Thai-ing To Lose Weight: Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Gluten Free Chicken Ground

Thai these to help lose weight

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that the trip to thinner isn’t always a direct route. I mean, let’s face it life isn’t linear. Sometimes it’s the most circuitous of routes that leads us to our desired destination. Sometimes it’s the countless number of times that we hit the wall of a maze that brings us to the end of our journey.

So in the quest to lose my Sandy 15lbs, I took a detour to Thanksgiving – read: ate lots of stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie. Look! There I am on Nantucket with Veep Joe Biden:

VP Joe Biden on Nantucket

Look at his shiny teeth!

Do you think he thinks I look fat? Nah, he’s too nice and shiny to think that!

So now that my favorite holiday has passed and my time with Biden (or, more accurately, my time stalking the vice president on the tiny island) is over, I’m taking the right steps to shed a few lbs.

Recent meals have featured Carnival Squash and Simply Grilled Shrimp.

squash week

Lo-Cal Carnival

Marinated Grilled Shrimp
Lo-Cal Grilled Shrimp

But last night I wanted to do something a little more interesting. So I tried a taste of lo-cal Thai.

You will want to prep ahead cuz this is easy but takes like :90 mins in total.

Pretty Lo-Cal Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps (serves 4)

Oh! And they’re gluten-free as well!

OK…First and foremost, there is a lot of prep of ingredients in the chicken wraps – so do yourself a favor and mise en place.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

A Mise En Place to make Chef Anne Burrell Proud

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 TBSP lime juice
  • 1-2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1/8 Cup of sugar
  • 2 TBSP Asian Fish Sauce, like Ka*Me found in the Asian area at Fairway
  • 1 1/2 TSP Chili Pepper Paste, like Amore – hard to find this – had to ask nice Fairway worker guy
  • Vegetable oil – not Olive Oil
  • Peeling fresh Ginger

    Ginger

    2 TBSP grated fresh ginger – remember, you should have some peeled ginger stored in your freezer

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 TSP kosher salt – or less
  • 4 Scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot grated
  • 1/2 cup canned, drained water chestnuts, diced
  • The recipe also calls for 3 TBSP chopped fresh mint leaves and 2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro – I prepped both of these ingredients…but then forgot to stir them in at the end. So you can skip it if you like.

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce and chili pepper paste and set aside. The recipe called for Asian Chile Paste…but I couldn’t find it at Fairway, so I bought Amore Chile Pepper Paste – I think that’s the same thing?

Lo-Cal Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The liquids

2. Heat about 2 TBSP of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

3. Add the garlic and the ginger and stir until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Thai lettuce wraps

Don’t Let the Garlic Burn! Cuz you’d have to start over

3. Add the chicken and salt and cook completely – about 6 mins

NOTE: the recipe called for a ton of salt…but, I used just shy of a tsp and it was more than enough

Gluten free ground chicken

Browning the Gluten Free Chicken

4. Stir in the scallions, carrot and water chestnuts and heat through (about 2 more mins)

thai chicken lettuce wraps

OOOH! Look at the pretty colors!

5. Transfer the chicken mixture to a bowl and let cool about :05 mins

6. Add in the lemony-limey-fish saucy liquid mixture, 1 tbsp at a time. Once the chicken mixture is moistened, but not swimming, stop adding the liquid. I added too much and it was delicious, but a little messy to eat

thai chicken lettuce wraps

A little too liquid-y

7. Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for about an hour

8. Prepare 8-10 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves – you know, like wash them and stuff

9. Put a heap of the chilled chicken mixture inside each lettuce leaf and serve

Thai Chicken Lettuce wraps

Beautifully Tasty and Lo-Cal

My journey to weight loss like most of life’s journeys has not been via a direct route. But, in spite of stops at Beef Wellington and Thanksgiving Stuffing, I’m getting there. It’s not easy at this time of year what with the Lincoln Center Winter’s Eve fest last night featuring fab food fare from all of the local restaurants (like the toasted gnocchi tastes from Bar Boulud’s Tent – OMG!). But, I am Thai-ing so that maybe next time I see Veep Joe B, I’ll be just a little bit thinner.

