Monday, May 26, 2014

Honey-Lime Spring Rolls

These vegetable spring rolls are perfectly light & fresh for lunch, dinner or a fun appetizer!  They are a great way to enjoy salad by adding a bit of novelty and bite size manageability by rolling the vegetables into rice paper wraps.  It’s also easy to make once you’re used to working with the wrappers.   Lately, radishes have been finding their way into our kitchen and we really enjoyed incorporating their spicy crunch into this recipe.  Of course, spring rolls are good on their own, but the fresh crunch of the spring rolls pairs nicely with our homemade honey-lime vinaigrette.  

SpringRoll

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Salad
  • 3 Romaine Lettuce leaves;  chopped
  • 1 Carrot;  julienned
  • 3 radishes;  sliced
  • 3 inches of English Cucumber;  julienned
  • 1/2 Avocado;  sliced
  • Parsley;  finely chopped
  • Rice Paper Wraps
  • Salt and Pepper

Vibaigrette
  • 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Lime;  juiced

Preparations:
  • Wash and clean all fresh produce.
  • Thinly julienne all radishes, the English cucumber and the carrot.
  • Shred the lettuce leaves and spring onions into a thin chiffonade. 
  • Finely chop the parsley and then mix all produce into a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Working with one wrap at a time, soak the rice paper in warm water for 5 seconds or until pliable.
  • Lay out onto a dry cutting board or work surface and a place small amount of the mixture onto one side of the rice paper wrapper.  Core and thinly slice the avocado.  Then, arrange 2-3 slices of avocado on top of the salad.  Fold the smaller edge over until all the ingredients are covered.  At this point, we prefer to also fold in the ends of the wrap to keep the salad from slipping out.
  • Finally, roll up the rest of the rice paper as tightly as possible without tearing. 
  • To prepare the dipping sauce of this recipe, simply combine soy sauce, red wine vinegar, honey, coconut oil and lime juice.  Depending on you ingredients, you may have to adjust the ratio of acidity by adding a little bit more honey or vinegar.
  • Slice the wraps in half on a small bias, plate and enjoy. 
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        Nina & Spencer

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Edit: A Passion for Purple?

Not anymore!  Quite a few years ago, anyone who knows me would tell you “this girl loves purple, it’s her favorite color.”  And surely it was!  I was attracted to all things purple since basically kindergarten and I’d like to belief I’ve grown past that and matured a bit.  Over the last few years, I’ve grown to love the simplicity and the clean aesthetics of white.  I’m trying to make white happen, but like I mentioned in my minimalism post, I am trying, but I’m not good at minimalism.  Most things turn out much busier then I like or intend them to be. 

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But back to the purple discussion. 
Sometime last winter, I mentioned to my husband that the most fashionable color for 2014 was going to be some sort of lavender purple (radiant orchid) and that he wouldn’t find me partaking in this trend.  And then I thought about it for a minute and realized I had already stocked up on pastel purple nail-polishes and I even purchased a lavender cream sundress.  Ha! 

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(Note the purple dress, purple phone case and purple charms on my bracelet.  Ha-ha.  Besides the obvious excess of purple, it also WASN’T my intention to match outdoor greenery.)

Rummaging through my closet, I was shocked to find quite a few remnants of my purple loving craze.  I think I'm okay with it.  I still love purple.  I’d still wear it on occasion.  I always said purple is my snow-white color as it makes my skin paler (in a good, ivory kind of way) and my brown hair darker.  Also, now that it's Spring, almost summertime, there are purple flowers everywhere—and they are beautiful:  Purple tulips, purple pansies and recently, massively large purple onion plants (allium). 

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I like them too. 
I guess I don’t mind that purple is so mainstream popular this year.  However, this does NOT mean I’m going to get decked out in all purple again, or that I would dye my locks lavender to join the unicorn hair trend.  I’m sure you have seen girls (and boys) with pastel purple, blue or pink hair this year or even as early as last summer.  No worries, this is not going to happen :) 
HappySunday♡ Nina

Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring Dumplings

Oh, MY, GOOD!  For this weeks recipe, we’re making pan-fried vegetable and ginger dumplings.  I didn’t think I could get so excited about ginger, or about dumplings, but I am.  My husband really wanted to make dumplings and I was less then impressed with his dinner suggestion.  That is, until I tasted these. 
The following recipe is entirely my husbands creation since I didn’t help much.  All I could think of were the restaurant style mushy lumps of steamed dumplings with questionable veggie filling.  I envisioned deep fried or seared bits swimming in soy sauce and I thought I could happily do without this meal.  I suppose, I never tried homemade dumplings because the ones my husband cheffed up  were amazing.  They retained all the wonderful fresh flavors of the vegetables.  Since this first happy try, I have obviously been converted and dumplings have been made several times since. 
I hope you find this recipe interesting and maybe you have the chance to make and enjoy these dumplings as much as we do!  Please feel free to let me know in the comments if you made a batch of your own.  I would love to hear what you think.

