Spring (or summer) Rolls

When I lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that introduced me to all kinds of new flavors. One of our favorites were their spring rolls! What a delicious concoction; meat, rice noodles and vegetables wrapped in a rice paper shell and deep fried. Oh so good. Generally a spring roll contains pork or shrimp and a summer roll (the unfried version of a spring roll) contains shrimp and no noodles but bean sprouts instead. Here I’ve substituted chicken but any meat (or meat substitute) would work. And they aren’t difficult to make as long as the steps are followed.

First cook whatever part of the filling needs cooking.

To a large pot of boiling, salted water add:

8 ounces pad Thai noodles (or linguini, gluten free of course!) [Optional but traditional]

Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to add to the cooked vegetables later. In a medium 10″ skillet over medium heat, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 cup of thinly sliced Chinese (or Napa) cabbage

Reduce heat to medium low and cook for several minutes until the onion and cabbage wilt. In a small bowl whisk:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Add to the skillet and stir to combine with the onion and cabbage. Add the pad Thai noodles if used. Remove the vegetables from the skillet. Either clean that skillet or using another, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add over medium heat:

16 ounces of chicken breast, julienned (thinly sliced)

Cook, turning frequently, for several minutes, 3-5, until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat.

Let the vegetables and chicken cool thoroughly. If the fillings aren’t cool enough, they will melt the rice paper wrapper. In the meantime, prepare the uncooked fillings, any or all of the following:

1 medium carrot, any color, julienned

1 English cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 cup zucchini noodles cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup pea pods

2-3 green scallions (green parts only), cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup Daikon radish (julienned)

Avocado (julienned)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)

Fresh herbs can also be added such as mint or basil leaves

As you can see, pretty much any vegetable could work, even string beans! You’ll also need:

10-12 rice paper wrappers (found in most oriental or specialty stores (or Whole Foods)

When the fillings are all prepared and cooled, using a 12″ container (I used a large pie plate), fill with about 1″ of warm water, not hot, just lukewarm works best. One at a time, place a rice paper wrapper , into the warm water, making sure the wrapper is covered by the water. You don’t want to soak it, just wet it completely. You’ll notice when it’s wet enough because the marks on the wrapper will disappear. Place the wrapper on a clean tea towel (cotton rather than a synthetic or fleece towel) and dry. I picked up the wrapper at this point, carefully, so it didn’t stick as much to the towel after filling.

As you see from the photo, I broke one but it was still useable. Once dried, place some of the fillings in the middle of the wrapper, horizontally, then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling being sure it is tight at the top. Then fold in the sides of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom to the top. The top should stick to the rest of the roll. If it doesn’t, rub a tiny amount of water on it with your finger.

Now comes the choice – spring or summer rolls? The only difference is the frying. If spring rolls are chosen, cook all of them. I cooked half and left the others for the next day’s lunch and they totally disintegrated in the oil the next day, the rice paper didn’t hold up to being refrigerated.

If spring rolls are the choice, heat in a large, high sided skillet:

3 inches of olive and avocado oils

Heat to 350 degrees. Olive oil has a low smoke point so mixing it with the avocado (which has a higher smoke point) keeps the olive oil from burning during this process. Once the oil is to temperature, add the spring rolls being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning once (tongs are best for this), until golden brown. Unlike most fried foods, do not place these on a paper towel as the rice wrapper will stick to it even after fried. Instead blot lightly with the paper towel after frying.

If, like me, several of your wrappers formed holes when wrapping them in the vegetables, DON’T FRY THEM! The oil will get into the roll and it will be very greasy. Use it as a summer roll instead.

Dipping sauce (or dressing) if desired. Traditionally spring rolls are served with a peanut sauce but the restaurant always served them with a spicy soy/ginger/garlic sauce. Here are several recipes for dipping sauces.

“Peanut” Dipping Sauce:

Combine in a small bowl:

1/2 cup tahini or other seed or nut butter

1 tablespoon soy substitute

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1-3 tablespoons hot water depending on the thickness desired

Whisk to combine all ingredients.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

4 tablespoons soy substitute

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

slices of red chili pepper (optional)

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup date sugar (or syrup)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

“Cheesy” Crackers

One of my favorite lunches used to be tomato soup with Cheezits. That cheese cracker with the tomato soup tasted so good. This cracker isn’t a cheezit but they taste very good and have a cheese taste from the nutritional yeast. And they are very easy to make in the food processor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the food processor add:

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour

2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pulse to combine before adding:

1 tablespoon vegan butter or margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pulse until mixture is crumbly then add, 1 at a time:

5-6 tablespoons water (I needed to add all 6)

Pulse after each addition. Mixture should come together but not be sticky. This may require removing from the processor and working manually (with your hands) until combined. Place onto a sheet of parchment paper. Put a second sheet of parchment paper on top and flatten the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness or as thin as you can get it, the thinner the better! Mine was thicker in the middle than around the outside which meant I had to remove the outer pieces and continue baking the thicker middle so try to get the dough the same thickness.

