Your easy Middle Eastern menu will buy you all kinds of time tonight. And time is what we need around the holidays. Make a tabbouleh salad using a kit from the natural-foods aisle and serve with roasted red pepper hummus dip and crackers.
To make the dip, mix prepared red pepper hummus with feta cheese crumbles and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve with some whole roasted almonds and dried apricots.
Tuesday: Pot o’ gold
Turkey Chili (see recipe) is a hearty dinner that you can make over the weekend and heat it up as you need it. The recipe calls for a full slate of spices, but you can substitute a packet of your favorite chili seasoning if you’d like. (I’d also drop in a 1-ounce square of unsweetened baking chocolate to the bubbling mix.) Serve with corn bread.
Wednesday: Chicken salad
With big dinners planned at your house or someone else’s, you won’t feel much like preparing other meals. During the day, encourage the family to nibble on chicken salad with grapes and pecans as a sandwich or wrap filling or on crackers. Shred the meat from a rotisserie bird and mix with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, halved grapes, and chopped pecans. Make sure there is some fresh fruit around.
Thursday: Give food
Today is the day to think of others, so why not put together a basket of food to deliver to a friend with lots of relatives visiting? Or make peace with your mother-in-law. Load up a tray with some pastries, a loaf of crusty bread, good butter and an interesting jar of marmalade or jam along with a few cheeses (a cranberry-studded white cheddar and a spreadable St. Andre, for example). Fresh orange juice in a pretty container is a thoughtful accompaniment.
Friday: Go light
After one week of indulgence and another week to come, take a deep breath, if you can, and eat simply today. The leftovers will keep. For dinner, serve Caesar salad with grilled shrimp.
On the grill or your inside grill pan, cook skewered shrimp that have been brushed with a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. Serve the skewers over ice-cold, crunchy Caesar salad. And then brace for New Year’s week.
Saturday: Easy Entertaining
Baked flounder with fresh lemon pepper will please any guest. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 2 cloves minced garlic.
Place 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Rub lemon mixture evenly over fillets. Bake 8 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with parsley buttered potatoes and sliced fresh carrots. Add a Boston lettuce salad and baguettes. For dessert, buy a cheesecake.
Sunday: Family Day
Prepare your own roast chicken for the family. Accompany it with Baked Wild Rice with Mushrooms (see recipe). Add fresh broccoli and whole-grain rolls. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.
Easy Spicy Turkey Chili
For the chili:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium red bell pepper, medium dice
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
2 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
2 (14-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
Shredded cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium high, add the turkey and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until it's no longer pink and is just cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the chili powder, measured salt, oregano, cumin, cayenne and cinnamon, stirring to coat the turkey and vegetables, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and their juices as well as the broth or stock, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the bay leaf and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf. Taste and season with additional salt as needed. Serve with the cheese, sour cream and chips, for topping. Serves 6.
Baked Wild Rice with Mushrooms
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1/2 cup long-grain rice
3 cups cubed day-old French bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
Rinse and cook wild rice according to directions; cook long-grain rice according to directions. Spread bread cubes in a single layer on baking sheet; broil 5 to 6 inches from heat 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir after 2 minutes; set aside. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook 3 more minutes; stir occasionally. Add sage, thyme, salt, pepper and both cooked rices; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in stock. Add pecans and toasted bread; toss lightly. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and bake 40 minutes or until hot. Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 183 calories, 5 g protein, 6 g fat (28 percent calories from fat), 0.6 g saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrates, no cholesterol, 167 mg sodium, 2 g fiber. Carb choices: 2.