Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Out of the Box: Chinese Lettuce Wraps

My Facebook feed has been overtaken by advertisements for boxes.

The Conscious Box.  The Love with Food Box.  Nature Box.  The Plated Box.  The Blue Apron Box.  The Little Passports Box and Kiwi Crate, because Facebook knows I have kids.  Stitch Fix.  And yesterday, even a DIY craft box--someone apparently didn't read my "I'm Not Martha" post.  (I'm not even counting the person who posted her positive review of Einstein in a Box, which, admittedly, sounds pretty cool.)

I have a love/hate relationship with boxes  I freely admit to being first in line for the Foodzie box, before it got swallowed up by Joyus.  Much as I don't like surprises (what Type A person does?), I love unpacking a thoughtfully-wrapped package of small things.  Especially a package involving food.

But I resist things in boxes, too. 

My mother cooked by the box.  Rice a Roni.  Uncle Ben's Pilaf.  Boxed stuffing for our turkey.  Boxed cake mix and brownies.  She was a teacher, and during the week, when we got home at four, she had just over an hour to get dinner on the table.  Boxes were her solution to the problem of time, though my father berated her for it.  "What's for dinner?" he would ask.  "Box," she would reply, only half-apologetically.  (Or "igakiblibins," which was some Yiddish-like word for "leftovers.")

As I grew older and started cooking on my own, I realized that most times, I prefer my brownies made from melted chocolate and butter and sugar.  The boxes in my pantry include mostly staples: cornstarch, crackers, Cheerios, and mac-and-cheese, because my kids prefer it.  My freezer has a few more: pancakes (I have no excuse for these, since I am capable of making pancakes), fish sticks (the fact that they are organic and gluten-free doesn't absolve me of their existence, either), phyllo (because home made phyllo scares me, and I needed it quickly).

And as I think about the boxes I've known over the years, the ones that were the best were the big ones that you could turn into just about anything with a little imagination: the stove box that we turned into a house/car/airplane/boat.  The diaper boxes that I pushed my children around the house in.  The box that my son colored for days.

I nurture a fairly healthy guilt complex, and while some of the boxes on my Facebook feed sound like fun, they also make me worry about the things I'm not doing: teaching my kids structured geography and science lessons, getting advice from a personal stylist, cooking enough fancy meals, doing enough crafts. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could box up everything, get it all delivered to us?  Marriage in a box.  Family in a box.  Work-life balance in a box. Effortless perfection.

Except we can't.  Life is messy.  Sometimes we make eggs for dinner.  The extent of our home science is going for a walk when we're home on the weekends, or turning ingredients into cake.  Sometimes my kids take out paper and crayons and tape and make things that they have to explain to me.  I never look like a stylist has chosen my clothes for me.

It's probably best to come to terms with that as often as I can.

Do you order subscription boxes?  Are there other things in a box that you can't live without, or do you take an "out of the box" approach to life?

Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Quick, easy, and out of the box.  Except for the sauces.

1 lb. ground chicken
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped fine
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. hoisin sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. freshly ground ginger
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly cracked pepper
4 oz. sliced water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 c. cooked brown rice
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 head Bibb, Romaine or iceberg lettuce, rinsed and pat dry
Heat 1 T. oil in a large saute pan, add onions and peppers, and saute until just translucent.  Add ground chicken, ginger, and garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through. Add hoisin sauce, soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine.  Stir in water chestnuts, rice and scallions and continue to cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve with lettuce leaves.
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1 comment:

  1. I have been tempted lately by something called KnitCrate, a box service that sends a new and cool yarn and knitting pattern every month. So far, I haven't succumbed - it's expensive, and I don't need one more thing to keep me busy. On another note, every time we go to the local Chinese place, my husband orders the lettuce wraps, so I am excited to try making these at home.


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