Sorry I have been a bit MIA, I just returned from my second trip up to the beautiful Muskoka region of northern Ontario for an annual girls' weekend with my sisters-in-law and a bunch of other really great women! It is just a chance to get some time away from husbands/children/work/etc, lay on the dock and get some sun, sit by a bonfire, wear cowboy hats for several days straight and eat and drink entirely too much.
The weather failed us a little bit this year with one day of rain, but I still managed to get a wicked sunburn on my arm and the opportunity to severely question the capacity of my liver (gosh, you all must think all I do is sit around and drink!). Quite a few of the photos are not exactly blog-appropriate, but here are a couple:
What a view from the dock!
The ladies, doing our best Family Feud pose
My "cottage and camping" socks by the bonfire on our last night at the cottage, after a crazy kitchen dance party
The tradition has typically been that each cottage-goer gets assigned a day and a meal to prepare for the group so that no one is stuck in the kitchen for the entire weekend. This time around we decided we should just do our favourite snacks and appetizers to avoid having an excess amount of food leftover after each meal. Turns out we had even more leftovers than usual, but everything was delicious so no harm, no foul.
I decided to make celebration dip (because I always make celebration dip), margarita cupcakes and the spring rolls pictured at the top of this entry, which are the product of my mom's recipe and freeze exceptionally well so they can be made in advance.
I recruited my mom's help the day before heading up north and we made a giant batch, some for the weekend and some for the freezer. The wrappers we prefer come in packs of 50, so it's generally more practical to take an afternoon and make a large quantity all at once, freezing what is not needed, rather than letting the wrappers go to waste (it's not recommended that you refreeze ones that you don't use). As such, the recipe I am going to share with you makes a whopping 50-60 spring rolls, so you can obviously cut the recipe down should you so desire.
Vegetable Spring Rolls
5 large carrots, finely diced
6 celery ribs, finely diced
2 1/2 to 3 cups mushrooms, finely diced
1/4 cup green onions (white part only) thinly sliced cross-wise
12 cups finely shredded green cabbage
salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste
pinch of sugar for the cabbage
vegetable oil for frying (or, alternatively, for brushing the rolls before baking)
1 tablespoon of corn starch dissolved about an 1/4 cup of warm water (to serve as adhesive)
1 pack of spring roll wrappers (I use Spring Home TYJ pastry).
1) In a hot wok with a little bit of oil, stir fry the carrots and celery with a splash of soy sauce. Add the onions and mushrooms and continue stir frying until tender and the mushrooms begin to exude their juices. Place into a separate bowl and keep covered.
2) Add a little bit more oil to your wok and add the cabbage, sugar, salt, pepper and another splash of soy sauce and stir fry until tender but still crisp. If it seems a bit dry, add a splash of water. When the cabbage is tender-crisp, add the other vegetables back to the wok. Cook the vegetables together and test the seasonings/soy sauce, adding more if necessary. Remove from heat and cover. Let the vegetable mixture stand for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) While you are letting the vegetable sit, you can prepare your wrappers. Open the package and separate each of the sheets and arrange them on a plate so they are easily accessible to you. Once they are all separated, cover them with a damp cloth so that they do not dry out.
4) To roll: Place a wrapper on a plate in front of you. Spoon approximately 1 tbsp of the vegetable mixture into the lefthand corner of the pastry. Fold the corner over and gently tuck it in under the mixture. Then fold in the ends and roll into a log, dabbing the final exposed piece of pastry with a bit of of the corn starch mixture before sealing it up. Place seam-side down on a plate to await frying or baking. (Note: there are many ways to roll a spring roll. This site offers a somewhat different approach, but also has extensive instructions).
5) To fry: In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat about 1/2" of the vegetable oil. Once heated, place the spring rolls in seam-side down and allow to brown, keeping a close eye so that they don't burn (approximately 3-5 minutes), before flipping. When spring rolls are golden-brown shake off excess oil and place on a cooling rack.
6) To bake: Preheat oven to 375F. Brush the spring rolls with oil before placing on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until golden-brown (approximately 20-25 minutes), flipping once halfway through baking time.
The spring rolls were delicious and a big hit, and the good news is I still have a freezer-full just waiting for a night where I have to work late or don't feel like making dinner. And really, the vegetables used are entirely up to you - I think they would also be great stuffed with bean sprouts, bell peppers, bok choy, or even asparagus! Mix it up to your heart's content.
And before I go, on Saturday we took the boat out to the small town of Dorset and had lunch at a restaurant there. Low and behold, even the tiniest towns in northern Ontario have vegan options - and not just a side of fries and a garden salad. Look at this amazing bronzed chipotle tofu salad that I got!
I can't wait until next year!