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30 January 2013

Accidental Workhouse Porridge

I know. My soup looks like the kind of wretched porridge they would have served at a Victorian workhouse, if the Victorians had known about quinoa. It's not at all pretty. Indeed, it's down right homely. But, O my darlings, it is quite tasty.

Quinoa & Acorn Squash Soup

This soup is based on Crisco's "Butternut and Quinoa Soup," but I used an acorn squash, yellow bell pepper, and no-sugar added cashew butter. Also, I was out of cayenne so seasoned the finished soup with sriracha.

I blame the soup's sad, washed-out color on my choice of ingredients as orange butternut and red bell pepper would have held their own against the brown cashew butter and ultimately yielded a prettier soup. But yellow and yellow, when mixed with the brown cashew butter, just went ... beige.

And then I had the brilliant idea to puree the finished soup as the large chunks of squash didn't really seem to go with the tiny grains (would really recommend dicing squash into fingernail-sized cubes) ... No, pureeing did not help its looks at all.

But the taste was better! The squash blended with the quinoa and corn forming a spicy/sweet/nutty/creamy amalgam that I couldn't stop sampling.

Since it looks like porridge, I've been eating it for breakfast and find a one-cup serving (4 WWP+ as I made it) is quite filling and doesn't leaving me starving by midmorning. I do look forward to making it again, but with a butternut squash and a red or orange bell pepper.
28 January 2013

Italian Homework: Pork Pizzaiola

I can't seem to close the book on my online cooking course. I've done everything I need to except submit the final assignment and, rather than do that, I keep going back and trying new recipes. Oh well, I have a year to complete the course ...

Anyway, the dilly-dallying has been worth it as I've made some really nice dishes, including this pork pizzaiola. I haven't cooked with pork very often, because I believed The Husband didn't eat the other white meat. Then, a few weeks ago, he mentioned it had been awhile since I cooked any meat that wasn't chicken or beef and the Truth of Pork was revealed. He doesn't eat ham or bacon, but everything else is (probably) fair game.

Pork Pizzaiola & Pasta

So I made this pork pizzaiola and, wow, it was good. The chops were tender and flavorful, the sauce rich and tomato-y. While it looks pretty fancy, it was super easy to make, didn't take a lot of prep, and cooked quickly. Indeed, it's actually something I could throw together on a weeknight!
Pork Pizzaiola
Serves 3

Ingredients
3 thick center cut boneless pork chops
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
6 large basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Thirty minutes before cooking, remove the chops from the refrigerator, unwrap, pat dry, and liberally season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and add in the garlic. Sauté the garlic for a few minutes over medium; shaking the pan to keep the garlic moving. Add the chops to the pan and brown the chops on both sides. Lower heat to medium-low.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, parsley, and basil and continue to cook over medium-low heat until done (145 F° according to the USDA). Let rest for about five minutes. Serve with pasta.
So, yes, pork should definitely be on the menu more often. And lamb! And duck! And, wow, it's been a long time since we had a turkey ...
26 January 2013

Cleaning Out the Fridge With Soup

Made another loaf of bread Friday night (the second this week!) and that made me crave chicken soup and, since Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to clean out the fridge, I made a big pot of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chicken soup. Leftover leeks, carrots, onions, peppers, peas, corn, rosemary, parsley -- everything went in the pot and deliciousness came out.

Saturday Night Chicken Soup

I'd put the chicken breasts in the fridge to thaw the night before (planning on enchiladas to use up the manky peppers and onion) and they were still slightly frozen when I went to make this soup. That turned out to be a good thing, because they were much easier to cut! Usually, I detest cutting up raw chicken because it feels like the flesh just flops around on my cutting board, smooshing more than slicing. Slightly frozen chicken has body and doesn't smoosh.

Speaking of chicken, I feel I need to give a shout-out to my local Shoprite as it's now stocking some really nice organic chicken and grass-fed beef that rivals the stuff I buy from Whole Foods. The organic produce is also nothing to sneer at -- the variety is limited, yes, but everything is great quality. The organic Fairtrade bananas I've been buying are the best-tasting bananas I've had in months -- sweet and buttery and wonderful.

