Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Thai Peanut Sauce

I’ve gotten a few requests for the recipe for those spring rolls we made a couple of days ago, and to be honest, I didn’t really use a proper recipe. I will, however, give you some basic guidelines…the rest is up to you.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

* 2 cups, cooked protein of choice (we shredded some leftover pork roast that we made using this recipe)
* 2 cups thin rice noodles, prepared via package instructions
* 1 baby bok choy, julienned
* 3 scallions, thinly diced
* 2 carrots, peeled and grated
* 12 sheets rice paper spring roll wrappers
* one large, shallow-bottomed baking dish (9×13 will work)
* warm water (in said dish)
*plates and wet paper towels (to keep the prepared rolls moist)

1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix first five ingredients. Run a knife through the mixture a few times to break the noodles into small pieces.
2. Fill baking dish with 1-2 inches of warm water. You may want to go ahead and set up an assembly line this point. Start with the stack of rice papers and the pan of water. Have a clean work space next and the bowl of filling, followed by a plate covered with wet paper towels.
3. Take one rice paper and gently lay into the water, fully submerging for ten seconds. Carefully remove the paper and lay on a clean work surface. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling about one third of the way down the paper. Fold down the top, keeping the filling together. Fold in the sides and roll until filling is completely sealed.
4. Place on plate and cover with wet paper towel until ready to serve.

This made twelve rolls. Keep in mind that these are served cold, so there’s no need to heat anything.

Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce

* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup soy sauce (tamari to be gluten free)
* 2 tsp molasses

Heat peanut butter in microwave. When easy to stir, add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let cool and serve alongside spring rolls.

Most of these ingredients are pretty easy to find; I did have to go the local Asian market to procure the rice papers.

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Enjoy!

Fat Tuesday and the Beginning of Lent

I’ve been given a work laptop.  Yep.  I’m actually pretty stoked since I never would have gotten this far in my career at my previous job.  However, with great power comes great responsibility, and now I feel compelled to set back up to work again as soon as I get home.  I’ll have to work on finding a work/life balance again.

So, it’s Mardi Gras, and I’m sure that naked people are flooding the streets of New Orleans, beads flying through the air, drunk people becoming celebrities for the upcoming season of Cops….and so on/so forth.  We’re ending our Fat Tuesday with a steak and potato dinner, tiramisu, and a few Reese’s cups before the coming day of repentance tomorrow.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find somewhere to go to get ashes, but even if not, I’ll keep my spirit and focus in that direction.

It bothers me how Southern Baptists (in general) tend to write off just about every tradition of the Catholic church immediately without paying attention to the history or meaning behind it.  There’s great reason to continue to pay attention to the tradition and liturgy of the Catholic Church; we can’t simply write off the first fifteen hundred years of our faith, you know?  Anyway, here’s a brief explanation of Lent in the event that any of my Baptist friends find it useful.  I think there’s a level of mystery in the Catholic denomination for Protestants on the more fundamentalist side of things.  Although I certainly don’t identify myself as fundamentalist, my circle of friends includes many of them, and the hushed tones in which they say, “s/he’s…..Catholic” is a little funny.  I find the traditions and practices to be pretty intriguing…we can’t really fault them for their shortcomings (perhaps in being caught up too much in traditions and not emphasizing the individual’s direct access to God) when we, as Southern Baptists, have so many of our own (continuing to argue over drinking, caring for animals/the environment, equating Christianity with the Republican Party…).

My, I’ve rambled on so.  Sorry about that…lots of thinking about Catholicism the past few days.  I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to give up for Lent, and the past couple of days, I’ve felt the unhappy tug of something that I didn’t really want to hear.  Sugar.  Sugar???  Yes, Sugar.  It’s become an idol for me, and it’s literally killing me.  So, starting tomorrow, I’m abstaining.

 

I Am Camping My Butt Off!

We are enjoying our final camping “hurrah” of the year; I always take the week of Thanksgiving off from work for several reasons…it’s Joey’s and my anniversary week, it only requires three vacation days rather than the full five, and most of my coworkers like to take time off at Christmas and I like Thansgiving better anyway.

