I enjoy salads of all kinds. Even for events, like Thanksgiving, there have been times when I included a side dish of a new salad even though it didn’t traditionally fit into the menu. I’ve also noted that salads like the one following here, actually taste even better the next day so many vegetable treats are time-saving, do-ahead dishes.
Italian Pasta Salad
3 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup cooked, rinsed, and cooled pasta – shape is your choice!
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 tablespoons your favorite Italian dressing
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, celery, pasta and cheese in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving. Goes nicely with toasted rounds of sour dough bread brushed with melted butter and garlic.
Sometimes, you just need something really nice for dessert but the rest of the dinner preparations take all the time leaving you with minutes to come up with something. This is an easy one, can be done the day before and I’m sure you won’t get any complaints . . . especially if you serve extra whipped cream on the side.
Chocolate Cherry Cream Pie
One ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk*
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust, baked and cooled
1 14-20-ounce can of cherry pie filling
Melt chocolate with sweetened condensed milk in a heavy pot over low heat, stirring to thoroughly combine as the chocolate melts.
Remove pot from the stove, add the almond extract, and let mixture cool.
While the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip together the heavy cream and sour cream until it forms soft peaks. Refrigerate until the chocolate mixture is room temperature. Then, carefully fold in the whipped cream until well combined. Pour into prepared pie crust and smooth out top. Keep refrigerated until serving time.
Cut into serving pieces and top each with a generous spoonful of cherry filling and serve to a happy family.
*If you want an extra-chocolaty pie, you can use chocolate-flavored sweetened condensed milk
Mexican Chocolate Drink
3 cups whole milk
3 cups water
1 bar Mexican chocolate*
1 tablespoon cocoa
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream and twists of orange zest
Pour milk and water into a large pot. Over low heat, add remaining ingredients, stirring often to prevent sticking. Bring to a low boil. Transfer half into a blender and whip till foamy, about 10 seconds. Serve with whipped cream and fresh orange twists
For richer flavor, increase milk and decrease water to equal six cups.
*Mexican chocolate is found in the Mexican food aisle of the grocery store. Ibarra & Abuelita are two brands commonly found.
Chocolate Mint Pots de Creme
1 cup semi-sweet, mint flavored chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons peppermint liquor
3/4 cup Half and Half cream, scalded
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place the chocolate, sugar, egg, liquor, and salt in a blender and mix to combine. Add the hot Half and Half cream and blend until very smooth. Pour into very small dessert cups (this is very rich!) and chill overnight. Before serving, garnish with whipped cream and a pretty mint leaf.
Have time to add to the decadence? Make your own whipped cream!
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip until the cream stiffens and holds it’s shape. Don’t over mix or you end up with butter! You can either pipe it on your Pots de Creme or spoon it on decoratively. After the first spoonful, no one will be paying attention to how it looks anyway!
Even though my husband are gluten-free, I still make this dish for my children who love anything that includes pasta. Since it is an easy dish and I can prepare the sauce and toppings ahead, it usually isn’t a problem to cook it while finishing my other dinner entrees. If you want to enjoy this recipe gluten-free, there are some great pastas out there that will give you a good result, too.
Asian Sesame Noodles (fast and easy dinner!)
1 pound linguine or angel hair pasta
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 peeled cloves of garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Sriracha sauce to taste
4 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Toasted sesame oil to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 green onion, very thinly sliced
Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, olive oil, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sesame oil to taste.
Cook the pasta until just done, drain, and toss the warm pasta with the prepared sauce. Stir in the green onions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Ideas . . .
If you have some leftover chicken, you can dice it and toss with the finished noodle dish.
A scrambled egg, finely broken up can be added for a change of taste and more protein in the dish.
I almost always chose lemon chicken from the menu during my trips to Greece in my long ago youth! Lemon chicken with a side of cucumber salad and a hefty helping of Feta cheese was my favorite meal. Although I have not been able to replicate the exact taste treat at home, this is a good substitute and doesn’t disappoint. The recipe is also great for a gluten-free diet and is compliant to following the Whole30 program.
Greek Lemon Chicken
2 whole chickens (or equivalent in chicken pieces)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups water
1 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut each chicken into serving pieces. Place in large bowl.
Combine the rest of the ingredients and test for seasoning re. salt and pepper. Add to chicken pieces and mix to insure all pieces are covered. Marinate for about an hour, turning over the chicken at least once during this time.
Place chicken in large baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken from sauce, Turn oven down to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken in another baking dish and bake, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until nicely browned.
I like the chicken cold the next day, too!
Although I may have shared this before, tis the season to start thinking about warm kitchens and quick treats to start welcoming in the holiday season which will be here all too soon!
Stir, Drop and Bake Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each of finely grated lemon zest and orange zest
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat eggs until foamy; stir in oil, vanilla, and sugar. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture. Combine until smooth. Drop by teaspoonsful about two inches apart on very lightly greased cookie sheet. Dough should be rather soft. Sprinkle a bit of sugar on each cookie before baking. Colored sugar is fun if it is on hand. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
This was one of the first cookies of my memory. It takes only a few minutes to throw together and is easy for older children to make on their own. On rainy days, my mother would make me these along with a cup of hot cocoa. Rainy days and warm kitchens are great! Memories!