Category: Mains

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Savory meat filling in a cool lettuce wrapI’m obsessed with things wrapped in lettuce. Which seems an appropriate response to having a gluten allergy, since buns and bread are effectively off the table. Every week I eat at least one dish that uses crisp romaine or butter lettuce leaves as the vessel with which I deliver said deliciousness into my belly.

I’m also a fan of simplicity and this recipe couldn’t be easier. You can even be super lazy and just buy grocery store Hoisin sauce, although for anyone with celiac, that’s a risky proposition, as most store bought brands contain soy sauce. Also if you don’t make the sauce from scratch, you’re missing a huge part of what makes this dinner so flavorful and awesome. Moral of this paragraph? Make the sauce. In fact, make a double batch.

What makes my lettuce wraps different from the mainstream recipes out there is the addition of more veggies. The best thing about Asian cuisine, to my mind, is the ease with which all sorts of vegetables can slide into a dish all stealth-like and punch up the color, crunch and fiber quotient while making only a modest flavor difference. Typically the sauce situation takes care of that. So I say “more veggies for all!” Seriously though, add even just one additional veggie to your stir fries or your take-out from now on. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Savory filling in a cool lettuce wrapSince I didn’t want to monkey with the original filling recipe too much except to add bamboo shoots, I opted to veg-ify this recipe with the addition of a crisp coleslaw, reminiscent of cucumber salad. Packaged broccoli slaw is my favorite mixture to use for this crunchy condiment, although last time when I couldn’t find it, I subbed a lovely kale, cabbage and Brussels sprout slaw to which I added shredded carrot. Basically whatever shredded veggie combo strikes your fancy ought to do the trick. Toss a handful of that in a tangy dressing infused with sesame oil and chili flakes, chill briefly before serving and you have a bright garnish that almost steals the show. Almost. There’s still that dreamy sauce…

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with whatever protein your heart desires. Organic, grass-fed beef makes a bomb lettuce wrap, but you’ll usually find them made with ground dark-meat turkey in my household. Even the roommate can’t get enough of these and he generally likes to eschew my healthy cooking as dramatically unsatisfying by virtue of it being gluten free.

Meaning he rarely eats my food, out of principle.

This recipe however, makes him say, “Principles be damned!” Actually that’s never happened. But since he’s happily munching away on these as I type, that must be what he’s thinking, right?

Point is, you’re going to want to make this your something delicious today.

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten and Refined Sugar-Free)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T organic cornstarch
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Sriracha, adjust to taste
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 T grapeseed oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey, chicken, pork or beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 cup Asian coleslaw (recipe follows)
  • Chopped peanuts or almonds
  1. Make coleslaw. Place in fridge to chill for one hour.
  2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Add rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, Sriracha, honey and ginger, and whisk until well-combined.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat,  a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, breaking it into small pieces, until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Remove the meat from the skillet and set it aside.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes more.
  6. Return the cooked meat to the skillet, add the sauce, and mix to combine. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken (1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the heat, and add the water chestnuts,  bamboo shoots, and green onions.
  7. Take a leaf of Boston lettuce and spoon in about 1/3 cup of the meat. Top with Asian coleslaw and chopped nuts.


Tangy Asian Coleslaw
  • Half bag broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 T coconut sugar
  • 1 T grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly torn
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, oils and pepper flakes.
  2. Add slaw mixture and stir to coat.
  3. Chill 1 hour before serving, stirring every so often to coat veggies.
  4. Add cilantro right before serving.



Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- and Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- and Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Mushrooms, and Black Beans

I’ve never liked stuffed peppers.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the notion of eating spaghetti sauce as a meal. Maybe it’s because it’s usually spaghetti sauce mixed with rice and topped with melted cheddar, which is not a flavor combination that really sings to me, you know? Or it could be the sagging, wrinkly pepper that serves as a receptacle for these weirdly blended filling ingredients.

Either way, when a client asked for stuffed peppers, I groaned on the inside.

Of course I’ll feed a client whatever they want, but it means that I have to taste that uninspired dish along the way and ultimately serve something I couldn’t be convinced to eat myself. It’s the artistic equivalent of paint-by-numbers. And nobody respects a hack.

So needless to say I was intrigued when she sent me a recipe she’d found—a version using ingredients I’d never heard of in a stuffed pepper recipe—and utilizing spices that made it more southwestern than pseudo-Italian. And it didn’t have meat or cheese, making the already gluten-free dinner option vegan to boot, so possibly…useful for me to have in my arsenal?

I was still skeptical, however. For starters, when has taking the cheese out of a recipe ever made it better? And secondly, at that time in my life, I generally ate things in spite of them being vegan, and not because of it.

But I bit the bullet and tried the new fandangled spin on the old classic. And discovered I was wrong. Deliciously so.

Turns out I DO like stuffed peppers. Damn, I love a happy accident!

Over time, I’ve made the recipe mine; adding spices, subtracting toppings. I’ve tried multiple variations—the addition of potato, for instance—great for when you’re trying to bulk the recipe up from six servings to eight. I’ve boiled the peppers for two minutes all the way up to ten. Turns out I prefer them not boiled at all. I like the tiny bit of crunch they retain after just the single bake.

mini peppers

Then I discovered what a great appetizer these make when you stuff them in tiny sweet peppers, like these.

These babies are a perfect one- or two-bite snack and are delicate enough that they don’t need to be baked at all. Serve them at room temperature or while the filling is still warm.

And since I wholeheartedly believe that food exists to be a vessel for sauce, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. As delicious as these are topped with the traditional tomato sauce, by far my favorite flavor combo is made by drizzling these little poppers with my vegan avocado “crema.” The cilantro, lime and tomatillo marry perfectly with the cumin, chili powder and black beans in the stuffing.

Simply divine. I’ll never look at a stuffed pepper the same way again. And hopefully, neither will you.

Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- & Dairy-free, Vegan)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (I like to pulse them ever so briefly in the food processor)
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2-15 oz can tomato sauce, other half reserved for optional garnish
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 6 large red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • small handful cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup avocado “crema,” for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic and mushrooms; sauté until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the mixture begins to look dry, about 5-8 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until fragrant.
  5. Add the quinoa, water, and 1/2 can of tomato sauce, reserving the rest. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked.
  6. For softer peppers, submerge in boiling water for 5 minutes. For tender-crisp peppers, skip this step.
  7. When quinoa is finished simmering, add the beans and maple syrup. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  8. Stuff each pepper with the filling, and place in a baking dish. If using tomato sauce, pour the remaining over the peppers.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Garnish as desired.