Last week in New Jersey we had a snow storm from early-morning Sunday into Monday. Work was canceled, the driveway and our cars were both covered, and it was freezing out. I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. So I didn’t! But I knew I had to rely on making dinner from what I had on hand. They key to this type of meal is making sure it doesn’t taste like it was just thrown together to use up ingredients in the pantry or fridge.
Before I started brainstorming on Monday night, I asked my other half if there were something in particular he wanted. His request: “lettuce wraps, if you can.” Challenge, extended! I browsed the contents of our shelves and found that this was totally doable- he had previously purchased a head of organic iceberg lettuce for his lunch sandwiches, I had a container of organic non-GMO tofu that I was planning on using in a different recipe later in the week, and I had leftover raw cauliflower. Done!
I love having leftover ingredients- especially when they were inexpensive to start with. A few days before, I bought a head of organic cauliflower for $3.99 (conventional was $3.49- only 50 cents less!)
I used 1/5 of the head for my vegan cauliflower “meat” balls and now had 4/5 left in my fridge- how exciting! The cauliflower would definitely be going in these lettuce wraps, along with the lettuce and tofu mentioned above.
As for the sauce, I have a go-to Asian sauce that is so simple to make and can be made with basic staples in your kitchen. A well stocked pantry is the key to successful re-purposing of ingredients- I will be making a post about what I keep in my pantry in the very near future. All you need for my simple Asian sauce is organic soy sauce (PLEASE go for organic if you can- there is not a huge difference in price, but the quality of what you’re putting in your body is night and day- soy is one of the most genetically modified crops in the United States), some sort if citrus juice, and your favorite nut butter of choice.
I had some almond butter I wanted to use up, but you can use peanut, cashew, or even tahini (sesame seed butter). I didn’t have any limes, my preferred citrus for this sauce, but I did have orange juice- a perfect substitute.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
- 1/2 package extra firm organic non-GMO tofu (found in the refrigerated section)
- 1 chicken breast (if you are going vegetarian/vegan, simply omit the chicken and make the full package of tofu!)
- 1/2 head of organic cauliflower
- pinch of ground mustard
- pinch of ground ginger
- pinch of ground allspice
- Asian seasoning blend (you can use the same three spices above with a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder and add sesame seeds if you’d like)
- 2 tablespoons organic almond butter (or other nut butter of choice)
- 1 tablespoon organic orange juice (more if you like a thinner sauce)
- 1-2 teaspoons of organic soy sauce, depending on desired flavor/saltiness
- 1 tablespoon of orange marmalade or mango chutney (I used mango chutney because I had an open jar)
- coconut oil for cooking
- 6-8 leaves of lettuce for wrapping (iceberg is recommended for crunch, but any lettuce can be used)
Optional but HIGHLY recommended:
- 1 organic scallion, chopped
- organic peanuts or almonds
- organic pickled radishes/cucumbers/ginger
Slice the tofu into thin slices and let drain on paper towels placed on a baking rack. I flipped the tofu and changed the towels three times- there is a lot of water in tofu!
Heat a skillet with a little coconut oil over medium-high heat. Chop the cauliflower into small bite-size pieces and add to the pan. Cook until mostly cooked (you can taste test if you’re unsure!) Add the pinches of mustard, ginger, and allspice and finish cooking. Remove from pan and set aside.
Heat a little more coconut oil and when hot, add the drained sliced tofu. As the first side cooks, sprinkle with Asian seasoning. Always read your labels to make sure seasoning doesn’t contain starches or oils to prevent sticking. If you cannot find a good Asian spice blend, make your own with a pinch of mustard, ginger, allspice, garlic powder, onion powder, and optional sesame seeds as mentioned above in the ingredients list (unless the spice is USDA Certified Organic, the added oils are most likely genetically modified, or GMO.)
Flip tofu when the bottom side is golden brown and season the top side as the bottom cooks.
Remove from heat when golden brown, place on paper towls on baking rack so that any excess oil is absorbed.
While the tofu is sitting, reduce the heat and melt the marmalade or chutney in the same pan. When the tofu is cool enough to handle, stack the slices and slice into thin strips.
Add the strips to the melted marmalade/chutney and stir to coat the tofu. Remove from pan and set aside.
If using chicken, raise the heat, dice the chicken breast, and cook in a little coconut oil. Remove from pan and set aside.
Use the same pan to make the sauce. Lower the heat and melt the almond butter and add the orange juice. Stir to incorporate. Add a teaspoon of soy sauce and stir thoroughly. Taste the sauce to assess the flavor and saltiness- add another teaspoon of soy sauce if desired. Add the cauliflower to the sauce, stir to coat. You can now either mix in the chopped scallion, put it on top of the cauliflower, or wait until plating.
Move the cauliflower to one side of the pan, add the tofu (and chicken if applicable) to the pan in separate sections so that all components can reheat separately without having to heat three pans.
As ingredients heat back up, place peanuts in a small bowl if using them for a crunchy addition to the wraps (you can use almonds here if you prefer!) If you have a pickled veggie on hand, such as radishes or cucumbers, or a jar of pickled ginger (sushi ginger), dice them up into bite-size pieces and put in a small bowl for serving. I really love the pickled flavor in this recipe, I highly recommend using them if you have them or can find them. Sushi ginger can be found in the Asian aisle of your food store- it comes sliced in a jar!
I just happened to have some pickled radishes on hand because a while ago I had a huge raw bunch of left over and didn’t want to throw them out so I pickled them and threw them in the fridge- they last FOREVER! I use them in recipes as needed or even on top of a salad- delicious!
Take your lettuce and carefully separate the leaves. Place on a plate for serving. Once everything is warmed through, place into separate bowls so you can pick and choose the ingredients and amounts you’d like. Assemble as you wish and enjoy!
This meal was created based on what I had in my pantry and fridge- you can throw whatever veggies or proteins you want in the wraps, whether they were leftover, or cooked just for the purpose of using them in this recipe-be creative!
Lettuce wraps are an economical way to eat all organic- this meal cost me $3.50 for the organic chicken breast, $2.00 worth of cauliflower, $1.00 of lettuce, $1.25 for the tofu, and a dollar or two for the scallion, spices, oil, peanuts, and radishes for a total of around $7.75 worth of ingredients for a 100% organic dinner for two (without having to venture out into the cold!)