Roll it up, wrap it up, what could be neater?
Add a spread, forget the bread, be a healthy eater!
When in doubt, lay it all out, no need for precision.
Bite by bite, day or night, you’ve made the right decision!
Oh, the contradictions of winter food! Many of us are still in the throes of committing to the proven behaviors for healthy living—eating better, exercising more, getting to the projects that were suspended at the first pre-Halloween pumpkin spice latte.
The comfort foods of winter tempt—stews and soups, creamy baked dishes, rich desserts. often preceded by words like “hearty” and “deeply satisfying.” My word of choice during the holiday season: “slather”—as applied to butter, melted cheese, and whipped cream.
For the New Year, I’ve adopted a new concept to replace that of excess: wraps. Not the familiar flour tortilla wraps where there is more wrap than filling, providing safe cover but tasting more like cardboard than food. The world of wraps is far more diverse and appealing.
A quick review brings to mind dumplings and wontons, blinis and blintzes, samosas, Ethiopian injera, and Thai Betel leaves. Vietnamese fresh rolls and Chinese spring rolls. Crepes, pasties, knishes. Pita and lavash. Tortillas, both flour and corn wrap around fajitas and other grilled or sauteed fillings. The more I think of wraps, the more I see them everywhere.
And now that even fast-food chains offer low carb or carb-free alternatives for their burgers and patties, there are many reasons to feel rhapsodic about wraps.
Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores offer an array of wraps that invite exploration and creativity. The newest choices at Trader Joe’s illustrates: Fresh Jicama wraps add crunch and coolness to their filling; egg white wraps are delicate, crepe-like circles that invite heating as well as room temperature pleasure; parmesan cheese wraps can be wrapped or draped over fillings.
“Why not just make a sandwich?” I hear you mutter.
Instead of approaching this crucial question as either/or, this is definitely a both/and issue. Sandwiches will never go away. Heck, anything can be slapped between two slices of bread or tucked into a hoagie roll.
Wraps and their pocket partners take a bit more finesse, given tendencies to tear or not yield a big enough space for stuffing.
The challenge is to find the wraps that work for your particular use: casual lunch, appetizers, main course, or desserts. Carb or non-carb, protein-based or mainly water. Gluten-free? Vegan? The world of wraps is all about options. For me, that means fun and creativity.
What you wrap around depends on the wrap or wraps you have chosen. My refrigerator and pantry are always stocked with ingredients that allow me to be flexible and match the need.
I stick by my advice about assembling a spread for a casual gathering. Make sure that among the items chosen are foods that are “dippy, pickly and cheesy.”
Those would be:
Spreads and dips
Hummuses and other Middle Eastern spreads. My current favorites: Trader Joe’s tomato-basil hummus, olive tapenade, and vegan tzatziki.
Pickles and olives
I crave almost anything pickled. Bread and butter pickles. Garlic spears. Capers. Olives and tapenades. Mama Lil’s peppers. Pickled asparagus, artichoke hearts, bottled red peppers. sauerkraut, kimchi. Fermentation has taken over many deli counters.
Vegetables and herbs
Cucumber spears, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, fennel, lettuce. Basil, cilantro, mint, and dill all add a shot of flavor to whatever you are assembling.
Turkey, ham, salami. Egg salad, tuna salad and the like.
Endless possibilities. My favorite Trader Joe’s cheese, Unexpected Cheddar, proved itself so popular that it is now sold shredded with a cheese spread version added to the lineage.
Mustards—the many choices give different outcomes. Be brave and try some that are new to you. Ketchups and chutneys. Mayos and other bottled sauces for spikes of flavor and heat.
Putting it all together
First, don’t be a Dagwood! For those of you old enough to remember the comic character Dagwood and his multiple foot-high sandwiches, we are thinking horizontal, not vertical.
Open your chosen wrap and spread the whole surface with the condiment or spread of your choice. Next add whatever proteins you are using. Finish with vegetables, pickles, and top with any cheese or sauce. Roll or wrap like a burrito. If you are heating the wrap, start with 30 seconds and check for the level of heat and melting you desire. It can be hot, so check before taking a bite!
Rebecca Crichton is executive director of Northwest Center for Creative Aging and presents programs on that topic in the Seattle area. She worked at Boeing for 21 years as a writer, curriculum designer, and leadership development coach. She has master’s degrees in child development and organizational development, and is a certified coach.
Mediterranean Tuna Salad
3 tbsp. Capers
3 tbsp . Kalamata olives
3-4 green onions or ¼ sweet onion
1 tsp. Anchovy paste or 2-3 anchovies
1 tbsp. Dijon or stone-ground mustard
Fresh herbs (basil, mint, or dill)
1-3 tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of half lemon
1 can tuna (use whatever level salt and/or oil you like.)
In bowl of food processor, pulse all ingredients except tuna.
Once ingredients are coarsely chopped and well mixed, add tuna (use oil if you choose or drain if in water.) Pulse until chunky and everything is incorporated. Taste for seasoning. Add more lemon, salt or mayo if you feel it needs it.
Drained Yogurt Spread or Dip
Among my favorite tools is a small triangular strainer for yogurt. I use low-fat or non-fat yogurt and by the time it has drained for a day, I have a healthy version of Labneh or thick Greek yogurt. Of course, you can just start with either of those.
1 cup drained yogurt of labneh, or thick Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 to ½ cup chopped herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley, basil, mint, chives)
1-2 tbsp. good olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mix ingredients together and add salt or lemon as needed.