Spring Rolls

Winter is tough. I basically want to drink hot chocolate all the time and lie on the couch. Vegetables seem to cold to eat. Also, why is it raining in 30ish degree weather and not snowing? Can someone explain Chicago weather to me?

Luckily, this slump is only present when I don’t have a project. My sister and I decided that it would be a great idea to make Vietnamese spring rolls after an inspiring take-in night.

Veggies Prepped

Cucumbers, Carrots, Red Bell Pepper, and mint prepped

Spring rolls are a group activity: someone is frying the tofu until nice and browned and someone is cutting vegetables and someone is making the noodles.

Inspired by The Minimalist Baker

Special Necessities: Rice vermicelli noodles, firm tofu, rice spring roll papers

  1. Cut a carrot, a cucumber, and a red bell pepper into matchsticks. Set aside. Pick the mint leaves off their stems.
  2. Make a sauce:
    1. 1/3 c. peanut butter
    2. 1 T. soy sauce
    3. 1 T. brown sugar
    4. 1 T. fresh lime juice
    5. 2 tsp. garlic chili sauce
    6. hot water until liquidy
  3. Cut tofu up into rectangles. Coat in cornstarch or brown rice flour and fry in 3 T. sesame oil until browned on all sides.
  4. Boil water and cook noodles according to package directions (you won’t need all the noodles– either use only part of the dry noodles or cook them all and use the leftover for a stir-fry).
  5. Fry the tofu again in a little sauce (add more soy sauce and sesame oil if necessary) to coat, about 2 minutes.
  6. Get a big wide bowl of water ready. Have damp kitchen towels or paper towels on the counter. Dip a rice paper into the water for 10-15 sec. Lay flat on the towel. Place veggies first in bottom third, then noodles and tofu. Do one roll, then lay the mint, then tuck in edges and finish rolling.

Finished product, ready for eating with the rest of the peanut sauce!

We devoured these despite the cold. It was refreshing to crunch the veggies and feel the slippery texture of the rice paper. I’d encourage this treat after too many hot chocolates, following a foul mood because you can’t go outside because it’s slushing/raining/WhatChicago???


Winter in the Chi: veggie burger and cookies and bagels


I landed in Chicago, to traffic controllers wearing long sleeves and hats.

To say it has been chilling to come back to Chicago after a semester in the tropics would be an understatement. The contrast between the two environments is so stark, that being in one makes the other seem like a dream. Costa Rica was real, right?

The Arti Institute of Chicago is oozing the holiday spirit onto Michigan Ave.

The Arti Institute of Chicago is oozing the holiday spirit onto Michigan Ave.

So here in Chicago things are winter wonderful: ice skating in Millennium Park and drinking ample amounts of tea and using the oven without overheating…
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I got to make dinner one night: a re-do of the veggie burgers I made for our “Thanksgiving” in Costa Rica. Homemade hamburger buns and green beans with balsamic and sweet potato black bean burgers.

Hamburger Buns (adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads):

  • 4.5 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 T Salt
  • 2T butter, at room temp
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 c. warm milk.
  • 5ish c. bread flour (or all purpose)

Mix yeast in warm water and milk. Add butter and half the flour. Mix well. Add the salt and the rest of the flour until the dough becomes a cohesive mass. Knead 8min or so until the dough becomes smooth. Let rise for 40 min in an oiled, covered bowl. Punch down, shape into 12 hockey-pucks. Let rise 30 min on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 400. Brush buns with milk. Bake for 20 min until browned. Cool, then serve.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

  • 3 sweet potatoes (small, roasted*) *Cube sweet potatoes, sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano and chili powder and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to coat evenly. Bake on a sheet pan 375 until soft, about 30min.
  • 1-2 cans black beans. Drained.
  •  2-3 T. red onion, chopped.
  • 1 T. Cilantro, chopped
  •  Garlic! As much as you want, but a few cloves will do, chopped.
  • 1 cup white rice flour (haven’t tried with brown yet, but go for it!)
  • SPICES: 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, anything else.

Refrigerate mixture for 30 min, unless your house is as cold as mine in Chicago and you can just leave them at room temp (haha). Form into patties, and cook on the stove top with olive oil for a crispy outside and “meaty” inside. Enjoy!

Costa Rica: Week 11-12

It’s the final countdown, for real. We have spent the last two weeks gathering data in the field and then analyzing it back at the center. The busier we became the quicker these last few weeks flew by!

The directed research project I took on was generating a noise map in Santa Rosa National Park. The park is bordered by the Inter-American highway and has a road through the park. The whole group was focusing on the soundscape of Santa Rosa, and the anthropogenic portion of soundscape (anthrophony caused by traffic noise) on bird populations.


Me, gathering noise in the Tropical dry forest of Santa Rosa. We collected noise data twice a day at 48 points along the highway and 48 points along the inner road


Our professor seated, Kate and I in full gear outside the van waiting to do point counts. Point counts were conducted three times a day: 6am, 9am, and 3pm. 

We stayed in the field for a week, trampling through the woods. In addition to all the birds we saw, we saw an amadillo and kouatis and agoutis!

There was fantastic gallo pinto (it’s different in Guanacaste than anywhere else in Costa Rica– much crisper) and quick bonding. We presented our findings today. Here are some maps to look at:

Highway Noise Propagation

The noise propagaion along the Inter-American Highway. The data was processed in ArcGIS using interpolation (IDW) which creates a gradient by weighing the values given at one point with the values at another point, creating values for each cell.

Inner Road Noise Propagaion

This is the inner road through Santa Rosa National Park. The grid was not the easiest to make: we macheted through the forest with a tape measurer to mark points 25m and 50m from the road’s edge. The grid was not perfect, but note the noise is higher towards the east/Inter-American Highway.

In other news, we also have a baby goat on the farm. We were introduced to him at 8 days old. Bruno (the baby goat) scampers around the campus being the most adorable animal.

Thanksgiving was a success here! Everyone made something delicious and we ate, satisfied and bonded.

Probably the last post from Costa Rica. It has been a wonderful tropical semester.