Joey and I usually try to plan a vacation of some sort during that week, ever since our honeymoon in 2002; it’s funny…we planned our wedding around Thanksgiving break since we were both still in college and needed to plan it around school vacation:).  We’ve always been practical, I suppose.

Anyway, with as much stress as we’ve had lately, between my recovery of the “mental holocaust” of 2011 and our various work-and-school related deadlines and drama, Joey and I really haven’t gotten any time to just rest.  So, we’ve packed up the camper and gone to Black Mountain for a little R&R.

Here’s my attempt at looking thuggish in my newly knitted Slouchy Hipster Hat which is a fantastic free pattern from one of my favorite knit-bloggers, Crazy Aunt Purl.  It’s a little big on me, so I’ll probably knit another one with smaller needles, but it’s very cute, and it has come in very handy with how chilly it’s been up here.

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A nighttime fire pic, as I take on every trip.  Everything smells like campfire right now, my clothes, my hair, the inside of the camper…everything, and it’s wonderful.  It’s like a little piece of heaven.

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From this morning, while we were getting the fire started back up to cook breakfast:

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Chef Joseph and the bacon:

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And a plate of goodness:  3 strips of bacon (I pulled off the fatty parts and tossed them in the fire), hash browns, two scrambled eggs, one piece of rye toast, and some coffee.  Food tastes better when cooked over an open fire.

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Yesterday, we found a funky local diner to have breakfast, it was called “Louise’s,” and it was definitely hipster-y grungy cool, but the food kind of sucked and the coffee came out of a pump caraffe, which is sign number one that the service and coffee are both going to be lackluster.  I’m not sure how much we spent, but I’m relatively sure it was too much.  But, it’s all good because that’s part of the adventure…finding little hole-in-the-wall places and new experiences.

I’m also bummed that we don’t have Ingle’s at home because it’s so much nicer than Harris Teeter.  We’re going to have to make our way out today because, among other things we’ve got to get, I forgot a hairbrush.  Yep.  a hairbrush.  The hat has gotten very liberal use as a result.

Now for a little chilling and doing this:

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I am Interested in Beets.

I’ve only had them once or twice, and I don’t think I liked them, but the concept of a vegetable that can be eaten in both sweet an savory dishes, and one that can literally dye your insides, intrigues me.  I’ll probably try to find something to do with beets in the near future.

Tonight, we made “mashed cauliflower,” an old Weight Watchers trick that the paleo folks have resurrected as a substitute for mashed potatoes.  I was nonplussed…they definitely don’t taste enough like mashed potatoes to fool you, but they weren’t horrible once we added some Irish butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.  I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but it was a good low-carb side dish to the teriyaki marinated chicken breasts that Joey baked for us.

I’ve made it to the ninth lifestyle change in my book on adrenal fatigue…here are my thoughts thus far:

  • although I know it’s best to do, I’m always amazed at how much better I feel when we’re eating whole, real foods and not processed/packaged/takeout stuff.
  • I SUCK at sleeping 8 hours.  Being in bed by 9:30 seems like a punishment.  I’m not sure how I’m going to make peace with that.
  • I’m upset by the author’s flippancy toward antidepressants.  She lumps them in a chapter together with caffeine, sugar and–no, I’m not kidding–COCAINE.  Seriously.  I find it funny that she qualifies her passage on the benefits of upping one’s salt intake with the typical safety statement:  “please follow doctor’s instructions if you have been advised to limit your sodium intake.”  But when it comes to antidepressants, she recommends weaning off of them across the board, without any kind of medical qualifying statement or “follow your doctor’s instruction” safety net.  It’s irresponsible.  For those of us who have an actual issue with brain chemistry, meditating and sleeping just ain’t gonna cut it.

I had Joey go out and buy some of this stuff for me, per the author’s recommendation:

I took two this evening.  We’ll see how they work.

My Adrenals are Worn Out and Dried Up…

I really don’t know whether to be hopeful that the second half of the year will be better than the first or not.  After two months of the severe mood swings and general depression/hopelessness, I’m starting to fee at home being in a funk.  At this point, I’m not sure I’d even know what to do if I did feel normal.  One of the girls I work with last week commented that she couldn’t believe that I was feeling the way I am.  I asked her what she expected me to do?  It’s not like I can cease to function at my job…I’ve got to keep doing a good job at work.  It’s not like the world is going to quit spinning on my account.  I tried to explain to her how I do my best to get through the workday and then I’m basically nonfunctional once I get home.  It mystified her.  I guess that’s a good thing.

