Eggplant Lettuce Wraps

Christmas may have just ended, but I’m still buzzing with holiday spirit! There’s nothing wrong with basking more in the cozy winter weather, indulging in the best festive flavors and rewatching our favorite Christmas shows. But with the end of the holiday weekend also comes the food baby bulge. And the annoying people who go all “new year, new me!” for the first week of January only to crash back into their old habits shortly afterwards.

Aside from that, I am proud to say that I am not guilty of the Christmas food baby. My family and I ended up having our Christmas Eve dinner at a pleasant Korean BBQ restaurant where I helped myself to a warm and vegan-friendly tofu vegetable stew, and for Christmas Day, we (of COURSE) ordered Indian takeout and snuggled in the family room for a Amazon Prime movie marathon. While I DO wish that I got a chance to make something from my Forks Over Knives cookbook and possibly sneak in a delicious vegan gingerbread cookie recipe to share, it is a relief that I didn’t have to panic about the reactions of the rest of my family. Besides, baking in itself is an art that I have to work on for 2017.

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While I continue to refine my baking skills, I still emphasize the rest of my culinary abilities by nurturing creativity and discovering voids that need to be filled. Just yesterday, actually, the results of a condensed blood test of mine actually revealed that I have a minor case of anemia, as the number of white and red blood cells in my body are slightly lower than average. This week, I am scheduled to see my doctor in regards to what I should do to mend my lack of healthy cells, but fortunately, there is nothing to even be moderately concerned about. With supplementation and/or a few tweaks in my vegan diet, possibly an increase in iron, calcium and whatnot, I know that my blood levels will be back to normal again.

But what do blood cells have to do with cooking, might you ask? A LOT, if you ask me. Cooking uses methods that combine, mix, prepares and heats food, usually to improve the quality, attractiveness and taste of the food. However, not all methods of cooking improve a food’s quality, whether by destroying nutrients or adding too many deteriorative components to the food that outweigh its benefits. The art of cooking is a necessity for optimal function. You need to know how to cook a proper, nourishing meal to thrive off of life!

Adopting a plant based diet has most certainly expanded my cooking circle. I’ve grown to love creating and consuming a large volume of dark leafy greens, sauteing vegetables with less oil, experimenting with a wide variety of flavors and trying out new vegan substitutes such as these Trader Joe’s Chickenless strips, which has become one of my new favorite Trader Joe’s products! They basically possess the same textural, physical, olfactory and flavor qualities as pieces of chicken meat. Because of the soy protein, there is much more chewiness to the strips and not as much thickness as there would be for another meat product like, say, Vinh Loi Tofu’s scarily-realistic soy turkey. However, these chickenless strips have become one of my kitchen staples, at least when cooking with Japanese eggplants, which is often a few times a month!

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Now I could not forget about my adoration for Japanese eggplants, fresh butter lettuce and sauteed onions. Firstly, Japanese eggplants have become a serious favorite since my love for Chinese and Thai cuisine have blossomed. I could never, ever pass up a Szechuan eggplant plate or a eggplant stir-fry with black bean sauce and soy sauce. As for butter lettuce, it has currently replaced Romaine as my personal favorite leaf for making lettuce wraps–seriously, each leaf is so beautifully and perfectly curvy, wide and green! Don’t even ask me where I can begin with sauteed onions. Tasting caramelized onions and biting into the strong, bitter flavors is absolute bliss. I think I’ve been an onion girl since birth. Heck, I could eat my bodyweight in cooked onions without fail, as weird as that may sound!

The filling portion of this recipe can also work for many different recipes, including salads, stir-fries, curries, soups, stews, casseroles, Buddha bowls, or even serve as a completely separate dish by itself! And feel free to swap the Chickenless strips with any other protein of choice–tofu, tempeh, seitan, or any kind of meat if you are not on a plant based diet. Still, I totally recommend that you try the strips out. They’re definitely a winner!

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RECIPE (serves 2)

  • 2 large Japanese eggplants (approximately 3 cups)
  • 1/2 large white onion, more or less depending on how much you like them
  • 2-3 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 packet of Trader Joe’s Chickenless strips
  • Nonstick spray, olive oil or coconut oil for baking/frying
  • Herbs, spices, salt and pepper to taste
  • Sauces to dip; I love teriyaki sauce and Sriracha!
  • Opt: sesame oil, seasonings, other vegetables, tofu, tempeh, etc.

PROCEDURE

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. Gently rinse the eggplants and pat them dry.
  3. Slice the eggplants evenly.
  4. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, nonstick spray or any other cooking oil.
  5. Bake the eggplant strips for 25-35 minutes.
  6. Set a nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick spray or sesame oil.
  7. Cut the onion into strips.
  8. Saute the onions and garlic in the pan until fragrant and the onions are translucent.
  9. Mix the eggplants and the onions in a bowl and serve with butter lettuce.

Did you cook anything for Christmas? What are your new favorite foods?


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