Tag Archives: Easy meatless meals

Last Minute Dinner Salads/Lent or Anytime

Last Minute Dinner Salads

One Ash Wednesday Husband came home late as he went to Mass after working overtime. Our sons and I had eaten our Twice-Baked Potatoes(next post) and the one good thing about them is that it is easy to make just enough, if you don’t care for leftovers. (Although they do freeze quite well for a short term, like 4-6 months).
When Husband came in, he informed me that his boss had been at Mass as well and he had invited the man to dinner.
Husband has done this to me a few times. When we got married I had never cooked for less than six people and we ate a lot of leftovers,(fortunately, I learned to freeze things well.) Let me make a couple of steaks, or a couple of chicken breasts and, used to having too much food, that seemed to be exactly when the Husband would invite someone to stay. I was always last-minute hustling!

I had to stow the baked potato and put together a salad with what I had on hand. I added small shrimp which I fortunately had left over from making the potatoes and I put in some diced cheese. I served rolls and crackers and the men ate well…the boss was none the wiser!

If I have posted on salads before, it bears repeating: Almost any vegetable can go into a salad, as well as fruits and not all of them need to be fresh. I have had someone break up a head of iceberg lettuce, pour on bottled ranch dressing and call it salad and I have had salads that included everything imaginable. You can put together a nice salad with many things you should already have on hand. Hopefully, you have some greens, a lettuce or spinach. Even if you don’t, you can wing it. Here is a list, although not complete, of what you can include in a nice dinner salad:

Any type of ‘greens’, iceberg or leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, turnip greens
we all know:
carrots
tomatoes
cucumber
radishes

but how about:
celery
shredded parsnips
fresh pea pods
broccoli
cauliflower,
sweet peppers
bok choy
grated zucchini or squash
thinly sliced onions or leeks
diced green onions

Use your imagination

You can add fruit in with vegetables as long as they are firm, such as :
Pears
Apples

If you know your guests can tolerate seeds and nuts, you can add:[*See Note]

Almonds/Hazelnuts/Walnuts/Pine nuts, etc.

Peanuts

Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds (roasted)

 

And, especially in a pinch, these canned items do a good job in rounding out sparse fresh veggies:
corn
peas,
beets
green beans
wax beans
chick peas/black eyed peas/
kidney/navy/pinto/black beans
black or green olive
pineapple
sliced apple rings
pearl onions

And I always keep pickled vegetables,(giardiniera ) on hand.

Mix and match, pick and choose. Add tiny shrimp/ crab or imitation crab meat, shredded or diced cheese,(Cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Havarti Muenster); you can also do a great job with diced ham, chicken, roast beef or turkey cold cuts, (or ‘Tofurkey’). Diced hard-boiled eggs can be added at the last minute,(they will break up in the tossing and it isn’t pretty.)You can use leftover roasts, chicken or whatever flavorful meat you have on hand.
With this type of salad, you may find that you don’t need dressing. If you have guests, allow them the option. On the other hand, I have found that if the flavors are a bit bland, I add some that I like to whip up quickly on my own using Olive oil and pomegranate molasses, which is bitter, contrary to it’s name, so I add honey or a syrup. I also have several vinegars on my shelf to use. However, there are perfectly good bottled dressings out there, and several flavors are in my refrigerator as I type this; use them.

As I did, serve with crackers, fancy beads or rolls. You can add prepared rice, couscous, barley or small pasta for a one-bowl meal, or serve a simple couscous, rice or pasta dish on the side.

[*Note]The real beauty is that these can be made for Lent, pescaterian, vegetarian or vegan.It is gluten-free, (without  cheese), dairy-free and can be served with meats, cheeses, fish, seeds/nuts, grains and  pasta on the side, if you are unsure of your guests’ needs.

I hope this gives you some ideas…and I hope you try some of the ideas, not only for Lent,(meatless), but throughout the year. These are wonderful in hot weather for a light but filling and nutritious meal that anyone can be proud to serve…quick and praise-worthy!

Useful, Delicious Cheese Sauce

I have a recipe I want to share in the next post; it calls for my Cheese Sauce. I hesitated to add this recipe, as I very recently read that Martha Stewart makes a recipe close to this for her macaroni and cheese. I have never used this on macaroni, but I just might. However, let it be known that although Martha and I may have the same idea, I learned the basics at my mother’s elbow. Martha May have been making it before I was, I don’t know when she actually started to cook. She is a lot older than I am,(MEEE-OOOW!), but I learned the basics at my mother’s elbow.(My mother was old enough to be Martha’s as well; I’ll concede that).

First, you have to make a basic white sauce. It’s easier than you think.(Omit the onion, cheese and nutmeg and you have a basic ‘roux’,(pronounced “roo” or “rhoo”.) I will post recipes using it in the future.

Cheese Sauce
Take:
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. minced onion,(fresh, or use 2 teaspoonfuls of onion powder, or onion juice and add after the sauce is thickened)
1/3 cup of flour (all purpose)
2 cups of milk
dash of white pepper,(or paprika)
dash of nutmeg,(optional)
dash of pepper sauce,(optional)
1 ½- 2 cups grated medium-sharp cheddar cheeses; I like a mix of both.If you throw in a piece of Gouda or other yellow cheese,it’s wonderful ( You can also make this with Pepper Jack, at your own risk..and it is not as versatile)

Melt the butter, (some people prefer it browned; I do not advise it). Cook the onion until tender, (again, not browned).
Remove from heat and slowly stir in the flour until it is as smooth as it can get with the onion bits in it; no flour lumps. It will be a thick paste.
Slowly add the milk,(a whisk comes in handy). Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly over medium heat ,(preferably with a wooden spoon), until it is quite thick. (If you need to leave it for any time, be sure the heat is very low and then whisk it strongly. Be sure to get the bottom of the pan and edges stirred throughout the entire cooking process).
Add the pepper or paprika, pepper sauce, nutmeg and /or onion options,(if using)
Lower the heat and add the cheese, stir until thoroughly melted and warmed through.
There you have it.

Now, serve it over any vegetable, baked fish, chicken, pork.

Pour over beef sliced thinly, piled on a bun thickly and make a delicious sandwich.

Serve over toast for a version of ‘Welsh Rabbit‘.

Mix with prepared rice or couscous for a side dish or as a complete non-meat protein,(rice/grain with dairy).Add cut green beans, peas or asparagus.

(Non-vegetarian: add grilled meat bits)

Pour over potato wedges, ‘Tater Tots’ or French fries for another tasty meatless protein; You can punch it up by topping it with meatless “Bacon Bits” or crispy-fried vegetable of your choice.

(Non-vegetarian: top with crumbled bacon).

Or, go ahead and pour it liberally over macaroni in a casserole dish. Top with extra cheese grated and bake until bubbly and browned..at least, that is what Martha would have you do. Make it with my blessing!

Placed in a sterilized jar and kept refrigerated, this will last for weeks;(do not freeze).

Kept chilled in a fancy jar or one with a fancy napkin or material square on the lid,this would also make a nice food gift.( You could add it to a basket of fresh vegetables, or pasta , couscous and/or fancy rice.)Just add a list of suggested uses and advice to keep it cold until use. Microwave or warm on stove on low,stirring often.