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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CHICKEN WRAPPED IN GARLIC – HERB BREADCRUMBS  WITH PEACH SAUCE / BARBECUED BEANS / BROCCOLI SLAW

–4 chicken tenderloins or breast strips

–garlic – herb breadcrumbs

–peach preserves

–salt and pepper

–olive oil

–great Northern beans (dried; soak overnight)

–barbecue sauce (bottled; I use Bull’s Eye Original)

–Bac’n pieces (soy bacon)

–chicken broth (non-fat, low sodium)

–broccoli (half a head)

–cold slaw dressing

1 – Soak two-thirds cup of great Northern beans overnight.  Then place in a slow cooker.  Add chicken broth to cover.  Season with pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Cook on low for 5 hours.  Then add one-third cup of barbecue sauce.  Stir.  Continue cooking for another hour, for 6 hours total.  Keep setting on warm until time for dinner.  (Barbecue sauce will keep the beans from tendering if it is added at the beginning.)

2 – Place the chicken in a plastic bag.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Pour a generous amount of garlic – herb breadcrumbs in the bag.  Shake well.  Then place the chicken in a covered baking dish with a very little water.  Spoon peach preserves, moderate amount, over the top of the chicken.  Set aside.

3 – Wash and cut apart one-half head of broccoli.  Cut further to allow shredding in a food processor.  Shred, and then place in a mixing bowl.  Season with salt.  Just before serving, season with cole slaw dressing.  Stir well.  Keep refrigerated until time for dinner.

4 – Microwave the chicken on high for 5 minutes.

5 – Serve the chicken hot, with the broccoli and barbecued beans as sides.  I also served squash casserole (recipe, see the search box on this blog).

–chicken and broccoli recipes adapted from the recipes of a friend in Minnesota; other recipes original.

BACON – FLAVORED CHICKEN WITH APPLE SLICES IN BRANDY SAUCE / SPINACH WITH LEMON PEPPER / SCALLOP SQUASH CASSEROLE

–4 chicken tenderloins or breast strips

–Bac’n pieces (soy bacon)

–apple (1, fresh)

–brandy (buy a small, inexpensive bottle)

–spinach (package)

–lemon pepper (bottled)

–scallop squash (4, medium)

–Vidalia onion (1, medium)

–salt and pepper

–olive oil

1 – Peel and slice 1 apple.  Place in a covered baking dish with a little brandy.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes.  Nestle the chicken in the midst of the apples. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Set aside.

2 – Place the spinach in a large, wide-mouthed, covered baking dish.  Add 1 inch of water.  Season with salt, pepper, lemon pepper, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

3 – Peel and slice the scallop squash.  Peel and slice the Vidalia onion.  Place the squash and onion in a covered baking dish.  Stir.  Season with salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, and olive oil.  Microwave on high for 4 minutes.

4 – Microwave the chicken for 6 minutes.

5 – Serve the chicken hot, with the spinach and squash as sides.

–chicken adapted from The Best of French Cooking; other recipes original.

CHICKEN TENDERS PIQUANT WITH RED WINE – TERIYAKI – GINGER – BROWN SUGAR / SQUASH CASSEROLE / BABY BUTTER BEANS WITH FAUX BACON

–4 chicken tenderloins or breast strips

–oregano

–garlic salt

–ginger

–red wine (cooking wine is fine)

–teriyaki sauce (bottled)

–Dejon mustard

–brown sugar

–olive oil

–summer squash (5, small)

–Vidalia onion (1, small)

–Bac’n pieces

–plain breadcrumbs (boxed)

–salt and pepper

–baby butter beans (dried; soak overnight)

–Promise Activ margarine (heart-healthy)

 

1 – Place two-thirds cup of butter beans in a slow cooker.  Add water to 1 inch above the beans.  Season with salt, pepper, olive oil, Promise Activ margarine, and Bac’n pieces.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Then keep on “warm” setting until time for dinner.

