Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

There are a million recipes out there for chicken lettuce wraps. They all use the typical ingredients, some are peanutty, some are super spicey, some have minced mushrooms, some leave out the water chestnuts (which in my opinion are absolutely necessary), and most use ground meat (typically chicken, turkey or pork).

This is my favorite recipe for lettuce wraps, and there are certain things I like that I include, but may not matter to others. First, I don’t like the texture of ground chicken for my lettuce wraps. I like actual pieces of chicken, but ones that are chopped finely. To accomplish this, I use my food processor and chop the chicken, but don’t turn it into ground mush. If you don’t have a food processor, you can do it by hand, or use one of those food choppers. Yes, it’s time consuming. If you don’t mind the texture of ground meat, just use ground chicken, but the eating experience will be different. Second, water chestnuts. This is a texture thing as well. I think it’s important to have the hard crunch of water chestnuts to offset the soft chicken. Third, the sauce. I like a kick, but if it has too much of a kick, the kids won’t eat it. This recipe has the perfect mild kick for my family (the last time I made this my six year old ate FIVE lettuce wraps). If you like more of a kick, up the amount of chili sauce. I also enjoy the peanut butter base. You could use a different nut butter if you’re allergic to peanuts. I also leave out the soy sauce, as we have soy allergies in our house. Trust me, you won’t miss it in this recipe. If your family loves these, or you have a larger family, double it. You will thank me. This really only realistically serves four. Plus, the leftovers are awesome.

A few technical notes: fresh ginger will make all the difference in this recipe. To prepare it, I peel one side of the ginger, then use a box grater, using the one that looks like a shredding blade, but is smaller. (Does that make any sense?) Basically, my grater has a slicer side, a shredder side: the side you would use for cheese, then a side that is really small, like a zester side, and the 4th side looks to me like the shredder, but is smaller. I have seen this called the grater side (but I always think of cheese when I hear “grate” because we always got out the grater to “grate some cheese”, we never “shredded cheese”). That is the side I use. I grate the ginger, using the unpeeled side to protect my fingers. Then I scrape the inside of the grater to get all of the ginger and any juice. This takes some time, so I do it before cooking the chicken. The chicken cooks super fast. See the pictures if I have completely confused you.

ASIAN CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

1 1/2 TBS natural peanut butter
1/2 TBS honey
2 TBS beef stock
1/2 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp salt
1 inch knob of fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
4 oz water chestnuts
1/2 onion
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 TBS olive oil
Lettuce of your choice (we like iceberg or butter lettuce)

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat peanut butter and honey for a few seconds, just until warm. Add the beef stock, sesame oil, vinegar, chili garlic sauce and salt. Whisk together until well mixed. Set aside.

Prep your veggies: Grate your ginger (see notes above the recipe for helps if you’re not sure how to do this) and mince your garlic. Set aside. Finely chop your water chestnuts and set aside. Finely chop your onions and set aside.

Finely chop your chicken into small pieces, either by hand, using a food chopper, or using a food processor (use the ‘pulse’ button so you don’t completely pulverize it).

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook until onion starts to soften and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for one minute and add the chicken. Cook, stirring often until chicken is no longer pink (this happens very quickly). Add the water chestnuts and sauce. Stir continually and cook until everything is well mixed and sauce is hot.

Serve with lettuce leaves. To eat, place a few spoonfuls in the center of a lettuce leave and wrap. Leaves closer to the center of the head of lettuce are naturally cupped and easier to use.

ALLERGEN alert: To make this peanut-free, sub almond butter or hazelnut butter for the peanut butter. For gluten-free, make sure the beef stock, chili garlic sauce and vinegar are gluten-free.

REAL FOOD alert: it is difficult to find chili garlic sauce without preservatives. If you need to, you can add an additional clove of garlic and red pepper flakes instead of the chili garlic sauce. Check your beef stock for additives and msg.

Curry and Forbidden Rice

I declare this to be the summer of adventure!!!!

I have decided to buy a new type of produce and/or a new grain every time I go to the store. Our local grocery store had “tamarillos” which I had never seen before. They are a beautiful deep red, and look like a large oblong red plum. I was intrigued.

