Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Chả Giò)


After making the Vietnamese Salad Rolls  (http://wp.me/p1YyIg-X) I finally got around to making Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I have to say, they are much harder to make and there’s more of a process involved. There’s a lot more prep work, and of course the added step of deep-frying the rolls. My husband says I made them too big but I think it’s because my wrappers were medium-sized ones. You can use whatever size wrappers you have available and as big as you like, keeping in mind not to over-stuff them or they’ll fall apart while frying. 

Here how I went about making these, they might seem a little more Chinese than Vietnamese, but that’s nothing a little fish sauce can’t fix!

Ingredients:
1/2 lb ground pork
1/3 lb shrimp, ground/minced (can be frozen or fresh)
5 small carrots, peeled and julienne 
1 small onion, minced
3 medium pieces of dried black fungus
2 squares bean thread noodle
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon soya sauce
1/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon mushroom seasoning
1/4 teaspoon pepper
couple splashes fish sauce
couple splashes sesame oil
spring roll wrappers, medium squares
1 egg yolk

Mixture
1. Soak the fungus in hot water until softened, strain and chop into short thin strips
2. Soak the bean thread noodles in hot water until soften, strain and roughly chop into short pieces
3. Unwrap wrappers and either pre-peel or gently loosen from each other, cover with damp cloth or paper towel
4. In a large bowl, combine pork, shrimp, carrots, onion, fungus, and noodles
5. Add sugar, salt, mushroom seasoning, pepper, and fish sauce and mix well (I cheated and used my mixer, but you can use a wooden spoon or hands)
6. Splash in sesame oil and make sure mixture has even amount of all ingredients throughout

Putting It All Together
I wrapped these using the similar method to wrapping the Salad Rolls and how I wrap burritos, so if you have your own way, by all means, do that. Also, if you don’t want to pre-peel the wrappers before starting, you can peel a few at a time like I do – just make sure to cover it with a damp cloth or paper towel or they’ll dry out and crack.
1. Peel a wrapper and place it in front of you like a diamond
2. Put about 2 teaspoons full of the mixture onto the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper
3. Fold in the 2 sides, then fold up the bottom, dot some egg yolk at remaining corner
4. Roll upwards (away from you) tightly, squeezing lightly
5. Wrap several and place into your deep fryer or a sauce pan with oil (medium heat), watch the heat or they’ll be brown outside but raw inside
6. Ready when golden brown on the outside (use a meat thermometer and/or cut one open)
7. Put on paper towels to soak some oil


Yes, my rolls aren’t beautiful and it’s my first attempt at spring rolls on my own!
Now, the fish sauce that will go with this.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
red chilli , finely chopped

Directions
1. Heat water on low (doesn’t need to simmer)
2. Add in sugar, stir until dissolved
3. Add rest of ingredients
4. Taste, add more fish sauce, vinegar, etc. as desired
5. Let cool and store in glass container

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A is for Apple (Pie)

To make use of my new mixer I decided to whip up an apple pie to go with our holiday feast.

If you don’t want to do the crust yourself, don’t have a mixer/the energy, etc., I’m told that Pillsbury makes an excellent flaky pie crust all ready to go, in that case, you can just skip to the filling part.

I peeled 6 apples but ended up only using 5 because it was looking pretty packed, in hindsight, I could’ve arranged the slices better to fit the 6th one because the pie didn’t come out a thick as I would’ve liked.

When pouring in the filling, I tried to put more apples in the middle of the plate in a bit of a dome-shape if the crust deflated a bit after baking.

Like many of my favourite recipes, the filling is something you can adjust to suit your own personal tastes, do a taste test or two, just remember to save some apples for the pie!

