Tidewater Kitchens - April 2009

Easy and Carefree Dinners

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   Here are some easy-to-fix, super-fast and perfect-for-spring fresh flavors to start your palate humming. I love the springtime when you walk into the markets and find tender, sweet lettuce, baby peas and pencil-thin asparagus. It is also the time to start eating lighter and not have those comfort foods anymore.
    Using what is in season and things that are the freshest really keep things easy and carefree. My feeling is everything begins in the garden, so eat as many organic and minimally processed foods as you can find. Use healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
    It’s amazing when you think about it. We know more than ever about how food can enhance our well-being and even prolong our lives, but the typical American diet is still high in calories, fat, sugar and salt, and low in many nutrients. Even the most careful eater is probably not getting enough calcium, fiber, potassium, or vitamin E, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). And, of course, more Americans are overweight than ever before.
    The National Cancer Institute, American Medical Assoc., American Diabetes Assoc., American Heart Assoc., and the American Cancer Societies all say that the risk of these diseases may be reduced by 50% or MORE by consuming 9-13 servings of fruits, vegetables and grains every day! Are you eating for prevention?

Mom’s Red Pepper Compote with Crostini
1 jar of roasted red pepper, chopped
4 scallions, sliced finely
1 T. capers
1 T. olive oil
2 t. balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove chopped

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate before serving to allow flavors to blend. Serve over goat cheese with crackers or crostini. Any leftover is also great over grilled chicken or grilled fish.

Four Cheese Ravioli with Spinach Pesto
1 - 9 oz. package four-cheese ravioli
12 oz. baby patty pan squash
3½ cups fresh baby spinach
½ cup fresh torn basil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to the package. Add the squash the last 2 minutes of cooking, then drain.
Meanwhile, for the pesto, add spinach, basil, olive oil and pine nuts and 2 tablespoons water to a blender and mix until well blended.
Toss the ravioli with the homemade pesto and enjoy with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Yummy Shrimp Quesadillas
Olive oil
8 8-inch vegetable tortillas
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper cut into strips
8 oz. peeled and deveined cooked medium shrimp
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped coarsely
1 4 oz. package of crumbled Feta cheese

Drizzle 3 T. olive oil in a pan, add onions, peppers, artichoke hearts and shrimp. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. I like the veggies crunchy. Place a tortilla on a cutting board and top each tortilla with shrimp, artichoke and Feta cheese. Top with another tortilla and put it in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes and then flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with corn salsa and sour cream.

Easy and Delicious Chicken Panzanella
1 can diced tomatoes
½ cup red pepper, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup sweet onion, diced
3 T. olive oil
2 lbs. roasted chicken, pulled into bite-sized pieces
4 cups Italian bread, cubed
2 medium cucumbers, halved and diced
1 cup torn fresh basil

Spoon off 2 tablespoons of tomato liquid. Combine the onion, celery, red pepper and place in a bowl.
In a skillet add the olive oil, salt and pepper and saute the pepper, onion, celery and breadcrumbs for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Turn off the heat and add the diced tomatoes, cucumber, chicken and fresh basil. Serve and enjoy.

Lamb Chops with Tomato Salsa and Feta Cheese
Serve 4
8 1-inch-thick lamb chops
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box orzo
1 box cherry tomatoes
4 green onions, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 T. fresh oregano
¼ cup Feta cheese

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat for 12 to 14 minutes for medium-rare, turning at 7 minutes. Cook the orzo according to the recipe on the box.
In a food processor combine all the rest of the ingredients, except the Feta cheese, and coarsely combine.
Place a lamb chop on top of a serving of orzo and sprinkle with Feta cheese and fresh oregano.

Chicken Alfredo with Lemon and Broccolini
Serves 4
4 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved
8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 T. olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 cups broccolini
1 cup half-and-half
½ cup Parmesan cheese (extra if you really like Parmesan)
¼ t. nutmeg
2 T. butter
Fresh parsley for garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown the chicken and mushrooms for 4 minutes in the hot olive oil. Turn the chicken after 2 minutes and stir the mushrooms around.
Meanwhile, zest the lemon into a bowl and squeeze the lemon.
Add the broccolini and lemon to the skillet. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is done and the juices run clear. If it will make you feel more comfortable, you can place a thermometer in the chicken breast; it should read 170°.
Add the half-and-half and the rest of the ingredients to the pan. Heat.
Place the chicken and vegetables on the plates and drizzle with the sauce. Add more Parmesan cheese if you wish and garnish with the fresh parsley.

Mamie’s Honey Chicken
This is my mother-in-law’s chicken. Both my husband, Brian, and son Keillan love it. It is great served with couscous or rice and a vegetable. You can make this dinner in no time flat.

3 lb. cut up chicken (I like to use legs and thighs)
2 T. butter
½ cup honey
2 T. prepared mustard (I like Dijon)
1 t. sea salt
1 t. curry powder

Wash and dry the chicken pieces
Turn the oven on to 375°. In an oven-safe dish add the butter and put in the oven for 3 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Add the honey, curry, salt and mustard and whisk together in the pan with the butter. Roll the chicken to cover with the sauce and bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until the chicken juices run clear.

Light and Easy Chocolate Pudding Cake
Vegetable spray
Cake:
2 cups all-purpose whole wheat white flour (King Arthur)
1½ cups sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. plus 1 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 cup fat-free milk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 t. vanilla extract
Pudding:
2 cups boiling water
1½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Whisk in remaining cake ingredients, blending thoroughly. Pour into pan, spreading evenly.
In a large bowl, whisk together pudding ingredients until sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Pour carefully over cake batter. Pudding layer will be thin and runny.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until tops are firm to the touch. I like to use a toothpick to check to see if it is done. If the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.
To serve the cake, cut it into pieces and top with whipped cream. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Peach and Cherry Pie
Filling:
6 medium peaches in season
(if not use 4 cups of frozen - thawed)
1½ cups frozen cherries, thawed
¼ cup honey
2 T. Smart Balance butter
1 grated lemon zest
1 lemon juiced
¼ t. freshly ground nutmeg

Crust:
2 T. sugar (I like organic)
½ t. ground cinnamon
Canola cooking spray
Pie Crust (I like Trader Joe’s)

In a large bowl stir together the filling ingredients and set aside.
For the crust, stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 375°.
Thaw the pie crust and put it into a pan. Spoon the filling into the crust and put the pie crust on top. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon and sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Cinnamon-Apple Cupcakes
Canola cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
¼ t. baking soda
1 cup peeled and sliced apples (I like Granny Smith)
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 large eggs
¼ cup sugar
2 T. canola oil
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray cupcake tins or mini cake pans with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.
In another medium bowl stir together the remaining ingredients. Add the flour mixture, stirring until just moistened. Pour batter into cupcake pans.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool on a cooling rack and enjoy! Serve with powdered sugar on top, or just plain.