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I’ve spent 9 of the last 15 work days traveling and I am about ready to crawl up into a little ball and sleep for a billion years. Oh wait, I was on ET all last week so I WOKE UP AT 6:30 AM SATURDAY MORNING. I’m ready for a bit of a break after this next week and then no trips until the end of April – phew.
Last week I was in West Chicago for a trial and I was so ready to eat something FRESH by the time I got home. I try to made good choices when I’m traveling for work but a lot of places aren’t really “veggie-friendly”. I can usually find cereal and fruit in the morning at the hotel, and then lunch is usually a veggie sandwich or a very sad looking salad. I depend a lot on snack and protein bars when I travel, but it’s still processed foods and my body definitely notices.
Aside: I am totally a fan of nutrition/meal bars in moderation, but it doesn’t supplement eating real food. I eat Larabar/PRObar alllllll the time, but you can’t live off them (see above). I supplement with protein shakes and try to get plant based proteins where I can, using bars as a snack or pre race fuel.
Of course I had no groceries in my house so I went to the place I knew would have something for me to eat: Whole Foods. I used baked tofu from the hot bar at Whole Foods but you could easy bake/sauté/fry your own or even add it raw. I picked up a few veggies that I didn’t have (ie: red cabbage) and rushed home to fill my body with spring roll goodness.
Spring rolls themselves are pretty easy – you just cut stuff up and make a mini burrito. That being said, I am far from being a professional spring roll wrapper. I don’t know how those guys do it. You can wrap your rolls one of two ways: roll everything up like a burrito, or leave the fixings peepin’ out one side (see below).
What do I think? They will be tasty either way so just do whatever works best for you. Besides, lather that baby in peanut sauce and it’s not even gonna matter how they look.
This peanut sauce though.
I ended up having some extras and ate it over rice and tofu later in the week. It was equally as delicious 5 days later.
Okay, so what exactly are you going to need?
Veggies – red cabbage, carrots, bell pepper
Herbs – mint, cilantro
Protein – tofu
Necessities – spring roll papers, rice noodles
Sauce – peanut butter, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, agave, red chili paste, fresh ginger
Yes, I have dubbed rice noodles as a necessity. If you don’t eat rice, then you should probably just stop reading this post right now.
In terms of veggies, you can add or subtract as necessary to meet your needs. By needs I mean you don’t like that veggie or you got home and realized that it wasn’t on your grocery list. I like to think that red cabbage is pretty classic and I add peppers for some variety. They certainly make it hard to roll those suckers up, though. Note for future recipe data collection: Determine rolling efficiency without peppers.
Tofu is optional, but I like to add it for some substance. If you eat fish, you could definitely throw some shrimp in there as well.
Servings: 8 rolls
Time: 30-45 minutes
- 1/2 small red cabbage, cut into thin strips
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into match sticks
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)
- 8 oz extra firm tofu *
- 1 cup rice noodles, uncooked
- 8 spring roll papers
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP agave
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp red thai chili paste
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- hot water, to thin
- Prepare rice noodles as indicated on the package. I used just one serving, but if you are big on the noodles then maybe bump that up to one and a half. They are pretty cheap so it’s not a huge deal if you have some left over.
- Fill a large to medium sized bowl with water, enough that you would be able to submerge your rice paper. I have found that a wider, more shallow bowl works best.Transfer water to a medium sized pot and boil. Remove from heat and set aside so that the water has time to cool. Transfer back to the original bowl. The temperature of the water will depend on the thickness of your paper. For thinner papers, you will want to use a cooler water. Unfortunately, unless your packaging calls out a temperature you will have to play around a bit with the water temperature.
- Prepare your work space so that all the fillings are easy to reach. I will even separate a small chunk of noodles so that I can just grab them and go. When dipping the rice papers, you will want to get them wet but not completely softened. Slide them into the bowl and submerge for about 20 seconds. Set the rice paper at your work station and allow to soften for an additional 1-2 minutes until it is somewhat tacky.
- Place your noodles, 2-3 pieces of tofu, and veggies in the center of the paper but slightly towards the bottom. Top with a few leaves from each of your herbs. Roll up from the bottom, covering the filling. Next, tuck in the outsides and continue to roll up. It probably won’t be perfect at first – mine certainly are not but it will get better with each one.
- For the sauce, place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk together. Add hot water in TBSP increments until desired consistency is achieved. I typically add about 2-3 TBSP.
*Tofu can be baked, fried, sauted or straight out of the package. I chose to go with baked because I bought it from the hot bar at Whole Foods on a hangry grocery trip.