CRUST (2 Crust)
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening, well-chilled
2 tablespoons butter, well-chilled
5 – 6 tablespoons cold water

1) In a large bowl, mix salt and flour together (flat beater on low – 15 seconds)
2) Cut shortening into pieces and mix until shortening looks like small peas (30 – 45 seconds)
3) Add in water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough moistens & forms
4) Divide dough into halves, roll into separate balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes
**during this time, you can mix the filling**
5) Roll 1 ball between 2 pieces of wax paper out to 1/8” thickness, gently fold into quarters and carefully open into a 9” pie pan, pressing into the sides and bottom (see #4 below)
6) Repeat for 2nd ball of dough, for top crust

FILLING
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar (packed if you like it sweeter)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 – 7 medium-sized apples (Peeled, cored and thinly sliced)

1) Preheat oven to 400F.
2) Combine sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl, mix well.
3) Stir in apples, taste a slice to see how you like the sweetness – adjust accordingly (lemon juice can help a bit if you want more tartness)
4) Roll out pie crust and press into pan, if not done so already
5) Pour mixture into crust and dot with butter
6) Roll out top crust over everything, pressing edges together, making sure there’s a seal. Cut off excess crust
7) Crimp edges (I use a fork) and cut slits for ventilation
8 ) Sprinkle some extra cinnamon and sugar over if desired
9) Bake for 15-20 minutes, take out and cover edges with foil, then bake for an additional 35-40 minutes

 

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”
Jane Austen

Christmas Cards are Done!

After 3 hours of stamping, coloring, cutting and gluing, I have finished making my Christmas cards!

I was super last minute this year and as you can see I reused ideas over a few times, but I figure no one will compare & complain.

My trusty Cricut and new Create a Critter cartridge made it easy to make super cute cards, while this gel pen-like glue pen made it easy to put the animals together.

I’m on quite a roll with these but I’ve gotta stop, my best friend and I are exchanging home made gifts this year so I’ve gotta get back to that while I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol 🙂

Happy eve of Christmas Eve everyone!

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Bowls are Stuck. It Sucks.

My husband was doing the dishes and somehow a small bowl slipped into a big bowl and now they’re completely stuck together.

We spent hours trying everything on the internet to separate them but couldn’t. We tried everything from boiling water and ice, a sink full of boiling water, the freezer, dishsoap…..everything short of breaking one of them to end the frustration but I can’t admit defeat – I won’t surrender!!!!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened to my bowls, I brought food over to a friend’s house and somehow they ended up stuck together in the sink. Somehow my friend managed to get them apart. He told me to put them into tub of boiling water almost to the rim and ice into the inside bowl, then wedge a butter knife between, but it didn’t work. I’m bringing my bowl to him in hopes of getting them apart.

If anyone out there has any other ideas, I’m open to giving them a try! They’re both Corelle.

Miso Glazed Chicken

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Chicken thighs were on sale and I wasn’t feeling too creative so I decided to try the Miso Glazed Salmon marinade with it. http://wp.me/p1YyIg-P 

I used my dutch oven instead of the glass casserole dish since I have dried out poultry on several occasions using glass….but then again, it could just be me.

For four (4) bone-in chicken thighs, I went by taste & tried it BEFORE putting the chicken in (adjust to your own liking) but here is the original ingredients list I worked with:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed if you like it sweeter, I put a little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons miso (soybean paste, I prefer white miso, it’s a bit sweeter)

DIRECTIONS:
1) Preheat broiler
2) Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside some of the marinade for basting
3) Place chicken into dutch oven with marinade and cook over low-medium heat on stove
*remember not to leave it sitting there, sugar burns easily
4) Once both sides are lightly cooked, place dutch oven into broiler – I left uncovered
5) Baste twice with set-aside marinate
6) Remove once chicken is done – 170F (or until jucies run clear), how long depends on your broiler/oven. Mine took about 25 minutes.
**To test bone-in chicken pieces, insert a fork in the chicken. It should go in easily and the juices should run clear. But meat and juices closest the bones may still look a little pink even though the chicken has been cooked thoroughly.

I also made rice and the sake butter to go with this. The result is a similar taste, of course the texture of the meat is different. I find salmon goes better with the flavours and the flakiness just melts well together with everything but chicken is not a bad runner-up.

