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Cutting carbs? ‘Lettuce’ tempt you with this Asian burrito alternative

Recipe: Lettuce wraps with spicy pork or chicken filling

Lettuce wraps
Spiced chicken or pork makes a delicious filling
for lettuce wraps. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
Lettuce wraps have been part of Chinese cuisine for centuries. Think of a lettuce wrap as a burrito with a leaf instead of a tortilla. They’re fun food that’s also low in carbohydrates.

Any large-leaf lettuce will do, although you may need to double-layer leaves for a better wrap. Iceberg, Boston bibb lettuce and romaine are common wrappers because their leaves are naturally sturdy.

For this recipe, I used home-grown Red Sails loose leaf lettuce. It was as delicious as it was pretty (but extra napkins came in handy).
Meat and veggies cook quickly in a wok.
Lettuce wraps with spicy pork or chicken filling
Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 main dish servings


2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, diced
2/3 cup mushrooms, diced
½ cup carrots, grated
1 cup cooked pork or chicken, diced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder*
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce

Homegrown Red Sails lettuce makes a colorful, delicious

In a wok or large heavy skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and saute until slightly golden, stirring often. Add onion and celery; stir fry until vegetables start to turn soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir fry until mushrooms soften and start to release their juices, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, stir fry to blend; about 1 minute.

Add chopped cooked pork or chicken, stirring to blend. Add wine; stir and let simmer, about 2 minutes.

Blend soy sauce with cornstarch, sugar, ginger and five-spice powder. Stir this soy-cornstarch mix into liquid in the pan. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Stir fry until sauce become translucent and coats meat and vegetables, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to bowl and keep warm.

To serve: Gently separate lettuce into large leaves. Smear about 1 teaspoon of hoisin sauce on inside of leaf. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on top and roll leaf around filling like a burrito, folding one end to seal the filling inside. Eat immediately, with plenty of napkins.

*Chinese five-spice powder is a traditional blend of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and pepper; use sparingly.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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