If You’re Talking Thai, Talk Thai

Thai Salad

In navigating the unknown, one good approach is to stick to the theme. I’m not suggesting that you sport tennis togs and carry a bunch of racquets when attending the US Tennis Open – that’s so Forest Hills. But I am saying, that you might not want to hang a crystal chandelier in your kid’s playroom.

The unknown can be especially intimidating when the unknown is what’s for dinner. Stick to the theme. So, if you’re cooking lasagna, don’t make a pork steamed dumpling appetizer. When making roast chicken, don’t serve enchiladas on the side.

Last night’s dinner was based on my attempt to go Thai. I had already decided to make something curry-ish as a main course. My girls were coming over to solve the world’s problems with wine and stories and wine and wine and I thought it was time to try something new.

But, I hadn’t figured out what to do for a vegetable side. I just couldn’t decide. I went to my mental rolodex and looked for what sides I had enjoyed when dining out at Thai restaurants….not really any that memorable. Some steamed veggies with an oddly slimy sauce and pepper flakes is really all I could come up with. And, since I don’t really want to know what’s in the oddly slimy sauce nor do I really like hot pepper flakes, that wasn’t going to happen.

When I left for Whole Foods, I had a list that said just ‘vegetable’. While I can ‘wing it’ in almost any situation, I’m not one of those people who decides what to make based on what looks good in the produce section that day. So this ‘vegetable’ item on the list unnerved me a bit.

Clutching my list, I battled my way through the tourists at the Time Warner Center and elbowed myself on to the escalator into Whole Foods. City-perfect bi-level shopping cart procured and I went straight to produce. It’s fall and the produce section is teeming with squash and I’m like so over squash – for now. I looked around and lamely decided upon broccoli – easy and generally a crowd pleaser. A total cop out – but it would have to do. I needed to find a bunch of other stuff that I hadn’t ever bought before.

As an afterthought, I grabbed a small carton of sprouts figuring that I could put them on top of the curry dish I was preparing. Because sprouts feel super Thai to me.

I got everything home and still felt a little bad about the boring broccoli.

Inspiration!

Then while writing yesterday afternoon as The Food Network droned on in the background, I heard something that gave me an idea. Rachael Ray was making a sweet-ish (not Swedish) salad dressing. And, though I didn’t do what she did, I knew that Rachael was on to something.

And suddenly Broccoli schmoccoli….Became:

Thai Salad (serves 4)

The Salad:

  • 2 large carrots peeled and shredded – best bet to use your Cuisinart shredder blade
  • 3 large broccoli stalks only peeled and shredded (save the florets for a boring broccoli side at another time)
  • a handful of bean sprouts as is
  • Toasted cashew nuts crushed up a bit

Toasting the Nuts:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Spread 1/2 cup of cashews on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil.
  • Spray the nuts with an olive oil cooking spray and gently salt.
  • Put into oven for :15 minutes, tossing the nuts every :05 minutes. Watch them closely as they will burn quickly…

Add Some Crunch

The dressing – And this is really what makes the salad so so good

Mise En Place – doesn’t the shallot look like a mouse?

  • 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp orange marmalade
  • 1/2 shallot – grated
  • 1/2 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar

Whisk together until creamy looking then…

Whisked Together

  • Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix the shredded veggies, nuts, sprouts and dressing together and serve as an intro to any Thai feast.

Uhmmm Delicious Thai Salad

To be honest, the salad turned out to be the hit of the meal. The sleeper success of the supper, if you will.

So, when confronted with the unknown, stick to your theme. I had never cooked Thai before – but I had a theme. And, you know what? I found out that:  Annie can cook Thai. Annie cooked Thai real well.