My friend suggested I put some butter on top to keep things moist before it went into the oven, but it just kinda slid right off….BUT I didn’t dry it out!

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A Pretty Fast Lasagna

People at the office suggested we do a potluck today so I decided to make a lasagna. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen (I’ve got Christmas shopping to do!). So I made up my own no-frills beef lasagna did it in about an hour. This was by no means a “traditional” lasagna, but it sure looked more complicated than it actually was, thus impressing co-workers!

The one pictured is a double recipe in a 11″ x 9″ aluminum roasting pan.

Ingredients:
– 1 bottle of pasta sauce (I like Prego 23.5 o / 666g bottle)
– 1lb extra lean ground beef
– 1 packaged spinach (drained and dried) and/or 1 can drained, sliced mushrooms
(or use 2/3 cup slice fresh) or other veggies as desired
– packaged pre-shredded cheese sprinkle as desired (I use Kraft 4 Cheese Italiano)
– Lasagna noodles (depending on your dish size, approx. 12)

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350F
2) Brown beef in a saucepan until 90% done & stir in pasta sauce
3) In a separate pot cook pasta to al-dente as instructed, run under cold water when done, strain
4) Put thin layer of meat sauce into glass casserole dish & sprinkle with cheese
5) Put 1 layer of noodles, horizontally, covering sauce (rip/cut noodles as needed)
6) Put more sauce, add veggies & sprinkle with cheese
7) Put another layer of noodles – this time vertically (alternating)
8 ) Repeat as needed to reach the top of your dish, ending with sauce and cheese
9) Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until bubbles
10) Cool a bit before serving

Hope that’s clear – let me know if it’s not. Thanks for reading!

Pear Custard Bars

My coworker made this for us a few months ago and I loved it so much I just had to have the recipe. The taste and texture is pretty similar to a cheesecake where it’s filling is cream cheese and there is a crust. However, the crust is done with walnuts instead of graham crackers (unless you prefer graham crackers, of course).

This is my first time trying this out and it didn’t take as long to put together as I thought. I’m quite pleased with the results. I used a glass casserole dish and not a metal cake pan because my coworker says after she experimented the crust came out nicer this way. Here it is before baking.

If you’re into cheesecake, give this a try, you don’t need a spring-form pan and it doesn’t take long. Best to leave cheese and butter out overnight to soften because mid-way through making one batch, I decided to make two, and since the cream cheese wasn’t soft enough it turned out kind of lumpy. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try!

Ingredients
Crust:
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, macadamia nuts or if you want graham crackers

Filling/Topping:
1 package (8 oz. / 250 mL) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (15 1/4 oz. / 500 mL) pear halves, drained

Sprinkle on top:
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions – Crust
1) Preheat oven to 350F
2) In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together
3) Beat in the flour and vanilla until combined. Stir in the nuts.
4) Press into a greased 8″x8″ baking pan (I used a glass one that was slightly longer)
5) Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until lightly browned. (Don’t bake for too long because it has to go back into the oven again with the filling
6) Cool on a wire rack and increase heat to 375F

Directions – Filling 
1) While crust is baking, slice pears into 1/8″ slices and set aside
2) In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth
3) Add sugar, egg and vanilla; mix until combined
4) Pour over crust, arrange pears in a single layer over the filling
5) Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the pears
6) Bake for 28-30 minutes (the centre will be soft set and will become firmer upon cooling)
7) Set aside and cool for at least 45 minutes
8 ) Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving (overnight is best)

Store in the fridge. Yields approx. 16 bars

Banana Bread

I’ve always wanted a Kitchenaid stand mixer, and finally got one on sale. I couldn’t wait try it out so I decided to turn the bananas we forgot about into banana bread (what perfect timing!). If you have bananas that are too ripe, but no time to bake, put them in the freezer and just thaw when you’re ready to use. It’ll be super easy to mash too, however I find you get more “banana flavour” if you use fresh ones.