Dumplings
Dumpling
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms;  chopped
  • 1/2 cup thin Green Asparagus
  • 1/2 cup Snap Peas
  • 2 cups Savoy Cabbage
  • 1 tsp. fresh Ginger
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Coconut Cooking Oil
  • fresh Rosemary & Thyme;  finely minced 
  • fresh Vegan Wonton Wrappers
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste
  • Soy Sauce

Preparations:
  • The first step in this recipe is to rough chop mushrooms, cabbage, snap peas and asparagus tips.  Also, finely mince rosemary and thyme.
  • Next, peel and finely mince the ginger.  Only a small amount of the ginger is needed because it is quite potent and a little goes a long way.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium sauté pan and then add the vegetables in the following order:  ginger, mushrooms, asparagus, peas and then cabbage.  Make sure to brown the mushrooms before proceeding on to the other vegetables.
  • After adding the cabbage, add two Tbsp. of water and herbs.  Cover the pan and let the mixture simmer on low heat until the cabbage has wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Set out your wonton wrappers on a large cutting board or clean dry counter.  This recipe will make about 12 dumplings.
  • Time to construct the dumplings.  Spoon a small amount of the mixture onto each wonton wrapper.  Lightly wet one edge, fold and pinch the edges together.  Crimp the pinched edge with a fork.  You could try folding your wonton wrappers in many different ways, but this is the one we enjoy.
  • Clean the sauté pan and then heat 2 Tbsp. of oil on medium heat.  Brown wontons on both sides and then set on paper towels to absorb excess oils.
  • Plate with some soy sauce.  Enjoy!

SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer


Tabbouleh 
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Edit: A Rough Start Into May

I don’t know which fool first said that you can or should pull yourself up by your own boot-straps, but sometimes that’s exactly how managing my asthma feels like.  I am the only one who can help myself even though I might not be physically capable to take any action.  It’s more then just a matter of perseverance, of keeping my head low and continuing through an unpleasant situation until it’s over.  Also, when I’m in the moment struggling to do something as basic as breathing, fearing for my life, I wouldn’t say I’m the most rational person.  This is why I’m trying to write about my allergic asthma only when I’m on the upswing of things and I can for sure see that it’s all going to be okay in the end.  This may sound immensely dramatic and I don’t like it to be that way.  Sadly, it has been one hell of a year so far :(

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Tulips
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In the beginning of the year, I was trying to find the right job and quitting many of them due to my allergies.  As a result, my lung function was at an all time low.

Then, with a new job and in the process of recovering from the asthma attacks and the lingering inflammation, our car broke down and it was at the mechanic’s garage for almost three weeks.  I found myself going from struggling to walk a mile without triggering my asthma to riding my bicycle to work in the snow.  I was begging my husband to ride with me, but our schedules never quite matched.  When he did, he was shocked to see how badly I was doing on the commute.  As soon as we started riding, my asthma was instantly triggered and I was in a cold sweat and coughing the whole way.  Sadly, this was already an improvement from the previous week when I found myself throwing up by the side of the road from coughing so much.  But what was I supposed to do?  Quit my job?  I only worked this position for about two weeks.  Call in sick?  Or, risk taking the bus when I know people do take their pets on public transportation?  The good news is, the darn car eventually got fixed and I learned to manage my 30-40 minute bicycle ride to work.  It also stopped snowing on the commute which helped tremendously to boost my moral.

Then, in the very beginning of May, I had a massive asthma attack at work.  It was a Monday morning and the family I nanny for just got back from a camping trip with friends who brought their dogs.  I was unaware of this and the day turned into a nightmare!  I left early and requested the following day off.

On the very same day, my husband learned that our apartment complex didn’t just change ownership, but that also, in a stealth mission, the pet policy changed.  Without informing the current residents, new renters now have the option to live here with their dogs.
I was hysterical!
We instantly had to start searching for a new home in which I could feel safe.  The search was frantic, but eventually successful.  Now we can’t move into our new place until the first of June and we are obligated to keep and pay for our current apartment for the next 30 days.  There are no laws to protect people with allergies, no matter how life-threatening their condition may be.  What do you guys think of that?  For me, it’s unnerving to see dogs walk into the building with their owners knowing I have to walk the same hallways as they do. 

