Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Adventures!!!

You never know when you’re going to have to make a gluten-free recipe.  Lately, I’ve been testing out a few recipes and tonight, and this one is a winner.  Seriously, one of the best cookies I’ve ever made.  I didn’t miss the wheat, or the eggs for that matter.  A perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, bite of peanut butter chocolate deliciousness.  Ok, enough bragging…here’s the details.

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First I started with 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons of White Sugar, and creamed this together.

In a small food processor, I pulsed 1/2 cup oats with 1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips.

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I then stirred together 1/4 cup Tapioca Flour, 1 Tablespoon of Cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  I also had 1 Tablespoon of coffee mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla for some moisture

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After creaming the peanut butter and sugars together, I added the coffee/vanilla

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Then, I mixed up the oat/chocolate chip mixture with the dry ingredients

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Added the dry ingredients to the wetish ingredients.

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Then I added 3 Tablespoons of hot water and 2 Tablespoons of mini chocolate chips just to get the dough to the perfect consistency.

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Then, I used a mini ice cream scope to get even cookies, and tested out the batch with a dozen little dough balls.

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Next, I flattened the cookies slightly with an ultra-glassy complimentary shot glass from when the liquor store was sampling Grey Goose XV (Vodka + Cognac = delicious)

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Left side = Pre-baking.  Right side = post-baking.

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Seriously, perfection…and I’m pretty rough on myself when it comes to desserts, but I really, really liked these, and they’re gluten-free!!  They also don’t have any eggs, which means you can definitely under-bake them if you care for them to be ooey-gooey.

I’m posting the recipes below for these cookies, and a similar peanut butter gluten-free recipe that I came up with for the individuals that simply want a bite of pure peanut butter without any of the chocolate distraction.

ENJOY!!!!!!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Ingredients:

½ c. Peanut Butter

1/3 c. Brown Sugar

2 T Granulated Sugar (white)

½ c. Oats (make sure they’re gluten-free)

¼ c. Miniature Chocolate Chips

1 T Cornstarch

½ tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Salt

½ tsp Vanilla

1 T Coffee

2 T Mini Chocolate Chips

3 T Hot Water

Directions:

Cream together peanut butter and sugars

In a food processor, pulse together oats and ¼ c. chocolate chips to desired fineness

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, baking soda, tapioca flour, and salt

Add Coffee and Vanilla to the peanut butter sugar mixture

Combine oat/chocolate chip mixture to dry ingredients

Mix dry ingredients with the peanut butter mixture.

Add 3 T hot water and 2 T mini chocolate chips.

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly with fork (or shot glass)

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire rack.

ENJOY!!!!

Gluten Free and Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit

Ingredients:

1 Cup Peanut Butter

2/3 C. Brown Sugar

1/3 C. White Granulated Sugar

2 T Coffee

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Salt

½ c. Tapioca Flour

2 T Cornstarch

Directions:

Cream together peanut butter and sugars

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, baking soda, tapioca flour, and salt

Add 2 T Coffee to the Peanut Butter Sugar Mixture

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until incorporated thoroughly.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls and flatten with a fork

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies look the slightest bit golden.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire rack.

ENJOY!!!!

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Stress Free Cake

I needed to make a cake for an event, but I didn’t want to spend forever agonizing about every detail.  I have a tendency to do that, so I really wanted to just make a cake, decorate it, and not stress about every detail.  I had the perfect recipe for this, so I went ahead with my red velvet cake.  The recipe can be found here if anyone wants to try it out.

The process starts here, with the cake pans…

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First, I always cut out parchment circles for the bottoms.  Then I take a little bit of butter and grease the bottom of the pans so that the parchment sticks.  I generally don’t grease/flour cake pans at all.  I don’t believe in it….except for bundt pans.   For those, I butter every nook and cranny like crazy.

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Then, comes the cake making.  This cake is actually really easy. Get the oil and sugar together…mix some dry ingredients, get the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, red food coloring, water, vinegar and you’re all set.

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I always weigh my cake pans to make sure that each cake layer is equal in size.