I didn’t have buttermilk so I looked for an alternative. I used 1/4 cup of milk (I used 2%) 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice and waited for it to curdle a bit.

For this batch I put in almonds and cranberries (about 1/2 cup each) into the mixer then pressed some on top of the loaf before baking.

You can definitely do all this without a mixer, I’ve made this the good old-fashioned way by hand, it just took a bit of arm strength but came out just as good.

Ingredients:
2 – 3 Very Ripe Bananas – Mashed
2 Eggs
1 3/4 Cup Unsifted All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts (optional – or other nuts you like)
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Buttermilk (or alternative as mentioned)
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Sugar

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 325F (160/170C)
2) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
(about 50 strokes, mix well, but don’t over-do it)
3) Pour into greased loaf pans (9″ x 5″) I used 3 small (5 3/4″ x 3 1/2″) ones or 4 muffin tins
4) Bake until top is golden, splits slightly and a toothpick comes out clean
Approx. 1 hour 10 minutes for large loaf pan, 55 minutes for my 3 small ones and 44 for muffin tins — BUT it really depends on your oven so set a timer and watch them near the end otherwise they’ll dry out.

Veitnamese Salad Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)

One of my favourite Vietnamese dishes are salad rolls, their light and easy to eat. My husband is Vietnamese so I’ve eaten my fair share and know that $3.00 a roll at a restaurant is a rip-off, so I decided to make my own. Making your own also gives you the opportunity to put things you don’t normally find in a restaurant roll.

All the ingredients were available at my local Asian supermarket (T&T), and don’t need a lot of prep. If I’m lazy, I get the smaller, pre-peeled, frozen shrimp, no peeling or slicing required.

Rolls:
Rice Paper (Trial and error on brand – I chose “Rose Brand”)
1/2 lb – Prawn or Tiger Shrimp (fresh or frozen)
1/2 lb – Pork Belly (skin on or off) or Pork Tenderloin if belly is too fatty for you
1/2 package (3 “squares”) of vermicelli rice noodle
Lettuce
English cucumber (optional)
Bean sprouts (optional)
Carrots (optional)
Eggs (optional)

1. Boil prawns until fully cooked, run under cold water (or let cool), peel and slice in half
2. Boil pork belly until fully cooked, run under cold water (or let cool), slice thinly
3. If adding egg, beat 1-2 eggs well in a bowl and cook on a non-stick pan over medium heat, flip, (cooking like a pancake). Let cool and cut into strips
4. Cook vermicelli in water as directed or until desired tenderness
4. Wash & dry lettuce (and veggies), rip/cut into strips
5. Prepare a bowl of hot water big enough to fit the rice paper well as it breaks easily when dry. I put the rice paper into a bowl until it’s soft & flexible then carefully place on a plate for rolling, draining off as much water as possible first.
6. Put ingredients onto rice paper without overloading
7. Rolling – fold the 2 sides in first, then fold the bottom in and roll upwards (don’t worry, the first few times are tricky!)

Sauce:
3 – 5 cloves of minced garlic (I use a teaspoon of garlic powder because I don’t like the chunks)
3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
4-6 tablespoons crunchy or creamy peanut butter
Water to desired consistency and taste (about 1 cup)
Splash of lemon or lime juice and/or fish sauce (optional)
2-3 teaspoons chili sauce or chopped chilies (optional)
Chopped peanuts (optional)

1. In a small sauce pan, add ½ a cup of water and the garlic. Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low.
2. Add Hoisin sauce and peanut butter (and chili sauce). Stir until peanut butter has dissolved and the ingredients mix together thickens, adding water as you go along.
3. Taste. Add extra Hoisin sauce, peanut butter, chillies, lemon juice, fish sauce and/or water until you get the desired taste and consistency. (example: I like it more thick and sweeter, friends like it less thick and spicier)
4. Garnish with chopped peanuts if desired.