Detoxing from Vacation Food Crimes with Chicken Lettuce Wraps


 

My boyfriend and I recently celebrated our five-year anniversary. Five years seems like quite a long time so we decided to plan something exciting to celebrate. A friend of mine suggested we take a mini road trip down to Jacksonville, a cute little town in Southern Oregon. She mentioned wine tasting, a steam shower and champagne brunch so that was enough to convince us. We packed up our bags, arranged a kitty-sitter and headed south.

Jacksonville is about a 5 hour drive from Portland, Oregon and just 20 miles from Ashland and the award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was the first town in America to be named a National Historic Landmark, founded in 1851 following a discovery of gold deposits. Naturally, the town has an “old west” feel, with a corner saloon and a gun shop. Adorable! But I must say I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. Jacksonville is an outdoor, wine, food, music and art lover’s paradise. It is home of the Britt Festival, a summer outdoor music and performing arts festival, where you can bring your own picnic, beer and wine! Countless vineyards and wineries are just minutes from town, with several tasting rooms just steps from our hotel.

Wine tasting at Red Lily Vineyards, just 10 minutes from downtown Jacksonville.

We were lucky enough to stay in one of the 8 rooms at the Jacksonville Inn. We stayed in the Patrick J. Ryan room, the only one equipped with a steam shower. I had no idea what a steam shower was before I came to the inn, and let me tell you, the experience changed me. Imagine…a steam room…in a shower. You can shower…and steam! At the same time! In the mornings I enjoyed runs with views of vineyards and farmland, then came back to the inn for a refreshing steam shower. In the evenings after a long day of hiking, eating and wine tasting, I would unwind and prepare for sleep with another steam shower.

This was my view on my morning runs! Then afterwards…I drank wine at this vineyard!

Mr. Steam is his name! My best friend.

Each morning until 10 a.m. the inn provided freshly baked biscotti, hot coffee, and tea, so after my morning runs we spent the remainder of the mornings before breakfast laying in bed, reading magazines and watching cable TV while enjoying our coffee and biscotti.

Every morning should start this way.

A delicious made-to-order breakfast was included daily in our stay, with options like belgian waffles, breakfast skillets, omelets, blueberry pancakes, croissant french toast and more. On Sundays the inn serves a special brunch menu with free flowing champagne, assorted pastries and fruit.

Smoked Salmon Frittata

Smoked Salmon Benedict

Denver Omelet

Me getting excited for assorted breakfast pastries!

Jacksonville

I love when my toilet paper rolls are made into roses.

View from the summit of Lower Table Rock in Central Point, just 15 minutes from Jacksonville.

Just a 15-minute drive from Jacksonville is Table Rocks in Central Point where we burned off our breakfasts on a one hour round-trip hike up Lower Table Rock to a breath-taking view of the Rogue Valley. Then following the hike…I piled the calories back on with this mondo slice of chocolate mousse cake at the Jacksonville Inn…which I ate by myself and thoroughly enjoyed.

The rest of our trip was enjoyed this way…with lots of good, local wine, delicious food (Including the best burger of my life) and relaxation. Needless to say…I am now on a ‘diet’ after all the food crimes I committed…detoxing with healthy food to undo all the damage of vacation…starting with Chicken Lettuce Wraps!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

1 pound chicken, diced (I used boneless thighs, but you could also use chicken breast)

3/4 cup celery

1 small onion, diced

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cup diced bell pepper

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 cup diced water chestnuts

3/4  cup chopped green onions

2 to 3 T light soy sauce

2 to 3 T oyster sauce

2 to 3 T hoisin sauce

2 to 3 T rice vinegar

2 to 3 T sambal oelek or chili sauce (optional)

3/4 cup dried black fungus (optional-can be found in Asian grocers. Soak for about 5 minutes in boiled water.)

1 head red leaf, romaine or bibb lettuce

1 large spaghetti squash, roasted (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions 

Chop up vegetables. If using spaghetti squash, poke holes in squash using a sharp knife. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Scrape out the flesh using a fork; it should come out fairly effortlessly. If it’s too hard to scrape out put back in the oven for a few more minutes. The squash will look like spaghetti noodles! Set aside squash for serving.

Dice chicken into small, bite sized pieces. The smaller the pieces, the easier it will be to wrap and eat out of the lettuce leaves.

Heat about 1 T of oil in a skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned. Add onion and garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add the remaining vegetables (except spaghetti squash) and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t overcook the vegetables or the lettuce wraps won’t have that nice “crunch.”

Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, chili sauce. You can modify the sauce amounts to your taste…If you like it saucier, add more of each ingredient. Pluck off whole lettuce leaves from the head, wash thoroughly and shake off excess water. Pat down with paper towels if necessary. Add chicken mixture to lettuce leaves, top with spaghetti squash, wrap up and eat!

 

Enjoy!

