Asian Food Craving: Filipino Spring Roll Recipe

If there's one thing we can't resist when dining out in an Asian restaurant, it's those crispy and delicious spring rolls. Even our little picky eater has a soft spot for this Asian dish, which is why we tend to fix it at home and put our own little spin to it. It's almost expected that Ariana is bound to soon develop a taste for good Asian cooking, especially when her American dad can fix Filipino dishes like he was born to cook them? Brian, undeniably the better cook in this family, tries to follow the traditional way of cooking Filipino spring rolls, also called lumpia, but is by no means afraid to add his own flair to it, turning a lowly spring roll into what he'd call lumpia ala Brian.

What I love about this dish is that, while it could get initially a bit time-consuming to prepare as we would have to cut vegetables into small bits and later wrap the ground meat and veggie mixture in a spring roll wrapper, it can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a later meal. Thus, when we fix this dish, we always have several ready-made rolls that are simply a deep-fry away from another meal. Plus, in our household where dinnertime can easily creep up after working on Ariana's school assignment, a pre-made dish is always a good idea! PHOTOGRAPHY BY REALTOR BRIAN JOHNSON

Crispy spring rolls make for a delicious main dish or a delightful appetizer.

Crispy spring rolls make for a delicious main dish or a delightful appetizer.

How do fix your own spring roll at home? Start by getting all the needed ingredients:

2 cups of oil

1/2 lb. ground beef

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 tsp. ginger (optional, we just love adding ginger to our dishes!)

1/4 cup minced carrots

1/2 cup cabbage

a dash of chili powder

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. sesame oil (optional)

1 tbsp. sake (optional)

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. black pepper

lumpia or spring roll wrappers (find it in your local Asian grocery store)

Ground beef mixed with vegetables are a great combo for a spring roll filling.

Ground beef mixed with vegetables are a great combo for a spring roll filling.

  1. On high heat, pour one tablespoon of olive or coconut oil on a large wok. Stir in ground beef until fully cooked, set aside. On the same wok, cook garlic and onion until golden brown. Add ginger, carrots, cabbage and cooked ground beef.
  2. In a bowl, mix your seasoning. Blend soy sauce, pepper, chili powder, sesame oil, sake, garlic powder and brown sugar. You can always tone down the sweetness by adding less sugar if you prefer a saltier flavor. Add the seasoning to the filling and stir well to blend all the flavors.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. Place the spring roll wrapper diagonally on a flat surface. Place the filling in the upper center of each of the wrapper, leaving an inch space at both ends. Fold the sides, tuck in both ends and roll from the top. Keep the roll tight as you assemble. Moisten the other side of the wrapper with water to seal the edge. 
  5. Heat oil over medium heat. To test if oil is hot enough, slightly dip the corner of the roll and see if oil starts to sizzle. Fry the rolls for one to two minutes, until all sides are golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Best when served with a cup of rice and a side of dipping sauce, like soy sauce, plum sauce or ketchup.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Early Birds

Ah, breakfast. For someone who's not a morning person, I eat breakfast like it's going to go out of style. In fact, the sight of me heating up leftover ribs or pasta chicken Florentine at 8 in the morning in the office breakroom often horrifies "breakfast purists" (you probably know one, the "eggs, bacon and biscuits only, please!" types of eaters).

In fact, while sharing a water cooler conversation with an officemate who admits to have no love for breakfast, I was once asked: "What type of dinner did you bring for breakfast this time around?" Leftover Mexican, of course!

But what if leftover is not an option? Well, in between prepping Ariana for school and braving the long queue of school drop-off, fixing a healthy breakfast can sometimes be tricky. But there are a few alternatives perfect for early birds (and night owls) who would never skip a good and healthy breakfast (or brunch).

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Southern-Style Bagel

Ingredients:

Butter (use coconut oil as a healthier alternative)

1/4 organic brown sugar

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

4 Granny Smith apples (cored, peeled and sliced)

Bagel

Cream cheese

Instructions:

1. Melt butter or pour coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 

2. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.

