Easy Summer Spring Rolls!

spring rollsRED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. This is the fourth in a RED Hearts series of spring-into-summer recipes -- things you can cook or bake, usually healthy things, always easy things (smoothies in a bowl, anyone?) -- for the people you heart. Served up by Erika Kwee, 23, “the baker, photographer and typo-maker” behind vegetarian food blog The Pancake Princess.

I’d argue that spring rolls are one of summer’s most perfect foods: When temperatures soar, there’s almost nothing more satisfying than the cool crunch of a nutrient-packed meal you can hold in one hand. Though restaurants tend to offer up a small plate of them as appetizers (for $4 or more a pop), if you make your rolls at home and add some protein, they’re a delicious full meal that’s inexpensive and easy -- even if you’re serving many. I love making big platters of these for family and friends, presented with my favorite peanut dipping sauce.

There’s lots of room for creativity and accounting for people’s tastes because the rolls are infinitely customizable -- though they’re at their best when you have a bunch of varying textures, flavors and colors mingling together.

I made mine here with lettuce, basil, avocado, cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, and mango, but I switch it up every time. You should too!

Summer Spring Rolls Filling options (I recommend picking one or more from each category): Leafy: lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage Herby: Thai basil, basil, cilantro, mint, scallions Creamy: avocado, sweet potato Crunchy: cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, jalapenos, bean sprouts, jicama, daikon Fruity: mango, strawberries, pineapple Protein-packed: tofu, crab, cooked shrimp or chicken, edamame

Whatever your filling, the two base ingredients are: Noodles (glass, rice or “bean thread”) Rice paper wrappera (usually found in the international aisle of most grocery stores)

Prep your fillings by rinsing any leafy greens and chopping any fruits or vegetables into thin slices or julienned strips. Soak your noodles according to directions until soft.

To make the rolls, fill a large, shallow baking dish with warm water. Fully submerge a rice paper wrapper into the water for 5-10 seconds, or until the wrapper softens but is still a bit firm (don’t let it get soggy or it will be much harder to work with; it will soften a bit more as you go through the rolling process).

Lay the wrapper flat on a plastic cutting board. Add fillings in a small pile close to the edge of the wrapper closest to you, starting with any leafy greens. Fold the edge closest to you over the fillings, tucking the wrapper tightly underneath. Roll the fillings forward about one rotation, then fold the right and left sides of the wrapper in, like an envelope. Continue rolling forward, then let the roll rest on its crease to seal. Enjoy immediately!

Store leftovers in an airtight, refrigerated container. Rolls may stick together, so separate with plastic wrap if desired. Fresh rice wrappers should remain soft in the fridge, but old wrappers may turn tough, so it’s best to eat these right after you make them.

Peanut dipping sauce: ¼ cup natural creamy peanut butter 1.5 tablespoons water 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce juice of half a lime 1 teaspoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar

Whisk all ingredients together. Thin with additional water or lime juice if desired.

RED Hearts guest poster Erika Kwee is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.