~vietnamese spring rolls with a garlicky almond dipping sauce~ (gỏi cuốn chay)

Towards the end of my working period at Miss Saigon (a Vietnamese restaurant in Amherst, MA that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, although I may be biased, but it’s so good), I was very inclined towards cooking a lot of Asian recipes. During lunch at the restaurant, most meals came with egg rolls. However, as I am vegan, I replaced them with their vegan spring rolls and soon found myself addicted and wanting to make my own. The process of creating the spring roll is very delicate and like an art, and with practice they take no time to roll. Me being a newbie, I had some difficulty getting the hang of wrapping vegetables and tofu with the sticky, translucent rice paper, but it is meditative in a way. This recipe also comes with a tasty almond chili garlicky dipping sauce; at the restaurant, they make their own peanut dipping sauce which I used to love until I found out that they put dairy in it (oops). However, I prefer this spicier version ;). It is also a great dressing for salads!

I was also very pleased about how my tofu came out, crispy and golden like at the restaurant. I used to marvel at the tofu in the restaurant, because my tofu never came out as crispy and tasty as home, and realized that I was doing everything completely wrong, ingredients-wise. The key is cornstarch and sesame oil! I am sure there are other methods, of which I need to investigate, but this method is for sure an A ++++ in my book.

So what is rice paper and what the heck are vermicelli rice noodles?

Rice paper can be used for fresh rolls (like spring or summer rolls) and can also be fried for other types of rolls. It is generally made of ground up rice, flour, water, salt, and a little bit of older rice paper batter for a slightly sour taste effect. However, there are variations of this recipe and it is hard to get authentic rice paper rolls in the U.S. If you are curious to see the process of making rice paper, click here.

Vermicelli rice noodles are also a component in this appetizer, and are also a frequent component in other Vietnamese dishes such as pho (a traditional Vietnamese soup) and vermicelli dishes (one of my favorite dishes, composed of a bed of cold rice noodles underneath a mixture of vegetables and meat/tofu in some sort of sauce). They are also primarily made of rice and you can see how they are made here.

They are very filling and refreshing, perfect for a snack or small meal!

Veggie Spring Rolls (recipe from Minimalist Baker):

Makes about 10-12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

Spring Roll:

  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup julienned red pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rough chop
  • 4 ounces vermicelli, thin rice noodles (you can either find these bagged or frozen)
  • 8-10 rice spring roll papers

Almond Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup creamy salted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce ( I love this stuff)
  • Hot water to thin

Crispy Tofu:

  • 8 ounces tofu, drained, pressed, and dried (you can press and dry it by covering the tofu with a cloth or paper towel and placing a heavy object on top)
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of almond butter dipping sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. Boil a pot of water, add rice noodles and reduce heat, cooking for about ten minutes or until soft and sticky. Drain and set aside.
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  2. Chop tofu into small rectangles (about 2 inches long) or cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in 3 tablespoons sesame oil and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add tofu and fry for about 5 minutes until crispy and golden and then set aside.
  3. Add all sauce ingredients, except water, to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add water needed to make into desired sauce silkiness.
  4. Take 2 1/2 tablespoons of sauce and place in a small bowl with the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Transfer to tofu and heat everything in the skillet until the tofu looks glazed.

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5. Assemble spring rolls by soaking rice paper in a small bowl of warm water for 10 seconds or until translucent and soft. Then proceed to take a little bit of the rice noodles, veggies, and tofu and place in the center of the paper.

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6. Roll paper burrito style, folding over one end over the filling, then folding over the sides and continue to roll towards the other side, inevitably tucking in the rolled over sides. You can also view how to roll the spring roll here. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!!! 🙂

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Salad made from leftover ingredients 🙂13902204_10153935623946379_1806829345_o

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deluxe double chocolate chip cookies

This is my new favorite/best chocolate chip (vegan) cookies I have made since leaving behind dairy and eggs back in the barn. Chewy, chocolatey, and chunky, what more could you want in a cookie. I also think that I alone ate 75% of the cookies in two days…oops. This is also the first time I experimented with using earth balance vegan butter instead of oil and regular butter, as well as chickpea brine for an egg substitute…and I was very pleased with the texture.

Makes 12-14 small cookies

Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted from Vegan Richa):

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons earth balance
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or you can use regular sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons chickpea brine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (truly is a magical addition)
  • 1/4 almond milk (or more, can also use other non-dairy milk)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix softened earth balance, sugar, chickpea brine, vanilla, maple syrup, and cinnamon in one bowl.
  3. Mix Flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in another bowl.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and almond milk into the first bowl (if too liquidy, you can add more flour, if too dry you can add more almond milk).
  5. Stir in chocolate chips! Chill dough for 15 minutes.
  6. On a parchment lined baking sheet, making little balls with the dough, flattening them slightly. Bake for 10 minutes!

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spicy mexican quinoa casserole

Hellooo chickpeazzz. These past few weeks have been super busy for me (and the restaurant I have been working at). Double serving shifts almost everyday can tire someone (like me) real quick. Pretty soon I will be moving to NYC to start my first job in nutrition! I am very excited and plan to blog about my teaching experiences and newly acquired knowledge and observations from working in various communities once I begin in September. I hope to also include more nutritional insight in my posts once I begin, as well as observations about changes that need to be made in our local food systems.

Anyways, I have finally had some more time to cook again and get creative! When I made this casserole I was in a super lazy mood and was very happy about the easy process and delicious outcome. My boyfriend and roommate were even able to handle the spice (previously I would make things a tad too spicy for their little tastebuds so I have trying to be a little bit better and not have them rush to the fridge for a gallon of milk….immediately). What is also great about this recipe is that you do not even have to cook the quinoa, as it is baked in the oven with the addition of water. The cashew cheeze came out surprisingly well (this is my first time making vegan cheeze) and enjoyed the consistency, as well as the flavor.

I was also very surprised at how much I liked the addition of the butternut squash. As a child, I hated squash soup and never attempted to eat squash until recently. The butternut squash was tender and slightly meaty, the flavor not overwhelming the casserole as a whole and added a nice textural component to the dish. I plan on experimenting more with butternut in the future.

Spicy Mexican Quinoa Casserole Recipe (adapted from Vegan Richa):

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Quinoa Casserole:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 large tomato, sliced thin
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup sliced butternut squash, 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canned or frozen corn
  • 2 tbsp sliced pickled jalapeño

Cashew Cheeze Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp chickpea “miso” (liquid drained from chickpea can)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • Handful or two of cashews (depending on your thickness preference)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Spray oil on a 9×7 inch baking dish and place a layer of sliced onions, followed by the sprinkling of the 5 listed spices, evenly.
  3. Add a layer of tomato, followed by the black beans, adobo sauce, quinoa, salt and paprika.
  4. Layer butternut squash on top, drizzled with oil and salt, and cover it with tinfoil/
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until squash is tender. (Mine was ready at about 30 minutes).
  6. While casserole is baking, prepare the cheeze sauce by blending together all the ingredients and adjust for taste and thickness (if too watery add flour, starch or cashews. I added cashews until I was pleased with the thickness).
  7. Remove casserole from the oven and add the cheeze sauce, after removing the tinfoil.
  8. Spread corn and jalapeño on top of the cheeze sauce and bake for 5 minutes at 400 F, and then broil it for 2 minutes, or until cheeze browns slightly and begins to bubble.