Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Homemade Plum Sauce

I received free samples of California Dried Plums mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Dried Plum Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Homemade Plum Sauce

For our first anniversary, Brian and I enjoyed a  dinner at P.F. Chang. At the time, I thought it was fancy, exotic, intimate. I now look back to my younger self and chuckle. There’s nothing wrong with P.F. Chang, to be sure. It’s just, it’s not exactly fine dining. And when you live in a town filled with independent restaurants catering to every want you could ever have, picking a chain restaurant is sort of silly. Annapolis is a foodie’s dream, with new restaurants popping up every two seconds. By the time you’re able to score a spot in one, it’s already old news and a newer one has popped up. So you can understand my amusement at my 25 year-old naïveté.

However,  the first time I ever tried plum sauce was at our anniversary dinner. I promptly decided I loved it, needed it, couldn’t imagine how I’d previously lived without it. I have a weird relationship with food, I guess. But it was velvety smooth, sweet, a supreme compliment to my chicken. I now spoon it over basically everything I can get my hands on.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Homemade Plum Sauce
It’s no surprise I wanted to test my hand at a homemade plum sauce. Five years later, I have achieved perfection. I really had my doubts but this plum sauce, made from California dried plums, is a near-perfect recreation of restaurant quality plum sauce. Frankly, it’s the star of this whole chinese food rodeo. It’s rich and deep, smooth and velvety, amazing on top of any number of Chinese-style dishes. I won’t mention how easy it is, just take my word for it. If you’re in a weeknight dinner rut, this meal as a whole is sort of splendid. The entire thing takes maybe 30 minutes, start-to-finish. You can have it on the table in less than one New Girl rerun or two quick 15 minute yoga practice videos.  Bonus: it is also nice and light, so it will be a great recipe to keep on hand for the upcoming summer months. Give it a whirl for yourself. I’m convinced you’ll never go back to store-bought plum sauce again.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Homemade Plum Sauce

Ingredients

  • For plum sauce:
  • 1 1/2 cups California Dried Plums
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • For chicken:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 grafitti eggplant, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup homemade plum sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 head romaine lettuce

Instructions

  1. To make plum sauce: combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of water to thin, if necessary. Transfer to a jar until ready to use.
  2. For chicken: chop the chicken into cubes. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook five minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate.
  3. Whisk together plum sauce, soy sauce, ginger and garlic and set aside.
  4. Add the red pepper and cook until softened. Once softened, add eggplant and cook until browned.
  5. Add the chicken back to the pan and toss to combine. Pour the sauce on top and toss to coat.
  6. Remove the pan and place the chicken mixture into a bowl. To serve, place a heaping spoonful on a lettuce leave and top with additional plum sauce.
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Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

I’m not really a middle ground kind of person, there is either deep love or severe hatred. I have to quantify things that way or else, I’ll feel like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, when she has no idea how she likes her eggs. You need to make definitive decisions on things in life or else, you’ll end up just like her pre-Richard Gere revelation at the end of the film. And so for me, there is often no middle space where I just sort of have lukewarm feelings towards foods. I have very clear, very defined views on most foods.

For a long time, strawberries were in the dislike column. I’ve been ok with strawberry flavors but strawberries themselves were just, well, no thank you. The seeds, the annoying stem, the color (I mean, red. Come on, how gauche). It took me quite a while to come around to strawberries. But slowly, I started integrating them into my life and changed my mind on them. Now, since I have such strong feelings on defining foods, I had to move strawberries into the like column. I couldn’t go back on my own theory. So strawberries = like. I feel ok with this, since I still believe that honeydew = death.

Strawberry Basil LemonadeThis strawberry basil lemonade is the ideal choice for someone who maybe has lukewarm strawberry feelings. It has all the strawberry flavor without a ton of strawberry chunks. And surprisingly, the basil is a great herby compliment to the sweetness of those strawberries. It was unexpected, sure. But lovely. Summery. Whip up a batch and keep it in your fridge to impress house guests, friends and family. Or just keep it for yourself, like I would.

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Ingredients

  • 8 strawberries, halved and hulled
  • 10 - 12 basil leaves, roughly torn
  • ¼ cup sugar plus ¼ water
  • 4 lemons, juiced
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups sparkling water

Instructions

  1. Place strawberries, basil leaves and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Combine sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan and heat over medium high. Once the sugar has dissolved, pour the mixture into the pitcher.
  2. Add in the 6 cups of water and stir well. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Once ready to serve, pour in the sparkling water and stir. Pour into glasses garnished with strawberries and lemons.
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DIY Dulce De Leche

DIY dulce de leche is a necessary component for any delicious dessert – and couldn’t be easier to make.

DIY Dulce De Leche

If you’ve never had dulce de leche before, I truly feel for you. Your life is incomplete. You are actually not a real person yet, because eating dulce de leche is an awakening experience. It’s smooth and creamy, caramely and buttery. Not even kidding here, life-changing. Spoon it on a cookie, stir it over ice cream or frankly, just grab a spoon and dig in. It’s what I do.

