Hey y’all! Yes, that’s right I said “y’all.” In case you don’t follow my daily escapades on Snapchat (@honstlynourishd in case you want in on the fun), I got home late Sunday night from a whirlwind trip to the Southeast—Hilton Head Island to be exact—for one of my dear friend’s weddings. I say whirlwind because we were only gone four days and two of those were spent traveling (America is legit big you guys), but I’m so grateful we were able to go. It was awesome to catch up with old friends plus I always love spending time in the South. After all, I was born in Tennessee, grew up in North Carolina, and my immediate and extended family all currently lives in the Southeast.
I may be a California girl now, but I guess I’ll always be a bit of a southern belle at heart and southern belles know a thing or two about collard greens. They are one of those quintessential southern foods and I definitely got my fix this past weekend. However, this recipe uses them in a totally healthy and not-at-all southern way…Sort of a Californian twist if you will.
SOUTHERN HEALTH HACK: THE COLLARD GREEN WRAP SANDWICH
One of my favorite health hacks is to substitute sandwich bread or wraps with a collard green. It’s a simple way to include more greens in your diet and crowd out the refined carbohydrates. Because to me eating healthy isn’t about restriction, it’s about adding in more of the good stuff (vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats) so that there’s simply less room for nutrient-poor filler foods like bread and other refined carbohydrates. Even if you’re a diehard sandwich fanatic, I think that this collard green wrap with simple detoxifying cabbage slaw will win you over.
It’s crunchy, creamy, tangy, filling, and nutritious. It’s even pretty hearty thanks to the robust flavors and textures. I promise you really won’t miss the bread.
WHY COLLARD GREENS MAKE THE BEST LETTUCE WRAP
They are sturdy yet flexible and bendy at the same time. Romaine and Bibb lettuces are great for lettuce cups but if you really want to be able to roll up a sandwich (and you do), then you need something that you can curl without breaking. Kale may seem like it work but even it’s too crisp.
Collard greens are perfectly pliable and also ginourmous, which makes them ideal for filling with all sorts of fixins’. And it’s all about those fixins’. The ones in this wrap happen to be full of detoxifying properties and nutrients to boot.
This wrap is loaded with vegetables (specifically the red cabbage and apple slaw) that promote detoxifying pathways in the body. It’s also high in fiber, which is great for digestion in that it can help keep you regular—something super important when it comes to the detoxifying process since our stool is one of the main ways that our body eliminates toxins.
The slaw is super simple to throw together and contains two main ingredients—green apples and red cabbage. Green apples help to cleanse the liver and gallbladder and the malic and tartaric acid inhibit fermentation in the stomach. This quality makes them easier to digest than other apples. Green apples are also high in pectin, which is beneficial to gut flora and has cholesterol-lowering effects. Pectin also promotes healthy colon function. Quercetin—a powerful flavonoid antioxidant that I discussed at length in my Curated Kitchen post on onions. Green apples are natural diuretics and low in sugar while still adding subtle sweetness.
The dressing is little more than unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. A truly medicinal food, apple cider vinegar can contain as many as 50 different nutrients, and also trace elements. One of the ways that apple cider vinegar is detoxifying is through its amino acid contents, which balance lactic acid buildup in the blood (a by product of exercise). Apple cider vinegar is also warming and can help increase circulation. It’s also very alkalizing and the dash of cayenne pepper boosts metabolism.
Beyond its detoxifying properties, the acidity in the apple cider vinegar and the lemon juice actually help soften the red cabbage. Since some of the nutrients in red cabbage are lost during the cooking process, the best way to obtain them is to eat it raw and massaging with vinegar makes it easier to digest.
Cabbage is a great source of glutamine, an amino acid that has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Supposedly, the Romans even used cabbage and cabbage juice as a hangover cure (probably because egg and cheese bagel sandwiches weren’t a thing back then—kidding!). Beyond of it’s detoxifying properties, red cabbage is super high in various antioxidants. In particular, it contains heaps of anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant—possibly even more effective than vitamin C—that plays a role in regulating the immune system, preventing damage to DNA, lipid peroxidation (deterioration of lipids that makeup our cell membranes).
It’s also high in phenolenic compounds that detoxify carcinogens, reduce cancer cell proliferation, and inhibit tumor formation. It’s sulfuric compounds help keep your skin looking youthful and radiant so it definitely deserves a front row seat at the table. Cabbage is also a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential for producing the protective coating around our nerve fibers (a.k.a shingolipids).
WHO SHOULD TAKE CAUTION WITH CABBAGE
If you have hypothyroidism, cabbage should be eaten in moderation due to its goitrogenic effects. A goitrogen is simply a compound found in certain foods that can make it more difficult for the thyroid gland to produce necessary hormones. The benefits to eating cabbage usually outweigh the risks even with hypothyroidism, so no need to avoid it entirely if you simply practice moderation.
COLLARD GREEN WRAP WITH SIMPLE DETOXIFYING CABBAGE SLAW
Yield: 1 wrap sandwiches; 6–8 servings of slaw | Prep Time: 10 minutes (excluding roasting vegetables) | Cook Time: 20 minutes to roast vegetables; 40 minutes for chicken
1 organic collard green leaf
4 ounces baked chicken breast
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup roasted portabello mushrooms
2–3 roasted red pepper strips
2 tbs garlic hummus (or beetroot hummus)
1/2 cup Simple Detoxifying Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)
Simple Detoxifying Cabbage Slaw (serving size 1/2 cup)
1 head red cabbage
1 organic green apple
2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup pine nuts
- Prepare chicken and roasted vegetables ahead of time for quick and easy assembly of the wrap sandwiches. Brush a glass pan with coconut oil and season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, baking at 400-degrees Fahrenheit for 35–40 minutes. Cut into strips and keep chilled in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
- Slice portabello mushrooms and place on a baking sheet lightly coated with coconut oil. Remove seeds and stem from red peppers (I usually roast three at a time), slice and season with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms for 20 minutes and peppers for 30 minutes (or until charred) in 400-degrees Fahrenheit oven. Keep in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
For the slaw:
- Remove the outer layer of the cabbage and rinse well. Also rinse the apple.
- Using a food processor with the shredding blade (or a mandolin if you have one), thinly slice the apple. Do the same thing with the cabbage so that both are in very thin strips/slices. If you don’t have a food processor or a mandolin, no worries! Simply finely chop the cabbage using a large knife and you can use a cheese grater to grate the apple into tiny strips!
- Add apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and massage it into the slaw to soften. The lemon juice will help keep the apple from browning.
- Sprinkle on the cayenne pepper and sea salt and add the pine nuts.
- Place in the fridge until you’re ready to use. It doesn’t get much simpler!
Assemble the wrap:
- Remove the stem of the collard leaf green and discard.
- Spread hummus on to leaf and add the rest of the ingredients as you like. It’s essentially a template and anything that you have on hand or like to eat can be thrown in the wrap! Don’t eat meat? Use tempeh, black beans, or another vegetarian protein source like cheese if you tolerate dairy. You can also drizzle with a little olive oil to boost the fat content.
That’s a wrap, y’all! Have you ever tried using a collard green leaf instead of bread or a wrap? What’s your favorite southern food? Tell me below and I’ll try to find a way to give it a healthy makeover! Unless it’s something like fried pickles or a shrimp po boy sandwich. Some things are better left unchanged you know? (wink)