Touch of Nectar

{September 8, 2011}   Deconstructed Salad Nicoise Bento

I got the Just Bento cookbook last year for Christmas and this is one of the bentos featured in it. Also one of my favorites.

The box that I’m using today was a gift from my friend’s kids. They brought it back special for me from Japan. 🙂  And it is PERFECT for this style of bento.

This doesn’t follow Maki’s recipe 100%, but her’s is a great jumping off point. On the left are salad greens and my Zydeco green beans.

On the right is olives (I didn’t have Nicoise olives. Sad), tuna tossed with vinegar and Dijon mustard, a few capers. 

In the larger compartment is boiled egg, cornichon pickles, cherry tomatoes and boiled potatoes (from a can – a new bento staple!).

Sprinkled over everything for a touch of color is parsley.

When lunchtime arrives I’ll top the salad with the tuna as a sort of dressing.Not too shabby for just cleaning out the fridge! And it’s pretty! 🙂

For dessert I have a few fresh figs. That seems appropriate to go with this bento for some reason.


The Menu this Week. April 9-15 2011

As usual, these are not in the order that I will make them. Fruit/dessert on the menu this week is pineapple and cantaloupe. I’ve already messed up the menu, but tonight will be the Rigatoni. And I have some watercress to use… I’ll have to find a recipe for that.

Sat – Going hiking with the kidling, so I need a fast and easy dinner.

Sun – Chicken Athenos #330056 from 1001 More Low Fat

Mon – Pizza Burgers #445820 from 365 Grill (make double and freeze?)

Tues – Pineapple Rum Turkey Kabobs #231845 from Low Carb, Rice and Snow Peas

Wed – Lemon Herb Swordfish Steaks #452353 from Low Carb

Thurs – Rigatoni with Escarole and Italian Sausage (sausage from freezer) #334597 from 1001 Low Fat

Fri – PCT Movie night. Leftovers or pizza.

Breakfasts – Sunday, unless we go out to breakfast. Almond Pancakes from Beyond the Moon

Lunches – Blackeyed Pea Salad from Beyond the Moon

Dessert – Applesauce Cake #451271 from Spices of the World

I received the 365 Ways to Cook Pasta cookbook as a Christmas present from my boyfriend’s sister when I was 18. I was just learning how to cook and this was a great start. The boyfriend is long gone, but the book has stuck with me.

Pasta itself is inexpensive and easy to prepare. We eat some sort of pasta dish in our house at least twice a week. Last night was no exception.

The recipe was Spaghetti with Butter Parmesan and Browned Bacon. It was found in the chapter titled “Emergency Dinners” which rely on ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry. Easy and fast meals.

I did cut back on the amount of butter, but the final dish is nicely creamy and flavorful. Dinner took about 15 minutes to make.

I served this with cheese rolls and fresh orange slices, but I was wishing for a fresh tomato salad. There is just something special about bacon and tomatoes together.

The Emergency Dinners chapter may be my favorite part of the book, but I like some of the other chapters as well; Savory Summer Salads, Spaghetti in the Pantry, Elbows on the Table, Tiny Pasta Shapes, No Cook Sauces, Quick Cook Sauces, Meat Sauces and Light and Easy.

I’ve made a LOT of recipes from this book and definitely plan to make more. There is something for every season and the recipes range from almost instant to more complex dishes.

These are just a few others that I’ve tried:

Confetti Orzo Salad
Shells with Tomatoes Arugula and Parmesan
Wagon Wheels with Chickpeas and Creamy Lemon Dill Dressing
Elbows with Cannellini Beans, Bacon and Red Onion
Elbows with Chickpeas and Escarole
Penne with Grilled Salmon, Asparagus and Lemon Butter
Linguine with Tuna, Lemon and Arugula
Spiral Pasta with Shrimp, Peas and Tomatoes

{March 29, 2011}   Quick and Delicious Dinner

My menu plan for last night more or less got thrown out the window for various reasons. I keep plain chicken breast in the freezer for just that sort of occurance.

I thawed the chicken and found a simple and fast recipe in my 365 Great 20 Minute Recipes cookbook (out of print? I can’t find a link)

The recipe is called Ginger Chicken Saute and it really did take me only 20 minutes to get dinner on the table.  This is recipe #106 of Project 365I had rice already cooked in the fridge, so I heated that up with a tiny bit of water in the microwave. Meanwhile I also sauteed some snap peas and yellow squash.

Dinner is served! Yum! Very gingery.

This could also be done as a make-ahead or OAMC meal if you make the marinade and freeze the chicken. Just cook and eat in that case. Easy Peasy! I will make this again for sure. Hubby inhaled it too, which is always a bonus.

The Menu this Week. March 19-25 2011

It’s official! I am ¼ of the way through Project 365. I have made 92 recipes. Only 273 left to go! I am about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, but I’m anticipating a lot of days in April and later this summer when I will not be cooking at all.

Dinners this week are mostly from the pantry. Pretty much the only things I need from the store this week is a pound of hamburger and a large package of chicken.

As usual, these are most likely not in the order that I will make them. I’ve been trying to get the husband and kidling to eat more fruits and vegetables so I will also serve melon, grapes, pineapple and/or oranges with dinner. And bread. Always with the bread.

SatCanton Chicken and Rice  from 1001 Low Fat

Sun – Chicken Stew with Parsley Dumplings (my own stew from the freezer) from 1001 Low Fat

Mon – Pork Schnitzel from Rachael Ray’s 365 No Repeats and Rice Pilaf with Shallots and Parmesan from Cooking Light 2004

TuesPasta Shells with Tuscan Tuna from Cooking Light 2004

Wed – Beef and Been Burritos from 1001 Low Fat and Zucchini with Oregano and Sun dried tomatoes from Asparagus to Zucchini and Herbed Polenta from 1001 More Low Fat

Thurs – Knit night. Hubby and kidling to eat leftovers or order pizza.

Fri – Fettuccini with Chicken Piccata from 1001 More Low Fat

Breakfasts – Almond Pancakes from Beyond the Moon and Muffins (undecided. Strawberry?)

Lunches – (also doubles as side dishes) Potato Salad with Parsley and Chives from Cooking Light 2004, Macaroni Salad from 1001 More Low Fat, Armenian Bean Salad from Asparagus to Zucchini and Egg Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes from Beyond the Moon.

Dessert – Double Crust Blueberry Pie from 1001 Low Fat (made with home-canned blueberries)

Lentils – Make ahead and freeze.

Lentils are cheap and easy. For a little more than a dollar, I can get a whole pound of dried brown lentils.

They are also good for you. They are low in fat and high in fiber, protein and folate. They are a good source of iron and potassium. One cup of cooked lentils has 230 calories, almost no fat, 7mg of iron and 16 grams of protein. Plus they are delicious!

I cook the entire bag of lentils, either in water or broth, then freeze the cooked lentils in 1-2 cup portions. A vacuum sealer works wonders for this. Try to freeze the packages as flat as possible so that you can stack them in your freezer like library books.  Don’t forget to label and date the bags. This same method also works for barley and rice. It is nice to be able to make soups, salads and pilafs almost instantly because you have done much of the work ahead of time.

When you are ready to make a lentil dish, just thaw and add the lentils.

Some lentil recipes I’ve tried recently: (recipe titles are links to the recipes)

Lentil Pear and Goat Cheese Salad – from Eat Well Stay Well

Lentil and Fennel Salad – from Cooking Light (holey smokes batman! This is fantastic!)

Lentil Salad with Spinach, Cheddar and Pecans  – from Food & Wine

Country Lentil Soup

– from 1001 Low Fat



And some old favorites:

Bacon and Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Bacon – from Food & Wine (this freezes well)

Tomato Lentil Salad

Mushroom and Lentil Soup – from Super Foods (this soup also freezes well)

Green Lentil and Mixed Vegetable Pan Fry

– from What’s Cooking Vegetarian


Still need more ideas? These are on my to-be-tried list:

Lentil Soup with Chard – from Cooking Light

Bay Scented Lentil Salad with Pancetta – from Cooking Light

Barley-Lentil Salad – from Beyond the Moon

Lentil Vegetable Soup – from Horn of the Moon

Lentil and Pancetta Soup – from Cooking Light

Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf – from 1000 Great Recipes

Sweet and Sour Lentils – from Moosewood Low Fat Favorites

{March 11, 2011}   Parsley Potato Carrot Hash

Last fall, at the pumpkin patch, I picked up the most incredible vegetable cookbook. From Asparagus to Zucchini, A Guide to Cooking Farm Fresh Seasonal Produce. I have been slowly working through every recipe in the book.

This is just the latest recipe that I’ve tried. And it’s a keeper!

Parsly Potato Carrot Hash

{March 10, 2011}   1001 Low Fat Recipes

Project 365 Marches on. As of today, I am at 78 recipes. Ahead of schedule on purpose since I know there are quite a few days coming in April that I will not be cooking.

I am slowly adding series of books to my cookbook collection. The 1001 series by Sue Spitler is one of these. I have four, with plans to add at least two more.

Let’s start with 1001 Low Fat Recipes. So far this year I have made five recipes from this book; Italian Turkey Burgers, Chicken China Moon, Garbanzo Parsley Salad, Artichoke Delight, Country Lentil Soup and Potato Seafood Cakes.

Except for the Seafood Cakes, which I ended up heavily modifying, everything has been delicious. The recipes are well written, easy to follow and flavorful. Not something you always get from a low fat cookbook.

Other recipes I have tried (prior to 2011’s Project 365) include
Mushrooms in Vermouth and Turkey Marsala.

I have a ton of recipes tagged to try soon as well. Mushroom Barley Soup with Herbs, Chinese Coleslaw, Fruit Filled Muffins, Salmon Salad Farfalle, Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry, Easy Chicken Saltimbocca, Golden Spaghetti Squash… I could go on and on.

One thing I really like about this book, compared to other low fat books, is that it doesn’t call for a lot of “low fat” product substitutions. Instead, she uses less oil and cooking techniques to make the recipes healthy. They rely heavily on seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs. Food itself has a lot of flavor if you cook it right.

Most of the recipes take 30 minutes or less and don’t have an extensive list of ingredients. Additonally, they do not call for hard to find or “weird” ingredients. There are a lot of re-worked classic dishes throughout the book.

There are 18 chapters, starting with Appetizers. This is a very well organized book. Sometimes the chapters may be short, but it makes recipes very easy to find.  For example, there is a whole chapter on Dinner Sauces. Vegetable Entrees are followed by Vegetable Side Dishes.

et cetera