Anyway, I’ve been reading Tired of Being Tired, a book about adrenal fatigue and burnout (Amazon Link–not an affiliate link).  According to their test, I’m at the point of “losing it,” which is just a category away from burnout.  After you assess your own level of burnout, the author (an MD) offers ten lifestyle changes that will help your adrenal glands recover and function normally again.  Her theory is that our increasingly fast-paced lifestyles take a toll on our adrenal glands that, historically, would have been limited to immediate physical threat (read:  being chased by a large predator).  While I’m usually leery of “Lose Weight and Feel GREAT” books, this one caught my eye because part of my anxiety diagnosis is PTSD and the fact that I’m constantly functioning in fight-or-flight mode.  My adrenals have been totally shot for quite some time, and while I’m a huge fan of prescription treatment for mental health issues, I also look for every holistic and natural method to help the meds do their job.

Nothing that I’ve read thus far as been earth-shattering; I do think it’s interesting that the author promotes a low-carbohydrate diet.  While she doesn’t promote a paleo- or primal-type diet, she does recommend that those at the highest levels of adrenal fatigue/burnout stick right around 65 grams of carbs per day (three meals and 2-3 snacks).  Surprisingly, she also recommends that those at highest level of burnout not engage in any incredibly strenuous exercise program (so, my plans to start Insanity again are on hold for a little while), but to engage in moderate activity every day.  In light of that, I’m going to develop a routine on the Wii that matches her recommendations and stick with that every day.

The toughest parts?  8 hours of sleep and giving up caffeine:(.  I really suck at getting enough sleep.  It is what it is.  I don’t like going to bed (mostly because, these days, I just really don’t want it to be “tomorrow,” and I seem to have this twisted belief that, if I stay up as late as possible, then it’ll stay “today”), but I have to get up at 5:30 every day, to head into an extremely high-stress environment, for which I really should have had a full night’s sleep.  So, bleh.  And I love my caffeine:(…at least she says that I shouldn’t go cold-turkey and can wean down.

Anyway, I’ll keep updating you about what I’m learning and how it’s going.  I did manage to make a meal plan for the week and we got some groceries today (Joey’ll have to get the rest tomorrow), so this week will be much better in terms of real, balanced meals.  I’ll let you know about the rest.

Also, please send prayers and good thoughts out for my friend Phil.  He was supposed to have surgery to remove the cancer (on the pancreas) this past Thursday, but a pre-op CAT scan revealed some changes and now they’re not exactly sure how they’re going to be able to tackle the treatment/surgery.  He means so much to me…he changed my life seven years ago, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.

Phil’s on my right.  I totally stole this picture from my church’s website, and when I went back today to find it so I could link to the source, they’ve started updating the website and I can’t find it anymore, so if you visit FBCIT.org and find some pictures, it’ll probably be in there somewhere.

How the Heck Did I Not Know About Pocky???

For real…how did I not know about this stuff?  Holy crap, it’s good.  Joey felt the need to satisfy his nerd-jones and looked it up on Wikipedia (because the Pocky website has no English…), and apparently “Men’s Pocky” just means that it’s made with bittersweet chocolate.  This box had two little packages in it with a serving each of these tiny, chocolate dipped pretzelly sticks of magical happiness.  One serving is pretty low fat/calorie/carb.  As such, Pocky will be making a repeat appearance in Chez Weaver.

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My other piece of food inspiration comes from Deb of Smoothie Girl Eats, Too.  I’d never read her blog before, but I’d heard about her Protein Muffin recipe on a couple of my favorite blogs.  Any time someone promises me a muffin the size of my hand that is low calorie/carb and full of healthy fats, I’m game.  Add the convenience factor of microwave cooking, which requires precious little effort on my behalf, and you can bet on my making it.

