Lettuce wrap appetizers -- hand-held treats made with a variety of fillings wrapped up in a lettuce leaf -- are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder: they're easy to make, tasty and nutritious. Lettuce wrap appetizers can be a hit at adult parties and a healthy snack for kids, who enjoy being able to pick them up and eat them out of hand.
The easiest way to make lettuce leaf appetizers is to use what you already have in your refrigerator or pantry. You can use any kind of lettuce for the wrap, as long as the leaves are large and bendable. Leftover chicken salad or tuna salad make ideal fillings. Or use meat or chicken and vegetables from the previous night's roast, sliced up and moistened with Italian or creamy salad dressing. Be creative---you can put anything you want inside the wrap.
If you don't have any leftovers in the refrigerator, you can still save time by buying food that is ready to go into the wrap with little or no work required. Try precooked chicken, items from a deli counter or salad bar, shredded carrots, shredded cheese or Chinese take-out. Use canned items such as water chestnuts and mushrooms that can go directly into the wraps as is. You could buy a jar of dipping sauce or a bottle of creamy salad dressing to serve on the side for added flavor.
Set up a little assembly line to give the kids a chance to have fun by helping to put the wraps together. Start with washed and dried lettuce leaves and put out bowls containing the fillings. Let each person on the "line" add in a few spoonfuls of her filling. The last person on the line gets to roll up the lettuce and put the wrap on a plate or serving dish.
Wrap fillings can be hot or cold, soft or crunchy -- but soft, warm fillings provide a nice contrast to the cool, crisp lettuce leaf. For example, try a combination of warm chicken breast, rice and ranch dressing. For another source of inspiration for appetizers, explore regional cooking styles. Make a wrap that has the same ingredients that you would find in a burrito, with any kind of meat, salsa, grated cheese and jalapeno peppers. Or make an Asian wrap by combining chicken, vegetables and fresh ginger and garlic. Don't be afraid to use your imagination.
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