Monday, August 21, 2006

Blandness got you down? Add some spice to your life!

The best deal about tonight's dinner is that both recipes can be completely made ahead of time and served cold or warmed up. Now, if I would have planned things a little better, I would have made them ahead of time. Making both at the same time was a little more hectic than I was thinking it would be, but it all worked out in the end.

To start out, I made Braised Carrots for the side tonight. Taking about 50 minutes to slowly cook, these carrots are melt in your mouth tender - just as if they were sitting around cooking in a dish like pot roast. The flavors were so intense and pronounced - the sweetness from the carrots with the bright tangy juice from the lemons was perfect. Smashed chunky garlic, fresh from the vine tomatoes and chopped mint brought an amazing depth of fresh flavor. I also liked the addition of fennel seeds - I don't use them often, but the slight licorice taste was a pleasant surprise. I was not sure if the end texture would be too mushy for Jeff, but he made sure to tell me how much he liked these and that I can't have them for lunch tomorrow... hmph!

Five-Spice Turkey and Lettuce Wraps was the main portion of our meal. To give the turkey breast a head start with a boost of flavor, it is cooked with fresh ginger in some sesame oil rather than a canola or olive oil. Once the turkey is browned, cooked brown rice, roasted bell peppers, crisp water chestnuts, broth, hoisin sauce and five-spice powder* are all mixed in. After this juicy combination is thoroughly heated though, it is placed in individual leaves of tender boston lettuce. Cilantro, fresh basil and mint are scattered on top and then a sprinkle of shredded carrots finish these off. Savory and a little sweet, these were on the table in under 30 minutes and rolling them into wraps make them fun to eat too!

*Five-spice powder incorporates 5 basic flavors in one mix - sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. I used Penzeys and their blend consists of cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise, ginger and cloves. Some blends will also include szechuan peppercorns which would be even better.


  1. Both dishes look yummy Joe! But your description of the carrots being soft as if cooked in a pot roast just made me drool and want to make them! I love the carrots from pot roasts, they are actually my favorite part! yumm!
    Recipe copied and put on top of the list to try!

  2. Yum, yum. I like the sound of both of these. I'm saving this to right now.

  3. I like the look of the lettuce wraps - something we've never tried. One of these days I will, and I'll try your recipe. Looks yummy!

  4. Do you like Penzeys spices? They always look super expensive.

  5. wheresmymind - Penzey spices are actually CHEAPER than those in the grocery store and much better quality. You mus try them.

    I made these carrots awhile back because they sounded so different. Quite honestly, I wasn't sure we would like them since the tomato, mint and anise was such an odd combo for us. However, we were pleasantly surprised - great recipe. It made me go out and get "Vegetable Love", which is an interesting book, as well.

  6. Terrific! Those carrots look like pure comfort food. And I love green wraps. Yum.

  7. Ana - I hope you like it, Jeff raved about the leftovers as part of his lunch!

    Kalyn - I'm going to have to look into that site - I have yet to use it!

    Cyndi - Let me know if you try it!

    Wheresmymind - I agree with Jen. Depending on where you buy yours, they can be cheaper. They are very fresh and I've never had a bad batch. I can't say enough about how much we like them.

    Jen - I was worried about the flavor combo, but they just went together so well in the end. So good!

    Karina - Comfort food at its best!