Remove the top parchment paper and place the dough, lifting carefully by the bottom paper, onto a large cookie sheet. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into small 1″ squares. The outside pieces can be removed and rerolled and recut to form squares.

If you prefer a saltier cracker, sprinkle some fine sea salt on top sparsely before baking. Make some holes with a fork in each square and bake for 16-18 minutes. As I previous mentioned, if necessary remove outer pieces that are thinner and continue baking the thicker squares for another 5-7 minutes. Cool on sheet before moving to a cooling rack. When completely cooled, store in airtight container.

Carob Filled Cookies

Who doesn’t like chocolate cookies and marshmallow? But those of us with chocolate and egg allergies have long given up such things. Here’s a delicious alternative. Like most allergic friendly recipes, this takes a little more effort than the “normal” but it’s well worth the effort.

For the cookies, line a large cookie sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together:

1 tablespoon ground flax

3 tablespoons aquafaba

Let sit for at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl mix with a hand mixer:

1/2 cup vegan shortening (or margarine) softened

3/4 cup date sugar

1 tablespoon date syrup

Blend until smooth and slightly fluffy. Add the flax gel and

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat until smooth. Add to this mixture:

1/3 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

3 tablespoons arrowroot

1 tablespoon potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)

2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup carob powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix until blended, dough will be crumbly. Add, one tablespoon at a time:

Non-dairy milk (I only used 1 but add another one or two if your dough doesn’t come together with the first one)

Form the dough into balls, about 1 tablespoon of the dough for each ball. Flatten them into disks making sure all the disks are the same depth so that they cook evenly. Also make them about the same size since we’ll be putting two of them together with the frosting. Bake about 8 minutes, do not overbake or they will be dry. Cool on tray for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, in a double boiler (or heat proof bowl over a pot of water if you don’t have a double boiler), mix together over the boiling water:

1/4 to 1/3 cup agave nectar (depending on how sweet your family likes things, remember agave is much sweeter than cane sugar)

1/3 cup aquafaba

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Using a hand mixer on high, beat the mixture for 7-10 minutes until very fluffy and the frosting forms ribbons when whipped. Remove from heat and continue to whip for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat another minute. This should be very thick, like marshmallow! I know, when I started making it, I thought this is never going to work, but after about 6 minutes the mixture actually started to form ribbons and after 9 minutes, it was thick and creamy. Continuing the whipping off the heat will make it even thicker. Chill while the cookies cool completely and it will set up even more.

Spread about a tablespoon of the frosting on the bottom of one cookie and let sit until frosting sets up a little before placing a second cookie on the top. Repeat with the remaining cookies. This recipe will make 6-8 pairs.

Mint Double Carob Chip Cookies

I revamped this recipe because chocolate and mint is a combination that my grandson absolutely loves! And I have to admit, they are pretty good. Be careful or you won’t have any batter to cook, the raw dough is that tasty!

Makes 24-30 depending on the size.

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Put parchment paper on the bottom of 2 cookie sheets (unless you have a large one that will hold 2 dozen at a time). Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small, heat safe bowl, soak 16-18 dried prunes in boiling water (approximately 1 cup should be enough). Be sure all the prunes are covered. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. While they are soaking, put together the flour mixture in a gallon food storage bag mix:

1 2/3 cups millet flour

1/3 cup sorghum flour

2/3 cup chickpea flour

2/3 cup arrowroot

2/3 cup potato starch (NOT flour)

Seal the bag and shake to thoroughly mix the flours. Be sure to refrigerate the unused flour mixture.

