Tag Archives: noodles

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!

Meatless Protein Combinations

The key to low cholesterol, Lenten, vegetarian , (lacto/ovo- vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs; lacto-vegetarians who indulge in milk and milk products),
vegan, (those who consume and use no animal products), or absolutely fool-proof, non-offensive hosting are meatless-protein combinations. Some of them are not complete proteins, but are close enough. There are several types of non-dairy milks that are readily available in your local grocery store: Soy, Rice and Almond, which I find wonderful, and can not only be substituted for milk as a drink, but in cereal,(cooked or cold), rice, whipped into potatoes, etc. Again, please ask any guest as some of these may cause allergic reactions. There are also Oat and Hemp milks on the market. I have not used these; and I need to experiment more with tofu, seitan and other non-meat proteins.
[Recipes for suggestions with asterisks will be in upcoming blogs]
Examples of non-meat protein combos are:
Beans or legumes with grains, corn (vegan)
Beans or legumes with dairy products.
Grains with dairy products.
Rice or potatoes with dairy products.
Confusing? Not really. You already eat many of them without realizing it:
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta Alfredo
Cheese ravioli or tortellini
Cheese pizza
Cheese sandwich; grilled or on plain bread, or grilled open-faced under the broiler
(Try Cheddars, Swiss, Muenster, my favorite, Gouda, or Mozzarella or Brick
sprinkled with Parmesan.)
Cheese pinwheel breads*.
Cheese tacos.
Peanut butter sandwich, or crackers. (vegan)
Bean, (vegan), (or bean and cheese) burritos.
Bean dip* and corn chips. ( without cheese or sour cream, vegan)
Red (or black) beans and rice. (vegan)
Navy or Great Northern beans and rice. (vegan)
Cheesy rice.
Rice pudding, or rice with milks, (served as breakfast in the South.)
Oatmeal, wheat or rice cereal, cooked in milks.
Dry cereal in milks.
Cream cheese on a bagel, rolls, toast or crackers. (try mixing with honey or fruit
puree).
Cheese and crackers.
Baked potatoes, with sour cream, shredded cheese ,or twice-baked potatoes*.
Potato casserole with cheese or milk-based sauce.
Potatoes, scalloped or au gratin.
Potato soup with open-faced, broiled cheese sandwich, or crackers.
Bean soup* with noodles ( non-egg, vegan) or crackers.
Lentil soup* with rice, (or popcorn instead of crackers).(vegan)
Any of the above soups with corn bread or rice (vegan)
Vegetable Pasta Salad* , (vegan)
“Breakfast” burritos,* without meat.
A tossed salad, with cubed cheese and and/or sesame seeds, (vegan) or
A tossed or layered salad with either cheese or with sesame seeds and cooked
lentils,(vegan)
Herbed Garbanzo or other beans, rehydrated bulgur wheat, cooked rice or croutons, without cheese, ( vegan)
(These can be presented in a tomato or baked into a vegetable* )(vegan)

(To rehydrate bulgur wheat, bring 1 cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and
steep ½ cup of wheat for approximately 20 minutes. Drain and cool. Add to
salad. Serves four. These salads can be a real pick- me- up. They wake Husband
up better than a cup of coffee.)
And Custard or Cheese pies, pastries, torts and blintzes . (These being made with wholesome ingredients.) There are many Mediterranean and Eastern European specialties made with cheeses, eggs, farina or other grains, which can make a light meal when served with fruit .
Maybe you have a family, regional or ethnic favorite that comes to mind when
reading this list. Use your family’s taste and your own imagination for other
combinations. Remember to be careful with the use of dairy products when trying
to avoid cholesterol, and for vegans, who eat no animal products. For all others,
don’t forget the egg, a most useful food for Lent, vegetarians, (who eat eggs,
again, ask), or if your guest avoids beef or pork.
Egg salad*, in a sandwich or stuffed in a tomato*.
Deviled eggs*, or hard-cooked eggs, sliced and on a cheese tray or in a tossed
salad.
Scramble eggs with American or cheddar cheese, tempered with a few drops of
milk. Try using picante sauce or a meatless spaghetti sauce for a surprisingly
filling meal.
Omelets with almost any type of cheese; try adding onions, (with sautéed peppers and
tomatoes for a Spanish omelet), or make frittatas*, which are basically open-faced
omelets, with white cheeses and green onions; add any herb that catches your
fancy. And if you can’t manage an omelet or frittata, or you just break one, turn
it into scrambles eggs and pass it off as if
you’d planned to make it that way. It will taste just as good, and no one will
be the wiser. ( I dropped a Bundt cake on a table just before guests arrived for
dinner. I sliced it at an angle and arranged it nicely on a serving dish. No one would have been the wiser, if my sister hadn’t decided
to make an embellished version of the story the night’s entertainment.)
All of the egg recipes above could be served with a carbohydrate; biscuits,
muffins, croissants or toast, which aid in the absorbing the protein.
Try serving something other than white sandwich bread: toast wheat, multi- grain, Italian, rye, pumpernickel, and your stand-by, raisin, make an interesting and flavorful addition. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. It is an easy way to make something that seems a little special and you have used very little effort in doing so. On the other hand, some bread recipes call for vegan no-nos: egg, milk, or honey, which is not often thought of as an animal product.
Honey is the only food that will not spoil, ( if it crystallizes, you can warm it back to perfection in a microwave or better yet, with its opened container sitting in boiling water, stirring at intervals until smooth), but should not be used by children under two, and perhaps by folks with compromised immune systems, as it can contain spores which can cause a rare type of botulism, and infant digestive tracts are not ready to render them harmless, as older, developed ones do . Science knows that honey consists of about 90 per cent sugar and 10 per cent water, but has never been able to be duplicated it, no matter what you have heard. Once, a very tipsy relative by marriage came in bearing gifts. Lifting them out of her bag, she listed them off ; among which were peanut butter, candy, flowers to plant and a jar of honey. Doing a double take before setting the honey on the table, she woozily and laboriously focused in on the label and added, “This is clover honey, not regular bee honey.” Trust me; it was bee honey. Most of the honey purchased bottled in the United States is clover honey, made from nectar collected from clover flowers, because Americans like a nice, light, mild honey spread, but bees will utilize any nearby flower. There would be no apples, pears, peaches or any fruit without pollination from bees, and therefore there are many different honeys out there, often used in food processing. So, even in eating fruit you are utilizing bee power, so give them some respect, their stingers not bee-ing the only reason. In most larger supermarkets you can find Orange blossom, buckwheat or honeys made from other pollens and nectar. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the stronger the taste. I suggest fruit spreads, jellies, jams and margarine, ( some softened, mixed with cinnamon and sugar, vanilla ), peanut and nut butters as spreads for you vegan guests…..or, rather, their breadstuff