considering coming to the FBC just got to sort out the finances.
It would be great to put some faces to all the blogs.

The Cooking Ninja said...

Hub has been asking me to make these at home and I keep forgetting them. :p In S'pore, we have a different version which needs more work. It's called 'poh piah' and I usually make them when I'm back home as I can't find jicama and the wrapper here. :(

Yes I can safely say Spring is here. Been sunny for the past week.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That is a dish I love to eat when it's hot outside. Lovely rolls!



Cathy said...

I'm ready for a light, healthy, delicious meal. And I'm loving that sauce.

The Duo Dishes said...

All of the sweets can definitely numb your taste buds. Even we get sweets overload and want something saovry, spicy, tangy, etc. Great dish.

lisa said...

I've been feeling that same too much cake feeling myself lately. And, this is a great dish for eating lighter. So much flavor!

Mamatkamal said...

Your spring rolls look nice, but this spicy peanut dipping sauce is the BEST!..Awesome !

görel said...

That's exactly what I need right now. Please send some?

RV said...

I am gorging at the spring rolls.
and yeah, the spring is here atlast. It is nice to see the flowers blooming in the tree after really long time.

the wicked noodle said...

I've always wanted to try making these at home! They look amazing, Jamie! :-)

catty said...

You've completely inspired me to make some at home now :) *love it!*

Rambling Tart said...

I love this, Jamie! :-) I'm working hard on eating very healthy these days, and these are beautiful and so simple! I have wrappers at home and am excited to try my hand. :-)

La Table De Nana said...

Such a cute post!

We are both in a spring~ asian mood..

I am making these for a party this weekend..It was all planned and here you are~

MeetaK said...

ummm! yes lovely light spring rolls - have been making them in many variations lately - and i agree the extra bit of fat has also crept up on me. oy! enough cake i say!

diva said...

ugh. i feel the same way. Ate too much this winter, feasted over Christmas, Chinese New year, Valentine's Day, etc. the excuses keep cropping up! Time to start eating 'cleaner' dishes and put aside the sweeties and cake! These spring rolls are beautiful. My Vietnamese aunt makes some really yum ones every family gathering. You make me miss them. x

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

These are a huge favourite with us. They look wonderful! Love the shrimp and chicken filling.

Michelle said...

I love making Spring Rolls and make them specifically to clean out the vegetable drawers..LOL!

Cristie said...

Oh, I laughed right out loud about the needle and thread with your jeans!! I'm thinking we have the same elf in my house. Great post. I can't wait to try the spicy peanut hoisin sauce, sounds just wonderful.

Cinnamon-Girl said...

I am feeling much the same way! Your a good influence on me with these light and lovely spring rolls! You remind me I have wrappers and a waist-line that could do good from these.

Evan Halperin said...

looks delicious

asiangrrl said...

Those look yummy-licious, Jamie.

Ellen Zames said...

I have always wanted to make these using rice paper but I'm intimidated by it. Your's are gorgeous!

My sisters and I just started our first themed blog hop over at http://everydaysisters.blogspot.com every Sunday!. This weeks theme is appetizers. We would love for you to come over and share these or any of your favorite appetizer recipes with our blog readers. Have a great weekend.



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