My kids love fruits and vegetables. I am lucky that way. When we fight over eating food, it is almost always over eating meat. There's just something about it they don't like. So instead of constantly fighting with them, I decided to start including vegetarian meals into our weekly rotation. Also, I watched the documentaries Forks over Knives and Food Inc. If you haven't heard about them, check 'em out.
I won't go off on a tangent about how our food production has been taken over by big businesses and thus the quality of our meats and dairies have been driven down to create a higher profit margin.
I won't, I promise.
Anyway, I have now decreed (and I can do that because I am the household chef) that we will have three vegetarian dinners a week (to start). I began this effort last week and this was one of the first recipes I made. I was inspired by Pioneer Woman - Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps and really just upped the vegetable count (because I lucked out and have kids that like veggies) and added rice.
My recipe for Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps:
1 head of Romaine hearts
1 package extra firm Tofu
1 can water chestnuts
1/2 can of baby corn (or 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh corn kernels)
1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas (you could definitely use pea pods)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of white rice (optional)
1 cup of shredded or matchstick carrots (to top at the end)
Add garlic and ginger to taste
I started by cooking my tofu to get a good color and flavor out of it. Put it in a non stick pan and crank up the heat. I added peanut oil to keep it from sticking to the pan. Try to break the tofu into as small pieces as possible (they will resemble scrambled eggs), I ended up using a potato masher to smash it. The tofu is done when all the water has cooked out and it has turned a golden brown color.
While waiting for the tofu to cook, I cut the water chestnuts and baby corn in a small bite size dice (they give a good crunch factor). Then I dumped all the veggies (minus the carrots) in with the tofu to cook a little but remain crunchy. Add in the soy sauce, garlic and ginger to season the mixture and continue cooking until the liquid has been absorbed.
Turn off the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. I layered the wraps, putting white rice on the bottom, tofu filling in the middle and added a sprinkling of shredded carrots on the top (the picture below is sans carrots, we ran out). You can add or take away as much or as little of this recipe as you want. I love how easy and light this recipe is. You can eat as much as you want without feeling guilty about inhaling all the good food. If you wanted to incorporate meat, any of them would work with this recipe (shredded chicken, shrimp or finely cut beef).
Gabe ate two lettuce wraps and then more lettuce by itself. Zander ate about a cup of the tofu and rice mixture and I had three or four lettuce wraps (sans rice) and we had plenty left over. I ended up using the tofu mixture with fried rice later in the week. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The kids actually ate more than they normally do and there were no power struggles over food. It was very liberating and inspiring and reinforced this effort as the right thing to do.
Did you know you can freeze plain rice? I didn't until I read that you could on one of the blogs I follow. It's easy and makes meal preparation much faster if the rice is already cooked! I cook a double batch of rice (2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water), take out about a cup and a half (about half of what was made) and put the rest in a freezer safe bag. Leave the bag open and cooling on the counter. Once it's cool, seal it and make sure to get all the air out of the bag. Put it in the freezer until you need it.
To use your frozen rice, take it out of the fridge roughly 4 hours before you need to use it. I leave mine on the counter (it's already cooked and won't go bad) to thaw. Once it is thawed, pour it into a microwave safe bowl and add about a tablespoon of water or oil to help reconstitute it. Cover it (so it can steam) and place in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes. The time really depends on your microwave. I have done this twice now and love the result. It makes cooking so much faster!