I came home, did some googling, surveyed my facebook friends and discovered that it (supposedly) tastes like a cross between a tomato and a passion fruit. There is a yellow variety, which is sweeter, and in either variety, you do not eat the tart peel, you scoop out the inside and eat it raw or cook it into a jelly (one facebook friend had only had it cooked, but didn’t tell me how she cooked it).  You learned in this post that I hate raw tomatoes, so I was wary, but curious. Here is a shot of the inside. Sorry that I didn’t get a shot of the outside, I hadn’t planned on blogging my tamarillo adventure:

It looks promising, eh? Well, it tasted nasty. Like poop-nasty. (Excuse my vulgarity). It was reeeeaaaaally sour, and had a sulfuric undertone. Two of my sons, who love sour things thought they were pretty good.

In keeping with my adventurous goal, I got some black “forbidden” rice last time I went to the store. I was trying to figure out what to make it, and I thought it was about time I actually wrote down a curry recipe. When I get the hankering for curry, I just kinda wing it. It’s always roux-based, but everything else varies, sometimes I add coconut milk, sometimes I don’t. This time it turned out to be some of the best curry I’ve ever made, so I’m glad I wrote it down!

The rice was great. It has the texture of brown rice, though a little chewier, and was a little earthier tasting than brown, but not noticeably different. One of my kids loved the ‘beetle rice’, once thought it was pretty good, and my squeamish one refused to eat it once brother said it looked like beetles.

We also decided as a family we we prefer straight-up potato curry. We were all digging for the potatoes and ignoring the chicken (which is why the picture is mostly chicken…I took it the next day of the leftovers). You can add whatever you’d like. Sweet potatoes would be tasty, or carrots, firm tofu if you’re a tofu type person. The amount of curry to add depends on your tastes, and the quality of your curry powder. 1 1/2 TBS was perfect for us, not too overwhelming for the kids, not too underwhelming for us. If you’re new to curry or not sure, start with 1 TBS, you can add more at the end if you need to.

CHICKEN AND POTATO CURRY

3-5 red potatoes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
4 TBS butter
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 TBS flour
1-2 TBS curry powder
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups (one can) coconut milk
1 tsp salt

In a large pot, boil water. Add potatoes and cook until fork tender (when a fork inserted will slide in easily), but not falling apart. Remove and drain. Set aside. Cook your chicken if needed (I usually use leftover chicken for this, but you can cook your cubed chicken breast in a pan with a little water, covered, just until it is no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear when you puncture it).

In a large sauce pan, melt butter. Add onions and cook until soft. Add minced garlic and cook for one minute. Whisk in flour and curry powder. Cook while whisking for one minute. Add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add coconut milk slowly, whisking continually. Add salt and whisk continually until sauce thickens. Add chicken and potatoes and cook and stir until chicken and potatoes are warm. Serve with rice.

ALLERGEN alert: to make this dairy-free, use oil in place of the butter. To make this gluten-free, instead of making a roux, omit the flour, and after adding the stock and coconut milk, bring it to a simmer. Dissolve 1 TBS cornstarch in 1 TBS cold water and add to the sauce. Stir until thick.

SPECIAL DIETS alert: You can make this vegetarian or vegan by omitting the chicken and adding whatever veg you want.

 

BLACK “FORBIDDEN” RICE

2 cups water
1 cup black forbidden rice

Bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Cover and lower heat to simmer. Simmer for 60-70 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Real Food Remake: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Slow Cooker)

Real Food Remake

I love finding a good slow cooker recipe.

The problem is that many of them, in the name of convenience, include cream soups or packaged mixes that have msg or other preservatives. A friend recently made this recipe, and I was excited that it didn’t include cream soups, but there were two things I didn’t like about the recipe. First, it used a rice-a-roni packaged mix that has autolyzed yeast extract (which is essentially msg), and second, it asks you to create a roux-based cream sauce on the stove top, add it to the soup and let it cook longer. I LOVE roux-based sauces, but it’s just an extra step that I don’t want to do on a busy day where I am using a crock pot recipe.