In a medium size food processor add:

Prunes

2 tablespoons of the prune soaking water

1/2 cup date or coconut sugar

1/3 cup agave, honey, date or coconut syrup

1/2 teaspoon mint extract (or about 2 dozen fresh mint leaves torn)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar

Blend until the prunes are smooth and the mixture has combined. Don’t worry if the prunes are entirely smooth since they will continue to blend with the next steps. Add:

1/3 cup avocado, sunflower, palm, or coconut oil (melted)

Blend again until the mixture is smooth. If the food processor is large enough add (if not scrap the prune mixture out of the food process and into a medium size bowl and add the dry ingredients):

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour mix (see above)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pulse until the flours are combined. Remove the dough from the food processor and stir in:

1/4 to 1/3 cup unsweetened carob chips

Mix thoroughly. Using a tablespoon measure or small cookie scoop, measure out the dough and form into approximately 1 inch balls (although slightly sticky, it’s easy to shape into balls using damp hands). Place the balls on a cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart and, again with a slightly damp hand, flatten them to about a 1/2 inch in depth. Bake for 8-10 minutes; 8 minutes will give you a chewy, fudgy, softer center while 10 minutes will be chewy but not as fudgy in the center. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Raspberry Bars

I’ve always preferred making bars instead of cookies, takes less effort and time and tastes just as good. So I was pleased to find a recipe for raspberry bars (my favorite berry) that I think came out pretty good with revamping.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 9×9″ baking dish being sure to grease at least a 1/2 inch up the sides. Combine in a food processor:

2/3 cup white rice flour

1/3 cup brown rice flour

3 tablespoons potato starch

2 tablespoons tapioca flour

1/3 cup date sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Pulse until blended. Add by spoonfuls:

2/3 cup shortening or vegan margarine

Pulse until combined and mixture forms pea like bits (it looks a lot like pastry crust. Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture to a small bowl. Press the remaining mix into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. While it’s baking, stir into the 1/2 cup of mix reserved:

2 tablespoons date sugar

1/4 cup hemp hulls (or any seed your family likes such as pumpkin or sunflower, chopped)

1/4 cup gluten-free old-fashioned oats

Set aside. In another small bowl mix:

1 cup sugar-free raspberry jam

1 cup fresh raspberries

zest of 1/2 a lemon

juice of 1/2 a lemon

Stir together, breaking up some of the raspberries, until combined. Spread this over the top of the hot crust when it’s comes out of the oven. Sprinkle the reserved flour/hemp/oat mixture over the top of the raspberries. Bake another 20-25 minutes until the top has browned and the filling is starting to bubble. Cool on a cooling rack and then in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.

TIP: I left the other half of the bars in the baking dish, covered them and left them in the refrigerator overnight and they came out of the dish much cleaner the next day, keeping more of the bottom layer intact.

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles

Get the feeling I’m really into pumpkin right now! I think it may be because I haven’t been feeling very well and knowing pumpkin can aid in calming an upset stomach, I’m turning to it to help me deal with stomach issues.

I’ve never had a snickerdoodle! Now that I’m allergic to chocolate (actually the caffeine in chocolate), I’m expanding my cookie horizons. Found this recipe on-line and thought it easily adjustable however, the cookies are not the easiest to make, especially if you’re new to cookie baking or don’t have a stand mixer like me. Treat them much like you would a peanut butter cookie – roll in sugar and then use a fork to flatten the balls.

Make Chai Sugar by mixing together:

1/3 cup date sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix:

1/3 cup aquafaba (if you don’t have a can of garbanzo beans handy or powdered aquafaba, substitute water)

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

Let sit for several minutes to form flax gel and then add:

1/2 cup vegan shortening or margarine (I use Spectrum shortening)

1 cup date sugar

With a hand or stand mixer, beat on low/medium until the mixture is combined and almost fluffy. Add:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix to combine and then add:

1 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice or nutmeg

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Mix to combine before adding:

1 cup all purpose gluten free flour.

At this point, unless you have a stand mixer, it’s best to continue mixing with a large spoon or even, if you’ve washed your hands or are wearing gloves, with your hands. Mixture will be quite crumbly until all the flour is worked into the dough. The consistency reminds me of gingerbread cookies or sugar cookies. I used my hands and found the mixture combined quite easily. Scoop out by tablespoonful and roll into a ball (so you have to use your hands anyway!). The mixture shouldn’t be at all sticky but if it is, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the stickiness is gone.

Roll each ball as you make them into the chai sugar mixture and place 1-2″ apart on the cookie sheet. When the sheet is full, using a fork, press down each ball into a flat disk.* Bake 8 minutes then check. If the cookies have puffed up (domed), flatten more with the fork. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes until the outside of the cookies are firm while the inside is still slightly underdone. Cool on sheet for several minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

*If you prefer, bake the balls for 8 minutes and then flatten them with the fork. Their appearance differs and I found the ones I flattened before baking were chewier. The smoother ones were flattened before baking (on the right) while the ones flattened after baking were rougher looking (on the left).

Pumpkin Seed Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies are one of the most popular cookies on the planet but not for those of us with nut allergies. If you can use pumpkin seeds, this may be a cookie for you to try. I’ve been using pumpkin seed butter now for several years. It’s a very different taste, very nutty and earthy. I prefer the butter made from roasted pumpkin seeds but raw is also available; as one might expect, the roasted is brown while the raw is green in color. I haven’t been able to find pumpkin seed butter in a store so I order it online from Amazon where they have several varieties available. I’m sure a google search would find it available elsewhere online if you prefer not to use Amazon.

Just like regular peanut butter, pumpkin seed butter is available in sweetened and unsweetened forms. I prefer the unsweetened which is what is used in this recipe. If sweetened is used, reduce the amount of sugar in the mixture. Makes about 12 cookies.

You’ll need:

1/2 cup date sugar

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup pumpkin seed butter (room temperature)

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4-1/3 cup carob chips (or if you can use them chocolate chips)

Prepare a medium size cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium size bowl, mix together the date sugar and the water, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla, whisk until smooth. Add the pumpkin seed butter, flaxseed, flour, salt and mix until combined. Add the chips and blend. Scoop out the dough by tablespoons and shape into balls and then flatten. Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. These cookies won’t raise or spread much. Store in an airtight container or freeze if there are any left!

Carob Chip Cookies

I think this is the third recipe I’ve put up on the blog for carob (or chocolate) chip cookies. This one is very easy to make and tastes great. I cooked mine for 15 minutes and they were caky, so stick to 10-12 minutes for a chewy cookie. It should make 18-20 cookies so if you have dough left over, increase the size of each cookie. If smaller cookies are wanted, bake them for only 7-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large cookie sheet (to hold all the cookies at once).

In a small bowl, soak 8-10 medjool dates or 1 cup of diced dates in 1 cup boiling water for 10-15 minutes (this is the longest part of the process!)

Pour the dates and the water into a food processor (I actually used my Vitamix) and process for 1-2 minutes until the dates are pureed. Scrape back into the small bowl. Whisk in to the dates:

1/2 cup avocado or melted coconut oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium bowl combine:

2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the date mixture into the flour mixture along with 1/2 cup unsweetened carob or chocolate chips. Mix until combined. Take 2 tablespoon to 1/4 cup of the dough and shape by hand into a ball, then flatten, and put them on the greased cookie sheet. Don’t worry about putting them close on the cookie sheet because they won’t spread much although they will puff up slightly when baked.

Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

Easy Chicken Wings (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, egg-free)

I do love chicken wings, pork ribs, all those things that are so not good for us. Since it’s my birthday today, I decided to make some of the things I love. I just put up Cinnamon Sticky Rolls and now here is my recipe for chicken wings. I bake them instead of deep frying so they are not too greasy.

Spray with a non-stick spray a cookie sheet with sides, size depending on how many wings you’re making. Preheat oven to 425 degree. If making more than a dozen, just increase the recipe.

For 10-12 drummettes, mix in a gallon baggie:

2 tablespoons cassava flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Shake to combine. Add the wings (you can use split wings if you like the fattier section as well). Shake to coat all the wings completely. Remove them from the bag, shaking off any excess flour and arrange on the cookie sheet. You don’t want them touching each other or they will stick together. Lightly spray with non-stick spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until you start seeing browning around the bottom. Remove from oven and turn them over so that both sides get crispy. Bake for about another 8-10 minutes.

Serve with your favorite sauce.

Tahini Carob Chip Cookies (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined cane sugar-free, egg free, vegan)

Remember those chewy, nutty peanut butter cookies from our younger days? These are very reminiscent of those but are healthy and so easy with just five ingredients. Feel free to substitute any nut or seed butter you can use such as sunflower or pepitas.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Put in your food processor:

  • 1 cup tahini (or any nut or seed butter), use a thicker tahini rather than a runny thin one or your cookies will not come out chewy
  • 1 cup date sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of aguafava (or 1 egg if you can use eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Process until smooth and then remove from food processor into medium bowl and stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of unsweetened carob or chocolate chips. Scoop by tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheet, flatten with damp fork (or spatula) and bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. You want them crispy on the outside but chewy in the middle so when the middle is set and the outside browned, they are done. Makes 10-15 cookies.