Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Vietnamese Rolls

We all need our daily dose of veggies, but sometimes salad or steamed broccoli just seems so…boring.  Try making Vietnamese rolls to switch things up in your kitchen! They are colourful and delicious, and you can decide whether you want to make it vegetarian or not. The ingredients can be personalized to incorporate your favourite seasonal veggies.

You will need:

  • 1 package of rice stick vermicelli (cooked according to directions on package)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 12 large rice paper wrappers
  • 36 large shrimp, cooked (omit this if you don’t want shrimp)
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut in thin strips (remove the seeds to keep it crisp longer)
  • 1/2 mango, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 2 tbsp sriracha sauce

Mix all peanut sauce ingredients together and set aside. After the vermicelli has been cooked, toss it with the sesame oil. Next, get the rice paper wrappers and follow the instructions on the package. You will need to soak them in water to soften them before using. Make sure you remove any excess water with a paper towel. If you are adding cooked shrimp, put it on the rice paper first (about 3 per wrap). Lay them out on the bottom third of the paper, horizontally. That way there will be room left to tuck in when you wrap it. Then take some vermicelli and place it on top. Next, add a little of each of the other ingredients, trying to keep them grouped together. Top off with a few pieces of fresh basil. Now is time to wrap the spring rolls. Roll the wrapper over your filling, and then fold both sides over and tightly roll upwards. Keep the rolls packed as tightly as possible. Remember, practice makes perfect. Cut the rolls in half, diagonally to get the most “oohs” and “aahs” from your guests. If you are not serving the rolls right away, cover them with a damp paper towel and store in the fridge. Serve with the spicy peanut sauce.

 

Makes 12 (or 24 half rolls)

Advertisements
Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Stella Artois TIFF Adventure

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Stella Artois saying that they like my blog and want to invite me to a TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) event. I was honoured and very excited, so of course I said yes!

I initially thought I would be attending one screening or party, so you can just imagine my shock when I found out I would in fact be experiencing a three-day extravaganza of VIP activities including screenings, private parties, dinners, a fancy hotel, and so much more. Even better when I found out I was allowed to take my boyfriend with me!

So on Saturday September 10, my boyfriend and I left our simple lives as commoners and entered a new life of glitz and glam at the Park Hyatt in Yorkville (which, for those of you who don’t know is a very fashionable area of Toronto where all the celebrities stay). We opened the door to our room and our jaws dropped. It was totally decked out with Stella/TIFF decor.

We had fleece blankets, pillows, authentic director’s chairs, gift baskets, chalices, and some ice cold Stellas waiting for us. We got to take it all home with us too! Okay, maybe not the Stellas. They didn’t last very long.

We had a private stretch SUV limo waiting for us outside. It was my first time in a limo and I enjoyed every single moment of it. A short while later we arrived at our destination for the night: the Nikki Beach Party at the TIFF Light Box. It was a rooftop party where we were served all the drinks and appetizers we could ever want. We were hanging out under the stars with the stars, holding a drink in one hand and rack of lamb in the other. It was a perfect night.

Me and my sweetheart at the Nikki Beach party. They even had booths set up where you could go to get your hair touched up! Pretty much the best idea ever. Why can’t all places do this?

We got back to our hotel and had a wonderful sleep. The next morning we headed down to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast.

Wakey wakey eggs and…well let’s first start with freshly squeezed orange juice and some biscotti with preserves. My boyfriend had this lovely looking breakfast salad while I had poached eggs, muesli with yogurt and Belgian waffles. Everything was scrumptious.

After our leisurely breakfast, Stella sent us over to Berman & Co, Canada’s largest wardrobe rental company. They have over a million outfits and have dressed people for movies, television shows and commercials. You can find absolutely everything from a lettuce bikini to a 1930s cocktail dress in this massive showroom. Stella organized to have a stylist pick out some 60s-style outfits for us. Once we got fitted, two makeup artists gave me a massive transformation and then a hair stylist finished off by giving me a wonderful hair-do.