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Feeding a Crowd with Vietnamese Salad Rolls


I’ve been feeling lately like marathon training has isolated me from friends and social contact, so this last weekend I decided to have a party. I didn’t really have a particularly good reason to throw a party, but I like to cook and I like to entertain. I figured it was the first week of fall…and my cat’s 3rd birthday…so that was all the reason I needed. So I did what I normally do when I throw a party: cook a ridiculous amount of food, and send the leftovers home with my guests. My original plan was to make “fall” foods, but when I researched recipes, everything involved squash or apples, which I then voted against. Instead, I chose a menu with warm, spicy foods that still make you feel cozy but not like it’s Thanksgiving day.

I made coconut lemongrass grilled chicken, thai curry soup, honey garlic turkey/chicken meatballs, a chili-apricot grilled pork tenderloin, a pickled napa cabbage salad, and potstickers. (I found myself racing around the kitchen all day that I didn’t have the energy to photograph everything or keep track of the ingredients I used.)

I realized the only thing missing from this Asian-themed dinner was Vietnamese salad rolls. So I asked my beloved half-Vietnamese friend Alex to come over as my “guest chef” and make them for me so I could blog about them and make her famous. Well, she agreed, and she was at it for about 3 hours while everyone else just relaxed, ate, drank and made conversation. Sorry Alex, but we greatly appreciate it!

The beauty of salad rolls is that you can fill them with basically anything you want, they’re super easy to make, and great when feeding a crowd of people. Just be sure to prep all your vegetables and meats before people show up to make the process easier. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Alex here, busy at work while the rest of us were stuffing our pie holes. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 package thin rice noodles (package might say rice threads, found at Asian grocers)

1 package rice papers (or tapioca papers, found at Asian grocers)

1 bell pepper, any color you like best

a bushel of cilantro, cut off stems and use only leaves

carrots, shredded or thinly sliced

your favorite lettuce (we used romaine)

cooked shrimp, cut lengthwise

1 large piece of ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks

1 package fried tofu, sliced into thin pieces

mint leaves

thai basil leaves

Slice and prepare vegetables, shrimp and tofu.

Remove lettuce stems, reserving only the leaves, like so:

Meanwhile, in a pot, boil water and cook rice noodles until soft. Add warm water to a large bowl or pot, big enough to dip in rice papers. To assemble a salad roll, dip one rice paper in the warm water.

Put on a flat surface. Layer on shrimp, bell pepper, tofu, carrots, ginger, cilantro, mint and basil, then noodles onto one side of the wrapper. Don’t put in the middle of the wrapper, but in the outer quarter of one side. Don’t fill the rolls too much or they will be harder to roll and keep intact.

Tightly roll the end of the wrapper (closest to the filling) over the filling. Make sure the wrapper is tight enough over the filling so it won’t fall out. Next, fold each of the two sides over the filling (like an envelope). Roll rice paper like a burrito. Serve with peanut sauce. (Should make at least 20 rolls)

You can try this peanut sauce recipe from Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/the-best-thai-peanut-sauce/detail.aspx

Enjoy!

Great work, Alex!

Adrienne approves!

No salad roll for the birthday girl, just a kitty food cake.

Our kitty's birthday party (one and only) guest, Valentino. All dressed up in his party wear! But kitty was too busy hiding in our room to even come down to socialize. Rude.

Boneless Buffalo Wings. “Put the food in your mouth, not up your nose.”


PJ’s housewarming…continued…the final recipe of the “series”…with guest chef BJ…

Boneless wings. What a perfect invention for the lazy eater like me.  I know there are some of you out there who will have an opinion on this, but: I hate any food that takes work to eat. Like: ribs, crab/lobster and chicken wings. I guess “hate” is a strong word. I love those foods. I just don’t have the energy to fight the meat off the bone, or out of the shell. When these foods are involved, it’s my mom or Novin’s job to feed me like a baby bird. I just want direct food-to-mouth action without getting my hands dirty, or pieces of chicken wing up my nose.

And that is why the boneless wing is so perfect. An oxymoron, yes. But difficult to eat? No. And you can keep your hands clean for important things–like holding your beer.

Ingredients: (serves 10-15 people; scale down ingredients for smaller serving; 2 chicken breasts feeds 2 to 4 people)

6 chicken breasts

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

3 cups flour

1 to 3 T salt

1 T cayenne

1 T chili powder

1 T paprika

vegetable oil for frying

Slice chicken breasts in bite-sized pieces like so:

In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Add chicken pieces to egg mixture and evenly coat.  Put flour, chili powder, salt, paprika, and cayenne  in another large bowl and mix well. Remove chicken from egg mixture and add to flour bowl. Toss chicken in flour to evenly coat.

Chicken should be dry, like photo on the top. If it looks like photo on the bottom, it needs more flour coating.

Add chicken pieces to a deep fryer. BJ fried her boneless wings at 355 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Toss wings in your favorite wing or BBQ sauce.