After the cake batter is scaled, it’s time to bake….low and slow, at 325 or lower, until the cake springs back or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanish…As a general rule of thumb…it’s really better to under-bake…over-baking typically yields an inedible product.

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They’re done!!  Ok…now time to level.  This is a very important step that people often don’t do, but really, it’s essential, even in a stress free cake.  Leveling eliminates the dome shape which I personally drives me crazy!

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Those layers look ready to frost!

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Piping tips and Bags, check.  Cream cheese buttercream frosting, check.  Melted Chocolate to fold into part of the frosting for a little spin on the traditional red velvet cake, check.

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I like to pipe the frosting between the layers…It takes more time, but in ensures that each piece has an even amount of frosting, which I feel is very essential, especially for cross-section pics.

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I decided to make the cake really stress free, that I would cover the sides with red velvet crumbs, rather than doing any fancy basket-weave or side piping.  Then, the top needed a chocolate cream cheese spiral to finish it off.

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Add a quick piping around the bottom border, the top border, and write something on the top.  There we go…Stress-free!!!

Normally, I try to take a little more time on all of the details, but this time I just decided to go for it, without stressing, and just relying that the flavors would be good.  I was just happy the writing only took one try (which is all you have if you do a spiral pattern on the top unless you want to mess it up)

While the cake didn’t turn out perfect, it tasted pretty good, (though I may adjust the oil next time to make it slightly lighter and less indulgent), and I didn’t lose sleep over it.  Mission accomplished!

Homemade Pasta Carbonara

For Christmas, James bought me a pasta maker.  I had never made pasta before, but I’ve always wanted to being a complete Top Chef/Master Chef/Food Network junkie.  The bag of semolina flour that I bought had a simple recipe for the pasta, and figured that if the pasta was going to be from scratch, the sauce should be too.  Solution: Google Carbonara recipe and find a recipe courtesy of the Food Network by Tyler Florence.  The recipe for the carbonara can be found here.

Step 1, make the pasta dough:

This part was pretty easy.  Gather Semolina Flour, a pinch of salt,  a couple eggs, a couple tablespoons of oil and a couple tablespoons of oil.  I also added a little garlic powder and cayenne for a little extra flavor for the pasta.

Get all of the ingredients together

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Add a pinch of salt to the flour.

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Stir in salt (and other seasonings if desired)
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Beat a couple room temperature eggs
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Add olive oil, water, and beaten eggs to the flour/salt mixture and combine
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Knead the dough until it’s not too sticky, but looks semi shiny. Cover and rest
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After about 30 minutes, the gluten should have relaxed enough to roll. Smash it down and roll out so that it will easily go through the pasta machine, but not too much, as you want the pasta machine to do the majority of the work.
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Start with the largest width for the opening, and gradually get smaller til reaching the desired size.
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I decided on fettuccine for the noodles for this experiment
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Noodles!! Side Note: I should have separated these more and let them dry a little, or dusted them with some semolina to keep them from sticking
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Noodles are done, now onto the Carbonara!  Start with frying bacon in a pan for a few minutes with a couple tablespoons olive oil.

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After the fat has started to render, add the garlic and toss for a few minutes. Meanwhile, the pasta water should be boiling, and the pasta will need to cook for about 3 minutes
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Combine the Parmesan cheese with the eggs
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Remove the bacon/garlic from the heat and immediately add the egg/Parmasan mixture, stirring constantly. This will prevent the heat from scrambling the eggs.  Add the pasta, stirring well to coat and return to the stove for about 30 seconds.

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Then garnish with lots of fresh parsley, and serve by itself, or with a very large “side” salad.
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The Carbonara was fantastic! The pasta was pretty good for the first attempt. Some of the noodles stuck together, but unlike when dry pasta sticks together, the pieces that were stuck together were more like dumplings, than uncooked pasta, which wasn’t altogether dreadful. I’m now a lot more comfortable with the idea of making fresh pasta from scratch.  Ravioli was made the next week, which resulted in some trial and error techniques, but overall, the pasta machine ended up being a wonderful gift. Thanks, James!

