Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinner Tonight: Fresh Homemade Thai Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce

One of my family's favorite treats to get when we go hiking near Hood River, Oregon, is the fresh salad rolls from Lampoei's Thai food cart. So, when I was browsing the aisles at an Asian market a week ago and saw packages of rice paper with a pretty picture of salad rolls on the label, I thought, "I could make those." It is so easy to find good new recipes online. I often read through the first two or three I see that have positive reviews and loosely follow one or more, thus creating my own variation of a recipe. The approximate recipes I used follow the photos of my creation. I plan to stir fry some snow peas from the garden with some red bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, and ginger to go with it. Maybe I'll also put in some chicken or tofu to make a complete meal. This meal would be great for a hot summer day. We are about 10 degrees cooler and 15mph windier than ideal, but we'll have to find a way to enjoy it anyway.

Fresh Thai Salad Rolls

carrots, cut into small matchsticks
cucumber, cut into small matchsticks

rice vermicelli (size XS; I found some from Jiangxi Province in China, where Ellie was born!), cook/soften in hot water, ten rinse, let cool, and chop
mixed salad greens, chopped (I used some from my garden, which has been loving our cool early summer)
cilantro, chopped
scallions (green onions), diced

I tossed the above four ingredients (vermicelli through scallions) with the following light dressing:
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
a little less than 1 Tbs fish sauce
a pinch of brown sugar

rice paper (banh trang; I used medium size, 25cm)

Soak the rice paper in warm water. Put on some of the greens mixture. Layer on some carrots and cukes. Roll up carefully.

Salad Roll prep

Assembling salad roll

Peanut Sauce:
The amounts are approximate, as I wanted it a little thinner so kept adding a little more water, coconut milk, lime juice, and soy sauce to thin it out and get the taste I wanted.

1 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C coconut milk
3 Tbs water
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
hot sauce (I used about 1 tsp chili garlic sauce, because that's what I had; use up to 1Tbs hot sauce of your choosing, depending on how spicy you like it)
1 Tbs fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Put it all in a food processor and puree until smooth.
Add some chopped cilantro just before serving, or as a garnish.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lavender Experiment - Part 2

Last week, I attempted to distill lavender oil from freshly cut lavender (see post from June 6). So, I simmered my lavender in a stockpot for a long time. I checked the water that I collected in my glass mason jar and looked for the coveted essential oil. I held it up to the light. I peered at it from many different angles. I thought that I wouldn't get a lot of oil, but from what I could tell, there was none. Alas. I suppose this process is akin to trying to make maple syrup at home - larger quantities and bigger equipment needed. Hmm... Eric wouldn't mind parking his BMW out on the street so I can set up a proper distillation apparatus in the garage, would he?

All is not lost from my little experiment. The water I collected (aka - hydrosol) has a very strong lavender scent, and can be used for many things. I will try to find some small glass spritzer bottles for using the hydrosol as a room/laundry/calming spray. I have learned a thing or two and may even have another go at it, which is more than I can truly say about many lab experiments I did during all my years as a science student and teacher.

Lavender Hydrosol

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Local Calendar Photo Contest

I love taking pictures of the beautiful places I visit. Luckily, many of these beautiful places are not that far from home. I am very much an amateur photographer and have a simple camera. I think I have taken a few good pictures, though. So, when I saw that my electric cooperative was soliciting photos taken by members for next year's calendar, I decided to enter the following three photos. What have I got to lose, right?

Poplar Farm in Autumn

Lone Juniper

Colorful Resting Spot at Rasmussen Farms

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

Today, I am doing a little experiment. I have been growing lavender in my flower beds for years and have always thought that I would like to do something with it, aside from the occassional dried lavender bouquet. So, as the first buds appeared, I browsed the internet to find out how to distill lavender oil at home. I wanted it to be simple and only use equipment found in my kitchen. So, I'm using my stainless steel cookpot partially filled with water and freshly cut lavender flowers and stems; a wide-mouth mason jar propped up on a mason jar ring to collect the oil and hydrosol; and the pot's staniless steel lid placed upsidedown on the pot so the condensate will drip into the mason jar from the center handle. Then, I'll have to separate the oil and hydrosol. Wonder if it has any chance of working. It's fun to find out!