A Holiday Dinner Made Easy:  THYME CORNISH HENS WITH SHREDDED CARROT – MUSHROOMS – ONION IN BROTH / SLOW COOKER FIELD PEAS & SNAPS WITH ONION / ROMAINE SALAD WITH VEGGIES IN OLIVE GARDEN SIGNATURE DRESSING / DRESSING WITH MUSHROOMS – ONION – PARSLEY / SQUASH CASSEROLE / GREEN BEANS WITH SLICED ALMONDS

Note:  This is a largely make-ahead (same day) dinner, using the refrigerator to keep food cold until time for the microwave.  The dinner is served informally, as a buffet from baking dishes, in order to keep the food as hot as possible after microwaving in sequence.

For 4:

–Cornish hens (2, split)

–shredded carrots (1 handful)

–onion (one-half, sliced)

–mushrooms (4 or 5, sliced)

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–thyme

–salt and pepper

–olive oil

–field peas with snaps (packaged, frozen)

–onion (one-half, sliced)

–Bac’n pieces (soy bacon)

–squash (yellow, 2, medium)

–onion (one-half, sliced)

–breadcrumbs (plain, boxed)

–green beans (frozen, packaged)

–almonds (sliced, one-half small package)

–dressing (stuffing; I used Pepperidge Farm cornbread)

–mushrooms (4 or 5, minced)

–onion (one-half, minced)

–parsley (1 handful, minced)

–romaine lettuce (heart romaine, 5 or 6 leaves)

–carrots (shredded, 1 handful)

–green onions (2 stalks, chopped)

–tomato (medium, chopped, fresh)

–zucchini (1, sliced, fresh)

–broccoli florets (1 head of florets, cut small)

–Olive Garden signature salad dressing (bottled)

Note:  Thaw the Cornish hens in the refrigerator for 2 and one-half to 3 days.  If you have less time, submerge the hens in cold, salted water for an hour or two, no more.

1 – Prepare the field peas with snaps and onion right after breakfast.  Use one-half large package of peas, and one-half chopped onion.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Cook on low in the slow cooker for 5 hours, checking for tenderness at that point.  If more tender peas are desired, cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Then place the setting on warm until time for dinner.

2 – Also right after breakfast, prepare the salad in a mixing bowl.  Break 5 or 6 romaine (heart) leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Cut off the broccoli florets, being careful to make the pieces bite-sized.  Add 1 handful of shredded carrots to the bowl.  Chop 2 stalks of green onion.  Slice 1 zucchini.  Chop 1 medium tomato, season with salt, pepper, and basil.  Gently stir the salad.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the refrigerator.  (Salad dressing will be added later.)

3 – Slice a few mushrooms, and place in a long covered baking dish.  Slice half an onion, and also place in the dish.  With a very large knife and a fork to hold the hens, cut the Cornish hens into two parts, just to the right or left of the backbone.  Be very careful of your hands, as the hen may slip.  Place the hens in the baking dish.  Sprinkle shredded carrots, 1 handful, on top.  Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and olive oil.  Add chicken broth about one-third height of the dish.   Cover and place in the refrigerator.

TAKE A BREAK UNTIL AFTER LUNCH

4 – Place 3 cups of green beans in a covered baking dish with a little water.  Sprinkle a generous amount of sliced almonds on top.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Place in the refrigerator.

5 – Slice 2 medium yellow squash, and place in a covered baking dish, with NO water.  Slice one-half onion, and mingle with the squash.  Season with salt, pepper, and Bac’n pieces.  Sprinkle a small amount of plain breadcrumbs on top.  Season the casserole with olive oil.  Place in the refrigerator.

6 – Finely chop 4 or 5 baby bella mushrooms, and place in a covered baking dish.  Finely chop one-half onion, and place in the dish.  Finely chop 1 handful of fresh parsley, and place in the dish.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Add a little chicken broth.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes.  When finished, place 1 cup of plain cornbread stuffing in the dish.  Stir well.  Add more chicken broth to reach desired consistency.  Use a little more olive oil on top.  Place in the refrigerator.

SET THE TABLE AND THEN REST

7 – Microwave in this order to preserve most warmth:  Microwave squash casserole for 5 minutes; green beans, 6 minutes; dressing, 3 minutes; and then Cornish hens, 20 minutes.  Microwave the dressing again for 1 minute, if piping hot is desired.  Serve the field peas from the slow cooker, taking them away from heat at the last moment.

8 – Add Olive Garden signature Italian dressing to the salad.  Serve the salad as a first course, when there are about 10 minutes left for cooking the hens.  

–Cornish hens, squash, field peas, green beans, salad recipes original; dressing adapted from To the Taste of a King (fifties Louisiana cookbook).

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