Quick and Easy Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps

Celebrate Family Mealtime Month and prepare one of these quick, healthy lettuce wrap ideas for your next family dinner.

As you are probably aware, lettuce wraps are trending right now in the food department. They are fun, easy, and most of all, delicious. Even kids have a fun time eating their veggies with wraps. There are many types of lettuce you can use to change things up a bit. Here are some ideas that may be just the ticket for your next quick, easy and nutritious dinner:

Chicken Club Wrap

Bacon bits, cooked shredded chicken (can use leftover grilled chicken too), chopped tomatoes, avocados and ranch dressing (I make my own with buttermilk and reduced fat mayo).

Quinoa Basil Wrap

Fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, minced, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 cups cooked quinoa, 1 15-ounce can no-salt-added red kidney beans, rinsed and drained.

Taco Wrap

You guessed it…use the lettuce as the shell…the rest is taco meat, cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. Whatever your favorite taco fillings are, they are perfect in a lettuce wrap!

Tasty Tuna Wrap

Make tuna salad as you like it. I like to make the dressing with plain Greek yogurt, mustard and lemon pepper seasoning. Add shredded carrots, chopped celery, and diced green onion. Chopped apple or sliced grapes are also a nice addition. You can also use chicken or hard boiled eggs to change up your salad filling.

Cheeseburger Wrap

Brown ground beef, add chopped onion and seasoned salt to taste. Melt cheddar cheese on top, place in lettuce and top with tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and other cheeseburger favorites.

Hawaiian Pineapple Wrap

Place sliced ham, cheese, and pineapple chunks inside lettuce. Top with chopped celery and chopped green onions. Drizzle with your favorite teriyaki sauce.

Asian Shredded Pork

Place cooked shredded pork, chopped water chestnuts, chopped celery, chopped green onion, shredded carrots and teriyaki glaze in a lettuce leaf.  Enjoy!  We also like sesame seeds, coconut and drained, crushed pineapple on ours.


There are so many other ideas, from a Greek/Mediterranean twist, to a smoked salmon filling, to a Thai with peanut sauce filling. The sky’s the limit! Wraps are fun to experiment with, and are a great way to stretch leftover meat. Whole cooked grains like cracked wheat, barley and brown rice also make a great addition. Or what about couscous?  Have fun!

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County

Making Family Mealtime Part of Your Daily Routine

Family Mealtime RoutineWant to give your kids every opportunity to thrive and succeed? Try making time in your routine for family meals. 

Was it truly just one generation ago that the majority of American families ate at least one, if not two, meals together every day? In today’s fast-paced world, Sunday dinner as a family is a great tradition, but it is a giant step away from more regular or daily time spent eating and socializing around the table.

In recognition of its importance, September is now branded as National Family Meals Month. Why all the fuss about sitting down together for a routine that may only last 15-20 minutes? The benefits are actually numerous.

Utah State University Extension’s Food $ense program lists a few of the benefits–especially for children whose families eat together five or more times a week as opposed to those whose families eat together two times or less each week:

  • Nutrition and physical development – kids eat more fruits and vegetables, get a wider variety of nutritious foods, have lower rates of childhood obesity, and make healthier choices when they are on their own.
  • Emotional development – kids are better able to manage negative emotions, are at less risk of developing eating disorders, and have more positive interactions with others.
  • Social development – kids learn important turn-taking skills, have improved communication skills, and learn appropriate ways to share thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  • Academics – kids are more likely to make A’s and B’s in school,  and they develop larger vocabularies, even more than those who read together with their parents.
  • Behavior – kids are much less likely to use marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco or have friends who use these substances and are less likely to engage in other risky behavior such as premarital sex.

If a family is new to the idea of eating meals together, there will undoubtedly be a few challenges. For example, it may be unrealistic to go from zero meals together to every day. So, set a realistic goal all family members can agree on —  it may very well be Sunday dinner once a week and that is a great start. If dinner isn’t the best option, perhaps having family breakfast time on Saturday may work better for you.

Here are some additional tips for making family mealtime a positive experience:

  1. Plan meals ahead of time.
  2. Schedule a set time for meals.
  3. Involve all family members in the meal prep and clean up.
  4. Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices, including phones.
  5. Have pleasant conversation and leave discipline and other negative emotions for another time.

Additional helps are available online from Food $ense, including conversation starter ideas and  making the meals fun using themes (e.g. Taco Tuesday). Ideas for menu planning with recipes can be found there (e.g. citrus chicken salad, oatmeal nut pancakes and honey glazed chicken).

Learn more about family mealtime or eating healthy on a limited budget here, or contact your local USU Extension office to find out about upcoming classes taught by certified nutrition education assistants in your area. From the Food $ense homepage readers can select from a variety of additional information resources for menu planning, preparing foods, eating healthier, and incorporating physical activities in the day.

