Posts Tagged ‘carrots’


How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls

Monday, December 16th, 2013 by Maggie

Every time I make fresh spring rolls I think, “Why don’t I make these more often?” I love everything about a spring roll – the texture of the thin rice wrapper, the freshness and crunch of the vegetables, the softness of the rice noodles, the fresh herbs, the dipping sauce. So many textures and flavors perfectly melding. They’re a wonderful way to eat lots of raw vegetables at once, and they’re gluten free!

They do require some time, which is probably why I don’t make them every week. But this week, I had some leisurely cooking time (one of my favorite things).

Here’s how I make my fresh spring rolls:

  • marinadeMarinate a block of tofu in a citrusy soy sauce mixture for an hour or so, then slice it into long pieces and bake them in a hot oven for about 25 minutes. The marinade recipe is from my new favorite cookbook that I wrote about last month, Gluten Free Girl Every Day, by Shauna James Ahern.


  • Slice carrots, savoy cabbage, and green onions and tear off leaves of cilantro.



  • Soak thin rice noodles in warm water until soft and toss them with some sesame oil, honey and soy sauce.


  • springrollSet up an assembly line with a pie dish of warm water, rice papers and the fillings.


  • Place one wrapper in the warm water for about 30 seconds or until it is soft.


  • Lay it flat on a kitchen towel, fill it with tofu, noodles, veggies, and cilantro, then wrap it up like a burrito. Repeat.


  • Eat ‘em up with sweet chili sauce for dipping.

This is a great dish for getting family and friends involved.

What ingredients do you like to put in your spring rolls? Share your ideas here.

Maggie Swanson is in her third year working as a class assistant at the Chopping Block. She and her husband have lived in Chicago for over ten years and they love the endless dining opportunities in the city. Maggie has enjoyed being in the kitchen for as long as she can remember and is now thrilled to introduce 3 year old son Eliot to the joys of cooking. Maggie has been on a gluten free diet for over four years. She has developed significantly as a cook through discovering how to make gluten free food delicious. Maggie always has a hard time answering questions about her favorite thing to cook or eat because she's always trying something new!


Time to Get Squashed

Monday, September 9th, 2013 by Sara

Apparently I can’t stop blogging about squash, but I had an amazing squash revelation that I need to share with you. It was the most inspiring culinary moment I have had all summer.

A couple of weeks ago my family and I drove out to Hazzard Free Farm, located in the small town of Pecatonica, just west of Rockford. In case you didn’t know, we use this farm to supply the bounty of beautiful produce for our monthly Farm to Table classes.

Andy Hazzard, the hardest working person I know, graciously opens her farm to the public on Saturdays.  We are always up for a road trip, especially to visit a farm. Any opportunity for the kids to run wild in open fields is a good reason to drive for 2 hours.

Hogan, the very friendly, carrot-eating dog, was the first to greet us, followed by Andy and Chad. They took us up and down the rows of impressive produce and we learned a lot along the way. We were completely in awe with the incredibly sweet multitude of variously colored cherry tomatoes. Oh man, were they delicious. The kids were popping them into their mouths like it was candy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI look over across the field and my hubs, Mike, is carrying a massive yellow summer squash that Chad had given him. It must have weighed 7 pounds. Normally I would never attempt to cook with a squash that big due to its lack of flavor, but Chad suggested we carve out the middle so it looks like a canoe, stuff it and then bake it. We went home with a bunch of produce to use for the stuffing, and we felt ready for the challenge.

The next day we embarked on our mission and this is how it went down:

  1. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMike prepared our charcoal grill and set it up for indirect cooking. This means the hot coals are only on one side of the grill, which allows for low and slow cooking.
  2. We cut the top of the squash off and, using a spoon, scooped out the flesh and seeds. (We grated the top part of the squash and incorporated it into zucchini muffins a few days later).
  3. In a large sauté pan we heated a few tablespoons of olive oil and sautéed a large amount of Tropea onions, followed by a generous amount of garlic.
  4. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn went several grated carrots, ranging in color from orange and purple to white and yellow. We sautéed the carrots until they were softened and then we folded in some spinach, which we gently wilted. At this point the pan came off the heat.
  5. We added just enough tomato sauce to help bind the filling, folded in a copious amount of grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Lastly the filling was seasoned with salt and pepper.
  6. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe filling was spooned into the squash canoe and then transferred to the cooler side of the grill. After about 45 minutes the squash shell had softened and the filling was bubbling.
  7. The last thing to do was to drape sliced provolone cheese over the top and wait for it to melt.

This was the best meal I had all summer! There were many factors that made this meal unforgettable, but it all started with Andy and Chad and their generosity. To get a feel for how passionate Andy is about her work check out this video.  If you would like a first-hand opportunity to work with Andy’s produce, sign up for the Farm to Table class.


Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.


Raw Food Made Easy and Tasty

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 by Maggie

I recently got to experience a first at The Chopping Block – a class where the stove and oven were not turned on once and no pots, pans or grills were used. The class was Raw Food Made Easy with Guest Chef Jennifer Cornbleet. As someone who quite enjoys cooking with fire, I was skeptical but intrigued. A couple of my family members had eaten a raw food diet for a few years, and I remember feeling sorry for them and their diet of undressed salads and carrots juice every day. So I observed Jenny with interest to see if she was able to do more interesting things with all those fruits and vegetables.

rawfoodShe prepared four dishes for the demonstration class from her book:

Breakfast: Jenny made a Green Smoothie similar to this one. She tossed some bananas and apples into the Vitamix blender and I thought that sounds good. But then she stuffed that thing full of kale and spinach. I mean packed. We passed out the vitamin packed smoothies and the students downed them. I somewhat reluctantly tasted it and was quite surprised at how palatable it was. I thought, I could do this! It’s such an easy way to incorporate those dark leafy greens we always hear are so good for us.

Stuffed_Mushroom_and_Sides_3Lunch: Speaking of dark leafy greens, Jenny prepared a Mediterranean Kale Salad next. We had thinly sliced a large bunch of kale before class, and Jenny added some olive oil, lemon juice and salt and “massaged” it into the kale for a couple minutes, in order to fully coat the greens and marinate them. She added some pine nuts and golden raisins for a surprisingly tasty way to, again, eat those dark green leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner: I was most skeptical of this one. Jenny made a dish she calls Not Tuna Pate, which is meant to resemble Tuna Salad. She put almonds and sunflower seeds that had been soaked in water into a food processor and blended it up. The nuts absorb the water and causes them to blend up into a very fluffy texture. She added some lemon juice, salt and pepper, minced celery, onion and parsley, and served it with sliced veggies for dipping. I couldn’t believe how tasty it was, and how it did actually taste like tuna!

flourless_chocolate_cakeDessert: Jenny used only three ingredients for her Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe. She combined walnuts, pitted dates, and unsweetened cocoa powder (and a little water) in the food processor until it formed a thick paste. She turned it out on a plate and formed it into the shape of a round cake. She topped it with fresh raspberries and we sliced and served. It was sweet and chocolatey and a perfect way to end the meal.

While I don’t have any plans to start eating a raw diet, Jenny’s class did inspire me to think more creatively about how to eat more raw fruits and especially veggies in a way that actually tastes delicious!

How do you incorporate raw fruits & veggies into your diet?


Maggie Swanson is in her third year working as a class assistant at the Chopping Block. She and her husband have lived in Chicago for over ten years and they love the endless dining opportunities in the city. Maggie has enjoyed being in the kitchen for as long as she can remember and is now thrilled to introduce 3 year old son Eliot to the joys of cooking. Maggie has been on a gluten free diet for over four years. She has developed significantly as a cook through discovering how to make gluten free food delicious. Maggie always has a hard time answering questions about her favorite thing to cook or eat because she's always trying something new!


Juicing: To Nosh and Nourish

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 by Andrea L

One of my friends gave me a juicer a year ago.  It was a beautiful piece of machinery that cost him $400 bucks, and I would be a total FOOL to pass on this.  This friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is one of those people who gets into diet fads, spends limitless amounts of money on what is needed for such “fad” requirements, and then quickly loses interest a week later.  I am the freeloading friend that benefits from these antics, and when a nice Warring Juicer landed in my lap, I thought “Saaawwweeett!!”  Sadly I will admit that a year later, I have finally started to use it.  I have carted this thing along to count them, 3 apartments over the last year (I have lived like a gypsy but that is a longer story), and kept thinking to myself, “Once I get settled, my new Jack Lalane juicing regimen will begin.”  Yeah well, a year later here we are.

juicerI am sure right about now you are asking, “Wow, after carting a 25 lb. juicer around for a year to countless apartments, what made you FINALLY start using it?”  It is my personal belief that as a previous single person, I lived like a wild animal.  I ate much of my meals on the go, out of a Jewel shopping bag, and thought little about any actual nourishment that wasn’t in the form of a Women’s One a Day washed down with a gulp of beer.  I recently moved in with my now boyfriend, and when you love someone, you want to start taking better care of yourself and them. At least, that’s how I feel.

Slowly over the last month I have started to nest… work out, think about my meals more, and not wash down vitamins with wine… so plugging in my juicer seemed the next logical step.  My boyfriend works almost as many hours as I do, also a chef, and as a result, cooking for pleasure, let alone health is the last thing on our minds.  I have to give him credit, as he was the one that was really gung ho about this idea, so I went to the produce market and spent about $25 to start.  Little did I know it would really change the way I lived.

veggiesIt started out basic: apples, carrots, beets, oranges, ginger, garlic, etc.  Then as spring slowly moves into summer, I find myself buying pineapples, kiwi, and mangos!  Let me first tell you the first thing you will discover, is that fruit actually tastes very vivid, almost 3D.  It is like experiencing your fruits and veggies for the first time because you are extracting them in their most pure form.