And now back to the soup!
Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 heaping cup chopped leeks
1 scant cup chopped red onion
1 heaping cup chopped red and orange bell pepper
1 scant cup chopped carrots
1¼ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
14.5 oz turkey broth
1 heaping cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
1 large bay leaf
1 3" sprig fresh rosemary
1 scant cup quick-cooking barley
1 scant cup chopped fresh parsley (do not pack)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat the olive oil over medium until hot and very fragrant. Add leeks, onion, pepper, and carrots. Sauté until onion is transparent. Add chicken, bay, rosemary, and both containers of broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in barley, peas, corn, and parsley. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes more or until barley is cooked. Remove bay and rosemary. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.
We ate this with crunchy, buttery toast and big mugs of tea while watching back-to-back episodes of Dark Shadows: The Revival. It was exactly what I'd been craving.

(We'd been wondering where all the food storage bag clips had gone and now it's clear they're all in the freezer holding closed an improbable number of open bags of veg).
23 January 2013

Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas

This recipe was my runner up for last week's Improv Challenge post. I'm pleased with how well it came out -- all crunchy, chocolaty, and banana -- and while it didn't curl my toes the way the broiled bananas did, it's well worth a post of its own.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas, Yum

These quesadillas were inspired by a Weight Watchers recipe for "Chocolate-Cinnamon Quesadillas." The directions are pretty much the same, but I shrank the serving size down to one and changed the ingredients a bit.
Banana-Nutmeg Quesadillas
Serves 1.

Ingredients
1 high fiber whole wheat tortilla [Maria & Ricardo's FiberRich Wheat Tortillas]
1 baby banana, sliced
Chocolate nut spread [Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread]
Nutmeg

Directions
Spread chocolate over half of the tortilla. Arrange banana slices over chocolate and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Assembling Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas 3

Fold tortilla over to cover ingredients.

Spritz a skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Cook quesadilla about two minutes on each side or until tortilla is speckled with brown spots and filling melts.

Banana-Chocolate Quesadillas In The Pan

Remove from pan. Cut the quesadilla in half, sprinkle with more nutmeg, and eat.
I ate this for breakfast, but it would work perfectly well as a snack or dessert. If serving for dessert, you might want to dress the cooked quesadilla up with a dusting of chocolate powder and a splodge of fresh whipped cream.
19 January 2013

Italian Homework: Italian Cheesecake

For "Lesson 11: Creating Sumptuous Italian Desserts," the penultimate class in the online Italian cooking course I've been taking through Universal Class and my public library, I made a fabulous ricotta cheesecake. It was my first cheesecake! And so blessedly easy! Fool-proof, even! No water bath! No crust! Just pure, unmitigated deliciousness.

Italian Cheesecake
My first cheesecake! So proud!
The cheesecake was light, creamy, and mildly sweet. Filling, but not heavy --- I love cheesecake, but it usually leaves me with an "Ohmygod, I need bigger pants and a nap" feeling. This cheesecake was almost like eating a dense lemon mousse and left my tummy content rather than overstuffed.
Ricotta Cheesecake
Serves 8. 8 Weight Watchers Points+ by my math, but ymmv.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
⅔ cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract [Penzeys Mexican vanilla]
1 32 ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon

Directions

Pour the ricotta cheese into a colander lined with cheesecloth and let drain for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Spray a nine-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Beat the yolks by with an electric hand mixer or what have you until light yellow and thick. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese and lemon zest and mix well.

Clean your beaters and beat the egg whites on high speed until they make stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whites into the ricotta mixture until mixed well. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and the sides begin to pull away from the pan (start checking at about 50 minutes). Let cake cool completely before refrigerating. Cover with foil and let settle in the fridge for at least 7 hours before cutting.

Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Next time, I'm trying this with orange zest! Bet it will be just as fabulous.
17 January 2013

Improv Challenge: Bananas & Nutmeg

January's Improv Challenge ingredients were bananas and nutmeg. I knew I wanted to do something simple and fairly straightforward -- something that would let the banana and nutmeg shine. It also needed to be reasonably healthy, because 2013 is my own personal Year for Better Health. And it needed to be quick, because I'm just getting lazier and lazier as the winter progresses.

Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
I want to eat this every morning!
Ended up making a Bananas Foster-esque broiled banana something with banana, nutmeg, maple syrup, walnuts, and cottage cheese. I used baby bananas instead of "regular" bananas, because I saw them in the shop and they were simply so unbelievably adorabs that I couldn't pass them by. Baby bananas are smaller than the common yellow Cavendish banana you find at every grocery store and actually taste a bit sweeter and more complex. Like the "regular" bananas, baby bananas can be eaten raw or cooked.

Bananas & Baby Bananas
Behold, Bananas and Mini Bananas!
Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
Serves 1.

Ingredients
½ tsp ground nutmeg plus more for garnish
2 tsp maple syrup (or honey!)
1 baby banana
1 serving 2% cottage cheese
1 Tbsp crushed toasted walnuts
Directions
Preheat broiler.

Slice banana in half lengthwise. Place halves, flat side up, on greased baking sheet. Brush halves with maple syrup and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Broiling Bananas

Broil bananas for 3-5 minutes or until beautifully browned. Remove from oven.


Place cottage cheese in center of a dessert plate and flank with broiled bananas. Scatter crushed walnuts over cottage cheese and bananas. Drizzle with remaining syrup and sprinkle with more nutmeg.

Broiled Banana Cottage Cheese Plate
I really liked how this recipe turned out -- so many great texture and flavor combinations. The warmth of the bananas and the cool of the cottage cheese. The sweetness of the bananas and the salty creaminess of the cottage cheese. The rich maple syrup and the sprightly nutmeg. The smoothness of the bananas and cottage cheese with the crunch of the walnuts. Yum! Look forward to making it again.


15 January 2013

Eating The Alphabet 2013: A is for Acorn Squash & Apples

[So ... it's come to my attention 2013 The Eating the Alphabet Challenge doesn't start until February! Whoops! In my excitement, I really jumped the gun!]

Woo! It's the 2013 Eating the Alphabet Challenge! I really enjoyed last year's challenge and am chuffed it continues -- so many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains I haven't tried yet! So many excuses to go shopping at Whole Foods! Yeah!

For my first post, I've used acorn squash and apples. Apples aren't that exciting, but they go very well with winter squash, and winter squash is very exciting. I'm new to winter squash (except butternut, my squashy childhood BFF), but I'm trying to eat more of them as they're good for me (full of vitamins A and C and potassium) and whole ones are fairly inexpensive.

Making Curried Acorn Squash & Apple Soup

The root of this recipe can be found in Weight Watchers PointsPlus Fruits and Veggies A to Z: Get Passionate with Our 175 Delicious Recipes, but I changed it up a bit, because the original recipe lacked oomph. I think the mild sweetness of the squash is well complemented by the tart apple and sweet heat of the curry powder, but if you're not sure about curry, you might want to start with ½ tablespoon curry powder and work your way up from there.

This is an easy soup to make and it keeps well. It should freeze fine, too, if you can't eat it all now. (I've been eating mine for breakfast with crunchy toast slathered with cashew butter, because soup makes a great breakfast).

Curried Acorn Squash & Apple Soup

Curried Squash Soup with Apples & Leeks
Adapted from Weight Watchers PointsPlus Fruits and Veggies A to Z
Makes 6 cups. My math says 2 WWP+ per serving, but ymmv.

Ingredients
1 large acorn squash (23 oz puree)
1 large leek (4 oz sliced white and light green bits)
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and diced (11 oz apple cubes)
3½ cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1 Tbsp Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder (a sweet curry blend)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F°. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with a little oil. Cut squash in half from stem to point and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place halves, cut side down, on prepared foil. Roast halves for about 50 minutes or until squash is easily pierced with a knife. Set squash aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, heat a French/Dutch oven or large saucepan and sauté leeks in a little broth until tender.

Scoop squash flesh from roasted halves and add to French oven with apples, broth, and curry powder. Cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until apples start to break down. Remove pot from heat and let sit until cool enough to process.

