Spicy Green Mango

--Living and eating with a dash of whimsy and a sprinkling of spice--

  • I'm a budding food-tographer turned blogger who's insanely passionate about food..real food...the kind that sprouts from the earth and you have to wash it to eat it. Yes, hearty real food. I live to eat and I eat to live and am loving every bit of it! If you're here, then I suppose we share the same passion! Enjoy!

Posted by Spicy Green Mango 63 comments

You're Here!  So am I!  Spicy Green Mango's still in the running to become the next Project Food Blog Star!  Voting for Challenge 6 begins Monday, October 25 and continues until Thursday, October 28 at 6pm (PST).  Cast your vote for Spicy Green Mango by following this link and clicking on the heart icon near the top of the page!  Alright, foodie rockstars, let's start grubbing and let me know if you would have wanted to ride shotgun to my picnic!


Just an hour north of Sacramento, surrounded by the lush evergreen backdrop of the Sierra Foothills, is a playground for some darling little gems that have graced my imagination ever since I fell in love with the childrens classic, Johnny Appleseed. And who wouldn't?  This was a person whose mission in life was to sprinkle the land with apple seeds -- wow, what a cool life, I thought. So,  with visions of sugary apple pies dancing in my head, I still remember being the little girl in class, smiling and coloring my rows and rows of apple trees, as I prepared for my upcoming field trip to Apple Hill. It would be a day of many firsts: my first time frolicking in an apple orchard; my first time seeing an entire apple being pressed to the core so that I could taste its sweet nectar; and my first time appreciating the beauty of autumn's treasures with its vibrant hues of crimson and sunburst dotting each tree limb.

As I prepared for the sixth challenge of Project Food Blog where I would need to design a "meal on the go," it was only befitting that I set up my late apple harvest picnic at the same spot where such whimsical childhood memories took flight. And after discovering a scrumptious recipe for a harvest cake with the goodness of organic parsnips, rainbow carrots, grapeseed oil and apples, I knew that my decision was set.

So, with the Project Food Blog "cooler" swung over one shoulder and my trusting Nikon over the other, we made our way to Apple Hill to celebrate the end of the apple harvest season with a picnic that featured only the best of Spicy Green Mango:

The Show-Stealer
Crunchy Rice Salad (Naem in Laos)
(with roasted peanuts, fresh mint & cured pork served w/lettuce)
The Assistant
Roasted Spicy Eggplant Dip served with slices of a "Heavenly" Lao Beef Jerky

The Heart-Stopper
Autumn Harvest Cake
(with organic parsnip, rainbow carrots, zucchini, Empire apple & grapeseed oil)
The Quencher
Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Juice

A Picnic in the Orchard: Inspiration and Elements

Inspired from memories of childhood field trips, I wanted to keep my picnic as simple, minimalistic and convenient as possible. I packed my dishes in recyclable paper boxes, tucked in mini vintage bottles of sparkling apple juice and tied some twine & parchment paper to dress up my harvest cake that was oozing with so much yumminess with every mouthful.

In honor of October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I also decided to incorporate shades of pink in the drink flags and food labels. A year ago, I completed the Susan G. Komen run and was truly humbled by witnessing the strength and resilience of the amazing women (and their families) who courageously battled this illness.  It's my belief that you don't necessarily have to be directly affected by a disease to make an impact for those who need it most. 

The rustic tablescape & spread to create the perfect picnic ambience 

The Show-Stealer:
A blend of grated coconut, red curry paste, paprika and eggs make this crunchy rice salad one that's bursting with the flavors of Southeast Asia.   During my vacation in Thailand, I was giddy with glee when I spotted a naem vendor in Bangkok and he had these mini balls and fresh veggies lined up to serve his next customer: Me!  Even with my bag of bbq chicken and papaya salad clenched tightly in my fist, I couldn't resist my bulging eyes and gluttonous belly when I ended up pitting in my order.

This is my homemade version of what my mom considers a huge undertaking b/c everytime she cooks this, she always makes enough to feed a little village.  Now, I want to scale it down a bit and surprisingly, the process is really easy and straightforward.   The crispy balls of fried naem are easily transported for any picnic or on-the-go occasion.

Crunchy Rice Salad (Lao Naem)
Makes about 25 balls
The salad can be served as an appetizer or main entree---the choice is yours.

Essentials:  You will need to preheat your deep fryer to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit) and fill it with enough oil to fry the naem.
  • 4 cups jasmine or white rice, cooked 
  • 2 cups coconut, grated
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
Optional:  2 cured Lao pork sausage rolls, sliced AND 1/4 cup of pork skins, thinly sliced

  • 1 green scallion, sliced
  • 10-15 cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 5-10 mint leaves, chopped or whole
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2-4 lime wedges
  • 5 small dried Thai chili peppers, flash-fried in oil to deepen smoky flavor
 How-To:  You may fry the rice balls 1 day prior to your outing.  Be sure to store them in a dry, paper bag. 
  • Heat oil to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit)
  • In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Roll up your sleeves and grab a fistful of the mixture and shape it into a tightly-packed ball.  The tighter the better b/c that will prevent it from breaking apart when it is fried. 
  • Fry the rice ball in batches of 4 or 5 to prevent the oil temperature from getting too low.  Fry each batch for about 10 minutes or until rice turns a golden hue
  • Let batch cool completely before attempting to crumple the balls.  The crispy outer shell provides a wonderfully pleasant textural variation for your taste buds.
  • To serve, simply crumple the shell of each ball, sprinkle in some sliced scallions, cilantro & peanuts, a squeeze of lime and some salt (or fish sauce) to taste and you're done! (If you decided to try the authentic route, make sure you also add in the pork skins and cured pork during this time as well--I always do!).  Serve it up with lettuce or your favorite leafy green and this will just leave your friends wondering what restaurant you hustled to cook up this dish for you! 
  • If you should be so inclined, traditionally, the naem salad can be eaten with some of your smoky fried chili peppers.

Roasted spicy eggplant dipping sauce that pairs really well with the beef jerky...tasty nibbles to please you!

 And who could possibly go to a picnic and not bring dessert?  One of my favorite things to do as the weather cools down is keep my home warm and toasty by doting my oven with plenty of home-baked goods.  The smorgasbord of root and squash vegetables continues to inspire me to push the envelope when it comes to enhancing my baking skills. Moist, soft and just perfect for a picnic, this harvest cake (although quite honestly, it is more of a loaf) is definitely all it's cracked up to be (and then some).  My sister and I baked it the night prior and fed it to our taste testers for a review--they loved it!

A Harvest Cake ( or a Loaf)

Although we missed the peak of apple harvest season, I was still determined to capture the beauty of the orchard by strolling among the apple trees, with my sparkling apple juice bottle in hand. Here's what I found lying on the ground and my oh my, they are simply lovely!

I spotted this tree from far away and couldn't help but become entranced by its aura...no styling, no props-- just some golden delicious apples not quite ready to surrender its stems to the ground below. I thought it was truly a lovely capture for the day and a very nice ending to my day of picnicking in an apple orchard.

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63 Responses

  1. Ok so that roasted eggplant is so calling my name. Great photos and loved the story. This is a picnic that I wold love to part of ! Great job !

  2. @Wheels & Lollipops: Awe, thank you so much! Can't wait to see what you dream up!

  3. Gorgeous! I wish I had been at your picnic instead of at mine with awful hotel lighting to deal with. What a gorgeous selection of dishes and a great day you had!

  4. Winnie says:

    So beautiful! I love the food and the setting...just perfect ;)

  5. Stephanie says:

    Everything looks lovely! I love going to Apple Hill and I wish I had packed a great picnic like yours last time I went! What a great idea. Good luck in this round!

  6. Beautiful!!! I have long been wanting to go to Apple Hill - you have inspired me to Road Trip it up there! As usual, your photos amaze me along with the delicious food! Great job!!!

  7. Amelia PS says:

    Stellar styling!!! I would love to bite into one of those rice balls (and love them wrapped in newspapaer) :)

  8. Liren says:

    Oh, you never disappoint! This is beautiful, just beautiful! I love how you brought tastes of Laos to an apple orchard.

    One of the things I missed the most when I first moved out here was the apple picking - and now, thanks to you, I now know there is a charming place to apple pick. I can't wait to bring the kids!

  9. Great menu/presentation and spectacular photos.

  10. This whole post is STUNNING. My red heart is yours!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful feast. I love orchards when they're just past their prime and fall has truly set in!

  12. Artistta says:

    Gorgeous post and the meal looks fantastic! This should surely get you through to the next challenge! You have my vote!

  13. such beautiful attention to detail both in food and presentation. Well done. GREG

  14. Duchess says:

    very very charming, would have loved to been there. Best of luck.

  15. Stacy says:

    Lovely Post! I just discovered your blog through Project Food Blog and have fallen in love! I love going to apple hill to enjoy all of the apple goodness! I think I will taking your picnic inspiration when I travel to apple hill next week with some girlfriends!

  16. I grew up near Sacramento, and have a lot of great memories trekking every year to apple hill. What a lovely post. The food looks amazing, and I think we would all like to be invited along. Nicely done. I voted for you yet again!

    Good luck! Hope to see us both in round 7!!! =)

  17. ~Lisa~ says:

    Lovely post and fantastic picnic. Beautiful photos as always. Voted

  18. @Mardi, Winnie, Stephanie and Lisa: Thanks so much! And yes, Apple Hill is truly a little gem we have tucked away. I absolutely get giddy like a kid in a candy store everytime I visit those ranches. So much fun and we had the best caramel apple pie that day, too! We gobbled it up before pictures could be taken...LOL!

    @Amelia: We made sure to line the newspaper with parchment paper to avoid any inky occurrences.

    @Liren: Thank you, my dear! You MUST take your girls b/c I am sure they will absolutely fall in love with it. The apples have pretty much been harvested by now, but take them in September and you will get the best pictures :)

    @Foodalogue, cookeatlove, junebu8, Artistta, Sippity Sup, Duchess: Thank you, thank you (for all your red hearts)! I love being able to capture the itty bitty details b/c ultimately, it's the small things in life that brings many of us the smiles that we cherish so much.

    @Stacy: Welcome and thanks for stopping by! Have a blast at Apple Hill and remember to bring a jacket b/c the weather is so fickle up there.

    @Jacob's Kitchen: Yay! Thanks so much! You should take another trip to Apple Hill...I just can't get enough of the scenery. It is so amazing!

    @Lisa: Thank you, my dear! I appreciate it very much!

  19. LOVE the photography and design elements. modern and cute, and of course the food looks amazing too!

  20. Heather says:

    This is so beautiful!! Love the jerky, particularly. What a bunch of adorable details!

  21. Such beautiful pictures, I love the attention to detail in labeling the dishes and drinks! Your post really makes be wish I would have been able to picnic with you in the Sierra Foothills instead of feeling the winter creeping onto me (it's already getting down to the low 30s in Quebec!). Thanks for making me feel the warmth of early fall one last time.

  22. Just lovely. I would have gone anywhere for that food! You've got a vote from me.

  23. Lovely lovely post! You've really captured the mood of the place with your pictures and your descriptions. I love your little pink signs and of course, the food looks fantastic - especially those crunchy rice balls!

  24. Ben says:

    Wow, these photos are really stunning. I love the way they capture autumn. Nice work!

  25. Marisa says:

    Inspired idea, lovely presentation and beautiful photographs. Well done!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Looks like a beautiful (and delicious!) picnic!

  27. This is wonderfully written and WOW!! Magazine-worthy photography. Now I really want to go apple-picking, as well! You've got my vote. :)

  28. Your photos are absolutely lovely! I adore your packaging with all the pretty labels and ribbons. The food looks delicious too! You have my vote for sure!

  29. Gorgeous photos, gorgeous menu, gorgeous presentation! You have my vote.

  30. This is an absolutely beautiful post!! THe crunchy rice salad is most definitely to die for :) :)


  31. Trish says:

    Really beautiful photos. My mouth is watering. Good luck!!

