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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

EASY Authentic Vietnamese Summer Rolls- Delish!


Vietnam Summer Rolls!
After Dan and I returned to West Virginia from our last trip to Vietnam in 2015, having taking a number of cooking classes and "foodie" tours all across the country, I sourced seeds for Vietnamese herbs online, and began growing them in our garden at the Elkhorn Inn! The herbs and greens we had in Vietnam were truly delicious and unique, and as we don't live anywhere near an Asian Market, growing them ourselves was the only way Chef Dan would be able to make truly authentic Vietnamese dishes- such as his Claypot Ginger Chicken, and Pho- for our Elkhorn Inn dinner guests! And then I began making things like Bo La Lot (Grilled Betel Leaf-Wrapped Meat) and  Summer Rolls! And Summer Rolls are actually easy and fun to make!
An assortment of Vietnamese herbs from our garden...
Some of the herbs we grow are Vietnamese Red & Green Perilla, Chrysanthemum Greens, Tatsoi Mustard, Vietnamese Mint, Garlic Chives, and Coriander, Basil and Holy Basil, Lemon Grass, La Lot, Fish Mint... and the unique tastes and textures of these herbs truly contributes to the deliciousness of Vietnamese dishes! "Table Salad"- an assortment of herbs and greens- is a staple of the Vietnamese table, and without at least some truly authentic Vietnamese greens, a Vietnamese meal just isn't right! If you are lucky enough to live near an "H Mart"- the chain of huge and fabulous Korean groceries that has EVERYTHING- (there is an excellent one in Fairfax, Virginia), you can get all the fresh herbs and veggies in the Asian universe! But we live 6 hours from the nearest H Mart, so if we don't grow them, we can't have them!
Vietnamese Summer Rolls & Dipping Sauce!
The first step to making Summer Rolls is to set out all your ingredients, and get everything set up so you can roll them quickly. You will need a pack of "Spring Roll Wrappers", which are rice paper circles that you soak for 10 seconds before rolling them- and believe it or not, most Walmarts have them! This time I made Summer Rolls with cooked (frozen) shrimp, Vietnamese Bun Rice Vermicelli Noodles (cooked in water in the microwave for one minute), Vietnamese and other herbs and greens (Vietnam cilantro/coriander, Asian Basil, and Vietnam Mint are pretty much musts), and Asian veggies, including water chestnuts (canned), and Chinese Cloud Ear Mushrooms and Lilly buds, which were dried, and which I cooked in the microwave in water for a minute and then cut in small pieces. The herbs and greens (Vietnamese mint, cilantro, basil, and garlic chives, Red Perilla, lettuce, etc.) I tore into small pieces.
You can also add Bean Sprouts, hot Vietnamese peppers, cucumber, scallions, and other herbs and greens...
The next step is to set out a large bowl of warm water. Dip one Rice Paper Wrapper in the warm water for about 10 seconds. Lay it on a plate. Put the shrimp (small shrimp are best- these were large, so I cut them in pieces) and water chestnuts in the center, about 1/3 down, as shown in the photo.                                                 
The ingredients for Vietnamese Summer Rolls
The first step...

Top the shrimp with the herbs and greens, and then with the Bun Noodles, and then with more herbs and greens.
Add herbs...
Add the Bun Noodles and more herbs...

More herbs and veggies...
Top with lettuce...

 Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling, and then fold the sides in. Then roll it up, quick and tight...
Fold up the bottom of the wrapper
Fold in both sides, and then roll it up tight

And VoilĂ ! You have made a Vietnamese Summer Rolll!
Soak the next wrapper and do it all again, and keep doing it until you have run out fillings, and/or wrappers!
They are delicious served with a lemon-y Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce, and while you can make your own from scratch (there are lots of Vietnamese recipes online), Saucey Sauce makes a truly authentic and delicious one: https://getsauceynow.com/

Have you made Summer Rolls? Any other Vietnamese dishes? Do you grow your own veggies and herbs? Tell me in the comments and we can share recipes!




Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rituals Sakura Collection: a delicious Japanese-inspired bath ritual!

