All wrapped up - FamilyEducation

All wrapped up

May 29,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

This has been one long week--so long that by Wednesday I was convinced it really should have been Friday already. Throw in end-of-school year activities and the accompanying stress, preparation for end-of-year IEP meeting, sleep deprivation, the start of swim team practice for T., and the adjustment to a new schedule, and you have a very draining mix to cope with. Because daily life has proved to be challenging enough, my kids are, by today's standards, woefully under-scheduled. L. has no interest in any extra curricular activities at all, and finds them burdensome and anxiety-provoking; by the time we finish homework there is, frankly, no time to go anywhere after school, so barring any doctor's appointments or meetings, we're usually home by 4:30 or 5:00 and settled in for the rest of the day. So while other moms probably have had tons more experience juggling school and after school team sport practices and homework and dinner I am a complete amateur. The biggest challenge this week for me has been figuring out a way to prepare in advance healthy and portable meals to take to the pool, things like pasta salad, marinated tofu, and this week's winner: fresh vegetarian spring rolls. I love these, and rarely find them at any restaurants, since most places offer up the fried variety instead. (Don't get me wrong, I love a good fried spring roll, but in the summer who wants to fry?) There's a great Vietnamese place in town that serves fresh spring rolls, and back in our graduate school days this place, one of our favorite dinner haunts, served up an amazing, delectable spring roll, complete with fresh basil tucked inside and a crunchy, tangy brown sauce on the side for dipping. Fresh spring rolls are the perfect pool (or picnic) food. To make them, however, you'll have to overcome two obstacles: 1) finding rice paper wrappers and 2) making sure you serve them with a dark purple plum-like sauce--not easy to find. Our local Asian market sells the rice paper wrappers, they look like this: Rice wrappers and after carefully questioning several non-English speaking Asian market employees and describing, via hand gestures, just what type of sauce we were looking for we found this: sauce (I thinned the sauce out with some soy sauce, to make dipping easier, and then packed some in little tupperwares for the pool) If you don't have access to an Asian market you can make these spring rolls into lettuce wraps. Just use a nice wide lettuce leaf, like Boston lettuce or Romaine, add the filling to one end, and roll up. If you can't find the exact sauce, you can also serve the rolls or wraps with soy sauce or a lighter plum sauce. Here's what you can stuff your rolls with: carrots, cucumbers, snow peas, spinach leaves, bean sprouts, and a hearty handful of fresh basil leaves from your herb garden, if you're lucky enough to have one. I've had spring rolls with cilantro inside, too, but basil to me is the perfect filler. The main work in assembling these is chopping everything up into long strips, or matchsticks. But don't be daunted! It's relaxing to chop up veggies, and your little helper can arrange them into piles according to vegetable if you want to keep them busy while you chop. The bounty I also boiled some rice noodles Rice sticks And included a handful of these in with the veggies. Follow the directions on the rice wrapper package--you need to soak the rice wrappers for 3-5 seconds in warm water. I doubled up the wrappers for each roll, since they are so thin just one tended to rip when I wrapped up the veggies. Put a pile of filling on one end of the wrapper and roll up firmly, burrito style. Chill them for about 30 minutes before serving, and they firm up nicely in the fridge. All wrapped up These were so delicious Scott and could scarcely contain our excitement at the pool when we dug in. We had to eat with our backs turned to the other pool-goers, though, who were enviously eyeing our gorgeous spring rolls--and we hadn't, alas, brought enough to share. Delicious!Happy Weekend!