At this point, we’ve made it more then halfway through May, I'm recovering from being sick and I weaned myself off of daytime medication.  This was important to me because functioning on asthma and allergy medication is no walk in the park.  One day, I was trying to make sense of and count all the factors that made me sick yet again even though I was on medication, when my husband remarked: “…you most certainly had your third exposure, you were just to medicated and caffeinated to experience it.”  This scared me.  I was too much in a fog to experience things that were happening to me?  What else am I not experiencing?  What else am I missing out on?  Also, I keep taking the car to work because I’m still unfit to ride the bike and I still can’t kick the nightly asthma scare between 3 and 4 in the morning.  The early morning hours is the time when anyone’s lung function is lowest and it’s a tough time for asthmatic like myself because even ambient allergens trigger an asthma attack while the person is sleeping. 

On my personal Facebook page, I mentioned how troubling our current situation is to my physical and spiritual well being. 

One of my friends commented, I might want to start by being grateful for the loving relationship I have with my husband.  I don’t know how kind or callused this remark was intended to be, but it felt off.  I'm really grateful for my husband and the sweet relationship we have.  I couldn’t ask for anything better.  We work together to fight the struggles that seem to come at us, but I’m fearing, how much it is we can handle until our relationship will also turn bitter.

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Despite so many unfavorable circumstances and health struggles, I try to live my life with positive energy and I actively search out things that could make my day a bit better.  I plan fun things to do in advance, so no matter how miserable my day, or my week has been, I get to feel a little less like a decomposing vegetable—I might be sick and walk through life like a zombie, but at least I got to experience something fun, look at something beautiful and get some type of interesting human interaction.  This way, I don’t just get to be sick and miserable and helpless and fear I don’t get to live my life to it’s fullest potential.  I convince myself I’m trying as best I can and I just have to keep pulling hard on those boot-straps.  Frustratingly, from the outside, this just looks like I'm jumping from one fun and picture perfect situation into the next.  Oh well.  While we're at it, let’s look at some more of those pretty pictures…

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Can you see how we got photo bombed?  Someone is peeking at us through the tulips :)

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Yes, we’re trying to have fun despite it all.  I'm hopeful that the coming weeks and months are going to be so much better.  Also, as you might have guessed by seeing me without arctic gear and in a sundress—it's finally feeling like summer.   We had 80 degrees all week and I couldn't be happier.
HappySunday♡ Nina

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Honey-Roasted Müesli

Today, we are making a homemade Müesli!  How very, very German of me!  Müesli is a simple breakfast dish made with rolled oats, a mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  As a child, I especially liked the kind with chocolate shavings in it.  Of course, I could walk into the health food section of any good supermarket or head to the German Delicatessen store and purchase a pretty decent looking but overprized pack of Müesli.  On the other hand, it’s much more economical to make my own and this way I will have the opportunity to choose exactly what I like. 
Muesli
For this batch, I went for gluten-free rolled oats, dried cherries and golden yellow raisins, sunflower seeds and sprouted quinoa, slivered almonds and ribboned coconut shavings.   I also glazed everything but the raisins and cherries with the brown sugar before giving it a toasting in the oven.
Müesli
  • organic gluten-free Rolled Oats
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted Sunflower Seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. Quinoa;  sprouted
  • 3 Tbsp. slivered Almonds
  • 3 Tbsp. ribboned Coconut Shavings
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
  • 4 Tbsp. dried Cherries
  • 3 Tbsp. golden Yellow Raisins
  • Salt;  to taste
Preparations:
  • Prepare the quinoa (or do without it).  It’s important to rinse the quinoa several times before soaking and sprouting it to remove impurities and to make the grain less cloudy.  For best result, sprout the quinoa in cold water overnight or a couple of hours before mixing up this recipe.  Alternatively, you could cook the quinoa for a few minutes.  I just prefer sprouting it to gain all its nutrients.  The quinoa is awesome in this Müesli, it’s nutty flavor really shines and compliments the other ingredients, especially the dried fruit.
  • Combine the oats, nuts and seeds into a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix the brown sugar with two or three tablespoon of water and you may have to warm it before mixing it with maple syrup.
  • Poor the sugar mix over the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is evenly coated.
  • Spread the mixture on a sheet pan (line the pan with parchment paper for a mess-free version) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly brown.  I recommend stirring the mix every 10 minutes to give an even toasting.
  • Remove from the oven and let it sit out to cool.
  • Finally, mix in the raisins and dried cherries before storing the Müesli away or having a cup of it right away.
  • There are several ways to have Müesli.  I don’t mind having it with just a little unsweetened coconut milk and maybe a little fruit because I really like the chewy texture.   On other days, I like to let it soak a bit to soften the oats.  I also like the Müesli cooked as you would oatmeal which makes for a nice hot breakfast. 
SignatureEnd
         Nina & Spencer

oatmeal5
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Monday, May 5, 2014

