Tag Archives: ham

Dinner Salads/Meat/Vegan/Pescaterian

Last night Number One Son stopped in and while here, grabbed a fruit and grain bar. I asked him if he was hungry, hoping he wasn’t, as he chooses not to eat pork and what I had ready was breaded boneless loin chops and polenta topped with sauce that contained Italian sausage.{We’ll be discussing Italian sauces in the future.]
But he was hungry. Fortunately, I had just made a salad to which for him I added wagon wheel pasta that was in the refrigerator and Italian-style chicken breasts which I had just removed from the freezer. I had made and frozen them a month or so ago when I hit a big sale on chicken. I have found it easier and much more convenient to freeze cooked food than raw.

Some years ago on an Ash Wednesday I had made shrimp-stuffed, twice-baked potatoes,

. One of the few times I made ‘just enough’ for all of us, but, as luck would have it, my husband invited his boss for dinner on a whim.
He had worked overtime and the boys and I had eaten. Fortunately, he arrived at home before the boss. He suggested that the boss be given his potion but there is no way one can let a guest be that uncomfortable.
I quickly made salad and added pre-made rice I had in the refrigerator , cubed cheese and tiny shrimp I kept on hand in the freezer. The boss was none the wiser and the men ate well.

You’re thinking, “All well and good, but I don’t always have enough (or any) fresh vegetables on hand” and that is a good argument, many people don’t or get caught off-guard. I have been to dinner where the my hostess broke up iceberg lettuce, poured ranch dressing on it and called it salad. I had a friend who had invited me to lunch and then lost her cool when she found that she had no cucumbers,(which I don’t particularly care for, anyway). There are many ways to make a salad and I seldom make any of them the same way twice.

Fresh veggie salad is extremely healthy, if the vegetables are clean and it actually gets eaten. The best way to insure that you actually eat the salad is to have it made with flavors you like. You don’t like cucumbers, tomatoes or radishes? Leave any or all of them out, add what you like, for instance: green peppers, carrots, fresh cauliflower. Non-traditional ‘salad’ vegetables are good, like slivered parsnips, celery, bok choy. There is a very wide variety of fresh vegetables out there, mix and match as you like.

Most salads start with a base of something green and leafy, often lettuces. There’s more than iceberg out there. There is endive and leaf lettuces. There are spinach leaves, kale, mustard and collard greens, (these are strong-flavored). But salads don’t have to be only ‘fresh’ vegetables. I suggest that you try out some styles and flavors, but in a pinch, you can probably come up with a salad if you have any staples on hand.

Hopefully , you have some fresh vegetables in your refrigerator. If you don’t, please do yourself a favor, buy and taste some. Learn what you like; you will not like them all, I sure don’t.

A salad can be made with whatever vegetables you have. With any fresh ones, you can go to your cabinet and add any reasonably firm canned vegetable. For example: cut green , wax or Italian beans, peas, sliced carrots, beets,(shoestring work best), and beans, (garbanzo, canelli ,lima, great northern , black, pinto, kidney; drain and rinse before adding to the salad). Even corn kernels, fresh or canned, will work, but I do like to use canned baby corn on the cob.

I always keep a jar of gardiniera around; these a pickled vegetables, which usually include peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Right now I have a huge jar that is half-full in my refrigerator as my husband loves it in his salad, as I use it when I don’t have a lot of veggies on hand. One company makes a nice canned garden salad but I can’t get it where I now live. Their ‘Three Bean Salad’ is good and makes a nice addition to salads. Roasted peppers are easily found in stores these days to add to salads and also sandwiches; pickled peppers will help in a pinch. Black or green olives are also a common addition I make especially when short on fresh vegetables.

To make a dinner salad, one must make it a complete meal , which mean that you need to add a carbohydrate and make sure there is a protein. Beans and corn will add carbs, plus that is in itself a meatless protein combo. [See Meatless Protein Combinations, July Archives]. You can add cooked pasta,(vegetable pasta is great), couscous, barley, re-hydrated Bulgar wheat, cooked rice, lentils or cubed potatoes, (the last three for gluten-free).

If you have guest and are not sure of their preferences or dietary restrictions, you can make your own ‘salad bar’ with multiple bowls, divided serving dishes or a platter. It is always a good idea as just within our little family, (even between just me and my husband), our tastes are radically different, especially when it comes to veggies.

If you are then inclined, you can add or offer cooked cubed meats, anything from, (as I had last night), chicken breasts precooked in your favorite recipe, (or rotisserie chicken),to leftover roasted meats , to sliced lunch meats,(turkey, ham, salami). You can add crab meat, imitation crab meat or shrimp. You can add nearly any kind of reasonably firm cheese, from Velveta, (I don’t recommend it), Muenster, Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Havarti, whatever suits your taste. I am still working on my trials, but if Tofurkey or seitan is your thing, then toss it in.

[Note: You really don’t have to be caught unaware to make a nice dinner salad; you can actually plan for it!]

Here is a recipe which has been a big hit for me. I served it in my bakery/restaurant and used it for our special boxed lunches. If you really can’t deal with fresh veggies, this one is for you; even non-salad-eaters like this, so it would be good for a Sports buffet.(I hope to start on Super Bowl and March Madness foods next.) If you need something for a pot luck, you can have these things on hand. If you can open a can , a jar and boil water, you can make this.
(The little extra effort in making it a day ahead or the night before and adding another pasta shortly before serving is worth it if you can afford the time, trust me.)
The garbanzos and the pasta make a complete meatless protein.

Vegetable Pasta Salad

one can cut green beans,(preferably ‘kitchen’ or short-cut)
one can wax (yellow) beans
one can sliced beets (pref. shoestring)
one can sliced carrots,(pref. crinkle-cut)
one half-cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), add more if you really like them
1/3 cup thinly sliced onion,(pref. red)
½ cup sliced black olives
one bottle Italian salad dressing,(not ‘creamy’)
2-3 cups cooked, firm pasta, divided in half, (or use two types; *see note below)

Open and drain all canned vegetables. Place in a large bowl and add the onion, olives , half the pasta and the dressing. Toss gently and refrigerate, preferably over night. If the lid is tight, rotate the bowl a few times or toss the salad gently a few times.(Fold with a large spoon or spatula). Add the rest of the pasta up to two hours before serving.

*Note: Please use a strong type of pasta; radiatore, wagon wheels, fiore, penne, shells, or  even elbow macaroni. (.Noodles, bow ties and other flat pastas will break apart after absorbing the dressing and are stirred; do not use these.) Please under-cook the pasta(s) slightly. The term ‘al dente’ is over-used and often misunderstood, but you need to have the pasta firm and separate for several reasons:
The pasta added in the beginning will absorb not only a great deal of moisture from the dressing ,
it will absorb flavor from it and from the vegetables
and it will turn pink from the beets,(as will the garbanzo beans).
The ‘new’ pasta, (which should have been also pre-made and chilled, whether it is the same type as added before or a different style), will not have absorbed the moisture,
flavors or color,
so it will add contrast in color, texture,(it will still be quite firm) ;
it will also add a ‘clean’ taste, since the strong flavors have not been absorbed.

I hope you try this. Enjoy!

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound