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Archive for July, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Save Calories With Healthy Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce wraps are a carb- and calorie-reducing way to enjoy your favorite foods at lunch, dinner or for a snack.

Just substitute low-cal, crunchy lettuce for tortilla wraps, sandwich bread, pita and even rice.

For example, Asian dishes that typically pair with rice can be eaten in lettuce wraps instead of with rice. We were first served romaine leaves for this purpose at a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, many years ago. Today, we regularly go out for Korean barbecue, where meat, pickles, garnishes and condiments are rolled into a romaine leaf and eaten. It’s so delicious, it’s hard to believe it’s so low in calories.

Lettuce wraps are also a sneaky-fun way to get the family to eat more low-calorie lettuce. A .17 ounce/5 gram lettuce leaf has 1 calorie; two pieces of extra-thin-sliced bread have 90 calories.

What Types Of Lettuce Should You Use?

Just about anything works: leaves of Boston lettuce, iceberg lettuce, red leaf lettuce, romaine, napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage (bok choy) and radicchio. Pick the largest head with pliable leaves (you can blanch cabbage leaves to make rolling easier).


Save calories with lettuce wraps instead
of bread. Photo by W.S. Mahar | IST.


Wash and dry the leaves well in advance of serving. They will stay crisp in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

What Should You Put In Your Lettuce Wraps?

  • Your favorite sandwich salads (chicken, egg, shrimp, tuna, etc.)
  • Your favorite sandwich meats and/or veggies, chopped into bite-size pieces (try a BLT!)
  • Burrito, fajita and taco fixings—anything you’d put in a tortilla
  • Salad (think chopped salad, Israeli salad and Greek salad)
  • Leftovers
  • Your favorite stir fry
    Wrap Sandwich Recipes

    The easiest way to serve wraps to anyone old enough to fix a sandwich is to keep the filling and the lettuce wraps separate and let people roll their own.

  • Set up a “wrap buffet” with one or more types of lettuces and fillings, plus garnishes like fresh mint leaves and basil leaves, chopped tomatoes, sliced green onions, shredded cheese, sliced pickles, olives and capers. Watch everyone go to town creating their own custom wraps.
  • Provide sauces and condiments that are appropriate for the fillings: vinaigrette, hot sauce, hoisin or other sweet and spicy sauce, yogurt sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.
  • An easy dressing for seafood and vegetable wraps: 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce and 2 tablespoons fish sauce (in the Asian condiments aisle).
  • Core the lettuce and soak it in ice water for an hour, for easy removal of intact leaves. Separate the leaves and drain each one individually, then refrigerate on a towel for a couple of hours to crisp them.
  • Lettuce leaves can be prepared hours in advance or overnight. Rinse, dry and stack the leaves in a plastic bag in the fridge. Be sure to dry the lettuce well before serving.

    How many types of sandwiches can you name? See our Sandwich Glossary.

    There are more sandwich recipes in our Gourmet Bread Section.

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Baking Powder, Plus Low Sodium Baking Powder

    Reduce the sodium in your baking powder by 40%. Photo courtesy Rumford/Clabber Girl.


    If you bake biscuits, cakes, from-scratch pancakes, muffins, quick breads and scones, you’ve no doubt used baking powder.

    Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent that is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of these types of baked goods. When it makes contact with a liquid (like the liquid in a batter), it releases carbon dioxide gas, causing bubbles that expand (“leaven”) the mixture. Hence, a light and fluffy cake, or a scone that isn’t leaden.

    Yeasts also produce this kind of reaction, but bring their signature “yeasty” flavors with them. They taste great in bread and in yeast cakes, but not in a conventional cake or muffin.

    Here are some things you may not know about baking powder—but should—along with a recipe for homemade baking powder (easy!).

    Aluminum In Baking Powder

    Baking powders are available both with and without aluminum compounds. Sodium aluminum sulfate is added to some baking powders to create the “double acting” effect. This is a convenience for the baker, since it delays the expansion of the batter for 15 to 20 minutes, without losing the leavening power. This means that the batter doesn’t have to be rushed into the oven shortly after the baking powder is added.*


    This is particularly important in commercial baking, where many pans of batter can be lined for a period of time before going into the oven. But it isn’t critical for home baking.

    *Double acting baking powder reacts to the liquid and heat in two stages. The first reaction takes place when the baking powder makes contact with the batter, and reacts with the liquid to produce carbon dioxide gas. The second reaction takes place when the batter responds to the heat in the oven (the gas cells expand, causing the batter to rise).

    There are two reasons to avoid baking powder with aluminum. Some people with finely-tuned palates perceive a tinny aftertaste. But more importantly, scientists are pursuing a possible link between aluminum consumption and Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit disorder, bone degeneration, kidney dysfunction and even Parkinson’s disease.

    Baking powder without aluminum costs a bit more than standard baking powder. But it’s worth it. You should notice an improved flavor in your baked goods.

    Baking Powder Can Go Flat

    If you don’t bake regularly, chances are that you’ve had the same can of baking powder for years. Over time, it can go flat. To test if your baking powder is still good, add a teaspoon to a half cup of boiling water. If you see a bubbling reaction, the baking powder is good. If not, toss the powder, recycle the can and buy more when you’re ready to bake again.

