Monday, September 6, 2010

Five Spice Quinoa, Yam, Black Bean, Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Five Spice Quinoa Lettuce Wrap

I've spent the last few days working on my recipe submission for the Aetna Healthy Food Fight contest.  The rules are pretty strict, starting with a $12 maximum ingredient cost for a meal that feeds five, with 500-600 calories per serving.

Add to that stringent rules on protein sources, including nuts and legumes, maximum 120 grams per serving, use of unprocessed and minimally processed foods, healthy carbs, little or no  added sugars, and limited salt content, while using healthy plant based oils, all in all, not a simple task.

Originally I did the quinoa with the yam, black beans and spinach in a roasted portobello cap.  Even with the pepita garnish, the texture was too soft overall to work.

That's when I decided to switch it over to a lettuce wrap.  About the only thing iceberg lettuce is good for is a wrap, and it's a cool, crunchy, perfect foil for the filling here.  I also added golden raisins which provided a nice sweet bite that is delicious with the Chinese Five Spice.

It was delicious to me without any animal protein, but I was way low on the calorie count, so at first I considered chopped, cooked chicken breast (because I had some in the fridge), and then I changed it to ground turkey.  I originally used only a teaspoon of olive oil, but upped it to a tablespoon to get the calorie count up (!).

Unfortunately, I had to lose the baby spinach in the final recipe to meet the $12 total.  And I really couldn't afford to add parsley or cilantro as a garnish either.

So here is the final recipe I submitted:

Five-Spice Quinoa, Yam & Turkey Lettuce Wraps

5 Servings

1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed
1 T. Olive Oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium yam (about 3/4 pound), peeled and small diced
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 clove garlic, minced
1 t. Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/2 c. golden raisins
Salt and Pepper
1 head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and leaves separated
1/4 c. roasted, salted Pepitas

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, then add quinoa, reduce heat to medium, and cook about 12 minutes until water is absorbed.  Remove from heat, fluff, and cover while proceeding with recipe.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in 10” - 12” skillet over medium high heat.  Crumble ground turkey into pan and cook until browned and almost cooked through. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Drain any excess fat. Add diced sweet potatoes, chinese five spice powder, raisins, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to medium,  and cook until sweet potatoes are tender, about 6-8 minutes. 

Add cooked quinoa to turkey mixture and toss to combine.  Taste and check seasonings.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling into each lettuce leaf, 2 leaves per serving.  Sprinkle with pepitas and serve immediately.  Drizzle with Ponzu sauce, if desired.

So wish me luck.  There are regional first round cook-offs throughout the country.  Cleveland's will be held at the RIPE Festival at the Cleveland Botanical Garden September 24th - 26th. 

First round winners will participate in a final cook-off in LA with Bobby Flay.  Grand prize is $10,000 in Kitchen-Aid appliances.  (I don't need the range or microwave hood, so I will donate those to a local agency who can use it).

Updated: I won the Cleveland round!!! Finals are in November in LA.

At the Judge's Table
My Presentation Platter


  1. Ounds sooooooo yum. I also like cabbage leaves for wraps.

  2. Great recipe and it looks amazing. Lettuce wraps are always a hit in my house and with clients. Good luck in LA!!


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