Meatless Monday – Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce (v,gf)

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THIS IS SERIOUSLY GOOD! Low Carb + High Protein + Spicy Peanut Sauce = #NeedWeSayMore  It’s the perfect balance of hot and cold, savory and sweet, crisp and tender.  The tofu, mushroom and water chestnut combination is really flavorful, picking up the garlic and ginger flavors, with the soy adding a pleasant saltiness. The beauty of tofu is that it is so bland on it’s own that it absorbs flavors very easily.  Spoon the yummy filling into crisp lettuce cups and top with chopped peanuts, slivered scallions, chopped red pepper and a drizzle of spicy peanut sauce for a delicious and healthy meal.

IMG_20190918_195507I originally blogged this recipe in 2016 and decided to circle back and test my own recipe.  I was also craving lettuce wraps.  Well the wraps were just as good as I remembered but I made a few changes. (I rarely make the same exact thing twice) and I thought the blog post itself could use an update. So here goes…  I added chopped criminy mushrooms to the tofu mixture which increased the depth of flavors.  I also chopped toppings smaller and fairly uniform in size which made it easier to eat.  AND I simplified the spicy peanut sauce, no pans, just a bowl and a spoon.  Sometimes less is more.  I like it even better and it’s easier…

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I like setting all the toppings up as a ‘bar’ for serving so that people can design their own plate. The photo is obviously from the ‘old’ post but you get the idea.

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The tofu mixture is really flavorful.  I could eat it on it’s own or over rice with a fork or chopsticks (which makes a great lunch), but when wrapped in a fresh, crispy lettuce leaf and topped with veggies, jalapenos and peanut sauce – yum!

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So what’s the deal with water chestnuts?  They are a staple in many Chinese dishes, and I have always thought of them as filler or meat extender, but are they good for you? It turns out, yes.  Water Chestnuts have zero fat and cholesterol and, at 60 calories per cup, are low in calories and sodium but they provide a wealth of nutrients for such an unassuming vegetable. They contain essential vitamins like Vitamin B-6 which supports healthy brain and immune system function, and thiamin and riboflavin which help your body convert food into energy. They are also a good source of potassium, copper and manganese.  As a bonus, water chestnuts  are a nonstarchy vegetable that helps keep you feeling full longer.  So combining a protein, like tofu, with chopped water chestnuts goes way beyond increasing the quantity of food. It adds a pleasant texture, increases the nutritional value AND helps keep your belly full and happy.

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TIPS:  I love homemade dressings and sauces.  This is a good homemade peanut sauce which is also fairly easy to make, however, there are many good brands of peanut sauce available in stores if you are pressed for time or you just can’t be bothered to make your own.  Or use a hoisin or soy ginger sauce that you already have in your pantry.  Sriracha is another good topping for those that like extra spicy food.

 

Don’t skip the step of pressing the water out of the tofu.  If the tofu is wet, the garlic and ginger flavors won’t be absorbed. Drained tofu will soak in marinades like a sponge.  If you are in a rush, you can squeeze the tofu in several thicknesses of paper towels to get the excess water out.

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ASIAN TOFU LETTUCE WRAPS

1 block extra firm tofu
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6-8oz mushrooms, (criminy, shiitake or white)
1-2 Tbsn sesame oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free liquid amino acids)
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or ginger paste)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 head Bibb,butter,iceberg or red leaf lettuce
2 green onions/scallions (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or parsley), (optional)
1 small cucumber (optional)
1 small red bell pepper or carrot(optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)

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  • Crumble tofu and spread it in a single layer on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 15 or 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally to squeeze out excess water. Change paper towels if they get too wet. (Do not skip this step – at least 5 minutes while you’re chopping veggies)img_20190918_185622-e1568929264747.jpg
  • Chop sliced water chestnuts and set aside.

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel and chop. Set aside.

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  • Separate whole lettuce leaves and rinse each leaf under cold water, pat with papertowels and let dry.