I believe they sell cans of dulce de leche at the grocery store, but don’t  bother grabbing one of those. It’s super easy to make it at home, and you’ll feel proud of yourself for getting off the couch and doing something with you day. DIY Dulce de Leche is relatively hands off. Scoop a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie plate and cover it with foil. Toss it in a roasting pan and fill the pan with some water, then put it in a 450 degree oven for somewhere around an hour, give or take. That’s literally all you have to do. I made mine while watching House of Cards Season 2 for the 100,000 time. I think I also took a quick cat nap, which just goes to show that anyone can make it, any time.

DIY Dulce De Leche

You won’t be sorry about this one. It’s a necessary dessert component!

Recipe from Baked Elements cookbook

DIY Dulce De Leche

Ingredients

  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk (28 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir together the sweetened condensed milk in a 9 inch glass pie plate and sprinkle salt on top. Cover tightly with foil, then place in a roasting pan. Fill with enough water so it is level with the milk but does not leak into the pie plate. Bake for 60 minutes, checking the water level in the pan every so often. After 60 minutes, remove the foil. If the mixture is dark-caramel colored and thick, remove. If not, return for ten minutes or until finished. Set aside to cool. Transfer to a jar when completely cooled.
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Blackened Chicken Wraps

You can shove anything inside a tortilla, wrap or piece of lettuce and call it a day. The trick is picking the most flavorful ingredients to jazz it up and take your wrap from boring to fabulous. These blackened chicken wraps are filled with just the right amount of spice to make them anything but ordinary.

Blackened Chicken Wraps

About a year ago, I discovered blackened chicken salad. I like to consider it something of an awakening because prior to that moment, I was completely anti-salad. The blackened chicken salad was sort of my gateway salad, opening me up to new and different salads that I never would have tried previously. Now, I actually opt for the black and blue steak salad at lunch. It still feels a little foreign, choosing a salad over a really meaty sandwich, but I like it. The crunch of lettuce and the zing of dressing speaks to my soul. 

Still, sometimes I yearn for just a little more heft in my lunch. When that happens, I just toss all of those salad ingredients inside a tortilla or wrap and call it a day. Wraps don’t require a ton of thought, just instinct. If you aren’t eating it as salad, you probably won’t eat it in a wrap. It’s just logic. Throwing a few pieces of iceberg on top of a tortilla and coating it with French dressing will never fly. Believe me. I speak from experience.

Blackened Chicken Wraps

That’s why I love this little blackened chicken wrap. It’s still mostly veggies, so I at least feel like I’m eating healthy. But it’s got the spicy chicken to make me feel full and satisfied. A slick swipe of Ranch dressing to offset too much spice and you can call it a day. If you’re organized enough to prepare the chicken on Sunday, you can have lunch ready for the week in less than 5 minutes. No lie. So really, there is no downside here. Trust me, I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

Blackened Chicken Wraps

Ingredients

  • For spice blend:
  • 2 tsps Smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • For filling:
  • 2 tortillas or wraps
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 large romaine leaves, cut into strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • For dressing:
  • ½ cup light mayo
  • ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dill
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup low fat buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Begin by cooking your chicken. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until shimmery. While it heats, coat the chicken with the blackened spice mix. Place the chicken in the pan and cook 5 minutes per side until cooked through.
  2. While the chicken cooks, make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients and whisking with a fork.
  3. Remove chicken from the pan and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, slice into chunks.
  4. To prepare the wrap. place your tortilla or wrap on a flat surface. Spoon 1 to 2 Tbsp. dressing on the wrap and spread it in a thin layer.
  5. Next, add half the lettuce across the wrap. Top with bell pepper, cheese and chicken. Fold. Repeat with other tortilla.
  6. Note, you will have leftover chicken and dressing for more salads or wraps on day two.
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Grapefruit Sodas

Grapefruit Sodas

It took me quite a few years to come around to grapefruits. But one thing that I never had a problem liking is soda. In all forms. In all its glorious carbonation. I’ve mostly given up regular sugary sodas – save the occasional Diet Coke and trips to my parents’ house where Pepsi is in constant flow just for me. But honestly, I think I missed the fizz.

That fizz, the little tickle the soda bubbles give your nose when you crack open a fresh can, is one of those sensory tricks that I just can’t avoid. We bought a Soda Stream a few years ago and it was one of the best investments ever, besides the espresso machine. I use it constantly and even so, I still stock cases of flavored seltzers for emergencies.

Grapefruit Sodas

Once I decided I liked grapefruit flavors, grapefruit sodas were an absolute must, of course. This soda is super simple and lacks any of the weird artificial junk you’d find in regular sodas. Just grapefruit juice, lemon juice, soda water and a tiny bit of sugar to offset all the tarty citrus flavors. Perfect for summertime poolside sipping or as a great pick-me-up in the morning. I hope you enjoy these grapefruit sodas as much as I did!

Grapefruit Sodas

Grapefruit Sodas

Ingredients

  • 1 large grapefruit, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 12 ounces soda water
  • ice (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine grapefruit and lemon juice in a small pitcher. Pass it through a fine mesh strainer to eliminate any pits and seeds.
  2. Divide the mixture between two glasses. Place 1 tsp. of sugar in each glass and stir well. Top with soda water.
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