Veggie Spring Rolls with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Spring rolls are as delicious and nutritious as they are beautiful. I love the transparency of rice paper, as it allows you to see the ingredients inside. Thus, I chose the ingredients for these veggie spring rolls carefully, ensuring that every color of the rainbow was present. Shout out to my CSA turnips and red leaf lettuce for enhancing this dish!

Prior to this, I had never worked with rice paper. It proved to be tricky at first; however, several YouTube tutorials and three wasted rice paper wraps later, I got the hang of it. Once you learn to work gently and slowly, working with rice paper is a breeze.

These delectable spring rolls are crisp, light, and brought to life by the spicy peanut sauce. They’ll make for an impressive appetizer at your next party. Another option is to make an Asian-inspired dinner for four and serve two spring rolls per person as a side dish. 

Note: This recipe yields 8 spring rolls and just enough sauce to get you through eating them. You will have leftover pickled turnips and pickled onion; however, it will be easy to put those ingredients to use in salads, on tacos, and in rice bowls, to name a few options.

Part 1: Turmeric-Pickled Turnips

What you’ll need:

  • 4 medium-sized turnips
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered turmeric

What you’ll do:

  • Using a mandolin, slice the turnips into matchstick-sized pieces; transfer to a pint-sized mason jar
  • Bring the water, rice wine vinegar, and turmeric to a boil; cover the turnips with the liquid
  • Cover with a lid and chill in the refrigerator overnight

Part 2: Sweet-Pickled Red Onion

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup pure cane sugar

What you’ll do:

  • Slice the red onion into long strips; transfer to a quart-sized mason jar
  • Bring the water, rice wine vinegar, and sugar to a boil; cover the onion with the liquid
  • Cover with a lid and chill in the refrigerator overnight

Part 3: Spicy Peanut Sauce

What you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 1 tbsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. minced ginger
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • Crushed red pepper

What you’ll do:

  • Combine all ingredients, minus the crushed red pepper, in a food processor; blend until just combined
  • Spoon into a small serving bowl and garnish with desired amount of crushed red pepper

Part 4: Veggie Spring Rolls

What you’ll need:

  • 8 rice paper wraps
  • A shallow, yet wide bowl filled with warm filtered water
  • 1 small head of red leaf lettuce, divided into single leaves
  • 1/3 cup edamame
  • 1/2 cup turmeric-pickled turnips (recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup sweet-pickled red onion (recipe above)
  • 2/3 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, cut into long, thin slices
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds

What you’ll do:

  • One spring roll at a time, place a rice paper wrap into the bowl of water for no longer than 5 seconds
  • Transfer the wrap to your work surface and allow it to slowly absorb the water for approximately 1 minute
  • As pictured below, place litte bits of each ingredient onto the center of the wrap
  • Roll the bottom portion of the wrap upward, roll the side portions of the wrap inward, and, finally, roll upward, ensuring that all ingredients are within the wrap
  • Repeat the previous steps until all ingredients have been used
  • Slice the spring rolls in half, if desired, and serve with spicy peanut sauce (recipe above)

Shaved Asparagus and Asiago Salad

I’ve been seeing shaved asparagus more and more lately, and until I did a quick Google search, my mind was blown as to how it was done. A peeler, duh! Once I received a beauteous bunch of asparagus with my first CSA pickup of the season (yay!), I knew that making something with shaved asparagus was bound to happen.

The salad that ended up happening was simple, yet delicious, and the fact that it was thrown together in roughly 10 minutes is an added bonus. Prior to this, I had only eaten cooked asparagus. Although I love it oven-roasted, I must admit that I love it even more raw. The subtle crunch, lemony flavor, and creaminess from the asiago make for a delightful combination.

My shaved asparagus and asiago salad will be the perfect addition to summer barbecues. Next time I incorporate shaved asparagus into a meal, however, I’m thinking it will be in the form of a flatbread. Until then, enjoy!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp. EVOO
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Desired amount of asiago, shaved

What you’ll do:

  • Using a peeler, shave each piece of asparagus into long, thin slices and add to a medium mixing bowl
  • Add the EVOO, lemon juice, pepper, and salt; gently combine
  • Arrange on a serving plate; top with the shaved Asiago and additional cracked black pepper, if desired

Chanticleer Garden

Yesterday, I had a wonderful Sunday with my mom and brother. We started the day off at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA. It was my first time visiting, and it quickly became no wonder that it’s touted as one of the loveliest gardens in the world. After a yummy picnic on the estate lawn, we aimlessly walked around the garden’s 28 acres.

After spending almost five hours at Chanticleer, we worked up an appetite and headed to nearby From the Boot for delicious Italian food. The fresh-cut gnocchi was easily my favorite item that we tried.

Lastly, we ended our day by seeing The Jungle Book in 3D. It was fantastic! For those of you who have seen it, can we talk about those baby wolves?!?!? [Insert heart eyes emoji here.] Also, since when does Regal have reclining seats? Those things are a game changer.

Of course, I took countless photos at Chanticleer Garden and would like to share my favorite shots with you. To narrow them down to a reasonable number proved to be a challenge since there was beauty everywhere. I hope you enjoy them!

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May ’16 Alternative Playlist

Happy Saturday, guys! Let me just cut to the chase and say that, if you’re an alternative music fan, this playlist is everything. Like, I’m obsessed with every single song on it. It includes all of my favorite alternative songs as of late and, in my humble opinion, includes the perfect mix of upbeat and mellow. Feel free to let me know of any new(ish) songs/artists I might be missing out on. Enjoy! :)

A Philadelphia Native’s Guide to the City of Brotherly Love

Taken on the Ben Franklin Bridge

I have been wanting to write this post for over a year, so I’m super excited to share it with you guys! I grew up in the Philly ‘burbs, but found myself venturing into the city often. Between family functions in South Philly and exploring the rest of the city as much as possible, Philadelphia has always been a source of pride for me. Now, I’m going on three years of living in Society Hill, which is a quaint and historic Center City neighborhood. I love Philadelphia now more than ever.

When I travel, I use various sources, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, to help me plan my trips. My favorite sources, however, are guides that I find on blogs through Pinterest. I particularly love guides written by locals and find their tips to be invaluable. So, being that I’m so passionate about Philadelphia, I decided to create a guide of my own.

First and foremost, Philadelphia has an incredible (and perhaps, underrated) food scene. I’ve traveled to many cities in the U.S., and few are rivals for Philadelphia when it comes to food. While dining out is one of my favorite things to do, I am still eating my way through this city since my list of places to try is ever-growing. As such, I will be the first to admit that the lists that I’ve compiled are not all-inclusive. Instead, I only included restaurants and bars that I have tried and absolutely loved. Although, I must admit that I have never heard anything negative about Laurel and Vetri.

Further, I omitted quintessential “Philly things,” like trying cheesesteaks at Pat’s and/or Geno’s. While I wholeheartedly agree that you should try at least one Philly cheesesteak while you’re visiting, I encourage you to opt for Jim’s or Tony Luke’s. I also omitted the obvious, such as visiting the Liberty Bell and City Hall. Although they are totally worth checking out, I’m sure they’re listed in just about every Philadelphia guide book out there.

As a Philadelphia native, my hope is to provide you with information that guide books might not, making your stay unique and unforgettable. If I’m lucky, you’ll even realize why Philadelphians have so much pride for their city. If you have any questions, ask away!

Best Brunch/Lunch/Casual Spots

  • Green Eggs Café
  • Cheu Noodle Bar
  • Wedge + Fig
  • Federal Donuts
  • Bud + Marilyn’s
  • Dizengoff
  • Buena Onda
  • Hawthorne’s Biercafé
  • V-Street
  • Nomad Pizza
  • Tria Café

Because 🍕+🍻 on St. Paddy's Day makes a whole lotta sense. 🍀🌈🎉

A post shared by Lauren Novak (@l_novak) on

Taken at Nomad Pizza

Best Dinner Spots

  • Talula’s Garden
  • Barbuzzo
  • Pumpkin (BYOB)
  • Amada
  • Vernick
  • High Street on Market
  • Zahav
  • Double Knot
  • Zama
  • Vedge
  • Little Fish (BYOB)
  • Kanella

And to think that this was only the first course. 💃 #salatim #hummus #laffa

A post shared by Lauren Novak (@l_novak) on

Taken at Zahav

Best Drink Spots

  • Continental Midtown
  • Charlie Was a Sinner
  • Time (live jazz!)
  • Independence Beer Garden (seasonal)
  • The Dandelion
  • Frankford Hall
  • Heritage (live jazz!)
  • Monk’s Café
  • Hop Sing Laundromat
  • Franky Bradley’s
  • The Good King Tavern
Taken at Heritage

Best Things to Do

Antiquing with Danny boy 😁

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Taken at the Philadelphia Flea Market