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  • Slice green onion into a thin julienne using a grater, mandolin or food processor (or with an old fashioned knife)

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  • Chop all vegetable toppings, red pepper, cucumber, jalapeno and place in small bowls for serving

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  • Roughly chop peanuts if you are using

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  • Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add tofu crumbles, water chestnuts, mushrooms and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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  • Add soy sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes, if using. Sauté a few minutes. Taste and add more, if needed.  Turn off heat and set aside.

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  • To serve, fill a lettuce leaf with a scoop of tofu mixture and top with veggies, cilantro and green onions, as desired, and drizzle with spicy peanut sauce.

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SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

3 Tbsn creamy peanut butter
1+ tsp chili garlic or hoisin sauce
1 Tbsn brown sugar
1 Tbsn soy sauce or gluten free liquid aminos
1 Tbsn lime juice
1/4 cup warm water

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  • Combine all ingredients except for the water and stir with a whisk. Taste and add more chili garlic sauce, sugar or lime as desired.

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  • Add water one tablespoon at a time until the peanut sauce is just thin enough to drizzle.  If it gets too thin, stir in a little more peanut butter. Pour into a small serving bowl.  Makes about a half cup.

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Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 block extra firm tofu
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6-8oz mushrooms, (criminy, shiitake or white)
1-2 Tbsn sesame oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free liquid amino acids)
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or ginger paste)
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 head Bibb,butter,iceberg or red leaf lettuce
2 green onions/scallions (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or parsley), (optional)
1 small cucumber (optional)
1 small red bell pepper or carrot(optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)

  • Crumble tofu and spread it in a single layer on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 20 minutes, pressing down occasionally.
  • Chop water chestnuts and set aside
  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel and chop, set aside
  • Separate whole lettuce leaves and rinse each leaf under cold water, pat with papertowels and let dry.
  • Chop veggies you are using for toppings (red pepper, cucumber etc) and put them in small serving bowls
  • Slice green onion into a thin julienne using a grater, mandolin or food processor (or with an old fashioned knife)
  • Roughly chop peanuts
  • Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add tofu crumbles, water chestnuts, mushrooms and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add soy sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes, if using, and sauté a few minutes. Taste and add more if needed. Turn off heat and set aside.
  • To serve, fill a lettuce leaf with a scoop of tofu mixture and top with veggies, cilantro and green onions, as desired, and drizzle with spicy peanut sauce.

SPICY PEANUT SAUCEIMG_20190921_144950

3 Tbsn creamy peanut butter
1+ tsp chili garlic or hoisin sauce
1 Tbsn brown sugar
1 Tbsn soy sauce or gluten free liquid aminos
1 Tbsn lime juice
1/4 cup warm water

  • Combine all ingredients except for the water and stir with a whisk. Taste and add more chili garlic sauce, sugar or lime as desired.
  • Add water one tablespoon at a time until the peanut sauce is just thin enough to drizzle.  If it gets too thin, stir in a little more peanut butter.
  • Pour into a small serving bowl.  Makes about a half cup.

Meatless Monday – Veggie Tofu Spring Rolls with Asian Dipping Sauce

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If you’re looking for a new take on salad, these spring rolls are far from boring and the dipping sauce made with almondbutter is so good you might find yourself using it on everything! I took advantage of the gorgeous colors of the season with striped Chiogga beets and pink radish, which are surprisingly sweet raw when thinly sliced. They also create a fun splash of color on your plate.  Shredded carrot and purple cabbage and sliced avocado add more crazy color and texture.  I added crispy tofu for a protein boost and to make them worthy of a main course, but you can make them all veggie or add rice noodles if you prefer.  Best of all, they can be tailored for personal tastes.

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I saw a version of these Psychedelic Spring Rolls on Pinterest by @erinireland and couldn’t wait to give them a whirl, of course with my own spin. I love their vibrant and crazy colors which border on the unnatural but is actually the complete opposite, as all ingredients are fresh and organic.  If you use seasonal veggies, the wonderful colors and flavors will be different throughout the year depending on what is available.

