Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rainbow Spring Rolls

 If these aren't the epitome of vibrancy and color, I don't know what is. They're almost too pretty to eat, aren't they? And for not much more than a bunch raw vegetables wrapped up in rice paper, they're pretty tasty, too. As you can tell, I got a little carried away with taking their I said, just too darn pretty.

The weather is warming up again since our cold streak last week and that means more raw foods will be made in our little kitchen. Raw, beautiful, antioxidant-rich, crunchy, and fresh. You see, what makes these foods so full of color is their phytochemicals. These chemicals in plants are responsible for the various pigments ranging from the deep dark purple beet, to the neon yellow bell pepper, to the emerald green of cucumbers. And these colors are where the antioxidant powers of the food is stored. Filling your body with colors of the rainbow could be the single best thing you can do for yourself. Seriously.

Many people think that the only way to get raw veggies into their diet is by eating salads. And while salads are a great way to do it, they're not the only way. Add them to sushi rolls, toss chopped raw vegetables with some sort of grain, blend them into a smoothie, feed them through a juicer, or make these spring rolls!
 To make a spring roll, get yourself a rice paper sheet, soak it in a large bowl of warm water for 5 seconds, place your choice of vegetables in the center, and roll it up like a burrito. Repeat. Serve with a nice dipping sauce and you're good to go.
I filled mine with a bunch of different vegetables plus some spicy kimchee, which is a super delicious and nutritious condiment made from fermented vegetables.  Kimchee is spicy and sour and adds the perfect amount of flavor to the roll. I was going for lots of color, as you can tell by my vegetable choices. Some other super awesome suggestions for fillings are asparagus, carrots, purple cabbage, mushrooms, and sprouts. Really, the possibilities are endless!

Rainbow Spring Rolls

1 small beet, sliced into thin matchsticks
1 bell pepper (any color you'd like), cut into thin strips
1 avocado, sliced
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 sweet potato, cut into matchsticks and steamed in a vegetable steamer until tender (~7 minutes)
2 cups salad greens or a few large leaves of your choice (I used mustard greens from the farmers market)
half a bunch or cilantro
1/2 cup kimchee
other vegetables of your choice

For the dipping sauce:
equal parts rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, and maple syrup

1. Set up your work station, ie. put the prepared vegetables on a large plate and put the lettuce and kimchee in an easily accessible spot. Fill a large mixing bowl with warm water and place it by you as well. I work on a large cutting board.

2. Take a rice paper wrapper and submerge it in warm water for 5 seconds. Remove from water and lay flat on the cutting board. Place a few leaves of lettuce in the center and then put vegetables, a tablespoon or so of kimchee, and cilantro on top.

3. Lift the bottom edge of the rice paper and roll it over the vegetables. Fold the sides in and then continue rolling (like you're rolling a burrito). It may take a few tries to get it right, but you'll get it. Repeat until all the vegetables are used up. I cut my spring rolls in half so they look pretty, but you don't need to cut them

4. To make the dipping sauce, combine equal parts rice vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, and maple syrup in a small bowl and mix well.

5. Serve spring rolls on a platter with dipping sauce on the side. Makes roughly 10 small rolls or 8 larger rolls.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

The weather has been pretty gray and cold for the past few days and I've found myself putting on my fuzzy warm socks as if it is still winter! I've been craving a good lentil soup and I think I've discovered my new favorite. I've made many variations of lentil soup in my lifetime. And honestly, I haven't really met a lentil soup that didn't like. But I think this one ranks among the top.

There's nothing like making a nice pot of soup on a Sunday afternoon and having it for lunch or a quick dinner during the week. I always add some kale or other green to the soup as I warm up my portion and sometimes I top it with a farm-fresh poached egg. A nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a handful of freshly chopped herbs is always welcome, as well. Lentil soup of any variety is so nourishing, supplying everything you need to tackle a busy day, or just a cozy rainy day on the couch with your warm fuzzy socks on.

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup (makes a big pot of soup)

1 1/2 cups green lentils, preferably soaked overnight and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup short grain brown rice
6 cups vegetable broth or water
24 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons unrefined sugar
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon dried basil
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
sea salt
black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
fresh parsley, basil, or oregano for garnish (optional)
chopped greens, such as kale, chard or spinach (optional)

1. In a large soup pot over medium low heat, saute the chopped onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and garlic and cook for a minute or two.

2. Add the rice and lentils to the pot, along with the broth (or water), tomatoes, sugar, bay leaves, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Let cook about 30-40 minutes, or until the brown rice and lentils are cooked. Add more broth or water if soup becomes too thick.

3. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and stir in the balsamic vinegar. If you'd like to add some chopped greens, add them to the pot and let them wilt for just a minute or so. Serve with freshly chopped herbs sprinkled on top.

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