I am a food planner. Once a week I try to put together menus for the whole week so I can shop accordingly and so I don’t have to think too much when I get home from work. It’s nice knowing that I have the ingredients on hand for the planned meals and it gives me the opportunity to plan wisely to reuse leftovers.
Too often we’ll make a large portion of a dish, and then after several times eating the leftovers, there is still some that goes to waste. I try to freeze stuff when I can and generally use things up for work lunches, but sometimes you still end up wasting. That’s why I really love planning meals that are designed specifically to use the previous night’s leftovers.
Often when we have a taco night, I will plan to make Southwest Style Stuffed Peppers the following day, using the leftovers (meat, beans, rice, salsa, cheese, etc.) from the taco bar. Well this was another one of those meals.
The other night we had some great friends over for a visit (and a Laker game) and I put together a Build Your Own Noodle Soup Bar. This was my take on Vietnamese Noodle soup – the same as we used for our post Thanksgiving feast meal. It’s light but still hearty enough to fill you up and it’s just packed with flavor. It truly is one of my favorite meals.
And now, from the leftovers of the noodle soup bar comes another new favorite meal. I think I’m going to call these Phoenix Rolls – out of the ashes of leftovers, rise a terrific and light meal. I still had noodles, herbs, and veggies chopped and ready to go, so I simply made my own version of Turkey Larb (a Lao or Thai flavored dish with ground meat – chicken, pork, turkey, duck – mint, fish sauce, and peppers) and wrapped it all up in fresh spring roll wrappers. If you have never use spring roll wrappers, fear not. They are very forgiving, fun, and the end result is amazing.
I seasoned the meat with garlic, ginger, fish and soy sauce, peppers, lime juice and a handful of chopped mint. The kids loved the meat, and went to town on the spring rolls as well. I was a little surprised, I’ll admit. I didn’t think they would like the texture of the rice paper, but they loved it! They even like the two sauces we served the spring rolls with – a sweet chili sauce, and a very tangy fish sauce based dip. Again, quite surprised by how much the kids liked it.
1 lb. ground turkey (you can easily swap out chicken or pork as well)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1” knob of ginger, minced
Peppers – I used one jalapeno because I had it from the night before, but Thai chilies or anything according to your desired level of heat would work.
Juice of 1 lime
Hearty splash of both soy sauce and fish sauce
Handful of chopped mint
Sauté the garlic and ginger in some olive oil over medium heat in a large pan for 30 seconds to a minute. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the ground turkey, turn the heat up a bit, and break the meat up while it cooks. You want to cook the meat all the way through, getting rid of any pink color and break it up into as small of pieces as possible. When the meat is almost done, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cook together until meat is cooked through.
Fresh Spring Rolls
Rice paper wrappers
Cooked rice noodles
Shredded/Julienned veggies – I had leftover carrot, cabbage, celery, radish, jalapeno, and mung bean sprouts
Fresh herbs – I like a combo of (and had leftover) Thai basil, cilantro, and mint
Soak a wrapper is hot water that has cooled enough for you to be able to put your fingers in it. I use a pyrex pie dish for this. Feel the wrapper as it softens, once all the stiffness is gone, take it out of the wrapper and spread it open on a cutting board. Put down a layer of the larb, and add a little of each of the other ingredients. You want a good mix, but don’t overfill it or the wrapper will tear. I try to place one of the herb leaves strategically so that it shows nicely through the wrapper after rolling. To roll, bring the top of the wrapper over the filling and tuck in tightly. Next, bring in the side like you would for a burrito and then roll the whole thing closed. It takes a bit of practice to get a nice tight roll without tearing the wrapper but it’s really not that hard.
I use a store bought sweet chili sauce because I love it. But I also made another tangy sauce to go with it. This is really based on taste and can be adjusted to your liking.
In a small bowl mix some finely minced peppers, with some fish sauce, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. I use about a 1:2:3 ratio respectively. If it is a little too sour/tart/fishy for you, add a bit of brown sugar or honey and mix that in until dissolved.
This sauce goes really well with the freshness of the rolls and is a nice foil to the sweet chili sauce.