So, I changed a few things. First, I subbed the mix for real ingredients (seriously, it takes maybe an extra minute to measure out some spices than to open and pour a box). To avoid making the cream sauce, I added coconut milk to the soup. I picked coconut milk because it makes the soup dairy-free (shout-out to my allergic and vegan friends!!), plus it adds a nice flavor to the soup, especially with the turmeric. To thicken it, there is still an added step. At the end, you add a cornstarch mixture and let it cook and additional ten minutes. It’s still a lot less work than the cream sauce. If you’re allergic to corn, you can go the roux route, or simply take the lid off for the last 40 minutes of cooking and knock it up to high. It won’t be as thick, but it’ll be close.

When I served this soup, my picky one (who you met during this post) declared it “super-super awesome!” All of the kids loved it…until aforementioned picky kid said that the wild rice looked like beetles, then one of the others refused to eat it. So, use that knowledge to your benefit or harm, depending on the coolness factor of eating bugs in your family.

(Oh, I realized as I was typing this up that I completely forgot to add the carrots to the soup. We actually loved it without, and my kids hate carrots (I know, right?!), so I added it to the recipe, but it’s totally optional depending on your tastes).

CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP (Slow Cooker)

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-14 oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
4 oz package wild rice (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 c uncooked brown rice (not instant brown rice)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup diced carrots (optional)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
salt to taste

In the slow cooker, mix together everything except the cornstarch and cold water. Be sure to shake the coconut milk cans well before opening, and whisk together well. Cook on low for 4 hours. Combine cornstarch and cold water, add to the soup. Keep the lid off and cook and additional 10 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Add salt if needed.

REAL food alert. Check your chicken stock for preservatives and msg.

ALLERGY alert: see above notes if you are allergic to corn. If you are allergic to coconut, use 2 cans of evaporated milk.

VEGGIE alert: easily make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken. You can add any veggies you would like, like celery, carrots, root veggies. You could also add kale in the last 10 minutes for a green boost.

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Bacon Mushroom Chicken

Bacon is everywhere. In quiches, sandwiches, on burgers. Nowadays you see it in pancakes, cupcakes, even lollipops (which are gross, by the way). Jack in the Box even came out with a bacon shake.

I love bacon, but I’ve been (mostly) taking it out of my diet since we stopped eating cured meats (read here about nitrates and nitrites in cured meat). Every so often, I’ll make one of my favorite dishes, using uncured bacon. Because, honestly…what’s life without bacon? It’s one of the best creations ever…crispy, smoky, chewy, salty…mmm…

This dish is a family pleaser. One of my sons hates chicken. We have to force him to eat dinner when we have chicken. Tonight, I made this…he asked for seconds. (!!!!!)

BACON MUSHROOM CHICKEN

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half to make 6 portions
8 slices of uncured bacon
1/2 onion, diced
6 oz. sliced mushrooms
4 TBS flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp salt

Start by butterflying the chicken breasts. To do this, flatten as well as you can, then cut the thick side from the inside and flatten it to create a thin fillet. You can also pound it thin, or have your butcher butterfly them for you when you buy it. See the pictures if I’ve confused you, hopefully they’ll help. Basically, you want them thin, so they cook quickly.

Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until crispy. Take out the bacon and drain it on paper towels.  Place the chicken portions in the pan with the bacon grease and brown on each side, until fully cooked through (inside is no longer pink and juice runs clear when cut into). Remove the chicken from the pan and place aside.

The pan should still have bacon grease in it. There needs to be about 4-6 TBS of bacon grease. If you have a hard time estimating, pour it into a glass bowl or measuring cup and measure it. Be careful! It’s hot! Put 4 TBS back into the pan. If there is less that 4 TBS, add butter or olive oil to bring it up to 4 TBS. This all sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. You should be able to look at the grease left in the pan and either pour some out or add some butter in…it doesn’t have to be exact.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the bacon grease and cook until mushrooms are soft and onions are translucent and starting to brown. Dump in the flour and stir vigorously until flour becomes light brown (you are making a roux). Add the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously and stirring out lumps after each addition. Add the rosemary and salt. Continue to cook while stirring until it thickens. When it’s a thick sauce, add the bacon and chicken portions. This is great served with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

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