A trick I also started doing is to take the pulp that accumulates in the juicer and add them to my drink, as lots of nutrient are found in the skins and it adds a nice thick texture that keeps me fuller longer.  After a couple of weeks I began to feel more energized, and when I woke up in the morning, I got right up…. no lazing around, which is odd for me!  I incorporate 1 glass of fruit juice in the morning—the brightness wakes me up like a cup of coffee, then save my 1 glass of veggie juice for night time.   I cannot say enough how I am kicking myself for not using this sooner.

tvAnother thing I noticed is that now when I grocery shop, I actually shop the perimeter of the grocery store and not the inside of it, as I have heard many dieticians say this is how we should shop.  Also, I was in this weird habit of drinking a lot of soda, and when I wouldn’t have one I would crave the sugar I got from it in a weird way.  Now that I have started juicing, I hardly drink soda. I just don’t crave it, which is amazing!

There is such a trend in healthy eating lately. I made a comment to one of my Chopping Block’s colleagues the other day how such classes as “Gluten Free”, “Vegan”, and “Vegetarian”  sell out quickly.  I encourage you, if you have not tried juicing yet and are curious, give it a whirl. I hope it will inspire you!

Do you juice? If so, what are your favorite flavors?

Andrea Larson is a lover of all things food and wine. She is a culinary graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago and has worked at such local restaurants as Uncommon Ground, Spring and Custom House. Currently she is working on her local dream of eating her way around Chicago and probably spends more money on dining out than she should!


Derby Dinin’

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Bailey

OrbOh, the Kentucky Derby. It’s perhaps the coolest, fastest, most hoity-toity and expensive two minutes in all of May. It’s the one day a year that you can wear a peacock on your head, drink minty bourbon until you’re blue in the face, and scream, “Go, Orb!”—and no one thinks anything of it because they, too, are wearing peacocks, drinking minty bourbon, and screaming for Orb. Might I also add, as a side note, how I feel excessively tall on Derby day. You must understand that it’s a rare occasion when (standing at 5’2 on a good day) I actually feel like a giant.

Kentucky Derby HatI kept things pretty cool, calm and collected this year for Derby day. In fact, I believe the majority of the day was spent on the 22 Clark bus, which, while there is never a shortage of free entertainment—hanging out on the 22 is quite the opposite of being cool and speedy. I did, Mint Julephowever, manage to pick up some gorgeous sea scallops and fresh veggies (golden beets, daikon radishes, fresh fennel bulbs, carrots, and other goodness) for dinner. I also stopped by my best friend’s wine shop for a short and sweet tasting, and then headed home in time to watch the race. It was at this point that I proceeded to make a glass of minty bourbon, and then attempted to put a giant sun hat on my cat, Rita. Yep. That went over well. This hat clearly ruined Rita’s hopes and dreams of winning the Kentucky Derby during her 278th nap of the day. Sorry, honey. Orb beat you.  I promise it was the hat’s fault… not your mother’s.

Seared Sea Scallops with Simple Asian Slaw

scallopsServes 2

12 Sea Scallops, feet removed

Grapeseed Oil

10” Skillet (I prefer All-Clad Stainless, but any heavy bottomed skillet will do.)

1 medium golden beet, julienned

1 daikon radish, julienned

4 red radishes, julienned

1 medium bulb fresh fennel, sliced thin

1 carrot, julienned

2 scallions, sliced on the bias

1 jalapeño, finely diced (seeds optional)

Fresh cilantro, to taste

Large bowl (or salad bowl)

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated on a Microplane

1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane

1 tsp honey

1 tsp Asian-style mustard

2-3 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil

The juice of one lime

Good quality olive oil, to taste

Salt and Pepper, to taste

For the dressing and slaw: In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing together (with the exception of the olive oil). While constantly whisking, begin to add the olive oil (in a slow, constant drizzle) to the rest of the ingredients, and whisk everything together until the dressing is completely emulsified. Add all veggies to the bowl and toss. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to a day in advance.

For the scallops: Crank the stove to medium high heat. Once the skillet begins to smoke a bit, add the grapeseed oil to the pan. Add the sea scallops, flat side down, and sear for about two minutes on both sides (or until each side is golden brown and caramelized). **If the scallops are sticking to the pan when you are flipping them, leave them alone. Once all sugars from the protein have caramelized, the scallops will release themselves. You should only need to flip them one time.** Remove from the pan and allow them to rest for about a minute or two.


Bailey Phillips never admitted to being normal. In fact, she can't help but wonder if the fact that she slammed her bike into her family's wooden mailbox as a child helped contribute to her being a little off. When Bailey is not booking lovely Chopping Block events for clients, you can typically find her creating meals for friends and family, meowing at her cat, or having outlandish dance parties. Bailey will also never pass up an SEC football game or a glass of Barolo... ever.