Food $ense in most counties also has a local Facebook presence. For example in Iron County, search for “Food $ense Iron County” or see “Food $ense Utah State University.”

Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.

Create Family Mealtime // 4 Tips for Success

Create Family Mealtime

We know eating together as a family is important, but sometimes it can be tough. Try these tips to make your family meals a success, and make an effort to eat together as a family during National Family Mealtime month in September.

With school starting, it may feel like your family is getting pulled in all directions.  Piano practice, football games, swim team tryouts, school projects, and study groups may be filling up your family’s schedule.  An important way to keep your family connected in busy times is having meals together.  Family meals have been associated with improved diets, academic performance and vocabularies. They also decrease the risk of children experiencing depression, eating disorders, and drug/alcohol use.

This may be why September has been declared National Family Mealtime month, and Healthy Family Meals month in Utah. Here are some tips that can help make family mealtime a habit.

  1. Plan and prioritize. Make family mealtime a priority by planning it in your day.  Plan when, where, and what you will be eating.  Let your family know that it is important for everyone to be present.  Take time each month (or a few times a month) to plan your meals.  This can help you save time and money throughout the month.
  2. Make it work for your family.  Is family dinnertime not working?  Try family breakfast, lunch, or afterschool snack time.  Just take time to sit together, share a healthy meal (or snack), and connect as a family.
  3. Ditch the electronics.   With so much socializing happening online, we can lose touch with the art of conversation.  Help your family spend time together undistracted by turning off or putting away cell phones and other electronic devices.  Parents, this includes your devices too!
  4. Keep it simple and fun.  Family mealtime doesn’t need to be a source of stress.  By planning your meal and involving the whole family in the prep and cleanup, you can keep it from being a burden.  Also, don’t put too much pressure on yourself that it has to be a certain way (see tip # 2).  Use this time to talk about your days and fun memories.  Avoid discussing topics that may lead to contention: discipline, etc.

Equipped with these tips, we invite you to take the pledge to start the habit of more family mealtimes this September.

For more family mealtime tips, check out our resources at CreateBetterHealth.usu.edu.

This article was written by LaCee Jimenez, Food $ense (SNAP-Ed) Coordinator with Utah State University Extension

How to have Themed Family Mealtime

themed mealtime.jpg

Enjoying a family meal is a great way for families to bond and create lifelong memories, however it is something that some families struggle to do five or more times a week. A themed family meal can get all family members involved and put a spin on an everyday, mundane event. Here are some fun ways to start having family mealtimes or if you already have family mealtimes, change up the routine!

1. Have one night a week dedicated to a theme, i.e. Taco Tuesday, Meatless Monday, Wok Wednesday, Western Wednesdays, etc.

2. Try adding decorations to your meal to really get your family involved. Put a red and white checkered tablecloth on the floor and have your own picnic inside (if weather permits go all out and have a picnic outside).

3. Highlight a holiday each month and have a meal centered around it. For example, cook green foods or traditional Irish cuisine for St. Patrick’s Day.

4. Travel the world by cooking traditional dishes from different countries. Add some fun facts from that country for interesting family table talk!

5. Make it a whole night. Dinner and a movie -have dinner, some movie theater treats, and then watch a movie together. Try tying your movie into your dinner theme, like fried chicken and What About Bob?, or spaghetti with Lady and the Tramp.

6. Your very own chopped! Provide three ingredients to family members and let them come up with a meal for the whole family with other ingredients in the kitchen.

This month try something new with your family. Here are a few recipes to kick start your own St. Patrick’s Day themed dinner— or you could go with the classic corned beef and cabbage!

Irish Stew

  • 2 lbs stewing steak cut into small pieces
  • 8 large potatoes, diced
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, diced
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef and add to stewing pot or slow cooker along with juices. Add potatoes, salt and pepper, and 4 quarts water (more or less, as desired). Bring to a boil. Add carrots and onions. Simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours until potatoes can be pierced with a fork.

Optional variations: Add 1 to 2 cups of diced celery with carrots and onions. Add 1 to 2 tsp of dried thyme with potatoes. Use beef broth in place of water. If desired, you can add a little flour mixed with water (a roux) to the simmering soup about 20 – 30 minutes before serving to thicken broth, but traditionally, it is a fairly thin soup.

Recipe Source

Irish Soda Bread


  • 4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ Cup butter, softened
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ Cup butter, melted
  • ¼ Cup buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and softened butter. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

3. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness after 30 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.

Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)

  • 6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled (optional) and quartered
  • 2 cups grated cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 stems of green onion, chopped

Add potatoes to a large pot of boiling, salted water, and cook until tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. When the potatoes have cooked 15 minutes, add the cabbage and continue boiling until the potatoes are fork tender. Right before draining the potatoes and cabbage, add the chopped green onion and cook for one minute. Drain the potatoes and mash them. Add the milk and butter. Adjust milk if potatoes are too dry.

