Some assembly required
Fast-food knockoff offers a quick way to reduce calories, fat and sodium.By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA
The Kansas City Star
M y editor doesn’t cook. Her oven serves as a makeshift pantry to stash the dog’s food.
Sound extreme? Not so much. Her “I-am-no-domestic-goddess” attitude has become not only feasible but downright fashionable.
From rotisserie chicken to sushi, frozen pizza to microwave burritos, there’s no denying Americans are cooking less and assembling more.
These prepared foods seem the perfect shortcut when you need dinner on the table in a hurry.
Often the trade-off for convenience is a diet that is high in sodium.
Consider the wrap sandwich, a fast-food favorite that has the aura of health — until you consider a grilled chicken wrap from Sonic ( www.sonicdrivein.com/pdfs/menu/SonicNutritionGuide) has 539 calories, 27 grams of fat and a whopping 1,035 milligrams of sodium. Skip the ranch dressing to get it down to 393 calories, 12 grams of fat and 820 milligrams of sodium.
A Google search turns up a host of chicken wraps with similar sodium stats. For instance, at calorie-count.com, the Arby’s Low Carbys Chicken Caesar Wrap receives a nutrition grade of C+. Not all bad. It’s low in sugar, very high in dietary fiber, high in protein. Ah, but it also has — ouch! — 1,530 milligrams of sodium, more than half your daily allotment.
Indeed, the Dietary Guidelines released by the government last year found most American diets are out of whack when it comes to sodium. The recommended daily intake for salt is no more than 2,400 milligrams, or about a teaspoon of salt.
By assembling The Star’s Asian Chicken Salad Wraps at home, you can replace the popular Caesar dressing with a vinaigrette to cut the sodium as well as additional fat and calories.
To pump up the nutrition, add more variety to your salad by including darker greens such as spinach and more color with carrots, tomatoes, red peppers and onions.
Best of all, the wrap takes just minutes to prepare. Whether you’re an avowed non-cook or just one in need of a break from the kitchen during the summer months, a rotisserie chicken is a great way to make a meal without ever turning on the oven.
•Shopping tip: Feel free to substitute other flavors of low-fat tortillas, including honey wheat, spinach and vegetable or sun-dried tomato and basil.
Boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken makes this dish extra easy to prepare. Of course, you may substitute leftover cooked chicken if you already have that on hand.
•Storage tip: For nights when you’re tempted to resort to a frozen microwave entrée, keep tortillas at the ready in the freezer. To avoid ripping and tearing tortillas off the block, here’s a tip from The Best Kitchen Quick Tips by Cook’s Illustrated: Place each tortilla between sheets of wax or parchment paper. Place the stack in a freezer bag and freeze as usual.
Asian chicken salad wraps
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups chopped, cooked skinless rotisserie chicken
3 cups torn romaine
1 cup torn fresh spinach
1 large carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
6 to 8 low-fat wheat tortillas
Combine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper; set aside.
Toss together chicken, romaine, spinach, carrot, tomato, red pepper, green onion and cilantro.
Drizzle with dressing mixture and toss to coat.
Wrap each tortilla in a damp paper power and microwave on high (100 percent) about 20 seconds or just until warm.
Spoon salad mixture into center of warm tortilla, then fold tortilla over filling.
Per serving, based on 6: 149 calories (12 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (trace saturated), trace cholesterol, 32 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 253 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
• Tortillas are a low-fat food; they contain just 2 to 3 grams of fat per serving.
• The average 8-inch tortilla has 115 calories and offers iron and B vitamins.
• The best-selling flavored tortillas? Tomato, spinach and jalapeno, according to the Texas-based Tortilla Industry Association.
• Last month’s issue of Health magazine named Tumaro’s Gourmet Multi-Grain Tortillas to their list of “best food” 2006 winners.
Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss