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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COMFORT CHICKEN WITH CELERY – ONION DRESSING / THYME – MARJORAM GREEN BEANS WITH CELERY & ONION

–4 chicken tenderloins or breast strips

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–breadcrumbs (plain, packaged, I use Pepperidge Farm herbed)

–celery (2 stalks, divided)

–onion (one-half, divided)

–green beans (frozen)

–thyme, marjoram (bottled)

–salt and pepper

–olive oil

1 – Place the chicken in a covered baking dish with a little chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle plain breadcrumbs, a small bit, on top.  Set aside.

2 – Chop 1 stalk of celery, and divide between 2 individual, microwaveable serving bowls.  Chop one-fourth onion, and divide between the 2 bowls.  Add a small amount of chicken broth and olive oil.  Cover, and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Then add stuffing, chicken broth, and olive oil, and stir well.  Set aside.

3 – Place 1 chopped stalk of onion and one-fourth chopped onion in a covered baking dish with a little water and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes.  Then add green beans.  Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and marjoram.  Stir.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

4 – Microwave the chicken for 5 and one-half minutes.

5 – Microwave the dressing for 1 minute.

6 – Serve the chicken hot, atop the dressing, with the green beans as a side.

–green beans adapted from Betty Crocker; other recipes original.

An Encore Holiday Dinner for 2:  THYME CORNISH HEN WITH FAUX BACON IN RED WINE – CURRANT JELLY SAUCE / DRESSING WITH MUSHROOMS – ONION – PARSLEY IN BROTH

Note:  It will take 3 days to thaw a frozen Cornish hen in the refrigerator.

–1 Cornish hen (game hen)

–thyme (bottled)

–Bac’n pieces (soy bacon)

–red wine (cooking wine is fine)

–red currant jelly (bottled)

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–breadcrumbs (I used Pepperidge Farm herbed)

–parsley (fresh)

–onion (one-half, sliced)

–mushrooms (sliced, baby bellas)

1 – While still encased in plastic, cut through the Cornish hen lengthwise, just to one side of the backbone.  Place in a large, covered baking dish with a very little chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 7 minutes; then turn the hen over, and microwave for 7 minutes more.

2 – Place 2 tablespoons of red currant jelly in a microwaveable cup.  Add one-fourth cup of red wine.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Pour over the cooked Cornish hen.  Then sprinkle the hen with Bac’n pieces.

3 – Place one-half sliced onion, chopped parsley, and sliced baby bells mushrooms (1 handful) in a covered baking dish with a little chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 4 minutes.  Then add a generous amount of breadcrumbs and more chicken broth.  Stir well.  Season with olive oil.  Microwave for 1 minute more.

4 – Serve one-half Cornish hen to each person, with sauce spooned over the hen and the dressing.  I also served baked potatoes with plain yogurt and broccoli (for recipes, use the search box in this blog).

–Cornish hen adapted from astray recipes.com; dressing adapted from To the Taste of a King.

A Holiday Dinner for 2:  BACON – FLAVORED CORNISH HENS WITH MUSHROOMS & ONION IN BROTH / PARSLEYED DRESSING WITH MINCED MUSHROOMS & ONIONS / WHIPPED SWEET POTATOES WITH CINNAMON / ASPARAGUS IN PARMESAN WHITE SAUCE / BUTTER LETTUCE WITH GREEN GRAPES – FETA CHEESE – TOASTED WALNUTS IN BALSAMIC VINEGAR & EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Note:  Allow 90 minutes of preparation time for this dinner, even if you are an experienced cook.

–Cornish hen (thawed from frozen)

–Bac’n pieces

–mushrooms (divided, baby bellas, 6 to 8)

–onion (divided, three quarters of a medium onion)

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–Stovetop stuffing mix (boxed, chicken flavor)

–parsley (fresh if possible)

–sweet potatoes (2, medium)

–cinnamon (bottled)

–asparagus (steamable in microwave; I use PicSweet)

–flour

–milk (dairy or almond; soy doesn’t work well in microwave)

–Parmesan cheese

–butter lettuce (one-half package)

–green grapes (seedless, about a dozen, split)

–feta cheese (half a small container)

–toasted walnuts (toast in microwave, 1 handful)

–balsamic vinegar

–extra virgin olive oil

1 – Place one-half package of butter lettuce in a mixing bowl.  Add a dozen grapes, each cut into two pieces.  Add half a small container of feta cheese.  Add 1 handful of toasted walnuts.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in refrigerator until just before dinner.

2 – Slice 6 baby bella mushrooms into fine strips.  Add to a large, covered baking dish.  Slice one-half onion, and add to the dish.  Add a small amount of chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes. 

3 – Using a sharp butcher knife and a fork, cut the Cornish hen in half.  Lay each half on its side, atop the mushrooms and onion.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Set aside.

4 – Scrub the sweet potatoes, and then pierce all around with a fork.  Place on a microwaveable dish.  Microwave for 7 minutes; then turn over, and microwave for 8 minutes more.  Test sweet potatoes during cooking to see when they are soft to the touch.  (Be careful; potatoes will be very hot.)  Let cool briefly before handling.

5 – Mince 2 mushrooms (baby bellas) and one-quarter onion.  Place in individual microwaveable bowls with a little chicken broth.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Set aside.

6 – Place one-half cup of milk in a microwaveable cup.  In a separate cup, place one level tablespoon of flour.  Microwave the milk for 45 seconds.  Slowly add the milk to the flour, beating briskly.  Pour the milk and flour into a covered baking dish.  Sprinkle a generous amount of Parmesan cheese on top.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes. 

7 – Cut open the sweet potatoes, and then cut crossways to make chunks.  Add to a food processor.  Add milk (dairy or almond) to the food processor.  Pulse until smooth, adding milk to desired consistency.  Place the whipped sweet potatoes in a microwaveable baking dish for reheating later, before dinner.

8 – Microwave the steamable package of asparagus for 3 and one-half minutes.  Add the asparagus to the Parmesan white sauce.  Keep covered to preserve warmth.

9 – Microwave the Cornish hen for 5 minutes.  Then turn over, sprinkle more Bac’n pieces on top, and microwave for 5 minutes more.

10 – Microwave the whipped sweet potatoes for 2 minutes on high.

11 – Add Stovetop dressing to the individual microwaveable bowls with the minced mushrooms and onion.  Stir.  Add chopped parsley to the top.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.

12 – Add balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to the salad.  Fold gently.

13 – Serve the salad as a first course.  Then serve the Cornish hen, one half to each person, with the dressing, sweet potatoes and asparagus as sides.

–dressing adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe, from To the Taste of a King; other recipes original.

COD WITH MUSHROOM – ONION – CELERY WHOLE WHEAT DRESSING / BUTTER BEANS / GREEN SALAD WITH WALNUTS – FETA – AVOCADO

–cod (size of 3 decks of cards, one-half pound)

–baby bella mushrooms (6 or 8)

–onion (one half, medium)

–celery (1 stalk)

–Bac’n pieces (soy bacon)

–whole wheat bread (2 slices)

–salt and pepper

–parsley

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–olive oil

–butter beans (canned)

–salad greens

–walnuts (a handful)

–feta cheese (one-half cup)

–avocado (1, medium)

–salad dressing (your favorite)

–croutons (1 handful)

1 – Rinse the mushrooms and celery.  Then slice the mushrooms, celery, and onion.  Place in a covered baking dish with a little chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Break apart the whole wheat bread, and stir into the vegetables.  Place the cod on top.  Season with salt, pepper, olive oil, and parsley.  Set aside.

2 – Rinse the butter beans in a colander.  Place in a covered baking dish with a little water.  Season with pepper and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes.

3 – Place one-half package of salad greens in a mixing bowl.  Pour in the feta cheese and walnuts.  Break apart the avocado and dice.  Gently flow in the avocado with your favorite salad dressing.  Sprinkle the top with croutons.

4 – Microwave the cod and dressing for 7 minutes (more because of the volume of food).  Cod is done when it begins to break apart.

5 – Serve the cod on top of the dressing, hot, with the hot butter beans as a side.  Serve the salad cold as an appetizer.

–recipes original.