Process soup with an immersion blender or whathaveyou until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, add more broth.
Leeks can be sandy little buggers and you want to may sure yours are thoroughly cleaned before you cook them. I find the easiest thing to do is to give the leek a quick rinse to get any surface grit off then chop off the root and inedible dark green top and slice up the leek however I need it for cooking. Once it's all cut up, I rinse the pieces in a colander until I don't see any more grit. (Of course, the super-easy-and-lazy way is to buy bagged frozen sliced leeks, but they're hard to find).

14 January 2013

Southwestern-Style Chicken Salad

I'm really enamored with The Cheesecake Factory's "Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad." I love the combination of creamy dressing, juicy chicken, and crispy greens. And you can never go wrong with black beans and corn in a salad. But I can't visit the Cheesecake Factory every week -- too expensive and unhealthy in the long term -- so I've had to make do with trying to clone the salad at home.

Southwest-Style Chicken Salad

I think I've made a good start here, even if it looks nothing like the original, but there's a depth of flavor that's lacking in the dressing. Lime juice, maybe. Or a tart salad dressing like Newman's Own's "Lite Lime Vinaigrette" or Williams-Sonoma's "Spicy Chipotle Agave Vinaigrette" might work well with this salad. Obviously, I will keep tinkering -- need to figure out the avocado crema, after all.

(I've completely omitted the corn tortillas, because they're my least favorite part of the Cheesecake Factory's version and I don't really need the fat/calories/refined carbs).
Southwestern-Style Chicken Salad
Serves 2. 11 WWP+ per serving by my math, but ymmv.

Ingredients
1 large romaine heart, thinly sliced
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped cucumber
4 cocktail tomatoes, halved and quartered [Campari]
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
1 cup low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

2 4-oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
Southwestern-style chicken rub, as desired [Just Cook's Ancho Chicken Rub]

2 Tbsp sour cream
½ cup salsa [Green Mountain Gringo's Roasted Garlic Salsa]
1 Tbsp dried cilantro


Directions
Whisk salsa, sour cream, and cilantro together. Set aside.

Liberally rub chicken breasts. Heat a nonstick skillet until very hot and add chicken breasts. Cook 5 minutes per side or until each side is very brown and chicken is cooked through. Rest for 10 minutes.

Wipe down skillet and return to heat. Add corn and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until corn is a little charred-looking. Set aside.

Toss romaine, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, and black beans together in a large bowl. Add salsa mixture and toss until salad is evenly coated. Divide between two serving plates.

Slice or chop chicken. Put on top of salad. Scatter roasted corn across it all. Admire. Eat.
12 January 2013

Italian Homework: Rolling Italian Dinner

I'm behind in posting -- lots of cooking and photo-taking, but not a lot of writing going on here -- so please travel back in time with me to Boxing Day as I talk to you about my Italian homework.

In order to complete the beginners online Italian cooking course I've been taking through my library, I have to cook a multi-course Italian meal using recipes from the course syllabus. Well, I wasn't really charmed with the idea of cooking a multi-course meal as I had a feeling I'd spend the greater part of the day in the kitchen cooking, only to have dishes dry out while waiting for others to cook and nothing arriving at the table at the right temperature. So I did a rolling dinner on Boxing Day. We started with stuffed mushrooms at noon, then pasta fagoile at one, chicken Parmesan and salad around two, and then ... I completely forgot about dessert. So ... I have to do it all over again! Or lie to the instructor and pretend everything happened on the same day.

Anyway, the recipes I did make were easy to prepare and yielded tasty dishes I'd be happy to make again (just not all in one day). I was especially pleased with the mushrooms -- I've always been intimidated by stuffed mushroom recipes as they seemed inordinately fiddly and fiddly recipes fill me with anxiety.

