Portland must do: Visit the Japanese Gardens
Portland must don’t: Ride your bike to said garden
The Japanese Gardens are gorgeous. It takes roughly 45 min – 1 hour to explore the grounds, but the staff encourages anyone to stay and zen out as long as they want. The garden has so many cute nooks and crannies you’ll have NO issues discovering a serene area to get your tranquility on.
Saturday’s temperature was in the low 80’s, so after I got off work at 12:30 pm, I talked Kieran into riding our bicycles to the garden. We both knew the trip to the garden was uphill the entire way. However, we welcomed the challenge in order to get some exercise and fresh air. When I say it’s uphill the entire way, I wish I were kidding. It took us 45 minutes to ride to the garden and 15 minutes to ride home. A couple of times, the roads were so steep, neither Kieran or I could keep enough momentum going on our bikes to continue, we were forced to hop off our bikes and walk. I hope the homes we passed didn’t have their window’s open, otherwise, they heard a barrage of swear words and laughter. Our poor calves were SCREAMING in protest with pain. I thought for SURE they would pop out of our legs and go running downhill to safety.
Upon arrival of the Japanese Garden, we knew the pain to get there was worth it. I’ve never been to a Japanese Garden in the states before and I gotta say, it was a cool experience! Having ridden our bikes, our legs were weary so we had to sit down every so often, but we welcomed the rest in such a peaceful and beautiful place. The garden does have a Japanese tea house, BUT, it’s not open to the public for tea. The company that oversea’s the garden turned it into a museum. The art in the museum was really cool, but I was bummed, I wanted to take off my shoes, sit on the floor, drink some tea, and experience what a Japanese tea house is like. Oh well, the garden was worth visiting nonetheless.
Going home from the garden on a bike was nerve-wracking. The entire way home was now downhill, and the hills were steep. Holy shit was I scared. I know I’m a Portland hill newbie, and eventually, I’ll grow used to the hills, but I was sweating bullets on the way home. My bicycle breaks received more of a workout then I did!! I squeezed those fuckers as hard as I could, afraid I would lose control and flip over my handlebars! I wussed out going down one road, having to jump off my bike to walk. It’s embarrassing enough to walk your bike uphill, let alone downhill! Hahahahaha.
Soon enough Kieran and I made it home safely. We locked up our bikes, then sauntered over to our favorite dive bar for much-needed grub and cocktails.
Now that we’re home, much to our calves dismay, Kieran and I are planning our next bike trip around town 😀
Food talk time!!! Since Spring is here I’ve been craving healthy recipes, so I made some spring rolls!
Honestly, I’ve always been intimidated by rice paper. I’m not the daintiest of women and that rice paper is all kinds of delicate. I would also like to point out, I have the patience of the Incredible Hulk when cooking. If things start going south in the kitchen, I lose my shit and get all Christina smash-y on it. I’ve read rice paper is a bitch to work with and tears easily, so I thought for sure I was in for a kitchen disaster, but I wasn’t. The ingredients poked out of the rice paper from time to time, but other than that, working with rice paper was relatively easy!
I think the trick to working with rice paper, is soaking it in warm water long enough making it pliable, but not too long otherwise the rice paper gets too soft to work with. I watched this video and found dunking the rice paper in warm water 3 times, worked the best. Note, the link to the video shows how I learned to dunk my rice paper at the 1:56 mark.
When I rolled the spring rolls, I set the wet rice paper on the back of a cookie sheet (see pics below). Even though rice paper is sticky when wet, the smooth, slick surface of the cookie sheet helped the rice paper peel right off, so rolling the spring rolls were a snap.
Before I crisp up tofu, I like to press it for a couple of hours. That’s really the only time-consuming prep work to this dish. I’ll cut the tofu into 4 equal sized slabs and put them on a cutting board. Then I will cover them with a paper towel, put a large cookie sheet on top of them, with either heavy books or cooking pots on top of the cookie sheet. The weight of the cookie sheet/books/pots will “press” the tofu and release excess water, leaving you with a denser tofu that crisps up when you fry it.
I should mention I don’t deep fry the tofu for this recipe. I’ll heat up a tablespoon of coconut oil and sauté the tofu until it becomes golden brown, on all sides. That way I’m getting a bit more flavor, without all the extra fat.
I’m not 100% sure if serving a spring roll with a peanut dipping sauce is traditional or not, but I didn’t have the ingredients on hand to whip up a peanut sauce. I always stock sriracha hot chili sauce, honey, lime, and soy sauce in my kitchen, so I mixed together a delicious sweet chili sauce using those ingredients.
For a thicker chili sauce, you can heat the sriracha, honey, and soy sauce, over low-medium heat, on the stove. Simmer the mixture until it thickens up. Once you reach the consistency that you like, add your lime juice, to taste.
So below is a short pictorial so you know how to roll a spring roll. Before you begin, get a large bowl or pan filled with warm water. Holding onto the edge of the rice paper, dunk the rice paper 3 times, then gently shake the excess water off.
Carefully place the rice paper on whatever surface you’re going to roll the spring rolls on. I choose the back of a cookie sheet, hence the gray background in the photos.
1. Put all of your ingredients in the middle of the rice paper, slightly above the center.
2. Now fold the top of the rice paper so it covers more than half of your ingredients.
3. Now gently fold the right and left side of the rice paper in towards the middle.
4. With a firm, yet gentle hand, roll the ingredients towards the bottom of the rice paper. You want to ensure you are rolling the ingredients in the rice paper tight enough to hold together, but not too tight, otherwise, the ingredients will tear through the rice paper.
*Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a couple of times to find the right balance between rolling too tightly and not tight enough. Rice paper is sold in large quantities so if you fuck up you’ll have plenty of rice paper leftover to roll with.
5. Give the spring roll a final roll over the remaining rice paper. It should look like a mini, see-through, burrito.
6. (Not pictured) serve the Spring Rolls with your favorite sauce, dunk, and enjoy!
- 1 package of rice paper
- 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil (depending on how many batches you need to cook the tofu in)
- Salt, pepper, and Tajin Clasico seasoning.
- Extra firm tofu, pressed, and cut into julienne strips
- Cucumber, cut into julienne strips
- Red pepper, cut into julienne strips
- Carrot, cut into julienne strips
- Avocado, cut into julienne strips
- Baby Spinach
- Bean sprouts
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Squeeze of lime juice
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sriracha, honey, soy sauce, and lime juice. Set aside until ready. If you want a thicker sauce, put the ingredients in a small pan, over low-medium heat, and simmer until you get the thickness you like best.
- Get all of your ingredients cut up, julienne style. You can simply tear a little mint and cilantro when ready to use, so no need to cut up the herbs.
- Season the tofu, on both sides, generously with salt, pepper, and Tajin Clasico.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or whatever oil you like best) over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and sauté until the tofu is nicely browned on all sides. If you pan is not large enough, cook the tofu in batches. Once finished cooking, put the tofu on a paper-towel-lined plate to cool.
- Get a bowl or shallow pan filled with warm water.
- Dunk the rice paper, one at a time, into the warm water, 3 times. Gently shake off any excess water, and gently place the rice paper on the surface you're going to roll on.
- Put all of your ingredients in the middle of the rice paper, slightly above the center. Make sure to have your spinach stalks ripped off, or facing inward before rolling, otherwise, the stalks will poke through the rice paper.
- Now fold the top of the rice paper so it covers more than half of your ingredients.
- Gently fold the right and left side of the rice paper in towards the middle.
- With a firm, yet gentle hand, roll the ingredients towards the bottom of the rice paper. You want to ensure you are rolling the ingredients in the rice paper tight enough to hold together, but not too tight, otherwise, the ingredients will tear through the rice paper.
- Give the spring roll a final roll over the remaining rice paper. It should look like a mini, see-through, burrito.
- Gently place your finished Spring Rolls on a plate as you continue to finish the rest.
- Serve the Spring Rolls with your favorite sauce, dunk, and enjoy!
Put some really heavy books or pots on top of the cookie sheet.
This will help drain any excess water from the tofu, so it will crisp up nicely when you sauté it.
When you are ready to cook...pat the tofu dry on both sides, then season heavily with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings you like. I really liked using Tajin Clasico for this recipe.
Cut the 4 slabs of tofu into square logs. The size doesn't really matter, I think I did a ½ thick. Once your tofu is cut, you are ready to sauté them in a pan!
Don't be discouraged if it takes you a couple of times to find the right balance between rolling too tightly and not tight enough. Most rice paper is sold in large quantities...so if you fuck up...you'll most likely have plenty of rice paper leftover to roll with.