Beef Wellington for Christmas

I’ve always wanted to try Beef Wellington.  I’ve seen it a million times on the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, and between the golden puff pastry, the mushroom duxelles, and the medium rare filet, it looks absolutely mouthwatering.  When my dad told me that he just happened to have a five pound filet of beef for our Christmas visit, I knew exactly what we had to make.

Since we had never made it before, we needed a recipe.  There are many variations around, but we thought, let’s find a recipe by Gordon Ramsey if we could, since he’s the one that put these delicious images of Beef Wellington into our heads.  After a few minutes of searching, we found a video of Gordon Ramsey making a Christmas inspired version of Beef Wellington on YouTube.  Perfect!  Here’s the link to his video.

We decided to prep the Wellington the day before Christmas so that we could just throw it in the oven on Christmas Day.

First we seasoned the beef with salt and pepper and we did a quick sear on the filet itself, in a really hot pan with some olive oil.  After the filet came out, we were supposed to cover it with English Mustard, which of course we couldn’t find, but he said that horseradish made a good substitute.  We decided that horseradish mustard would work, but we forgot to cover the beef in this.  No worries, we’ll just work it into the sauce later.

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In retrospect, we could have seared it a little more, but you definitely do not want to cook the beef hardly at all.  It should be pretty much raw inside still as it will bake in the oven.

We then prepared the duxelles with the mushrooms, chopped chestnuts, and a couple cloves of garlic.  (Sidenote=Chestnuts can be incredibly difficult to find around the holidays so try to secure the ingredient as soon as possible). If you have a food processor, I would suggest using it to pureé the ingredients.  We simply chopped them small, added a little olive oil, and sauteéd them, stirring very frequently to avoid burning the garlic

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Next, the assembly.  We started by overlapping several strips of prosciutto on top of cling wrap.  Then we spread the duxelles all over the prosciutto, leaving just a small boundary near the edges.  We then placed the beef in the center, and rolled it up, using the cling wrap to make a nice, tight cylinder. It then needed to go into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set up.

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We then rolled out the thawed puff pastry dough onto cling wrap as we had done with the prosciutto.  After 15 minutes, we unwrapped the prosciutto wrapped filet from the cling wrap, and placed it on the center of the puff pastry.  Thankfully we had extra puff pastry, because the square of puff pastry was not going to wrap around the whole filet.  We wrapped as much as we could, cut out an extra strip from the other sheet, and covered up the gap.

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After pinching all of the edges closed with our fingers, we wrapped the whole thing up in cling wrap very tightly.

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The next day was the moment of truth.  We unwrapped the puff-pastry covered filet and placed it on a sheet rack.  Gordon’s instructions were to bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes after covering it with egg wash, making a decorative pattern with the back of a knife, and sprinkling it with salt.

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While the Wellington was in the oven, we prepared the sauce, which we pretty much cheated.  We started with a packet of an instant demi-glaze, and then added a bunch of horseradish mustard.  It still didn’t have the right amount of spice, so we added some red pepper flakes.  It actually tasted delicious.

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We baked it for just under 35 minutes at 400 degrees, and then we let the meet rest for about 10 minutes. We then cut into the meet, hoping so much that it wouldn’t be overcooked.  Success!!!  Golden brown on the outside, rosey-red on the inside. It may have been more on the rare than medium-rare temperature, but thankfully, all of us like our steaks bloody.

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It was seriously one of the best, if not the best steak that I have ever had.  The meat was absolutely buttery, just pure butter.  The sauce went so well to give it a little bit of spice.  It took a little bit of work…I almost killed James in the process of looking for Chestnuts and prosciutto in Traverse City on Dec. 24.  It was fate that we stumbled into the only place in town that apparently had them after a nice lunch at North Peak.

The next time that I’ve fortunate enough to have that large of a filet, I would maybe cook it three minutes longer, pureé the duxelles, use pistachios instead of chestnuts, and cover the filet with mustard rather than work it into the sauce.  That said, mission accomplished!  One of the very best entreés that James and I have ever made.

Orange Pineapple Cakies

I had to take a bit of break from blogging due to a heavy school and work week, which was then exacerbated by a dog ending up in the animal emergency room.  He’s back to his stubborn self, so it’s time to revisit a project that I did a few weeks ago.  When people find out that I’m into food, or that I’ve taken any culinary classes, certain assumptions result.  One of the assumptions is that I would never ever use a cake mix.  Well….

