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I like food. A lot. In this blog, I will divulge all my delicious recipes, giving you a full list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and notes to help you successfully make the dish. Feel free to try these at home, and let me know how it went in the comments for the dish! If you have any questions, I will answer them as quickly as possible. If you use my recipe and discuss it on your site, please link back to this blog. Happy eating!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Independence Day Done Different: Chicken Spring Rolls and Spicy Mushroom Soup

So, the fourth of July was last week (this post would have come sooner had I not spent Friday to Tuesday in New York with family). For foreigners who don't know, this is the day that we have deemed Independence Day, where we celebrate the birth of America as we know it (sort of) by grilling, swimming, and drinking beer.
Richard and I have been doing a lot of the grilling thing this summer, eating many a hot dog and cheeseburger (or more accurately, BISON cheeseburgers) as the result of my friend Nichole coming over for dinner a lot. Usually she wants food and offers to buy stuff, so I try to stick to the easy stuff.
As a result of the frequent grilling, I decided to break the rules of Independence Day and make spring rolls. I teased my Facebook friends with this photograph, taken from my phone after shopping for the meal:

Now, I had never made spring rolls before, so I was a little concerned about using the rice papers in which the innards would be wrapped. As it turns out, the worry was a little premature, as they were fairly easy to manipulate.
Since I had never made spring rolls before, I debated for a long while as to whether I would make crispy (deep fried) rolls, or fresh ones. These each require different techniques to be employed, and I had to make sure I was able to make the best dish possible with my available equipment. So I went with fresh.
Another thing I was concerned with was dipping sauces, which I'll discuss a little later. The short version is I wanted a sauce for the spicy food lovers (i.e. mostly just me) and something sweet for basically everyone else.
That said, let's get down to the nitty gritty:

Fresh Spring Rolls:
Boneless chicken tenders
Green leaf lettuce (Note: I picked up a head from the organic section of my grocery. Keep in mind that it's not iceberg lettuce we're using here -- Green leaf has considerably less water, and generally doesn't come in the neatly packed head of lettuce you find packaged)
Carrots, cut into thin strips
Green onions, chopped
Fresh Cilantro
1 package spring roll wrappers

Cook chicken tenders thoroughly in butter or oil, using salt and pepper to season, to taste. Be careful not to char the outside, but do brown it a little.
When cooked, let chicken rest and cool for five minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut into strips.
Soak spring roll wrapper in water until it becomes pliable. Place on a paper towel to remove excess water.
Place green leaf lettuce on wrapper, add chicken, carrots, onion, and a spring of cilantro on top.
Garnish with sliced fresh cucumber.

Mushroom soup
1 to 1.5 pounds mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
1.5 inches fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
32 oz (4 cups) low sodium vegetable stock
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Ground white pepper
Ground mustard seeds
Butter or oil
Rice noodles

Warm butter or oil, garlic, and ginger in large pot.
Add mushrooms to pot and cook until tender, stirring often.
Add stock and seasoning, to taste.
Bring soup to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Pour soup over rice noodles and serve immediately.

These thin rice noodles work really well -- they cook right when you pour the hot soup on.

Dipping Sauces:
As I mentioned before, I wanted to make dipping sauces for this recipe, so I decided to stay fairly simple. For the sweet sauce, I just watered down a bit of Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar BBQ sauce to a better dipping consistency.
The spicy sauce contained House of Tsang Szechuan Spicy Stir Fry sauce, soy sauce, and white pepper, brought to dipping consistency with just a touch of water. It was really delicious. Just the right amount of hot to go with the milder flavours in the spring rolls.

The whole ensemble looked like this:

Ignore all the clutter on my table!

This meal was super delicious, and perfectly light for the hot summer weather of July 4th. This meal is also one of the healthier ones I've made, with lots of veggies to soothe the palate. Overall, this meal was simple to make, delicious to eat, and a wonderful success for a first shot at spring rolls!

Spring rolls are so diverse, so if you choose to make some, play around with your flavours! Chicken is a great protein, but you can try just about anything, from pork to shrimp to tofu for a vegetarian option! 
My best advice for the spring rolls is to be sure you use some sort of herb in them. I used cilantro, but mint would have been a great choice, too. Consider your protein carefully when paring up flavours for your rolls. 
When I made the soup, I actually added ground ginger to it, because I had a hard time tasting it. Whilst strongly tasting the ginger certainly doesn't have to be a goal for you when making this soup, if you want to, I suggest adding some more of the fresh stuff, or just have ground ginger on hand.
White pepper was great for this soup. It has a sharper, more distinct flavour in my experience, especially when you don't have it often. Experiment with the amount -- you might be surprised at how much of the spice suits your fancy!
With dipping sauces, the sky is the limit. Mine are pretty simple, but you can up the ante for yours if you wish. Try making more complex sauces, or heating yours up to give it more character.

As a final note, For anyone who looked at the initial photo and wondered how limes and heavy cream would figure into this recipe, they don't. I made lime possets for dessert, but didn't actually take a photo this time. You can find my recipe for lime possets here

Thanks for reading! I hope these recipes have inspired you to try something new in the kitchen, or to think about food for holidays a little more differently! As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.
Don't forget to follow this blog to learn about all the delicious things happening in my kitchen!

P.S. Over the holiday weekend, I have obtained a pasta crank! I'm so excited to use it, I can barely think straight. Finally, my dream of making butternut squash ravioli can come true!

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