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I have never used rice wrappers before and I must admit that it takes a few tries to perfect the technique.  The nice thing about them though, is that they are a fun alternative to tortillas or bread and they are gluten and cholesterol free and low calorie to boot. In addition, they are clear so they really showcase your yummy fillings.

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TIPS:  Have all ingredients ready before immersing the rice wrappers in hot water to soften.  Practice on one or two to perfect the wrapping technique and make sure to fold in the sides before the top and bottom.  They will feel sticky at first but that will go away as they dry. If you are using shredded veggies, make sure they are going in the same directions (up and down) instead of crosswise to prevent them from poking out or ripping the wrapper.  Add additional hot pepper sauce for a spicier sauce. Be creative!

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VEGGIE TOFU SPRING ROLLS WITH ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE

8 rice paper wraps
1 block organic extra firm tofu
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1-2 avocados, sliced lengthwise
1 Chiogga beet, thinly sliced
1 radish, thinly sliced
small handful fresh mint and/or parsley, chopped (optional)

ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup almond butter (or creamy peanut butter)
2 Tbsn water
2 Tbsn rice vinegar
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free aminos)
1-2 tsp hot sesame oil(or regular)
1/4-1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste

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  • Cut tofu in half to make 2 flatter rectangular pieces, then cut into 8 equal sticks.
  • Place in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels, cover with more paper towels and put a heavy pan on top (to help remove excess liquid) Let sit 10 minutes.

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  • Prepare veggies using a mandolin or a sharp knife.

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  • Arrange prepared veggies on a workspace.

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  • Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir into a smooth sauce. Add additional water if necessary to thin.

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  • Heat 2 Tbsn olive or avocado oil in a heavy pan.  Season tofu with salt and pepper and saute on medium high heat until golden brown on all four sides. Let cool on a paper towel.

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  • Dip rice wrapper in hot water until soft (10 seconds) Remove from water and spread flat on a plate. Arrange vegetables, herbs and tofu in the center with your ‘star’ veggie on the bottom (that is the one that will show).

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  • Fold sides inward, then fold bottom and top inward.  Roll as tightly as possible.

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  • Place on a serving platter seam side down and make remaining 7 rolls.

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  • Serve with Asian Dipping Sauce

Veggie Tofu Spring Rolls

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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8 rice paper wraps
1 block organic extra firm tofu
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
1-2 avocados, sliced lengthwise
1 Chiogga beet, thinly sliced
1 radish, thinly sliced
small handful fresh mint and/or parsley, chopped (optional)

ASIAN DIPPING SAUCE
1/4 cup almond butter (or creamy peanut butter)
2 Tbsn water
2 Tbsn rice vinegar
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free aminos)
1-2 tsp hot sesame oil(or regular)
1/4-1/2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste

  • Cut tofu in half to make 2 flatter rectangular pieces, then cut into 8 equal sticks.
  • Place in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels, cover with more paper towels and put a heavy pan on top (to help remove excess liquid)
  • Prepare veggies using a mandolin or a sharp knife.
  • Arrange prepared veggies on a workspace.
  • Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir into a smooth sauce. Add additional water if necessary to thin.
  • Heat 2 Tbsn olive or avocado oil in a heavy pan.  Season tofu with salt and pepper and saute on medium high heat until golden brown on all four sides. Let cool on a paper towel.
  • Dip rice wrapper in hot water until soft (10 seconds) Remove from water and spread flat on a plate. Arrange vegetables, herbs and tofu in the center with your ‘star’ veggie on the bottom (that is the one that will show).
  • Fold sides inward, then fold bottom and top inward.  Roll as tightly as possible.
  • Place on a serving platter seam side down and make remaining 7 rolls.
  • Serve with almond sauce