Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jazz Up Your Wrap Ups!

Okay, as promised in Month-By-Month Produce Savers Guide, here is a way to make lunch, or even dinner on a hot and muggy night like we've been having here in Maine the past couple weeks, a little different and delicious.

Most people use tortillas, or those special rectangle shaped flatbreads with tons of different grain combos and flavors like Sun Dried Tomato and Herb or Spinach and Basil, for their lunch wraps. I got kind of tired of carb loading at lunch because face it, there are only so many days you can have a wrap, or a sandwich on bread, a bagel, a roll or a bun before it gets kind of tiresome, I don't care how many varities there are. So one day at the beginning of the summer when Red Leaf lettuce was on sale for $1.59 at my local market I bought two heads planning to make salads with them and treat our bunny Bella to some nummies. I was looking at these big leaves and thought to myself, "Why can't I spread my egg salad on one of those leaves instead of tearing one up and putting it on my sandwich?" So I tried it and it was awesome! Cool, crisp, refreshing, a totally new treat. I made some Cape Cod Chicken Salad and slipped it to the kids the same way for dinner and a new hit was born. Since then I have done Iceburg lettuce cups filled with Waldorf salad, used Green Leaf and Red Leaf lettuces for salad wraps, made "dinner boats" with Endive leaves, did a Diced BLT Bowl in iceburg lettuce...the possibilities are endless. So below is a list of the different lettuces and some ideas for using them, as well as my kids' (and my hubby's, and mine!) favorite recipes for some chicken salads, an egg salad, and a Loaded Baked Potato Salad that goes great as a main dish! Really!

Iceburg Lettuce: The outer leave are kind of large and loose and have no real shape. They can be used as a base for a wrap instead of a tortilla or flatbread. They are also good for tearing up and using in regular tossed salads. The tighter inner leaves have a sort-of bowl shape and are great for dishing up chicken salad or the baked potato salad for a main dish. They are also good for a "solid Gazpacho." Use your favorite recipe for gazpacho and eliminate the liquid called for. Season as directed and chill, then serve up with a nice crusty bread, some good dipping oil, and a cold drink...perfection!

Red or Green Leaf lettuce: Has slightly curled, or ruffled, edges. These are excellent for making wraps with. Spread your favorite meat spread or salad within an inch of the edges and then tuck in the top and bottom over the filling, roll up like a regular wrap from a long edge, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in fridge until lunch or dinner. These can be made the night before for lunches, just make sure a cold pack is placed in your insulated lunch cooler.

Endive: These are a very small head of lettuce, usually you can find just the "heart" of the head for sale. The leaves are like a long, shallow "boat." Kids love these and they are elegant if you are having some friends over for a light luncheon or want to have a "tea party" style get together. Fill the cavities with whatever you like, even fruit salad goes great in endive.

Cape Cod Chicken Salad:
Combine 1 cup cold, diced, cooked chicken; 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/8 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup chopped celery, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp dried basil and 1/4-1/2 cup Hellman's (East of the Rockies this is Best Foods) Salad Dressing (like mayonnaise-you can use regular mayo if that's what you have, too). Let sit in fridge for at least 1 hour for flavors to combine

Chicken Salad Veronique: Exchange dried cranberries for halved green seedless grapes and pecans for walnuts in above recipe. Change cinnamon to allspice and omit basil.

Asian Chicken Salad: Instead of cranberries and pecans use drained canned mandarin oranges (1 small can) and 1/4 cup crunchy Chinese noodles (like La Choy brand). Use an Asian salad dressing (I love Marie's Sesame Ginger dressing-find it in the refrigerated produce section! They have a killer Super Blue Cheese, too...)

Bombay Curry Chicken Salad: Swap out cranberries for raisins-regular or golden and peanuts. Change cinnamon and basil for curry powder to your taste, this could be 1 tsp or more, I use 2 tsps.

Overnight Egg Salad: Boil 2 eggs per person the night you want to make this. Dump the boiling egg water and fill the pot with cold. Let it sit for about 20 minutes until you can handle the eggs. While the eggs are peeling dice one small onion or half of a medium onion and 2 stalks of celery (you can omit if you don't have any, it's just as good without). Peel the eggs, chop them coarsely and combine with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3 Tbsp mustard (your choice what kind), the onions, celery if using, 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Dump in a bowl that you can put in the fridge and let it sit overnight. I make this when I'm watching America's Got Talent or some other show on TV because I can tend to it at the commercials and not miss any of my show!

Loaded Baked Potato Salad (A vegetarian option): Make your favorite regular potato salad without adding anything like green beans, peas, etc. My mom used to put either one of those in and her potato salad was the first one gone at family barbecues...I've never understood it...LOL! When you get the potatoes boiled, the onions chopped and get ready to mix in the mayo/salad dressing, add 1/4 cup of the vegetarian bacon bits, the hard crunchy kind like "Bac-O's." Ya know, the "bacon" flavored TVP ones!! Add 1 cup of your favorite cheese, I use an organic cheddar; chopped green onions or snipped chives, about 1/8 cup; and replace 1 cup of the mayonnaise with sour cream...reduced fat works fine but fat free isn't too good for some reason in it. Add salt and pepper to taste and let chill in the fridge for flavors to blend. It's awesome!

So, get on in the kitchen and jazz up those wraps!

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