She's delirious from all this cooking!

BJ by the end of the night...good work, Beege!

Baked Jalapeno Falafel


Last night I was just not in the mood to make dinner. At all. The last week I’ve been straining to find motivation…for basically everything. Work, cleaning, reading, exercising, cooking…I think I’ve been using up my last drops of motivation for marathon training, and my body is saying it needs a break.  But with a spendy vacation coming up, and less than 16 days until the Portland Marathon, I thought it would be a healthier, more economical option to just suck it up and have a home-cooked meal. It took every ounce of my being to get this dinner on the table-er–couch, but I did it. And surprise, surprise, I’m glad I did, because this meal was packed with protein and fiber, and just eating it gave me a little more energy…and motivation to wash the dishes afterward.

Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

1 small jalapeno (or 2 or 3 if you really want some heat)

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp-1 tsp salt, to your taste

pepper, to taste

cayenne, to taste

1 tsp baking powder

drizzle of olive oil (1 to 2 tsp)

1/2 cup fresh parsley

Yes, the mixture will look a little green.

In a bowl, mash beans with a potato masher or fork.

In a blender or food processor, puree onion, jalapeno, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Add to mashed beans and mix well.

In a small bowl, beat together (with a fork) spices, baking powder, egg and olive oil. Add to bean mixture and mix well. Add bread crumbs and mix. The mixture should hold together well to form patties. Form into 2- or 3″ patties.

It sure doesn't LOOK like falafel, but it is a whole lot healthier and packed with flavor.

This falafel will not be the same as in Mediterranean restaurants because it is not deep fried. It will have a soft texture. To make it healthier, I pan fry falafel over medium-high heat (with just non-stick spray or a little Smart Balance) on each side until browned. Then bake for about 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Best served with hummus or tzatziki and pita, on the couch in PJ’s watching Modern Family. Enjoy!

Salmon Patties and Baked Zucchini Fries


Today’s recipe was made by my boyfriend Novin, who is my first featured “guest chef” of many more to come…

Salmon patties are one of only two ways Novin will eat salmon. Up until a few months ago he refused to even taste one bite of salmon that I promised was delicious, no matter how it was prepared. I think he realized just how darn healthy salmon is and began experimenting with ways to make it “not taste fishy.”

Well, I think he was successful, and I ask him to make these on a regular basis. I think even fish-haters would like these. They’re simple enough to serve on a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve for dinner guests too. Thanks, Novin, for a great dinner!

Ingredients

1 pound coho salmon fillet, shredded

1 egg

1 T buffalo wing sauce (he used a spicy garlic wing sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings)

about ¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs (seasoned bread crumbs add good flavor)

½ cup cornmeal

dash paprika

dash of dried dill

dash of pepper

dash of garlic salt

dash of cayenne

canola oil for frying

Shred salmon as demonstrated in photo below.

Add egg, seasonings and breadcrumbs. Mix all ingredients together well. (If the mixture is too moist, you can add more breadcrumbs. You want the mixture to be able to hold its shape when formed into a patty but not dry.) Form into patties, and coat each side with cornmeal.

Fry patties in a skillet (cast iron works great) on medium heat in a thin layer of oil, 2-3 minutes on each side, or until done in the middle.

Serve with lemon slices, or top with tartar sauce or this dill aioli:

http://www.grouprecipes.com/32176/mini-crab-cakes-with-lemon-dill-aioli.html

Makes about 2 servings. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Fries

Since we still have loads of zucchini coming out of our garden—and of course Novin doesn’t care for zucchini—I have to come up with ways to “hide” the zucchini in dishes or cover up the taste with sauces. I decided to try out baked zucchini fries, which I thought would go well with the salmon patties. If he didn’t like them, well…more fries for me I guess.

Now, Novin is the kind of guy who will at least try anything once. But to my surprise, he didn’t stop at just one fry! He actually seemed to enjoy them! Success! His only comment was, “They need more salt.” Easy fix.

For this recipe I didn’t measure out everything, just estimated. If you want to kick up the flavor of the fries, add cayenne pepper and paprika to the cornmeal/flour mix.

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini

about ¼ cup flour

about ¼ cup cornmeal

about ¼ tsp salt

about ¼ tsp pepper

about ¼ tsp dried basil

1 egg white

marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (I used the toaster oven)

Slice zucchini into 1-inch wedges. In a bowl, coat zucchini slices with egg white.

In a ziplock bag, add cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper and basil (and cayenne and paprika if you choose). Put zucchini in the ziplock bag and shake until pieces are completed coated. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. Arrange zucchini pieces on baking sheet so none are touching. Spray zucchini pieces with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip pieces over and bake for another 10 minutes. For the last 5 minutes or so, turn on broiler and broil until pieces start to lightly brown.

Serve with marinara sauce to dip.

Makes 2-3 servings. These would also make a great appetizer for dinner guests, just double or triple recipe.