Saturday, July 15, 2017

Vegetarian Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps

It’s potluck season.

Tofu Mushroom Lettuce Wraps
Ready for Potluck
Nowadays, however, our martial arts group potlucks can be challenging for me to prepare for. We have a bunch of vegetarians, and a number of folks are opting for gluten-free options. Our crew usually brings spicy lentil or chickpea dishes, Indian style rice, veggie gluten-free pastas, chili and gluten-free cornbread. Occasionally, there is still the omnivore who brings chicken adobo (and no, that is not me – although I do eat meat and I am Filipino).

On top of it all, I was the designated baker until Sempai B joined the group. Desserts are his specialties. In the last few potlucks, he made a gorgeous and moist chocolate cakes, light chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream. So good… I love Sempai B’s desserts. They are delicious, decadent, and gives me much inspiration and something to strive for. However, since someone usually brings cookies, I suspect that I am out of the job – for desserts at least.

So, what to do…

My other expertise are salads, so that remains an option. I also make a mean salad, most likely because it’s has been default lunch in the summer. Because of that, I have also become an expert in disguising my salads and changing the presentation a bit. I do get tired of eating the same thing so I have to trick myself. My salads are very healthy too – no heavy dressings and low sodium.  I usually pick vinegar-based (apple cider has been my recent favorite) dressings with EVOO and lots of aromatics and herbs. OK - Maybe it's too healthy.

For our last potluck, I decided to bring vegetarian lettuce wraps. This dish was actually inspired by my Hubby. He initially suggested chicken wraps. One problem: chicken - it has to be vegetarian.   That said, it was an excellent idea and I used his Vietnamese Chicken Wrap recipe as a base, but tweaked it.

What I have is below… let me know what you think.

Mad Gourmet’s Vegetarian Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps
Based on Hubby’s Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap


Filling and Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/2 package of tofu, Firm, lightly mashed
  • 1 portabella mushroom, finely diced (almost minced)
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil (if using fresh, use about 3/4 - 1 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 cup shallots minced
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)

Wraps and Garnish
  • 6 leaves butter lettuce
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro sprigs

  1. Ahead of time, chill the lettuce, cucumber, carrots and herbs (recommend to put it in a leak proof glass or stainless steel container)
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the lime juice, sugar, and sriracha. Set aside.
  3. Saute shallots, tofu, and portabella mushrooms. Add ginger powder and basil. (Turn off heat after saute)
  4. Add sriracha mixture and scallions to tofu mixture. Toss to combine and chill for 1/2 hour.
  5. To serve, put tofu mixture in lettuce leaves and garnish with the cucumbers, carrots, or cilantro.


This was a hit in the party. The biggest compliment, I think, was when my friend (who is an excellent cook) wanted the recipe. Incidentally, that is why I initially wrote this recipe down.

The original recipe did use fish sauce, but I cannot add that because it is supposed to be a vegetarian dish. I was going to substitute something else for it, but the combination of lime juice, Sriracha and sugar was tasty enough. The tanginess of the lime juice combined with the sweetness of the sugar and heat – BAM!  Remember, if you want it to be vegan, do not use honey. I think this recipe is close enough to be vegan, but I am not sure of the tofu.

I love the addition of mushrooms in this dish. I have become a big fan of mushrooms since they have a texture similar to meat. It’s rich in Vitamin D as well.

Next time, I may serve it with peanut butter sauce. Also, I was thinking of doing a quick pickle on the cucumbers and carrots (think Banh Mi, folks).  I may add quinoa or rice for a heartier dish. In fact, my other buddy and I were doing Rice Pulao and Tofu wraps, and it works! Ah, the possibilities.

Hope you enjoy!

P.S. I am still going to find a way to bring my low-fat banana brownies. Those are awesome! It's a slightly modified version of my basic brownie recipe and I am working on making it gluten-free.

Friday, March 31, 2017

HELP WANTED: Kona Coffee-Spiked Banana Muffins

Yes, I made it! I pledged to write one blog post per month… at least the first three. This was to match my record last year. Now, I need to beat it... but it may need to wait until May.

Coffee-spiked banana muffins
This post really is a call for help. During our last trip to Kona, I was inspired to make Kona coffee banana bread or muffins. I think I was inspired after indulging in way too much Kona and Ka’u coffee. Oh, that magical Hawaiian elixir is so ono and so mild that it did not upset my tummy. It did not help that Kona coffee was all over the place in Kona (duh). There were several cool coffee places overlooking the ocean (again, duh). Oh yes, there was that trip to the coffee plantation too.  Needless to say, that trip was #caffeinated.

The banana bread part comes from the upcountry in the Big Island. Banana bread is a standard treat in Hawaii. When you go Captain Cook or coffee country, there is no lack of stores that sell banana bread. I always get a slice or three when we’re up there so I have provisions for the rest of trip.

Once we came back home, I looked for a recipe as a starter. I think the most promising one was an old recipe from the Washington Post on a coffee-spiked banana bread. I healthified and Maddified it with tropical ingredients like coconut oil and macadamia nuts. Since the weather is getting warmer, I muffinized it to cut down on baking time. 

Sheesh, who am I kidding... I LOVE MUFFINS!

Here’s the call for help: I baked it twice but the coffee flavor does not pop. Don’t get me wrong – the muffins were delicious, but it seems to me that the coffee should be more prominent. I tried to add coffee grounds in it (I don't think that helped with flavor, but it did on caffeine content). I even consulted the original recipe in the Mosswood Cookbook (Yes, It happened to be in my collection).

So... Here’s what I have so far.  Does it need more coffee or am I getting too caffeinated? Or perhaps Kona coffee is just too mellow.  Anyways, as the Hawaiian’s would say… Please kokua. Mahalo nui.

Mad Gourmet’s (In Progress) Kona Coffee Spiked Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup strongly brewed black Kona coffee
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 Tbsp ground Kona coffee (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line them with liners. 
  2. Whisk together the flour, the salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir together the mashed bananas and coffee in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
  4. Combine the oil and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well blended, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  5. Gradually and alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture to the beaten egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour one. Do not overmix, or the batter will be tough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
  6. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pans.

P.S. I'm thinking of renaming these to Caffeinated Muffins. What do you think?