The How & Why Of Spring Rolls

spring rolls

Why?

Because they are easy, nutritious, and a good "group" activity.  Assuming you are looking out for a loved one and have lingering time on your hands, why not head to the kitchen and gussy up some spring rolls? 

1. They are easy.

I'm always looking for activities that stand to benefit both my mom and I and this one holds-up.  I prepare everything in advance (although depending on the needs of supervision, prep might be something you could delegate) and then the two of us can sit down at the table and roll away.  When going through the motions side by side, my mom, whom has Alzheimer's, can easy follow along. 

2. They are nutritious.

Unfortunately, my mom often can't always eat them due to dysphagia, or complications related to swallowing but anyone without such concerns can go ahead and binge eat their way to good health.  I know that might sound like a tease but you have to remember that we are feeding more than one mouth in this house.  My father's vascular dementia is taking a toll on some of his motor skills like hand eye coordination, so using utensils can be challenging for him.  At least with the spring rolls he can pick them up with his hands and have at them.  It's one of the few ways he can eat "salad".  It's also a fun way to eat vegetables.  I mean, who doesn't love finger foods?

3. They are a good "group" activity.

It can be hard to make time for senior engagement when chores abound but these spring rolls are like a twofer! Getting the ingredients prepped and sitting down at the table and working on them is a surprising win when it comes to time management. We'll have boatloads of healthy snacks and the activity alone is enough to help me feel like we are sharing quality time together.  All too often it's easy to slip into allowing passive entertainment occupy my parents time, which serves no good for any of us.  They are unquestionably bored and under-stimulated (which I personally find to be a triggers for Sundowning) and I face issues of guilt and frustration knowing I haven't contributed meaning to their day.  So, anything I can do that challenges them in new ways proves fruitful regardless of nutrition.

Rice papers

Rice papers

How?

Yes, I know I should have started with "how" but oh well... 

  • First and foremost, find some rice papers!  They are typically found in the international section of your grocery store.
Preparation organization

Preparation organization

  • Prep whatever you want to put in the rolls.  I typically go for a mix of greens, some herbs, crunchy things like carrots, cucumbers, and peppers, and some kind of protein like crushed nuts, hard boiled eggs, chopped cocktail shrimp or chicken. Use your imagination.  You have endless options, just remember that whatever you decide to use needs to fit in the wrappers so cut accordingly.
Spring roll steps.

Spring roll steps.

  • Next you're ready to start rolling.  In a medium sized skillet add some warm tap water and place it by your rolling work station.  Working with one rice paper at a time, soak each wrapper in the water until it's completely soft and filmy.  
  • Lay the soft wrapper out on a clean surface and add your filling in the middle.
  • Fold in the sides first and then the bottom section and roll it right up.
  • Dip them in your favorite dressing and enjoy!  We used a store bought peanut sauce but I think any standard dressing could work too.

 I would suggest making all the spring rolls before eating.  Stopping to taste really derails productivity.  You can also store any leftovers in the fridge for a few days.  There's nothing like having a little power snack to get you through the chaos.  The caregiver struggle is real so make sure you're all fueled up!