It’s hard to explain how I looked, so here’s a before shot of me standing in front of some of the dresses that were used in Anne of Green Gables (!!!):

And this is how my boyfriend and I looked afterwards:
Quite a drastic change, huh? You’d think it ends here, but that was just the beginning. We were lucky enough to have the amazing Steve Carty do a photo shoot with us! This guy has so much talent. He has done shoots for Kanye West, Pharell Williams and Colin Firth to name just a few, so we were really excited to have him do us! The pictures turned out amazingly as expected, and Stella had the best ones printed for us and gave us a lovely photo album to put them in.

When that was all over, we got dressed back into our normal clothes (but I totally kept the hair and makeup) and headed to a gala screening of Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler.


The film was really good. I don’t want to give anything away, but go watch it when it comes out! It is based on a true story of a man who changed his life around and did some amazing things in Sudan.

After the film, the limo took us to the Drake where we had a delicious Asian-inspired dinner and then partied the night away at their special event TIFF party.

We had to wake up super early the next day due to my boyfriend having to go to work and me having to go to school. So what did we do? Order room service, of course.

There is something quite wonderful about having a gourmet breakfast sent up to your lavish room and having someone pour your tea for you while you sit in your plush terry bathrobe reading the daily newspaper. I could most definitely get used to this.

In the evening we went to Earl’s on King to have a farewell dinner with the group. I ordered the cedar planked salmon with seasonal sauce, brown basmati rice and fresh vegetables and was not disappointed.

The gang at Earl’s.

We were too full to eat dessert, so we got into the limo and headed out to Roy Thomson Hall to see the gala screening of The Lady starring Michelle Yeoh with David Thewlis.

What a truly inspiring story. The beautiful and extremely talented Michelle Yeoh played the main character who struggled to bring democracy and freedom to the politically unrest Burma. This film, like Machine Gun Preacher is based on a very true story, and that made me appreciate it even more. I will watch it again once it is out in theatres.

After the amazing film, we headed over to the Festival Music House special event TIFF party at MOD Club. It was lots of fun. We got to see K’Naan do an intimate performance. He’s really good live.

The next morning we packed up our bags and all of our gifts and said goodbye to our luxurious hotel. The experience that we had was something that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Thank you so much to Stella Artois and La Société Stella Artois for choosing me to come along on the adventure of a lifetime.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

If you are lucky enough to have lavender in your garden and don’t want to use it to make soap or potpourri, try making these delightful lavender shortbread cookies. If you don’t have any lavender on hand, it should be easy enough to find some – this recipe is worth it. Serve some of these crumbly shortbread cookies with tea to your guests and they will think you are fancy-shmancy. Bonus points if you can pull off a British accent.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups softened butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lavender, chopped very finely
  • 2 tsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream together the butter and both sugars and then add the lavender, mint and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Add half to the bowl, mix, and add the rest.

Divide your dough into two parts. Roll them into logs and wrap in plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge for 1 or 2 hours. Take them out and place on cutting board. Slice 1/4 inch thick cookies and place on a cookie sheet that has parchment paper on it. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or just until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool. Makes approximately 4 dozen scrumptious cookies.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hamburger Cookies

These are without a doubt the cutest cookies I’ve ever seen or eaten. My Mum used to make them for me to bring to school on my birthday when I was little. My class and I absolutely loved them. Fast forward about 15 years later and I realized that I missed these minty little delights. I called my Mum up and asked her how to make them so that I could enjoy a little walk down memory lane. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 package Mr. Christie’s Nilla (Vanilla Flavoured Wafers)
  • 3 dozen thin mints (I bought 3 packs of Zachary Thin Mints from Dollarama and it was the perfect size and amount)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • green food colouring
  • honey/corn syrup/maple syrup (whatever you have in the house that you can use to stick sesame seeds with)

Mix a few drops of green food colouring with the coconut until it is lettuce-green. Put 36 vanilla wafers on a baking sheet, curved part down. Place a mint patty on each one and sprinkle some of the coconut lettuce on the top of the patty (you can brush a bit of honey on the top of the patty to help with making the coconut stay put if you wish). Now get another vanilla wafer and spread a tiny amount of honey (or whatever else you have) on the top. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the sticky part and place it on top of the patty. Looks adorable, doesn’t it?

Put the hamburger cookies in the oven at a low heat (around 225) for 3 or 4 minutes, watching carefully that they do not start melting. Take them out and gently press on the burgers so the parts stay together. If for whatever reason they do not want to stay together (this is usually because there is too much coconut on it), you can mix up a little batch of icing using icing sugar, a bit of butter, and green food colouring and put a tiny amount on top of the lettuce so that it binds to the top bun.

These cookies can last quite a while, but they usually get eaten so quickly that you won’t have to worry about that.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Cake Pops

I first discovered cake pops at Starbucks and thought they were pretty cute (and delicious). I thought they looked simple enough to make, so I started looking online to see if anyone else has attempted to make them before. I feel like I have been living in a cave or something, because it seems that everyone but me has made these! I was recently in the United States and noticed that cake pops are all the craze there. They haven’t quite caught on here in Canada yet, but something tells me they will very soon. Anyway, enough of the small talk. You probably want to know how to make these guys.

You will need:

  • one cake (get the boxed kind of your choice and follow the baking instructions)
  • icing (I used the store-bought kind)
  • chocolate discs to melt and dip the cake pops into (available in a large variety of colours)
  • lollipop sticks
  • sprinkles, if you wish
  • 1 or 2 styrofoam blocks

Once you’ve made the cake and it’s cool enough to handle, crumble it all up into a large bowl. Start mixing in the icing, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Make sure you don’t put too much in. I made that mistake with my first batch and it didn’t handle well and tasted way too sweet. You will want the consistency of the cake/icing mixture to be similar to play-doh.
Once you’re done with that, take the mixture and roll it into balls. How big you want to make them is a personal preference, but I made mine just a tad bigger than an average meatball. Place the balls onto a tray covered with parchment paper, and place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Tip: the deeper and thinner the bowl, the better. Microwave for 30 seconds, take it out and mix it, and repeat until it’s all melted. Get out all your decorations at this time.
Now take your cake balls out of the freezer. Get a lollipop stick and dip just the tip of it in the melted chocolate. Stick it about halfway into the cake ball. Holding the stick, dip the cake ball into the chocolate until it is all covered. Tap the cake pop on the bowl to get any excess chocolate off. You will get the hang of it after one or two cake pops. If you want to decorate your cake pop, now’s the time. Stand the cake pop on a styrofoam block (you can get these at a craft store or dollar store) as soon as you are done with it and move on to the next one.
Have fun with your cake pops! I have seen so many creative ideas on the net, and the possibilities are endless. These almost look too nice to eat, but you’ll forget about that after your first bite.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Lemon Cranberry Muffins

I am addicted to anything lemon flavoured. I love the smell of lemons, and I absolutely adore the taste of fresh lemons in baking. I came across a recipe for lemon cranberry muffins on allrecipes.com and tweaked it to my liking.

Here is the list of ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup fresh (halved) or dry cranberries

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil and lemon zest. If you are at all like me and feel that there still isn’t enough lemon flavour, go ahead and squeeze some lemon juice in there. I would say a tablespoon or 2 will do the trick. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture  just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries.

Fill 12 paper-lined muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Put them on a wire rack and enjoy the lovely lemon aroma as you wait for them to cool down.

I have tried many different lemon cranberry muffin recipes, and I can honestly tell you that this one is the quickest and easiest of them all. If you are in dire need of lemon cranberry muffins and cannot wait any longer, then hurry up and make these!

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Simple Summer Salad

The title really says it all! I did a random experimentation salad for dinner tonight and it turned out to be a hit. It’s definitely one of those things that has to be made more than once because it’s so damn good. I named it summer salad because as soon as you take the first bite, it makes you feel like you are at a friend’s BBQ on a hot summer evening – even though it’s actually the middle of winter. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

The “simple” in the recipe’s title comes from the short, easy-to-get list of ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 can corn, drained (if you have access to fresh cooked corn on the cob, use that instead!)
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise (use real mayo, not the other stuff)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve in a nice bowl if you feel like it. Delicious, no?

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment