Flavors on the Go ~ A simple and delicious meal that travels well

So the Big Feast day gets closer. Tomorrow is travel day to Rochester. That makes today cooking day! I bought the supplies I need to take, and I am preparing dishes to take as well. I will be bringing dinner for the 6 of us tomorrow. Today I will prepare the food and make it portable. With my plan for soup, salad, and bread, I am preparing the food to finish when we arrive. Dinner should be ready to eat in 10 – 15 minutes after we get there.

The meal I am bringing is Lemon Chicken Soup, Tarragon Salad, and bread. I went to my local market yesterday for my last supplies. They have a bakery in the deli department so I ordered two fresh loaves. They will be ready for pick up tomorrow. I bought one more from a local bakery and put that in the freezer.

So the plan looks like this:

  • Make the soup stock. Bring the chicken and the orzo pasta. When I get there, put the pot on to boil, add the orzo, lower the heat, and add diced chicken.
  • I will wash and chop the lettuce ahead. And I will take the apples, walnuts, and cheese. I usually make dressing fresh but one day ahead is still fresh. So the dressing will be made ahead and carried in a container.
  • The bread: I bought two because I am bringing a cheesy spinach dip to put into one.

After bringing the pieces, the plan there becomes:

  • Put the soup on to boil.
  • Put the spinach dip in a saucepan to warm or a microwave safe dish to warm that way.
  • Prepare the salad: toss the lettuce in a bowl, dice the apples, toss in the cheese. I would toss in the nuts next, but Boyfriend doesn’t like nuts, so I will toss everything but the nuts together and take some out for him. (A less than perfect salad! LOL) Then toss the rest with the walnuts.
  • Add the chicken and orzo to the soup. Lower the heat to cook the orzo.
  • Prepare the bread bowl.
  • Come eat!!!

Ah, but you remember I ordered two loaves. I ordered both round loaves. One will be for the dip, with the cut out part as the dipping goodness. The other is to slice and dip in the soup or to just butter and eat.

I am going to talk through all of the recipes; all are so very easy.

Cheesy Spinach Dip 

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
  • 1 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 c grated Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 tbsp onion powder ~ here you could grate 1 tbsp of onion in if you are already cutting an onion for something else…
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 dashes hot sauce 

There is really no fancy preparation. Put the cheeses, sour cream, onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir often, until everything melts together. Add in the spinach. Stir it all together and taste a little. If you need to, add a little of whatever flavor you think is missing.

I will cool this and put it away in a container to warm and eat with the soup and salad when we get there.

Tarragon Salad 

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • apples ~ or you can use pears! 
  • walnuts halves
  • goat cheese
  • Homemade tarragon dressing: Tarragon Vinegar, mustard, tarragon and olive oil

Again, so simple and luscious. In the summer, Barry and I often eat this salad as a meal with some steamed edamame!

Clean and chop the lettuce. I learned awhile back that the reason my husband hardly ever ate salad was that he hated fighting the big greens and having to cut it. So every salad in our house is a chop salad. I adhere to the belief that the preparation of a salad should allow you to grab a fork and enjoy bite sized pieces. So the pieces are small and the dressing is on it when it is served.

So now you have perfectly prepared lettuce bites, dice up an apple or two, crumble or chop up some goat cheese, and throw on walnut pieces (whatever size you like).  Cook’s note: Pears are also delicious in this salad. I am going fall/apple here as per Tammy’s request. Toss with dressing.

For the dressing, whisk a tablespoon or so of tarragon vinegar (If I can find this in my little town, you can find it anywhere!), a teaspoon of mustard, and a small palmful of dried tarragon. Stream in olive oil as you continue to whisk. Taste a little. I have added too much vinegar at times and will put a little clear agave (you could use sugar) in to take the sharp vinegar edge off.  We do not like a lot of vinegar, so once more… Make it your own. It is your meal, make it delicious for you!

With a salad I am loathe to give you amounts. Make the salad the size you want or need. This time, for six of us, I have six hearts of Romaine ~ one per person. I will dice up 2 apples. I have a bag of walnuts at the ready. I will likely use less than a cup for the 5 of us. And I have an 8 oz. log of goat cheese. Now this I might use 4 or 5 oz. because we are all cheese lovers. Tailor your salad to your family. Always tailor to your own taste.

Lemon Chicken Soup

  • 6 – 8cupschicken broth ~ I use low sodium so I can control the salt
  • 1/3 cup of lemon juice ~ about 2 lemons
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (2 in) Parmesan cheese rind
  • 2 carrots ~ diced small
  • 1 cup orzo ~ you can use any small pasta you like
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast meat ~ rotisserie is really best here
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf and Parmesan cheese rind to a boil. Add the carrots and continue to simmer until they are softened, 8 – 10 minutes for me. We like soft carrots; we are not into crunchy soup! 😉

Add the orzo and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken and heat through, a few more minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and the rind and discard them. Stir in half of the Romano if you wish, or keep all of it for serving. Add the parsley last if you are using fresh. (If you use dried, use much less, maybe a tablespoon. If you use dried, you can even add this in the beginning.) Warm another minute to incorporate.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle cheese on top. Sorry no photo… you know I taking this to go so I am not finishing it today!

This will be a lovely meal. It travels well, and is easy to throw together when we arrive. My thought is to have Boyfriend reheat the spinach dip and ask Tammy to cut out the bread bowl. Once the soup is on, I can toss the salad. Planning!

There is a simple elegance to this meal. The flavors are bright and though it seems light, it will be plenty filling. The night before a Big Feast you don’t want a heavy meal.

I hope you are planning. Time for me to go get into the kitchen. I have stuffing and cranberry sauce to ready also.

Enjoy!

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Planning ahead . . . Planned leftovers and the Big Feast!

We won’t be home for Thanksgiving. We are the happy guests of Boyfriend’s dad, Jack, and his lady, Kay. Off to Rochester we go on Wednesday for the Big Feast Day!  There are plans to be made for laundry and packing, but more importantly ~ the food! 🙂

It is Monday and I will tell you that I have been mulling the idea of the meal for at least a week. There was correspondence between BF, Kay and me. Tammy is on that email list, but she backs away from the planning and defers to BF and me. Actually, after last Thanksgiving (evidence above!!), so does Kay! LOL

Mike and Tammy went to their lovely Farmer’s Market and bought the following:

  • 6 Pints of Brussels sprouts
  • 2 large red, 2 large white onions
  • 2 lbs of green beans
  • 1 huge head of broccoli
  • 1 quart of heavy cream
  • 2 large bunches of carrots (regular and heirloom)
  • 5 lbs of red potatoes
  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 lb of locally roasted coffee (Cro-Magnon)
  • 2 medium and 1 massive butternut squash
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Lots of rosemary

This is actually a copy and paste of BF’s list. And then he wrote… “So I hope the entire eastern front is coming to dinner.” LOL!!! We are going to have a spectacular meal and many great leftovers. With all of these lovely flavors, we will have 3 turkeys (Jack loves the smokers and Kay puts one in the oven.), garlic and dill potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, a plethora of lovely fresh veggies ~ steamed broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, green beans with almonds and onions, roasted root veggies, etc, ~ and I have no idea how, but dessert.

Before we leave the Catskills and head to Rochester on Wednesday I have some work to do. Last year I was a little crazy, but the beauty of my journey is this… I am learning to do things better! Planning is key. So I have the list ready of what I am bringing and what I am making. Last year I tried to make garlic dill potatoes and was surprised that there was no dill in her house. Silly me. I use so much dill I couldn’t imagine anyone who didn’t have it in theirs! Ha. So I will bring dill.

I am not convinced that is enough onions, so I am bringing more. I am going to bring bacon. Here is the trick, I will buy it and freeze it. On the trip up it will be safely cold and begin to thaw for morning! I am doing to same with bread. I am going to buy bread and freeze it today. On the trip up it will also defrost and be fresh and ready for eating.

So today I am going to the market to pick up the last few things I need. I am also bringing Wednesday’s dinner. I am going to make soup, salad, and bread. That discussion will continue tomorrow.  I will talk about the menu and how I will prepare it to carry and put it together in 10-15 minutes when we get there!

I am also making planned leftovers. I am going to pick up the makings for one of Barry’s favorite foods, mac and cheese with chicken and broccoli. I will make enough for today and tomorrow. Then I will freeze a couple of servings for when we return. I will eat the chicken and broccoli, but without the pasta. So I am not really making two meals.

Now you know I am not a baker, but there are a couple of things I am pretty good at making, so I will make and bring those… fruit cake cookies and chocolate chip cookie bars. Maybe apple bread too, but not sure.

So listen people, the message is this. Plan! Plan! Plan! Make sure you have thought out the meal itself and the meals around it. I am already planning meals for turkey leftovers… And plan something simple for dinner in the meantime so that part is easy.

I need to go shopping now. But tomorrow we will talk about a meal to go of chicken lemon soup, tarragon salad, and bread.  If you are interested in making the soup with me you will need: 6 – 8 cups chicken stock, parsley, 2 – 3 lemons, the rind of a chunk of Parmesan cheese, chicken (rotisserie if you can get it on sale), 1 bay leaf, 2 carrots, 1 cup orzo, salt. (optional: Shredded Romano cheese to sprinkle on top when serving.)

Make that list and make sure the day is not full of stress, but rather full of food, fun, and family! Enjoy!!

Flavor seeker ~ Roasted chick peas!

OK, after my comfort food indulgence it is time to go back to the lighter side. I have to remember balance. But I also have to remember I have a guy who can eat ANYTHING and never gain a pound or have high cholesterol. I made him chocolate chip cookie bars last night on a whim. He walked in the door, smelled them, looked at them, and went right back out to get milk. Cold milk and a warm chocolate chip cookie bar… or two. Barry can do that. And I am happy to provide. Me? No way!

In my quest for flavor I sometimes spend time perusing recipes. I am a recipe junkie . . . and then I usually find a few that are interesting and use the parts of each that I like. So I will either alter recipes I find or make one up. I was enjoying hummus the other day and wondered if chick peas would be as delicious roasted as the vegetables I love that way.

Guess what! They are! And one more time, here is how easy it is. You will need:

  • 1 large can chick peas
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • paprika

Drain and rinse the chick peas well. I put them in a bowl because I get better coverage of the oil and seasonings. Coat the beans with oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Put them on a prepared sheet pan. I spray the pan with a spray oil. I also added an extra and liberal sprinkling of paprika.

Put the pan in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. I shook them twice during the roasting process just to be sure they were roasting evenly. Cool and enjoy!

If you like other flavors, do what I always encourage… change the recipe to your own taste! If you like more heat, use cumin. You like garlic? I am sure that would add extra tastiness with the paprika.

You can put these in an airtight container and refrigerate them to snack on later. Or you can put them into smaller containers to go. Whatever your choice, do try this tasty snack.

And, as always, enjoy!

Flavors on the Go ~ Trail Mix

Long ago and far away, it seems to me now, my girls were little and I was running ragged. I was working full time and doing graduate work at night. I worked toward and achieved my Masters in education. Then I decided to pursue a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in educational administration. The insanity of my life at that time was something I look back on and think, No way would I survive that now!

The worst part of that time in my life was my terrible, horrible eating habits. I already have admitted to being a carb addict, but this part of my journey was the worst. I would often eat out of sheer exhaustion!  The college where I achieved both of those degrees is about an hour and a half from my home. Teaching all day, driving to class, and then coming home late in the evening, I was a blur of tired. There was sadly a fast food restaurant (or two) on the way home and I was a regular. My excuse was that I deserved it and that the food was the fuel that kept me going.

Fast food is a thing of the past. A rare drive-thru on a long trip allows Barry is occasional treat of fries and I may get a diet soda, but I really don’t even drink soda much these days. Now when we are on the road, or when the girls travel back and forth, I plan flavors to go that are tastier and easier on the waist!

The first food-to-go change was trail mix. When we traveled, Barry would often buy a bag of trail mix on a gas station stop. Then he started asking for trail mix at home. After buying several mixes and having him pick out the parts he liked, I finally asked him to tell me what the perfect trail mix would be!

For Barry it is a lot of peanuts, craisins (dried cranberries in lieu of raisins), some cashews (optional), and M&M candies. He couldn’t get enough when I started making it to HIS taste! I would mix and store in a large container at home, but this mix became easy travel food in a zipper top bag. It is a keeper in our home.



 

 

 

You might like to put different items in your perfect trail mix. I would put almonds in mine, first and foremost! These crunchy delights are nutritious http://www.nutsforalmonds.com/nutrition.htm and have a protein punch that will curb the appetite and prevent a side trip through fast food temptation.  You may also try dried fruits. There are so many that are easily available in your grocery store and healthier than candy.

There are many great ideas for foods that are healthy and travel well. We will continue to explore these. For today, go buy some tasty, crunchy, and nutritious snacks and make your own trail mix. Then pack it in smaller baggies or containers so you can grab it on the go. Planned snacks, like planned leftovers will help you stay on track!

Have a happy, healthy day! Enjoy!