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RUN, don’t walk, to your fridge right now.  Make this.  I’m not going to duplicate her recipe here, because I want you to go to her site and read about this.  However, I’ll tell you the substitutions I made:

  • subbed 1 tbsp brown rice protein powder for the cocoa powder
  • subbed peanut flour for the coconut flour
  • subbed applesauce for the pumpkin
  • used 1 egg instead of 2 whites
  • used Stevia as my sweetener of choice
  • added 1 tbsp chocolate chips

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I microwaved it in an egg drop soup container, so the resulting muffin looked like a pint-sized (literally, because egg drop soup containers are 16 oz) personal cake!!  Last night, I topped mine and Joey’s muffins with some Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (1/2 a pack each).  Guys, the possibilities with this recipe are endless…I’m seeing red velvet muffins, carrot cake muffins, pumpkin pie muffins….

Oh, and to put your mind at ease, we don’t have any Kleenex at the house, so the roll of TP is for runny noses only.

Tonight, we’re going over to Joey’s parents’ house to cook dinner for Mother’s Day.  On the menu?  teriyaki steak, chicken, and shrimp kabobs with pineapple fried rice.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Insane in the Membrane!!

Man, I am losing my freaking mind.  To make a long story short, I’m switching from one antianxiety medication to another, from Cymbalta to Wellbutrin, and it’s proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve been through in my life.  If I had ANY idea that Cymbalta would be this difficult to stop, I would never have gone on it.  My insurance doesn’t cover as much of the cost this year, and it’s going up $200 (and was already costing me $400 a year).  Per their website, it may cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches.  They fail to mention brain “jolts,” extreme depression and rage, and paranoia.  And the DTs can last up to two months. I’m just a little over two weeks off (and that was after weaning myself back), and the thought of six more weeks of feeling like I’m absolutely going insane terrifies me.  And the even worse part is that I can’t just take off work and get over it. I’m having to go to a job in which I deal with people in a high-stress environment, and I’m having to resist the urge to rip someone’s face off when they annoy me.  Add to that feeling like crying at the drop of a hat, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  However, I am surviving and I have an incredibly patient husband and friends and family who understand and are helping cheer me up.  So, all in all, despite this mess, I’m still pretty freaking blessed too:)

So, this past week on Good Eats, Alton Brown did a show on Asian noodles which included a recipe using something that’s intrigued me for years now:  rice paper.  His Thai Shrimp Spring Rolls looked amazing on the show, and the rice paper looked pretty easy to work with as well, so I figured it was worth a shot.  I sent Joey to Grand Asia Market in Stallings, and he came back with lots of cool stuff:

like this adorable coffee mug with a kitten peering over the side.  He’s done his best to cheer me up during this time, and bringing me something that combines two of my favorite things (kitties and coffee) was a WIN.  He also came back with rice paper, though.  I substituted tofu for the shrimp…mostly because I don’t like the texture of shrimp unless it’s tiny and fried (make my fish fillet diamond-shaped, please!).  I drained and pressed my tofu, and then julienned about a quarter of the block.  Here’s what I ended up with:

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Check out the source link (the image isn’t mine, obviously, or it would be blurry with poor lighting) too, because it goes to another recipe for spring rolls.  Mine weren’t that pretty, but hopefully they will be the next time.  What a fantastic meal…it was light, but dense enough that it was filling.  Alton’s recipe says it makes enough for twelve rolls, but mine only made 8.  I also didn’t have any bibb lettuce to wrap them in, and I’ll definitely add that the next time because they were really gummy.  My favorite part was the dipping sauce, though. I’m making that sauce for anything asian that I make at home.  People, make these rolls.  Like, right now. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through tomorrow without ripping anyone’s face off.  We always go to the antique show at Metrolina Expo on the first Saturday of the month, but we didn’t get to go today because of an incredibly irritating, hipster-em0-DB “rock fest” for the next generation of people who think they’re unique for having an all-day concert.  There’s nothing new under the sun, kids.  You’re not that special.  Anyway, we’re going to try to go back tomorrow…hopefully we can buy some stuff and offer the dealers some support since they were undoubtedly pissed at their customer base being turned away on their biggest business day.  /rant is over.

Off to watch more Good Eats.  I wish Alton Brown was my zany uncle.