  32. Jackie says:

    I was showing this post to somebody at work the other day and saying (repeatedly): "LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL IT ALL IS. JUST LOOK. HOW THE HECK DOES ANYBODY COMPETE WITH THE SHEER BEAUTY OF THIS?!"

    ...are you getting that I think it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen? ;)

    Awesome post - your food looks delicious, it sounds like it was uber fun, and, more importantly, it's just beautiful! Good luck, lovely!

    Jax x

  33. Your picnic is breathtaking! I loved every photo and every dish. You have a vote from me!

    For my entry, I wanted to create a road trip and picnic for my boyfriend, who had recently given me a "do over" of one of my childhood memories. I decided to give him his own "do over" -- a special birthday picnic with a heart-themed meal. Come see if you'd like :)

  34. Mariko says:

    I never see those colors of parsnips. So pretty. And the eggplant looks so yummy.

  35. Lori Lynn says:

    Your food-styling is second to none.
    Love that menu - sounds unique and really tasty!
    Good luck, happy to give my vote!

  36. amazing photos! I would have loved to be part of that picnic. voting!

  37. Fiona says:

    Your photos are always so evocative - I really think this is your best post yet...Beautiful. Looking forward to your next entry!

  38. Damaris says:

    really really beautiful. I voted for you. Go get em'

  39. Hello Everyone! You are all so amazing, so thank you kindly for all your sweet comments. I will definitely not let you down.

  40. What a great menu and everything looks so delicious. The rice balls look so perfect, they must tasted incredible. I've craving beef jerky lately and after seeing your picture, I must have some. Great post and voted. Good luck!

  41. One of the many things I miss about living in Davis is being in close reach of Apple Hill during fall. Your photos bring back memories and your food made me hungry. Mission accomplished!

  42. Congratulation for making to challenge #6!!! You've got my vote again this round! Congrats & Best wishes to making to next round :)

    Have a great week
    jen @ www.passion4food.ca

  43. Beautiful photos!!! Loved your menu and those trees and apples took me back to autumn in the midwest where I grew up. Great entry, just voted. :)

  44. janelle says:

    WOW. Your pictures are amazing; any number of them could be up on my wall! And the food! And yes: I am all falling in love with food-from-the-earth. What a fantastic movement/era to be a part of!!!? Yes?!?!?

  45. callie says:

    Wow - hands down, you won my vote! Beautiful photography, presentation/packaging and of course, food! Love it.

  46. Beautiful!!
    I love this crispy rice salad but didn't know how to make it. Now i do!

  47. Danny says:

    Food looks great, as do all the pictures. well done!

  48. Congratulations!!! :D Beautiful photos once again :). Good luck in the next round!!!

  49. Mindy says:

    Beautiful pictures and wonderful menu.

  50. Hey Spicy! It was so great meeting you at the Foodbuzz Gala dinner! Just checked out your blog and the photography is GORGEOUS! I should have gotten some tips from you the other night:) Can't wait to see what you'll come up with next.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I grew up around Apple Hill! Now living in AZ I miss it horribly! Loved the blog, food looks AWESOME! Plan on trying out the recipes.

  52. lovely pictures

  53. Thank you so very much for your thoughtful comments. I love it (and read all of them, too).

    Stay tuned for the next challenge!

  54. Peggy says:

    Every dish seems to be calling my name here! That rice salad looks absolutely amazing! I love the setting and backstory of your picnic! Job well done and can't wait for the video challenge!

  55. Lizzy says:

    I have always loved to picnic...and applehill seems the right place for food lovers...

  56. Your photography and post layout is gorgeous! Great work!

  57. david says:

    The story and the photos were awesome. You did a good job in both.

  58. loving your photos :)

  59. David says:

    I love the encounter and the pics are just great!:)

  60. elpi says:

    this is a nice place for picnic with our family and having a healthy eating habit with your family is a great way.

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  63. Fantastic! This doesn't look like something I'd usually pick up but I will admit that the premise has gotten me intrigued!
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