3. Cook apples until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Toast the bagel and then spread cream cheese.

5. Top the bagel with fried apples. Serve warm. Pair with a cup of morning coffee.


Cinnamon-Sprinkled Amaranth Oatmeal

If you are burned-out of sugar-loaded cereal, consider something different: amaranth oatmeal. If you're familiar with quinoa (often used in salads), you've likely already heard of amaranth seeds. A staple in Aztec diet, amaranth is considered a "super seed" because it contains anti-inflammatory peptides, antioxidants known to help fight cancer as well as fiber and phytonutrients to help lower blood pressure.

There are multiple pieces of research that support the health benefits of this gluten-free seed, including a study by researchers in Peru that indicates how amaranth is a valuable source of protein and good fat for children. Amaranth is also high in lysine, which helps the body absorb calcium better, a mineral highly needed by growing children.

To properly prepare your amaranth oatmeal, be sure to soak the seeds overnight to help aid in digestion. When cooked, amaranth has an earthy and nutty aroma and flavor. I personally had difficulty getting past the earthy aroma at first, but adding a sprinkle of honey and cinnamon helped tone it down.   

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Ingredients:

1 cup amaranth

2½ cups water

½ cup to 1 cup soy milk (depending on desired consistency)

Cinnamon

Honey

Raisins, blueberries or blackberries or any healthy topping

Instructions:

1. Add amaranth and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and partially cover.

2. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 30 minutes or until water is absorbed.

3. In a bowl, mix amaranth with organic soy milk until desired consistency.

4. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sweeten with honey.

5. Top with your choice of healthy topping, like raisins, blackberries or nuts.

Fall-Perfect Recipe: Butternut Squash with Honey Cashew Nuts Soup

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At mi casa, Daddy is the king of the kitchen. He loves to experiment with new rubs, flavors and recipes that, I honestly believe, he was a five-star chef in his past life. He takes cooking seriously (too seriously at times!) that he measures his ingredients with precision and cooks his meat with a hawk-eye focus on the cooking temperature. 

Mommy, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Not that I don't try, I just have a natural way of overcooking meat or getting flavors either too bland or too salty. Part of my problem is that I don't follow rules too well and tend to put my own spin to proven-and-tested recipes, eyeballing ingredients instead of measuring and taking the liberty to replace ingredients when they are not readily available in the pantry.

Thankfully, because Daddy is a good cook, Ariana and I often get spoiled of home cooking that uses fresh and real ingredients. With butternut squash in season for fall, Daddy's butternut squash soup recipe offers a delicious seasonal flavor but with a little bit of Asian twist as it also has a curry flavor and a bit of sweetness, mostly from grounded honey cashew nuts.

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Large Butternut Squash

2 Tsp Coriander

1 Clove Garlic

1 Small Ginger

1 Large Finely Chopped Onion

1 Cup Coconut Milk

5 Cups of Chicken Stock

1 Tsp Curry Powder

Ground black pepper

Salt

1 Tsp Turmeric

1 Cup of Roasted Honey Cashew Nuts 

STEP 1

Heat up the olive oil in a stockpot. Stir in onions and add cashew nuts, stirring until cashew nuts are browned and onions are translucent. Toss in garlic into mix, and then add squash, ginger, turmeric, coriander, curry powder and chicken stock. Season the broth with salt and pepper, and bring the stock to a simmer. 

STEP 2

Once the broth is simmered, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot to allow the soup to cook further until squash is tender. Generally, you'd need about 20 to 25 minutes to get the squash tender. Set aside the soup and let it cool.

STEP 3

Once the soup is no longer hot, puree in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add coconut milk. Cook over low heat with the pot cover on for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the soup gets into a thick consistency. If it's too thick to your liking, thin it out by adding more broth or coconut milk.

This soup truly evokes the scents and flavors of autumn, and is just the right prescription to a cool fall day. Do you have a fall dish that you love fixing for the season? Share your recipes with us.