Guest Post! Tales of Lean Lettuce Wraps, Sweat, and a Measuring Tape

Morning, all!  I have a special treat for you guys today!  Please enjoy this guest post from my dear friend, the one and only, Joanio 🙂

I’m a big fan of both fitness and feta, so I was honored when Athena asked me to guest-blog a recipe for you all. Your Greek chef and I share a love for sweat, music, movement, and all things tasty.

Four years post-college dance company, where Athena and I met, I’m living as an English professor, dance teacher, copywriter for LivingSocial, and freelance writer. But two of the most influential things in my life right now are both diagnoses:  Crohn’s disease and mild hypothyroidism.

More than ever, I’ve got be conscious of taking care of my body. After years of feeling sick, I’ve never felt better, and I owe this to sweating every day, eating very deliberately, and keeping up with my 17-pills-per-day regiment of meds. Oh, the responsibilities.

I’ve got a lot on my plate, fitness-wise: I’m an avid (read: rabid) gym-goer; I take kickboxing, Zumba, muscle blast, Pilates, hot yoga, Tabata, and more. I also run a couple 5K’s per week when my knee is in working order. In addition, I teach eleven hours of dance per week — and I’m Zumba certified. Guess how much weight I’ve lost? Zero pounds.

Yup, zero. I tossed the scale and bought a body measuring tape, so I can monitor my inches instead of my weight. In order to keep my body lean and my diseases flare-free, I’ve learned to lower the carb intake in favor of protein (holy peanut butter consumption over here!).  For the record, I would never advocate no carb, but trial and error has taught me that lowering your carb intake will streamline your belly, feed your brain, and amp up your caloric burn.

These lettuce wraps, inspired by nutritionist Joy Bauer (and, in turn, influenced by P.F. Chang’s famous chicken lettuce wraps), offer 2 sources of protein- chicken and cashews- as well as several servings of vegetables. I know it looks like a lot, but if you get your ingredients ready beforehand and use a food processor, this can turn into a quick and filling post-gym meal. It took me 20 minutes start to finish, which is fantastic, as I only pretend to like cooking. Plus, it will feed my fiancé Kevin and I for dinner and lunch the next day.

Don’t stare at it too long, as it’s an extraordinarily unpretty meal. Kevin gave it some dubious stares before pronouncing it “better than he thought possible.”

Ingredients

Group 1:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1-2 scallions (both white and green parts)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained
  • 1/2 red pepper

Group 2:

  • 1 package of ground chicken
  • 1-2 cups of bean sprouts
  • Minced or crushed garlic (I use Trader Joe’s crushed)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Small handful of unsalted cashews
  • Some kind of soy-based sauce (I use Trader Joe’s Soyaki)
  • Olive oil or oil spray
  • Optional: chow mein noodles to add some crunch

Group 3:

  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T spicy mustard
  • 2 t chili paste (optional for spice)
  • Ginger root or ginger powder
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • Onion powder and pepper

You’ll need:  A food processor, a sauté pan, a spatula, a medium-sized bowl, a good knife, and a spoon

Directions

  1. First, rinse and pat dry the Romaine lettuce leaves. Set aside.
  2. Then, take all the ingredients from Group 1 and prepare them for your food processor. (Don’t forget to de-seed the red pepper.)  Heat your large sauté pan on medium heat. Once it’s hot, use a teaspoon or so of olive oil (I prefer garlic olive oil) and coat the pan with cooking spray. Add 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic and the chicken to the pan, seasoning it with pepper, onion powder and ginger. When the chicken is mostly cooked through, add about a half of a cup of your soy-based sauce (again, I use Soyaki) to the pan, allowing the chicken to finish cooking in the sauce.
  3. While the chicken cooks, use your food processor to dice the vegetables. Go slowly- make sure you don’t over process them into a puree. Place the diced vegetable mix into your medium bowl.
  4. When the chicken is done, put the diced vegetable mix into the sauté pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Combine the ingredients in Group 3 with a fork. Stir into the vegetable and chicken mix.
  6. Crush the cashews into pieces (I use a coffee mug on top of a paper towel) and add your rinsed bean sprouts just before serving.
  7. Serve in a bowl with Romaine leaves on the side. You can include a side of soy sauce and a small amount of chow mein noodles on the side if you’d like to add some crunch.

Look out for my future lifestyle blog, whenever I get the ball rolling. In the meantime, feel free to check out my website, follow me on Twitter, and my Pinterest!

P.S.  Today’s Be Thankful Challenge?  PCDC Love!