Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crave-ably Healthy Veggie Wrap

Healthy eating (and on the flip side unhealthy eating) seems to ebb and flow. It can be affected by the season, the weather, and especially holidays. December was cookies and prime rib and champagne. January was green smoothies and citrus salads and new gym memberships. Now it’s February and the juice cleanses are over. Wings were consumed. Red velvet is everywhere. Sees is booming with business. We might have overindulged with our sweethearts. I know I did!

I’ve noticed one of the keys to keeping myself in check is watching how extreme I let those ebbs and flows get. I’m too delicate to handle crazy yo-yo’s in my body. And by delicate, I mean panic attacks on the scale, inconsolable by Husband. And by panic attacks and inconsolable, I mean about a half a second of whining while Husband drops the obligatory, well-rehearsed “I’m sorry”, thinly veiling the fact that he’s not really listening to me. (I never blame him. Thankfully, he’s well used to my crazy.) In other words, I prefer to balance mostly healthy eating with regular small indulgences, rather than hard, fast weight loss and weight gain. And really, I think the key is how you approach that mindset. If I were drinking beet juice and bland chicken soup for a week, then I’d be hard-pressed to resist that giant bowl of macaroni and cheese I’d been craving that entire week. Because when you’re eating foods you don’t enjoy, you think about the foods you’re denying yourself that much more, right? I know I do!

A diet shouldn’t feel like diet. In fact, the word diet should denote the foods you have a tendency to stuff into your facehole, rather than being defined by the foods you pointedly do not stuff in your facehole. It’s a small distinction, but one that makes a big difference.  Last week, I told a friend who was lamenting her bland bowl of chicken & vegetable soup (and craving bacon in its place) to nevermind the bacon. If she was going to eat soup, she should make it good soup and then eat the heck out of that soup. Sure, the grass is always greener. Get over it! Instead focus on being happy to eat what you’re eating. Feeling sorry for your dinner is a cop out. Food doesn’t have to be a gazillion grams of fat and tetragillions of calories to be something to savor. If you’re soup is bland, try adding gobs of hot sauce and cry tears of pain triumph when you power through it. Or maybe just a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it up if masochism isn’t your thing. Say you made a salad of carefully chopped fruits and vegetables, every color of the rainbow represented, and while beautiful to behold, you still feel like a bit of a rabbit chomping grass. Try sprinkling in just a few goodies - crumbled goat cheese, a handful of sliced almonds, toasted pepitas. The added protein will make it more filling too. Or experiment with making your own vinaigrette. They are quick, simple, and with all the fancy oil & vinegar options out there, as varied as your imagination! Your side of steamed brown rice? Try sprinkling on some salty seaweed or add some fresh ginger while it’s cooking to boost the flavor. Adding coconut milk in place of some of the cooking water is my favorite!

Break the cycle of denying and indulging. Instead choose healthy options every day, prepare them with love - not necessarily time, just consideration - and when faced with your result look it straight in the plate and say “I am going to eat the heck out of you and love every minute of it!” Now that’s eating mindfully.

Take this simple veggie wrap. Sure, it looks pretty ho-hum. It sounds pretty ho-hum too. But let’s look closer. I used a whole wheat lavash sold by my favorite local market (I heart you forever, Jimbo’s!). It’s just flour, yeast, salt, and water. Or something like that. It’s soft and airy and slightly chewy with a nutty flavor - totally different from a Mission flour tortilla. I made my own hummus. Only because I like making hummus. But really because I'm cheap and dried chickpeas are cheaper. They also sell pretty awesome hummus pretty much everywhere nowadays. This is the wonderful world we live in. My hummus had roasted garlic and a ton of roasted tahini. I’m a sucker for both. At first I thought about adding cheese, but decided avocado would be better. The creamier texture and richer fat flavors were just right. This level of health food must take flavor and texture punch wherever it can be got! I used baby spinach and sprouts. Not lettuce. I’m not much for the crunch of lettuce in wraps, and it’s too watery. Sprouts taste so wonderfully grassy. Wonderful might not be the word that springs to mind when you think of something tasting “grassy”, but my mind was a pasture-raised bovine in a past life, apparently, because grassy sprouts make me swoon. It’s all about balance, really. Grassy sprouts in the same bite as creamy avocado? Good stuff. I went a little crazy and sliced up some of my favorite local fresh tofu. Plain. Because it gives me something silky to sink my teeth into. Because apparently good quality tofu does have a bit of flavor. And it’s quite tasty.

Substitution potential on this wrap are out of bounds. Tortillas for lavash. Arugula for spinach. Black bean, white bean, or lentil purees instead of traditional hummus - or a flavored hummus. Baked, marinated, or spice-rubbed tofu. Leftover shredded chicken. Canned tuna or salmon. The possibilities are endless.

But wait! I have yet to mention the best part. This wrap would be a sad story indeed without the piece de resistance. The pickled red onions and carrots. The acid. The crunch. The life of this wrap. I used to pass-over recipes that called for pickles. How complicated! Not so. Can you make ramen noodles on the stove? Then you can make pickles. Err, with a few more ingredients, and a bit more chopping (unless you buy pre-cut!). It’s just a matter of time. Stewing time. Not stove time.

So to recap, this simple encasement of bovine-approved greenery, pulverized and fermented legumes, luscious Aztecan fertility fruit, and mouth-puckeringly preserved roots is not food you dream about cheese pizza while eating. O-ho no. Before taking your first bite, behold its glory and say “I am going to eat the heck out of this puppy!” I know I did!

But, you know, with small, slow bites. Mindful eating, people.

Crave-ably Healthy Veggie Wrap

1 whole wheat lavash
1 handful fresh baby spinach leaves (~1/2 cup)
½ cup hummus
¼ avocado, sliced
½ cup sprouts
3 oz. firm tofu, thinly sliced (optional)
1 small handful pickled red onions & carrots (see recipe below)

  1. Lay out the lavash in a hamburger orientation. (As opposed to hot dog, naturally.) Down the center of the lavash lay out a flat layer of spinach leaves. Over the spinach, spread the hummus in an even layer, then top it with the avocado slices. Spread the sprouts along the side of the hummus. Lay the tofu over the top, if using. Top everything with the red onions and carrots. Roll up the wrap and enjoy! 
Note: I don't recommend cutting the wrap in half, and it tends to lead to more spillage than it's worth.

Quick Pickled Onions & Carrots

adapted from Simply Recipes

1 large or 2 small red onions, julienned
3 large carrots, julienned
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup white distilled vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the vinegars, sugar, water, and salt over medium heat until the salt and sugar has fully dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.
  2. Place the onions, carrots, and bay leaf in a seal-able container and pour over the cooled liquid. The onions and carrots should be fully submerged in the liquid. Cover the container and refrigerate at least 8 hours, and up to a week. The onions and carrots will soak up more pickle flavor and break down in texture the longer they marinate.


  1. This looks good! I love wraps. I struggle with the up and down of healthy eating, I do like healthy food, but I am addicted to soda! haha Great post, Im stopping by from Our Best Bite FB! I have posted about my healthy changes on my blog a little too,

  2. There is nothing like a good and REAL healthy wrap. I hate when restaurants say something is like " a healthy veggie wrap" but is actually swimming in cheese and ranch dressing.

  3. great post. I now want a wrap in a serious way.