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms
Easy Herby Stuffed Mushrooms

Easy Pasta Fagiole
Super Garlicky Pasta Fagiole

Easy Chicken Parmesan w/ Rotini & Sauce
Naked Chicken Parmesan, Rotini & Sauce, & Salad

10 January 2013

Lazilicious Cheesy Salmon-Potato Cakes

I recently found myself craving my mother's salmon-potato cakes. Growing up, she made them a lot during Lent using canned salmon, leftover mashed potatoes, egg, bread crumbs, and such. I was always unnerved by the sight of Mom picking the salmon skin and bones out of the drained meat and was quite sure, for a very long time, that salmon was the grossest food ever. Tuna was good as it came in a nice little can I was allowed to drain and prepare all on my own. There was nothing fishy or weird about it. (To my chagrin, I must admit it wasn't until high school that I stopped drowning my mom's salmon cakes in ketchup and realized how good they were on their own and changed my mind about salmon).

So I wanted salmon cakes. Alas, I had no leftover mashed potatoes or even whole potatoes to turn into mash. What I did have was a box of Streit's Potato Pancake Mix. "Hmm," I thought, "surely I can salmonize this." And I did.

Lazilicious Salmon-Potato Cakes

Start by putting a large serving platter in your oven and setting the oven to its lowest setting (mine actually has a "warm" setting). Then prepare potato pancake mix according to box instructions and let sit until very thick (about 10 minutes). Stir in one can drained skinless, boneless salmon (Wild Planet Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon) and one cup shredded cheddar (Cabot 75% Light). Stir well.

Lazilicious Salmon-Potato Cakes

Heat canola oil in a large saute pan and drop dollops of batter into the hot oil. Pan-fry cakes until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels on a platter in the warm oven. Repeat until all the batter is used. Serve with sour cream or ketchup and a large salad.

Lazilicious Salmon-Potato Cakes
07 January 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 7 January 2013


It's Menu Plan Monday, Weight Watchers style! Which basically means that I'm following Weight Watchers' "Week 1: First Steps" meal plan for lunches and suppers. Breakfasts and snacks do not follow the plan, because 1) I still have a shedload of Vitabun sandwiches in my freezer (they went on sale, again, so I had to buy them, again) so there's breakfast for the next millennium and 2) I ran a little mad with optimism while clicking about on Peapod and overbought fruit so every snack is fruit (plus reduced fat cheese and pretzel crisps or crackers, because I love me my crunchy, salty carbs).

I had two glasses of wine last week, which is a considerable improvement over the last two weeks in December where it felt like every day was a drinking day. It's not that I want to give up drinking ... it's just that I prefer to eat my points. Fried chicken trumps wine, even if wine is "better" for me.

Blah, blah, blah ... nobody cares. Well, my doctor cares, but not that much since (aside from the weight I regained over the past year *shakes fist at universe*) I am in fine health.

Menu!

Monday
Wild salmon fillet roasted with tomatoes and leeks over rice (brown for me and jasmine for The Husband) and tossed salad (plus garlicky steamed baby spinach for me).

Tuesday
Tuna bulgur salad (tuna, bulgur, baby spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, light balsamic vinaigrette) with kiwi, reduced fat cheddar stick, and pretzel crisps.

Wednesday
Boneless pork loin chops with whole wheat pasta in low-sodium tomato sauce and steamed green beans.

Thursday
Tuna pasta salad (tuna, whole wheat rotini, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, light balsamic vinaigrette) with kiwi, reduced fat cheddar stick, and nut thins.

Friday
Baked chicken breasts with tossed salad and baked potato (sweet for me and white for The Husband).

Saturday/Sunday
Weight Watchers chicken burgers on toasted white whole wheat rolls with fajita-style peppers and onions, low-fat shredded cheddar, and a tossed salad.
06 January 2013

Lambilicious Sunday Dinner

The Husband pointed out it's been a long time since I made any lamb so, to please him, I picked up a nice small semi-boneless leg of lamb at Shoprite (manager's special, woot), roasted it Sunday afternoon, and there was much rejoicing.

Sunday Lamb

Roast lamb is good lamb!

I rubbed the lamb with a paste I threw together in my food processor of dijon mustard, leftover fresh rosemary, cracked black pepper, sea salt, olive oil, and the juice and zest of half a lemon. Aside from the lemon, no actual measurements were used -- I just threw ingredients in until it looked right. I put the roast, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan and poured some leftover malbec into the bottom of them pan. Then I roasted the lamb in a 375F° oven for about an hour (or until the meat reached 135°F).