Sakura "Try Me" Box products
I was happily selected to try a Rituals Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom) "Try Me" TryaBox, and I must say that I am really delighted with it! First of all, it smells divine- even the box smelled divine! (For just that reason it's a great gift- it's so much fun to open something that smells so good even before you know what it is!) And the three products are REALLY great, and while luxurious, not expensive, and I will be buying them- and some of the other products in the Collection, too! Included in the "Try Me" box are the Sakura Sugar Scrub, Foaming Shower Gel, and Body Cream, and with them I created a lovely, relaxing, and sensual little bath "ritual" for myself, that brings back wonderful memories of our Honeymoon in Japan and seeing the Cherry Blossoms! I love the Sakura Sugar Scrub, which is a great but gentle exfoliator (I much prefer sugar scrubs to salt scrubs, as sugar scrubs don't burn...), and smells delicious, and the Sakura Body Cream, which is moisturizing and creamy, and has the same delightful scent, but best surprise was the unique Sakura Foaming Shower Gel, as it's really creamy and luscious on the skin, and truly moisturizing, which many shower gels aren't! Rituals has many different collections (check them all out here: https://www.rituals.com/en-us/about-rituals.html), but I wanted to try the Sakura Ritual specifically because I have Very happy memories of seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto with Dan during our Honeymoon, and recapturing a bit of that magical experience seemed like a lovely thing to be able to do... 
The Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto...
The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is world famous, and rightfully so: That springtime awakening of nature in Japan is a glorious but fleeting thing, precious because it is over all too soon, & it symbolizes that beauty is momentary, and that life must be enjoyed... When Dan and I were in Kyoto (for 2 days!) during our Honeymoon in the early spring, we knew that we were too early for the blossoms, and wouldn't get to see them... and so, when we woke up in Kyoto that morning and he called me to the window of our hotel room to see the trees that had just burst into flower, my heart skipped a beat!  Ritual's Sakura Collection is inspired by that tradition, and includes nourishing Organic Rice Milk as well as cherry blossom, and it's truly delightful- and would make a Great gift! Here is the link to the complete Sakura Collection- not only bath products, but other lovely things, including Hair & Body Mist, Shampoo and Conditioner, Shower Oil., Fragrance Sicks, and Candles- and I want them all! :-) And luscious as they are, they are NOT expensive, so I just may be able to get them all, too!  https://www.rituals.com/en-us/collection-story-sakura.html 
Dan and I and the Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto!


The Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto, Japan

  
The Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto, Japan









Saturday, August 31, 2019

EASY, Delish Zucchini Roses! #Kosher #Vegetarian too!




My 5 faithful readers may recall last year's post on making Easy Apple Roses:  https://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2018/09/easy-puff-pastry-apple-roses-for-rosh.html  I made them for Rosh Hashonna (Jewish New Year) last fall, and they were a BIG hit with our Elkhorn Inn & Theatre  dinner guests- you don't have to be Jewish to love Apple Roses! LOL This year I decided to try making Veggie Roses, and the first ones were Puff Pastry Zucchini Roses with Tomato Jam- and they were a big hit, too! Everyone loves pretty food with yummy tastes and textures! I found the recipe I started with on Kosher.com: https://www.kosher.com/recipe/zucchini-roses-recipe-3906  I made a few changes- basically I jazzed up the Tomato Jam with cumin, and a bit of chili powder and cayenne, as well as a good dollop of mixed Italian herbs on top of the fresh oregano- but the biggest change was that I actually made them in the TOASTER OVEN- and it worked great! Hubby Chef Dan is a Chef. He is the Latke King of Landgraff, WV, the Pastrami King, the Smoked Salmon Guy, Brisket Bubba, the Rib Meister, & the Smoked Lamb Chop Maven of McDowell County. But I AM THE TOASTER OVEN QUEEN! And if I can make really great Puff Pastry Zucchini Roses in a Toaster Oven ANYONE can!
Ingredients... 

The first step is to assemble all your ingredients. As I only used one packet of the frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Dough (a box has two packets), I made a 1/2 recipe of the Tomato Jam, and did it largely by eye and to taste, riffing off the recipe on Kosher.com: 

Tomato Jam:

Olive Oil for sauteing 
1 Leek, diced (instead of onion)
1 large bowl of chopped fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes
3 Tblsp. brown sugar
2 Tsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt
2 Tblsp. fresh oregano leaves, chopped
2 Tblsp. Mixed Italian Herbs 
Fresh cracked black pepper 
1 Tsp. Cumin
1/2 Tsp. Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Powder

Colavita Olive Oil, McCormick Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan on medium heat, and saute the chopped leeks (or onions) until they're soft and golden. 
Add the rest of the ingredients, turn up the heat, and bring it to a boil. Then lower the flame to Medium, mash it with a masher, and simmer it for approx 25 minutes, stirring periodically (I like silicone spatulas) so it doesn't burn. I then used a Stick Blender to partially puree it, and added salt, pepper, and the other spices to taste.
When the jam is done, let it cool. It should be a thick and spreadable savory jam. (It's delicious with Hamburgers, too!) 
Sauteeing the chopped leeks...
Frozen Puff Pastry!
Add the other ingredients...












               

Assemble the Roses:

Defrost the frozen Puff Pastry Dough- this will take about 12 hour. 
Grease your porcelain ramekins (little baking cups) or muffin tin with cooking oil spray. 
The next step is to wash the zucchini and slice it paper thin. Use a mandoline or an electric slicer- you need very thin slices to make roses- see my photos for thinness. 

