Tag Archives: Lettuce Cups

Cheating Recipes

I’m always pretty skeptical of “cheating recipes”: recipes that claim to provide a way to enjoy everything from brownies to pudding by replacing all the good stuff (butter, flower, cream, chocolate, etc.) with vegetables. I had an especially bad experience last week with a recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Dough. The only ingredients were cauliflower, eggs, herbs, and a little bit of cheese. Red flags should have gone up, but the excitement about the possibility of a bread-free pizza that I could eat without abandon was too overwhelming.
They were horrible. Horrible actually doesn’t even begin to cover it, inedible would be more accurate. So when I came across a recipe for Avocado Chocolate Mousse, although I was curious, I didn’t have even mildly high expectations.
To my surprise, the mousse came out very well. The creamy texture of the avocado perfectly translates into a mousse. It is not on par with a proper mousse made with cream, butter, and chocolate, but it’s simple, uses natural ingredients and takes less than 10 minutes. Most importantly, it can quickly get you past those mind-numbing chocolate cravings without doing too much caloric damage.
I made mine by adapting Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Chocolate-Avocado Mousseand making a few substitutions based on some similar recipes from health food websites. However, this recipe has so few ingredients that you can just do it by taste.

I started with four ripe avocados, blended them in a food processor and then added unsweetened cocoa powder, melted chocolate chips, honey, and some almond milk to thin it out. I couldn’t even tell you how much of each ingredient I added because I just tweaked it until it tasted right. Add cocoa powder if the avocado taste is too strong, honey if it’s not sweet enough, and almond milk (I’m sure any kind of milk would work) if it gets too thick. I only added about a third of a cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips because I wanted to feel no guilt when eating the mousse. However, my finished mousse has an aftertaste with a tiny reminder of the presence of avocado. That didn’t at all bother me but if it bothers you, the more melted chocolate you add, the more you cancel out the avocado flavor. Chill it in the refrigerator for about three hours then serve with berries or chocolate chips.


Sidestepping Bread

Every year, my high school tennis coach gave everyone on the team nicknames. It was like a rite of passage to receive your nickname, it not only meant that you had passed the threshold from junior varsity to varsity but also that you had earned a joking relationship with coach. I remember getting mine. Living in Dallas, pretty much every team party or dinner took place at a Tex Mex restaurant. And every time, I ordered fajitas, “except could I please have lettuce cups instead of tortillas with those?” I got a lot of grief about my avoidance of the chip bowl and my special request lettuce cups, so much so that lettuce cup became my team nickname.

About two years prior at the beginning of high school, I made a decision to cut out all grains; pasta, bread, cereals, rice, etc. At that point I was starting to take my fitness more seriously and I was trying it in an effort to improve my performance. The carb cravings were insane at first; literally a glimpse of a muffin would make me rabid. However after about four weeks, the cravings went away and I realized that I actually felt better. So five years in, I’m still doing it. It can be kind of difficult but I’ve found that the benefits are well worth all the ‘finicky’ ordering. Plus, avoiding breads has forced me to be creative both in ordering and cooking. It’s like a formula. High carb items like bread, pasta, and rice are typically vehicles for the real flavor and sustenance items. So the goal is to find other substitutes to be the vehicle. Here are some of my tried and true favorites.

• Spaghetti Squash- Discovering this stuff was the best thing that ever happened to me. Ever. It is a perfect substitute any time you want to use pasta. You get that same satisfying texture and it doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor that gets in the way of whatever you top it with whether it is chicken meatballs or a Bolognese.

• Broccoli- Whether I’m ordering Thai or Chinese, I find that broccoli is a good rice substitute. Asian restaurants typically always have it and will bring you some steamed. The florets are not only super-charged nutritionally but they act as little sponges to soak up all that green curry!

• Lettuce Cups (obviously) – I have become the number one advocate of lettuce cups and lettuce wraps. Iceberg is typically the best because it’s sturdy, crisp (so it holds up to fillings), and has pretty much no flavor to get in the way of the filling. I love to go the Tex-Mex route and fill them with sautéed chicken, onions, and peppers and top them with avocado, salsa, and queso fresco. A Thai spin is really good as well. Larb obviously works beautifully but if you don’t have that, brown up some ground turkey and top it with papaya salad and crushed cashews or peanuts.