    Reduced Sodium Baking Powder

    Given that baking powder’s principal ingredient is sodium bicarbonate,† a standard baking powder can deliver a lot of hidden sodium. One muffin, for example, can contain almost 20% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of sodium.

    †Sodium bicarbonate is the base, cream of tartar is the acid, and corn starch is the moisture-absorbing agent that prevents the powder from reacting with moisture in the air.

    So if you’re watching your salt intake or just prefer healthier ingredients, look for a reduced-sodium baking powder.

    They’ve been around for a while, but have produced baked goods that are less light and fluffy.

    The Rumford brand has just launched a new formula that is quick-acting, is used in the same amount as regular baking powder and produces baked goods that are light and fluffy. It contains 52% less sodium than conventional brands. And it’s aluminum-free.

    If you can’t find it locally, you can purchase it from the company’s website.

    Make Your Own Baking Powder

    If you don’t use baking powder often, it might make more sense to make your own baking powder and have one less item cluttering the shelf.

    For one tablespoon of baking powder, thoroughly combine:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    Since this baking powder is not double-acting, as soon as the batter or dough is mixed, put it into the oven. As explained above, the baking powder starts to react as soon as it makes contact with liquid.

    If you’re not going to use it immediately, you can store it (or any excess) in an airtight container if you add:

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb moisture
    However, given the low cost of the ingredients and the premium on space that most of us have, you can just toss the excess and mix a fresh tablespoon the next time you bake.


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    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Cheesecake Day

    Two days ago we tweeted that Cheesecake Factory is offering half-priced cheesecake today to celebrate National Cheesecake Day (eat in, no takeout).

    On the one hand, the one slice per person they set for the half price offer may seem restrictive. On the other hand, how many flavors of cheesecake would you try at 50% off? The last time we shared two flavors of the uber-rich dessert at Cheesecake Factory, the Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake did battle in our stomach with the Key Lime Cheesecake. Our groan for the remainder of the evening was, “Why did we eat all that?”

    So, dismiss thoughts of how many non-dessert-eating friends might want to join you for lunch, so that they can order a half-price piece of cheesecake for you.

    Instead, get out your springform pan and bake your favorite recipe or try a new one.


    In Mom’s recipe, the sour cream topping
    is an inch high. Photo by Kelly Cline | IST.


    With so much luscious fresh fruit abounding, you can top your cheesecake with a seasonal fruit salad instead of the tasty yet ubiquitous strawberries. We’re going for peaches and nectarines, marinated in Grand Marnier. Use any orange liqueur, and let the cut fruit marinate in it for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally to turn the fruit. (If it’s in a sealed plastic container, just shake it.)

    If you’ve never had cheesecake with a sour cream top layer, we urge you to try our mother’s cheesecake recipe. We grew up on it, and while we’ve had hundreds of other cheesecake recipes since then, we always return to it.

    1. Get the recipe.
    2. Invite friends, family or neighbors over to celebrate—in one day. Cheesecake gets better with a day of aging.
    3. Start baking.
    4. Save us a piece!

    Find more of our favorite cheesecake recipes.


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    COOKING VIDEO: Make Tortillas From Scratch


    If you’ve never made fresh tortillas from scratch, you’re in for a treat.

    Warm, fragrant and homemade-tasting, you can serve them as a flatbread at brunch or with a luncheon salad.

    Or of course, use them in your favorite Mexican recipes.

    Turn tortilla-making into a fun weekend activity for the family. It’s fun, and provides an appreciation for where food “comes from.”

    Find more bread recipes in our Gourmet Bread Section.



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    TIP OF THE DAY: Watermelon In Salad

    Watermelon makes a salad more refreshing.
    Photo © Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


    We love watermelon salad in the summer: greens or herbs with watermelon and, sometimes, feta or goat cheese.

    We’ve published several watermelon salad recipes in summers past (links are at the bottom of this article). This year we present Watermelon, Tomato and Wisconsin Burrata Salad.

    Burrata is a heavenly cheese: a ball of mozzarella stuffed with ricotta. Trader Joe’s is our go-to source for great burrata. If you can’t find it, use sliced mozzarella, feta or goat cheese.

    This recipe was developed by Chef Brandt Evans for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board ( It serves 6-8.

    Try this recipe or use your creativity to invent your own watermelon salad recipe.



    Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
    Salad Ingredients

  • 4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 6 cups red or mixture of yellow and red watermelon
  • 1 small English cucumber, peeled and sliced 1/3-inch thick
  • 1 cup burrata cheese, sliced

    1. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in small bowl. Set aside.
    2. Toss salad ingredients in large bowl. Drizzle desired amount of vinaigrette over salad and gently retoss.

    More Watermelon Salad Recipes
    Caprese Salad With Watermelon
    Watermelon Salad With Thai Basil & Feta Cheese
    Watermelon Salad With Tomatoes & Chives
    Watermelon History & More Watermelon Recipes


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