While the lamb was roasting, I washed and trimmed a pound of asparagus, lay them in a baking pan, drizzled them with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

I took the lamb out of the oven, tented it with a little foil, and left it to rest for fifteen minutes. While the lamb rested, I popped the asparagus pan into the oven and roasted them for fifteen minutes.

I served the lamb and asparagus with rice (brown for me, jasmine for The Husband) and gravy. It was good and a three pound semi-boneless leg turned out to be the perfect size for two people -- enough for sunday dinner, with a little bit leftover for a sandwiches).

04 January 2013

Semi-Planned Salmon Supper

Monday, I was supposed to make "Baked Lemon Caper Salmon" with baked potatoes and roast asparagus for supper and ... I kinda-sorta did? We did eat salmon and potatoes. There were no capers. There was rosemary. Somehow, asparagus became green beans. It was all very good and home-cooked so I'll count it a win, anyway.

New Year's Eve Supper

I used the recipe for "Baked Lemon Caper Salmon" from My Daily Dish as the model for my salmon. I had planned on boneless steaks, not fillets, so panicked a bit when I realized Peapod had delivered bone-in steaks (labeled as boneless, but clearly full of jabby things). I have terrible deboning skillz so eventually, after abusing the poor salmon with a pair of tweezers, decided to deal with the bones after the steaks cooked.

Lemony Salmon

Aside from using the wrong cut of salmon, I mostly followed My Daily Dish's recipe as written. I did replace the capers with sprigs of rosemary, because I suddenly wasn't in a capery mood.

Which is also why we ate green beans instead of asparagus. I just looked at the asparagus, rampant and green, and thought "not tonight, you" and stuffed it back in the fridge. Of course, it's now Friday and we still haven't eaten the asparagus ...

To make supper, I cut two large unpeeled baking potatoes into bite-size cubes and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. I roasted the potatoes in a jelly roll pan in a 425F° oven for 30 minutes. Then I scooted the potatoes to one side of the pan, added the green beans tossed with olive oil, and slid the salmon pan into the oven next to the jelly roll pan, and let everything roast for 15 minutes.

Roasted Potatoes & Green Beans

I didn't stir the green beans while they and the salmon roasted, so they charred a little bit, but I like my roasted vegetables extra crispy around the edges.
02 January 2013

New Year's Day Luncheon

We had my parents up for New Year's Day luncheon and it turned out deliciously, even if I do say so myself. There was only a tiny smidge of leftovers and they served as an almost-as-delicious light supper for me that evening. (The Husband filled himself up with cookies and chocolate at nuncheon and could only groan when I offered him leftovers later ... yay for me).

New Year's Day Luncheon

with garlic croutons

with whole wheat rotini

~ Wine ~
Layer Cake malbec &
Gato Negro cabernet sauvignon

~ S'mores ~
The Pepp from S'more Bakery

While I loved the soup and baked chicken Parmesan, it was Taste of Home's "Mediterranean Romaine Salad that really stole the show for me! It was simple to assemble, had great flavor -- very tangy and light -- and looked very elegant in the bowl. Really, this will be a regular item on my table from now on!

Mediterranean Romaine Salad

I roasted my own peppers for this recipe -- just halved and cored them, smooshed them kind-of flat on a jelly roll pan lined with foil, brushed them with a little olive oil and broiled them until they were all blistery and charred-looking. Then I folded the foil up around them and let them sit for about 15 minutes. I used a sharp knife to scrap the skin off, wrapped the "clean" peppers back up in the foil, and refrigerated them until I was ready to make the salad.

Taste of Home's recipe says to use cubed French bread for the croutons, but I used cubed roasted garlic ciabatta, because more garlic = better. I omitted the black olives, because The Husband detests olives and replaced them with a cup of halved cherry tomatoes. I also used Newman's Own light Italian dressing instead of balsamic, because I didn't think everyone would eat balsamic. And, anyway, Italian is Mediterranean, too!
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