2 – Place the chicken in a covered baking dish.  Season with oregano, garlic salt, and ginger.  In a small bowl, mix one-half cup of red wine, 2 tablespoons of Dejon mustard, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, and a few drops of olive oil.  Stir well, and then pour around the chicken.  If time permits, let marinate for an hour before cooking.  Set aside.

3 – Peel and slice the squash.  Peel and slice the onion.  Add half the squash to a covered baking dish.  Add half the onion also.  Then season with salt, pepper, olive oil, Bac’n pieces, and breadcrumbs (a small amount).  Add the remaining half of the squash and onion, and season as before.  Microwave for 5 minutes on high.

4 – Microwave the chicken for 5 minutes on high.

5 – Serve the chicken hot, with the squash and butter beans as sides.

–chicken adapted from Elegant but Easy Cookbook; other recipes original.

CURRY – GINGER TILAPIA WITH ONION / SQUASH CASSEROLE / GREEN BEANS WITH WALNUTS

Note:  You may substitute deveined, tail-off shrimp for the tilapia.

 

–2 tilapia (medium)

–curry

–ginger

–cayenne pepper

–clam juice

–onion (1 medium, divided)

–lemon juice

–fine plain breadcrumbs (boxed)

–olive oil

–salt and pepper

–squash (4 small, fresh)

–Bac’n pieces

–green beans (frozen)

–walnuts

 

1 – Slice half an onion and place in bottom of covered baking dish.  Add one-quarter cup of clam juice.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Cook on high in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Set aside.

2 – Place the tilapia in a plastic bag.  Drench in lemon juice.  Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Add one-third cup of breadcrumbs.  Shake well.  Place in the baking dish with the clam juice.  Season the tilapia, on top, with the curry, ginger, cayenne pepper, and a little more olive oil.  Set aside.

3 – Slice the squash and one-half onion.  Place in covered baking dish in layers, adding Bac’n pieces, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, and olive oil to each layer.  Cook in the microwave on high for 4 minutes.

4 – Add two handfuls of green beans to a covered baking dish.  Top with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a handful of walnuts.  Cook on high in the microwave for 4 minutes.

5 – Cook the tilapia for 6 minutes on high in the microwave.

6 – Serve the dinner hot.

–tilapia adapted from White House Chef Cookbook; squash and green beans original. 

HERBED CATFISH / OVEN FRIED OKRA / SQUASH CASSEROLE

Note:  Now that I have a herb garden, this catfish recipe is a favorite go-to recipe.  The okra and squash are favorites of my husband Paul.

–3 small catfish fillets

–parsley, thyme, oregano, basil (fresh is possible)

–paprika, garlic powder

–salt and pepper

–olive oil

–okra (cut, fresh if possible or frozen)

–cornbread stuffing mix

–2 small squash (fresh)

–onion

–fine bread crumbs (plain)

–Bac’n pieces (soy artificial bacon)

 

1 – Place the tilapia fillets in the bottom of a baking dish with cover.  Add a small amount of water, just to cover bottom of dish and allow steaming.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  Snip with kitchen shears very tiny bits of thyme, oregano, and basil.  Season with olive oil.  Set aside.

2 – If fresh okra, cut in small chunks about one-half inch in diameter.  If frozen, use cut okra.  Dump in baking dish without cover.  Add two inches of water (about half the level of the okra).  Salt and pepper the okra.  Add a very small amount of olive oil.  Cook on high for five minutes.  Then cook on 50 percent power for 9 minutes.  Add cornbread stuffing mix, stirring well; be sure to cover okra thoroughly.  Add more olive oil (but not much).  Cook on high for 1 minute.  Cover with lid to keep warm.

3 – Slice the squash diagonally and then halve each piece.  Chop one onion.  Make two layers:  squash, onion, salt, pepper, Bac’n pieces, small amount of bread crumbs, olive oil.  Cover with lid and cook for 5 minutes.

4 – Cook the catfish for six minutes.

5 – Serve hot.

–catfish adapted from Allrecipes; okra and squash casserole original.