Recipe Source

Key Lime Meringue Pie

One baked 9-inch pie crust of your choice

Key Lime Curd:

  • Finely grated zest from 4 limes
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Green food coloring, if desired.

In top of double boiler, whisk lime zest, lime juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and salt. Whisk constantly until the mixture becomes thick, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter one piece at a time until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring for a brighter green, if desired. Strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl. Line the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Whip cream to soft peaks and fold into the chilled curd. Pour into completely cooled pie crust.


  • Egg whites from 4 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375° F with the rack positioned about 8-inches from the top of the oven. Beat egg whites for about 5 minutes and gradually add granulated and powdered sugars in a slow and steady stream. Add vanilla and salt. Increase the speed and beat for about 10 minutes or until the meringue becomes very thick.

Spread the meringue over the curd and cover up to the edges of the curd and crust. Swirl and create peaks using a spatula. Place pie plate on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking time. Meringue peaks should be a beautiful light golden brown with white “valleys”. Completely cool pie on a wire rack before chilling in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Best served the same day it is made.

Recipe Source 

By: Jaqueline Neid-Avila, RDN, CD Extension Nutrition Assistant Professor

Family Mealtime // Meal Planning 101


A key to successful family mealtime is planning. Research has shown that cooking at home is significantly more likely if you already know what you will have for dinner.

10 Steps to Meal Planning

  1. Set aside time each week for menu planning. The amount of time you need will decrease as you gain practice.
  2. Ask your family for ideas of what they would like to eat during the week.
  3. Plan your menu around food items you already have in the pantry.
  4. Choose a variety of meals including family favorites, budget stretchers, and quick fix meals.
  5. Cook once, eat twice.
  6. Plan to use your leftovers.
  7. Picture USDA’s MyPlate as you plan each meal.
  8. Have your local store circulars available. Take advantage of those sales!
  9. Create a thorough shopping list.
  10. Keep it simple! Successful family meals don’t have to be gourmet; they just have to be a time together.


Printable Weekly Menu Planner

Quick Tips

Tired of planning a menu every week? Try planning a 2-4 week cycle menu. Choose meals for 2—4 weeks and then repeat once the cycle is over. Change cycle menus with the seasons to take advantage of local produce.

Bored of the same old meals? Add some theme nights to your week. Taco Tuesdays, Breakfast for Dinner Thursdays, or Sandwich Saturdays are fun for the whole family. Let the kids choose a theme and then make some table decorations for added entertainment.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // Easy Minestrone Soup

Easy Minestrone Soup.jpg

Warm up this fall with a bowl of minestrone soup. Recipe from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition.

Minestrone Soup

Adapted from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition

  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups zucchini, diced
  • ¾ cup celery, sliced
  • ½ cup carrot, diced
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. Creole seasoning
  • ½ cup uncooked penne, or other small pasta

Place one can of kidney beans in a food processor and process until smooth.* Spoon bean puree into a heavy pot; stir in remaining can of beans, water, zucchini, celery, carrot, tomatoes, and Creole seasoning. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in pasta; cook uncovered an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.


*Note: If you do not have a food processor you can mash the beans in a bowl with the bottom of a glass, or use a blender or immersion blender.


September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // Conversation Starters


Break the silence at the dinner table with these fun conversation starters! 

10 Questions to Get Your Family Talking

Struggling to find something to talk about? Read through these conversation starters at each meal to get the chatter rolling. Create some crazy questions of your own when these run out.

  • If you were in the circus, what circus act would you perform?
  • If you could do anything all day, everyday, what would it be?
  • If you could fly in a hot air balloon over any place in the world, where would you go?
  • If you had to wear a hat everyday, what type of hat would you choose?
  • Share your favorite tradition for each of the four seasons.
  • If you could choose one super power to have, what would you choose?
  • What is a new food you would like to try?
  • Name three famous people you would like to have dinner with.
  • What is your favorite vegetable?
  • What is your favorite outside activity?


Did you know?

Children who participate in consistent family mealtimes perform better academically and develop larger vocabularies.

September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // Apple Cranberry Crisp


Families who eat together have overall healthier diets, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in a sweet treat every now and then at end of your family meal. There are three healthy, delicious dessert recipes in the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. Today we’re sharing one of them- Apple Cranberry Crisp. This is a perfect dessert for autumn, as local apples are in season and abundant at farmers markets. 

Apple Cranberry Crisp


  • 5 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

in a 2 quart baking dish, combine apples and cranberries. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and toss to coat.