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I don’t have anything against cake mixes, period.  It’s really the technique that counts.  I’ve made cakes from scratch that came out terribly.  It could be due to an unbalanced formula, over-mixing, over-baking…there’s a lot that can go wrong.  Generally, if possible, I try to make cakes from scratch just because usually I do like the taste more, and there is a sense of pride in making something from ingredients that are generally already in the house.

That said, I do like to occasionally take the shortcut route for cookies, using a cake mix, which really ends up yielding cakies rather than cookies.

Cakies are just like cookies, except really easy, and sometimes they have a lighter texture than cookies due to the increased amount of leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda.

The recipe is super easy:

Take any cake mix* add 1/2 cup vegetable oil** (or olive oil if you’re feeling experimental) and add 2 eggs.  That’s it.  You now have cakie dough.

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Pineapple and Orange Cake Mix

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Mix + 2 eggs

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Mix + 2 eggs + 1/2 cup oil

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Pineapple and Orange Cakie Dough!!!

*Cake mixes with pieces such as carrot cake don’t work as well, because they’re dehydrated and require water to soften up, which is lacking in this recipe.  If you really want Carrot Cakies for example, then use a spice cake mix and add some fresh grated carrots.

**If you want a slightly more authentic cookie, you can use 1 stick of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Now for the assembly, I like to use decorating bags.  The reason why, is because it’s really easy to make interesting designs and shapes using the bags and just piping blobs of the dough in random patterns.

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I decided to pipe alternate strips and freeze the dough so that the dough would chill and preserve the shape better when I cut the log into fairly thin strips.

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This produces a checkerboard like design without the work that’s usually involved in checkerboard cookies.  Additionally, because this dough is fairly sticky, even when frozen, I wouldn’t recommend the checkerboard technique of rolling and cutting and layering unless you would like to add a lot of flour to the dough to keep it from sticking to everything.

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Below is an example of a couple cookies that were made basically by alternating orange and pineapple cakie blobs.

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That’s it!  Super easy pseudo-cookies that are incredibly cheap, fast and versatile.

The week after, I used a caramel cake mix with some chocolate chips, and in about 30 minutes I had a couple dozen delicious chocolate chip cakies.  Butter Pecan is another great cake flavor that results in some quick, easy, tasty treats!

Next time you’re at the grocery store, buy a random cake mix, maybe some chocolate or butterscotch chips and wait for that day where you want something sweet, but you’re feeling lazy, and you don’t want to go anywhere, or when it’s 10 o’clock at night and you remember you needed to make treats for a party the next day.  Trust me, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of it and the amount of cookies you’ll get from 2 eggs, a little vegetable oil and a $1.50 cake mix!

The Bastardization of Egg Rolls – Part II

I am a complete sucker for anything involving pumpkin and equally addicted to cheesecakes,  so I wanted to combine them for the second iteration of the bastardized egg roll.  I purchased some ice cream ahead of time, and decided that I would make a caramel sauce to compliment the spicy, creamy pumpkin concoction.

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I was just winging it with the pumpkin mixture.  A package of cream cheese, a can of pumpkin, cinnamon, clove,  nutmeg, all spice, and about 3/4 cup sugar.

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This is where I realized I needed more cream cheese or the mixture would be way too soft to roll in egg roll wraps.

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Better…now the next step was a mistake.

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Don’t ever do this…I just ended up with a mess at the end, with pumpkin sticking to foil…bad scene.

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The mixture is now ready to chill for a few hours…or because of the caramel debacle, 24 hours.

Failed caramel number 1: Small amounts of caramel turn light golden to burnt in literally seconds.

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Failed attempt #2:This turned into rock candy within seconds of going from clear to slightly gold.

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I somehow cooked the third caramel to the point where it was incredibly dark,  and I thought it was burnt and subsequently failure #3, but it was passable, so I went with it.

