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March, 2010

Cabbage Chicken Wraps

By Dennis Linden

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home cooked meal together, it is not impossible with a little planning and it can even be fun
.

Cooking with the Kids Image
Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever.

Each COOKIN’ with the KIDS feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together, under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

Here’s an easy, economical and healthy dish to prepare with your kids that takes advantage of this month’s St. Patrick’s Day retail cabbage sales. The recipe can be made with both fresh or leftover chicken and offers lots of ingredient flexibility so that your kitchen helpers can exercise their culinary imaginations to taste.

By design, the primary ingredient list for these neat little Cabbage Chicken Wraps will produce a pleasant but fairly nondescript flavor profile, depending almost wholly on the seasonings that are already in the leftover chicken, if that is what is being used. Conversely, starting with fresh, uncooked chicken pieces, will guarantee a very neutral tasting wrap, which the accompanying simple Peanut Sauce recipe addresses perfectly in a single dip. Besides, a great way to entice a child to eat vegetables is with a little peanut butter on the side!

(It should be noted that the peanut sauce depicted in the accompanying dish photo was purposely made much thicker than the recipe will produce for purely photogenic considerations. Serve the thinner, more fluid, version in a shallow dish for easy dipping.) This sauce is also being presented on the side rather than adding it to the chicken mixture itself, which you could do, to provide an opportunity to allow for a planning discussion with your kitchen crew about other ways they might want to add flavor to wraps, instead of the peanut sauce. Certainly there are kids who do not like or are allergic to peanuts. There are ingredients in the wrap mixture that match up other ingredients that could be added to produce a different flavor. You might place some of the items suggested below on the counter, along with the recipe’s basic ingredient, to serve as props to getting those culinary minds moving. Encourage your little chefs to take a few minutes to think about and decide what flavors they like and how they would add them to the basic recipe. Giving your kids a say in tweaking this recipe teaches that cooking is more than just reading directions and it also gives them some responsibility to the dish’s final taste.

Here are some optional ingredient suggestions to discuss with your crew:
• Build on the water chestnut ingredient by simply adding soy sauce when cooking the chicken and onions.
• Replace the water chestnuts and parsley with chopped jicama and cilantro and then blend in a mild Fire Roasted Salsa when cooking the chicken.
• Remove the water chestnuts and add lemon juice, salt and pepper.
• Encourage your kids to come up with other ingredient ideas. Of course, this may end up demonstrating the meaning of that old saying: “The proof is in the pudding!”

Cabbage Chicken Wraps
Cabbage Chicken Wraps
Yield 6 servings

Ingredients
1 large head organic cabbage
1½ pounds chicken meat, diced
1 cup perfect sweet onions, chopped
2 cups fresh white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup organic red pepper, chopped
1 cup waterchestnuts, chopped
½ cup organic parsley, chopped

Preparation:

What the supervising adult should do:
Prepare the cabbage by removing outer leaves and cut about 1-inch off the bottom (stem end) of the head. Then steam cabbage, stem side down, until leaves can be removed easily. Set aside to cool. Dice the chicken so it is ready for the kids to cook. Supervise the preparation and cooking of the vegetable ingredients. Steamed cabbage leaves are a little delicate, so it is best if the adult removes each carefully from the head and prepares them for wrapping by first removing the thick stem in the center of each piece before laying them out on a cutting board for the kids to spoon in the chicken mixture and wrap.

What kids can do (with adult supervision):
1. Slice, dice and chop all the vegetables according to the ingredient list description
2. Cook chicken and onions in a large skillet until chicken is done and onions are browning. Remove chicken and onions from skillet. Set aside.
3. In the same large skillet, cook the mushrooms and bell pepper until the mushrooms just begin to brown. Add in the water chestnuts and parsley as well as cooked chicken and onion mixture, then heat thoroughly. 4. Remove skillet from heat and let mixture cool.
5. Fill two tablespoons of chicken mixture in each of the cabbage leaves and roll them into a wrap. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
6. Prepare the dipping sauce per instructions below.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:

Ingredients

2 ounces chicken stock
3 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
1 ounce organic lime juice
1 ounce soy sauce
2 tablespoons organic garlic, chopped
1½ cups peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Preparation
In a food processor, puree the chicken stock, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, chopped garlic, and ginger. Add the peanut butter and pulse to combine. Fold in the cilantro and keep refrigerated until ready to serve