Cook it down and puree into a Jam
Blanch the zucchini slices in a pot of salted, boiling water for two minutes, and then drain and run cold water on them to stop the cooking. (You can also microwave them in a bowl covered with Saran Wrap for about a minute). Lay them out on paper towels to dry.  Unfold the defrosted Puff Pastry Dough and roll it out with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface until it's at least 14" long on the longest side. Cut into 2 1/2" strips.  Spoon the Tomato Jam in the middle of one strip of dough as shown in the photo. 
Tomato Jam...
Puff Pastry Dough cut into 2 1/2" strips
Zucchini slices, arranged so they overlap
A Zucchini Rose, deconstructed...
Place the zucchini slices so they overlap, and so 1/3 of each slice is over the top of the dough - see the photo.  (You should then fold up the bottom of the dough strip over the sauce and the bottoms of the zucchini slices- I forgot to do this. LOL) . 









Rolling the Rose...

A Zucchini Rose...
Then carefully roll up the rose, fairly tightly. 
As you make them, set each one into a greased porcelain ramekin or the muffin tin.
Spray them with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper.

Bake at 350F for approximately 45 minutes, until fully cooked, and the dough is golden brown and nicely done. Make SURE they are done before removing them from the oven. If you see that the zucchini "petal tops" are starting to burn, you can cover them with aluminum foil for the last 10-15 minutes of baking. 
Roses, ready to bake!
You can serve them in the porcelain ramekins, or (and if you've baked them in a muffin tin), remove them, carefully, with a spoon, and set them on a plate.


Zucchini Roses, ready for the oven...
Bake at 350F for approx 45 minutes until done.

A Zucchini Rose!


Four Zucchini Roses!
Everyone LOVES Cute Food, and especially DELICIOUS Cute Food- so anything you make like this is basically guaranteed to be a big hit! 
The next one I am going to try is a Potato Rose with Basil Pesto! 
Have you made any fruit or vegetable roses? Tell me in the comments!




Thursday, January 10, 2019

Adoric Digital Meat Thermometer- 5 stars from a Chef!

I  do not usually write reviews of products online, but I gave this digital meat thermometer by Adoric to my husband (aka Chef Dan) for the holidays, and he loved it- and I gave it 5 Stars!
Chef Dan BBQs, grills, and smokes a lot of meat on our covered grill/smoker and Big Green Egg, and he had been wanting one of these for a Long time! But as most thermometers like this are around $200, we kept putting of getting one... until I found this- at $25 this was a great deal! 
A guy who hates to read directions, LOL, he found it very easy to set up and use; the numbers are large and easily readable, and as they are LCD and “glow”, he can use it outside in the dark- he grills a lot at night- which he did!  The 2 probes make it really easy to use successfully, as you can get the temperature of different parts of the meat- such as a chicken breast and leg- at the same time.
The leads on the probes are long and slim enough that he was able to pass them through the holes on the cover of our smoker/grill, and so he didn't have to close the lid on the leads, which might have damaged them. Monitoring the meat temperature with the use of the probes like that you don't have to open the grill, either- you can keep the grill closed and use the thermometer, and you don't lose heat (or smoke if you are using it as a smoker) by opening the grill!
When you turn on the thermometer, you set it for what you are cooking (i.e. pork, chicken, fish, lamb, ham, turkey, veal, beef), and it tells you the temperature it's supposed to be when it's done, which is Very helpful! As it has turned out, it's truly accurate, and the meats he's made have turned out perfect! 
Check out the photos below showing how he used thisthermometer to make his smoked Beer-Can Chicken!

Here is the link to amazon where you can get your own:  
Adoric Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe for Cooking Smoker Kitchen Oven grilling and BBQ
"Beer-Can Chicken" with the probes, ready to smoke!
As you can see in the photo, the chicken, sitting on its Beer Can, has the two probes inserted in different parts of the chicken:









The smoker, closed and smoking!
Then Chef Dan put the bird in the smoker, pulled the probes through the vent in the smoker, and covered it- he never had to open the smoker to check the temperature and lose heat and smoke!






And here is the fully smoked Beer-Can Chicken- perfectly cooked all the way through, thanks to this great thermometer!
The fully smoked Beer-Can Chicken!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

EASY Puff Pastry Apple Roses for Rosh Hashanna!

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This post is for everyone who thinks they can't make Puff Pastry Apple Roses- If I can do it - and I am not known as "Ms. CraftFail 1959" for nothing- you can do it! I am NOT "crafty", and most of the things I have tried to make based on Pinterest pins and Video Tutorials have turned into Epic #PinterestFail messes. But this one actually worked- and on the first try, too! Puff Pastry Apple Roses seem to be this year's "Hot Desert" for Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year), when it's traditional to eat apples and honey to usher in a sweet new year, and there are at least a dozen recipes, tutorials, and videos on the web showing how to make them, but most are professionally photographed, and, while gorgeous to look at, incredibly intimidating in their perfection! This recipe, on the To Simply Inspire blog, sounded easy and actually do-able: https://www.tosimplyinspire.com/apple-rose-puffed-pastries.html#comment-426815  and it is where I started from...
Ingredients:
  • 1 box of Pillsbury Puff Pastry (Yes, you can make your own puff pastry, but this is for people like me who won't. LOL) The box contains 2 packs of dough. I made 6 roses using one pack. You can make 12 roses at once, or make 6 and keep the other pack in the fridge or freezer.
  • 3 red apples for one pack of dough
  • Lemon Juice
  • Flour to dust your work surface
  • Apricot Preserves
  • Butter for greasing the Muffin Tin or Ramekins
  • Sugar & Cinnamon (aka Cinnamon-Sugar LOL)
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting

Tools: 
  • Sharp Knife, Spoon
  • Rolling Pin
  • Melon-Baller to scoop out the seeds from the apples
  • Mandoline to slice the apples thinly
  • Microwave to gently par-cook the apple slices
  • Muffin Tin or Ramekins
The first thing you do is halve and core the apples- you want red apples, so the edges of your rose petals are red. :-)  I used a "melon-baller" to scoop out the seeds, and then cut the ends off with a knife. Three apples will give you more than enough slices for 6 roses.

The next thing you do is slice the apples very thinly, using a Mandoline. Yes, you can do this with a knife, but unless you have the Knife Skills of an Iron Chef they probably won't be thin and perfect, and for this you want thin and perfect. A cheap plastic Mandoline with a good, sharp blade (be Careful when using it!) is one of The best kitchen tools to have around...

Slice all the apples thinly, and, as you slice them, IMMEDIATELY put them in a bowl with water and a little lemon juice, so they won't turn brown! Toss the apple slices gently in the lemon water to make sure they all get coated.

Microwave the bowl of apples and lemon water for about 5 minutes, tossing them gently in the lemon water every minute or so, until the slices are soft enough to roll. You don't want them mushy, but they have to be soft, or you will not be able to roll them up into roses.



Flour your flat rolling surface and lay your cool (defrosted) Puff Pastry out on it. You need the pastry dough to be cool in order to work with it, so if it starts to get warm and sticky, pop it into the freezer for a few minutes or the fridge.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the Puff Pastry until it's a large, thin rectangle. Cut off any wavy edges so it's straight.
 Cut the Puff Pastry into 6 even strips.
 Spoon the Apricot Preserves on each strip of Puff Pastry.
Drain the apple slices and cut each one in half. 
Place the slices, slightly overlapping them, as shown, all along the edge of the Puff Pastry strip, with the red edges of the apples sticking out a bit over the edge of the pastry.
Fold the Puff Pastry up over the apple slices as shown. 
Starting at one end, quickly roll it up like a jelly roll- and you will have a rose! Don't try to roll it tightly- just roll it gently, but quickly.
A Puff Pastry Rose!

Voila! A Puff Pastry Rose! Isn't that the cutest thing ever? :-)











Immediately put each Rose in a BUTTERED muffin tin, or into porcelain baking ramekins. I found they fit perfectly into our trusty old muffin tin. (If you don't butter the tin or ramekins the pastry may stick, and it will be impossible to get them out).

Cinnamon-Sugar Dusted Roses

Dust each one with cinnamon-sugar:







Bake then for 40-45 minutes in a pre-heated oven. I baked them at 375F for the first 10 minutes, and then at 350F for the last 30 minutes. (Everyone's oven and pans are different, so bear that in mind!)

When done, this is what they looked like!




 Once they are cool, pop them out and put them on plates or in ramekins to serve them. (If you bake them in porcelain ramekins, you can serve them like that, straight from the oven- just sprinkle with powdered sugar and go!)
I heated them in the microwave right before serving, and then sprinkled them with powdered sugar, and we served them with a bit of caramel sauce on the side!

They came out so well, in fact, that we served them as a special treat to our Elkhorn Inn Dinner Guests and they loved them- and wanted the recipe! :-)

I can think of a number of interesting variations you could try with different fruits- and I want to try it with veggies like squash or beets- anything you could slice really thin and get soft enough to roll would probably work- and make savory ones!  Maybe using pesto instead of the preserves???

Have you made these yet? Let me know how they came out in the comments- and if you have a really funny "Fail", let me see that, too!