Recipe: Fresh spring rolls for a no-bake warm weather dinner

homemade-spring-rollsIf you're looking for an interesting new dinner to make with your family as the weather gets warmer, consider making up a batch of fresh spring rolls that the whole gang will love. Healthy, light and perfect for those hot days when you'd rather sacrifice dinner than turn on the oven, spring rolls can prove to be a fun, adventurous dish for even the pickiest of eaters.

Also known as summer or fresh rolls, spring rolls are both easy and difficult to make (we'll admit it). They're easy in thought -- the idea of taking a bunch of your favorite veggies, meats and herbs and rolling them up into a delicious salad burrito -- yet can prove to be difficult in practice. But don't let this discourage you -- the fun is all in the making and rolling of them, regardless of whether they are rolled to perfection.

Much like wrapping burritos, wrapping spring rolls takes practice, but I promise -- you'll get better over time. (Full disclosure: The first rolls that we ever made came out looking more like clouds that resembled  dinosaurs and less like what we were eating for dinner!)

For ingredients, I recommend making the trip to Uwajimaya, where you can easily find rice paper, rice noodles and everything that you'll need to get started. And as an added bonus, Uwajimaya's produce section offers fresh bean sprouts in bulk, rather than in shipped bags like most regular grocery stores.

Similar to making pizza, the great thing about spring rolls is that you can tailor your ingredients to your specific wants -- making it simple for both kids and adults to share a meal that everyone can be satisfied with. We've had the most luck with setting up a "spring roll bar", where everyone can build their own rolls, using pre-chopped veggies set out in bowls. Overall, yet another easy way for getting your kids into the kitchen and interested in cooking! Plus, spring rolls hold up well for next-day school lunches and snacks -- always a huge bonus in our house.

Spring Roll Ingredients:
Though there are SO many ingredient possibilities for spring rolls, here are some good ideas to get you started:

  • Cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
  • Bean sprouts
  • Grated carrot
  • Shredded chicken
  • Tofu
  • Sliced barbecued pork (can be purchased precooked in most markets)
  • Fresh basil and mint leaves
  • Spinach
  • Mache
  • Cooked rice noodles
  • Lettuce leaves for each roll
  • Grated cucumber
  • Mushrooms

As for dipping sauces, making your own is the way to go! Store-bought peanut sauces can be pricey ($6-10) and you never know what you're going to get. In the past when we've been short on time and have taken a gamble on peanut sauces from the store, they've been too spicy for the kids and have offered up some unexpected (and unenjoyable) flavors. Here's a quick and easy recipe found on Epicurious that we've enjoyed in the past.

And if you're new to wrapping homemade spring rolls, check out the helpful video below. I've sent this video to many family friends who are just beginning and it'll definitely leave you feeling more confident when it comes time to roll!

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