Sprouted Tabbouleh Salad

This recipe is a raw salad, with sprouted ingredients, it’s vegan, gluten-free and best of all, you will need quite a few bouquets of fresh herbs.  I love preparing dishes with a lot of fresh and aromatic herbs.  Sadly herbs are only once in a while the central focus of a recipe, but most often, they are just a last-minute addition or a finishing step.  This is why I'm so excited about Tabbouleh because it is basically a chopped herb salad.  And don’t worry, purchasing bunches of herbs is actually quite inexpensive and if you’re lucky enough to have an herb garden, you will love this recipe even more. 

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a well known signature Lebanese salad or side dish.  It’s really refreshing because it’s made with finely chopped parsley and mint, bulgur wheat, tomato, cucumber, onion and fresh lemon juice.  Our recipe is not an authentic version of Tabbouleh, but the flavors are still very close to Tabbouleh salads we had at Lebanese restaurants.   This recipe substitutes sprouted quinoa for cooked bulgur wheat in order to make this recipe gluten-free and raw.  We also substituted a mix of freshly grown sprouts and chopped scallions for the onion and garlic the traditional recipe calls for.  I chose to make these substitution because I suffer an adverse reaction when consuming meals with onions or garlic, but I still wanted to preserve the flavor and bite the onions adds to the Tabbouleh.   I urge anyone to give this alternative version a try because it really showcases all the fragrances and flavors of the beautiful herbs in it that could so often get lost when mixed with a lot of onion.

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Tabbouleh1

Now, let’s grab a large bowl and start chopping and mixing up this salad!

Tabbouleh
  • 2 bunches of fresh Flat-Leaf or Curly Parsley;  very finely chopped
  • 1 large Tomato;  diced into small cubes
  • 3 stalks of fresh Mint;  very finely shopped
  • 1/2 English Cucumber;  diced into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh Sprouts
  • 3 Tbsp. Quinoa (you could also use Bulgur wheat)
  • 1/2 Lemon;  juiced
  • 1/2 cup Pine Nuts;  toasted
  • Salt and Pepper;  to taste
Preparations:
  • Thoroughly wash and clean all the vegetables in cold water.  It is also important to rinse the quinoa several times before soaking and sprouting it to remove impurities and to make the grain less cloudy.  For best result, sprout the quinoa in cold water overnight or a couple of hours before preparing this salad.  For this recipe, we are only using three tablespoon of the gain, because the the amount of quinoa generally swells three times in size.
  • Heat a frying pan with no oil or butter and then toast the pine nuts for only a few minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, but don’t remove the nuts from the pan just yet.  While you busy yourself chopping the rest of the ingredients, the residual heat in the pan will work its magic on our little pine nuts and give their underside a gentle browning we’re looking for.  The correct toasting of the pine nuts will add a tremendous amount of flavor and texture to the Tabbouleh.
  • Finely chop the parsley, the mint and the other vegetables according to the recommendations above.
  • Combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, squeeze the fresh lemon juice over it and season the dish with salt and pepper.  There are many variations on this recipe and some call for a lot more lemon juice in order to balance the acids correctly.  This all depends on the season and the freshness of your produce.  We found, if you add ripe, juicy tomatoes and cucumber, the juice of 1/2 a lemon is sufficient.  Please feel free to add more lemon juice if you like, but remember you can always add, but you can never take away.
  • Also, please feel free to chop up some bell pepper or radish and add them to the salad.
  • We love serving Tabbouleh in a large bowl and spoon it on romaine lettuce leaves with a little hummus.  This makes such crunchy lettuce burritos and it’s really good!  I love having it as a salad, or eat it like salsa with chips.  Leftovers of this salad makes a wonderful side or topping for a variety of savory breakfast and lunch dishes.
  • Enjoy!
SignatureEnd
        Nina & Spencer
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