In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Using a fork, cut butter into topping mixture until crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over apple filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Family Mealtime // How to Get Kids Involved

Getting Kids Involved

September is National Family Mealtime month. Each Friday this month we’ll be posting on that topic — specifically from the Live Well Utah Cookbook, Family Mealtime Edition. This publication is available for free at your local Extension office, or available digitally here. It features some great tips on the importance of family mealtime and meal planning, plus 21 quick, inexpensive, and nutritious recipes that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. 

Getting Kids Involved

Involving children in meal planning and cooking at a young age is a great way to instill a love for delicious, homemade food! Here are some ideas on how to include kids of all ages in the kitchen. Remember to choose age appropriate jobs and keep safety in mind at all times.

Ages 2-5

Meal Planning:

  • Color coordinate fruits and vegetables
  • Circle foods they would like in store advertisements
  • Help cut coupons
  • Choose one meal they would like

Grocery Shopping:

  • Point out fruits and vegetables from the grocery list
  • Choose a new fruit or vegetable to try


  • Pour premeasured items into bowl to mix up
  • Tear up lettuce for a salad
  • Rinse off fruits and vegetables

Ages 6-10

Meal Planning:

  • Help make a list of meals they like
  • Look at USDA’s MyPlate diagram and come up with one meal following the diagram
  • Choose fruits and vegetables to put on the side of the main courses

Grocery Shopping:

  • Read the list to parent and cross items off as they are put in the cart
  • Choose a new fruit or vegetable to try


  • Measure ingredients and put them together with parent’s help
  • Toss a salad
  • Knead dough
  • Put together sandwiches

Ages 11-18

Meal Planning:

  • Look up three new recipes on social media
  • Create a 3-day menu using USDA’s MyPlate as a reference for a complete meal

Grocery Shopping:

  • Take a portion of the list and retrieve those items
  • If old enough to drive, do a small grocery trip on own
  • Keep track of the money saved each week


  • Run the show as head chef! Put together a full meal and recruit family members to help as needed

Ask an Expert: 6 Tips to Create Successful Family Mealtimes

Successful Family Mealtime Graphic

Success in school could be as easy as having family dinner each night. Find out why, and get six tips on how to make that family mealtime happen.


With back to school right around the corner, parents and children are hopeful for a successful school year. Parents would go to any length to help their children achieve in all aspects of life; socially, emotionally and academically. But what if all it took to help children succeed was an hour or even less on most days of the week? Taking just one hour of your day to share a meal with your family has benefits that reach well beyond the dining room table.

Research suggests that children who regularly participate in family mealtimes perform better academically, develop larger vocabularies and have better communication skills than children who do not eat as a family (Utter et al., 2013, Quarmby, T. & Dagkas, S., 2013). These same children are also more likely to have overall healthier diets, consume more fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy body weight and struggle with disordered eating less frequently (Gillman, 2000). They are also less likely to engage in risky behavior such as tobacco, drug and alcohol use (Utter et al., 2013).  Families experience stronger family bonds and have more positive interactions when they enjoy meals together (Utter et al., 2013). Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Despite all of these documented benefits, tight schedules and budgets often keep families from having meals together as often as they would like. Follow the tips below to create enjoyable and successful family mealtimes in your home.

  1. Plan meals ahead of time. If you already know what you are going to make, you will be more likely to actually do it. Planning also helps ensure you have all the ingredients you need.
  1. Schedule a set time for meals. Knowing that dinner is at 6 p.m. will allow family members to schedule other activities around dinnertime. But, remember family mealtime isn’t just for dinner. If everyone is more available on weekend mornings, make breakfast your family meal.
  1. Involve family members in the meal planning, preparation and clean-up. This lightens the load for everyone. Having family members involved in the planning will also ensure that everyone has at least some meals they like during the week.
  1. Unplug for dinner. No television, phones or other devices allowed. Family mealtimes are beneficial because it is a time for your family to share about the day and reconnect with each other through conversation.
  1. Keep conversation at family meals positive. Try to keep family mealtimes an enjoyable experience. They are not the best place for disciplining children or arguing with spouses. Try using a conversation jar with fun topics to keep the chatter light and enjoyable.
  1. Keep it simple. Family mealtimes do not have to be gourmet; they just have to be together. Find ideas and recipes for simple, healthy meals on the Food $ense website, extension.usu.edu/foodsense.


This article was written by Casey Coombs, RD, CD; Policy, Systems, and Environments Coordinator, Utah State University Food $ense, casey.coombs@usu.edu.


Gillman, M. (2000). Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Archives of Family Medicine, 9(3), 235-240.

Quarmby, T., & Dagkas, S. (2013). Informal mealtime pedagogies: Exploring the influence of family structure on young people’s healthy eating dispositions. Sport, Education and Society, 20(3), 323-339.

Utter, J., Denny, S., Robinson, E., Fleming, T., Ameratunga, S., & Grant, S. (2013). Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49(11), 906-911.