When PB&J is Just Not Enough.

Around our house peanut butter and jelly is actually cashew-macadamia nut butter and jelly from Trader Joe's due to peanut allergy. Though still a favorite among the three boys, CMNB&J just doesn't do it for me most days. My tastebuds crave adventure, sophistication, a paradox of flavors. The rest of me just wants it to be simple, affordable, low-cal, with almost no dishes to clean up afterward. This pan-toasted Vietnamese spring rolls lunch I fixed for myself today met the requirement splendidly. (Don't let the preparation of the spring rolls discourage you...you take an hour to do them all, and you'll have many days of hassle free meals to come.) dsc01940.jpg

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (best prepared as a large batch and frozen ahead of time)

1 package rice spring roll wrappers (not the pasta-like egg roll wrappers)

For Filling: 1 clove garlic, minced grated ginger, about 1 tsp. 1/2 lb. lean ground beef 1/2 small head cabbage, shredded 2 cups or so shredded carrots 1-2 green onions, sliced thinly 2 ounces bean thread noodles, soaked and cut into short lengths 2 Tbs. fish sauce 1-2 tsp. sugar salt & pepper to taste

For assembly: 1 egg, beaten in bowl

For nuoc cham sauce (can be purchased ready-made): 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar juice of 1 lime 2 Tbs. sugar 1/2 c. fish sauce 1/2 c. water 2 red chiles, seeded and chopped

Filling: Heat 2 Tbs. or so of oil in wok or pan, add the garlic, ginger and green onions. Add the beef, stirring until meat is browned. Mix in all other ingredients and cook until carrots are tender. Set aside to cool.

Assembly: Beat one egg in bowl and set aside. Cut spring roll wrappers in half diagonally. Cover your stack of wrappers with damp paper towel as not to dry them out while working. Carefully remove one triangular piece of wrapper and place with base of triangle facing you. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of wrapper. Fold in both left and right corners of the triangle, and roll wrapper over filling until almost to the top of triangle. Seal the edges with dab of egg all along.

*I place my spring rolls on a cookie sheet and freeze, then store them frozen in a ziploc bag for individual use.

To make these low-cal spring rolls low-cal, I don't fry them like traditional spring rolls. Instead, I spray a non-stick pan with canola oil spray, place the frozen spring rolls directly onto the pan, and heat on med-high heat. I spray the tops again with oil, and flip the spring rolls when underside is crispy. Serve immediately.

Vietnamese spring rolls are traditionally served with lettuce leaves and cilantro if desired. The spring roll and cilantro are placed in a leaf of lettuce and is dipped in the nuoc cham sauce...mmm....cold and hot....sweet and salty...sooo much more than PB&J.