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The assembly was rougher than I would have expected.  The mixture after being in the freezer was really soft, and didn’t like being sealed up in a neat little package.  James was asleep, so I was on my own…

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The first two came out really well.  The third one was definitely filled way too much, and semi-exploded while frying in the hot grease.  The fryer sounded pretty angry when the pumpkin mixture started oozing out of the egg roll wrapper, but it was really more entertaining at this point than frustrating since I had fried two of them really well.

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I made one more that was decent…tore up the last egg roll wrapper into little pieces and tossed it in the fryer…yielding some tasty wonton chips for topping ice cream.

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The verdict: B-/B. The filling was great,  the ice cream and fried wontons were tasty, caramel, meh..but the egg roll itself lost its crispness after the drizzle of caramel…which is the best part of the egg roll; that crunch!!!

I’m not giving up on the dessert egg roll completely, but I’m more tempted to experiment with frying breakfast egg rolls in bacon fat..and then I probably won’t eat egg rolls til next year.

Exclusion to the blog

This blog is technically supposed to be about things that I create, but I have to include tonight’s dinner salad, even though all I did was make the croutons and the hard-boiled eggs.  The salad consisted of kale, cabbage, romaine, carrots, green and red onions, tomatoes, green peppers, hard-
boiled eggs seasoned with dill, pepper, bacon, and chili powder, homemade croutons, shredded pepperjack cheese,  and then came the steak.  A perfectly seasoned and cooked steak, sliced, and layed on top of the already sizeable portion for salad.

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The steak was absolutely delicious!  This was the “before” pic as it was later covered in bleu cheese dressing and devoured with absolutely no shame.

Thanks James!  You hit it out of the park with this one 🙂

I now return to round three of caramel making :/ for my next iteration of the bastardized egg roll. I smell pumpkin in the air….

The Bastardization of Egg Rolls – Part I

So I was looking for a way to use egg roll wrappers without going the traditional route of scallions, cabbage, pork or shrimp…etc.  I’ve been really into making “salads” that just consist of peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, lots and lots of garlic, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper, and then adding this to hummus, cheese, and ham or turkey in Pita Bread.  It’s sooo good, though the amount of garlic I use make my breath completely offensive, so it’s better for the days where I don’t have to talk to many people, or good for meals at home.

To start, I chopped up tomatoes, orange bell peppers, cucumbers, shallots, garlic, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper, a little Italian dressing and some olive oil.

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I also used the garlic lovers hummus, because I figured I was at home anyway, so I might as well go all out.

Rather than completely deep-fry the egg rolls, the instructions said to use a skillet with some oil, which I liked since deep frying take so much oil, makes everything worse for you, and makes the house smell like grease for a day or two.

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After adding the oil and dressing to the vegetables, I realized that the mixture was really, really wet, so I decided to go ahead and drain it, before heating it up slightly.

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After draining the veggies, and adding a touch of yellow peppers for some added sweetness (and to counter the fact that I may have been a little heavy on the salt :/) everything was just about ready to go..  I had to crack an egg to provide me with the glue to seal the edges of the egg rolls.    Now it was just time for the assembly.

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After two failed attempts of me trying to roll, I called in the Cavalry, and James gave me a quick demo to show me what I was doing wrong.  He’s so much better at making anything that needs to be rolled or wrapped!

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And now, for the frying of the egg rolls!!  They definitely splattered at the beginning, and especially when we rotated them, but surprisingly, not one of them burst open!

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I’d say they took about 1 minute to a minute and a half for each side, and the shape of the egg rolls generally resulted in 3 sides, yet they were definitely circular in shape, so how that happened…I’m not quite sure.

I didn’t know what kind of sauce these would be good with, so I just went with my gut, which was Arby’s Sauce.  I always save the extra packets, since the people at Arby’s throw about 10 in the bag for each sandwich your order, and this seemed like the perfect occasion to use them.

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I’m really shocked how well they came out.  The filling was nice and hot, the cheese was melted really nicely, and I was left with the feeling of wanting many more.

It made me think of all the things that could possibly be wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and fried, and I’ve already got a few ideas going.

These were truly bastardized egg rolls, especially by complimenting them with Arby’s sauce, though the results were inspiring, and will probably result in at least one breakfast and dessert iteration of the bastardization of egg rolls.