Linguine with white-bean sauce is a fast vegetarian meal for a weeknight. Prepare 8 to 10 ounces of whole wheat linguine according to package instructions. In a large skillet, sauté 1 diced onion and red pepper in olive oil. When soft, add 2 cloves minced garlic. Add 1 can drained, rinsed white beans and heat through. Add 1 cup vegetable stock, a few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, red pepper flakes and coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Smash about half of the beans to thicken sauce. Mix sauce with drained, cooked pasta and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and more parsley. Green salad with grape tomatoes on the side.
Tuesday: Hot legs
Chicken can be expensive, but chicken legs are often a bargain. Tonight, make hot Szechuan chicken legs and serve with doctored coleslaw. (Drain store-bought slaw of excess dressing and add pineapple chunks and sliced water chestnuts.)
To prepare 10 legs, heat oven to 350 degrees and beat 2 eggs. In a separate shallow dish, mix 1 (6-ounce) bag of well-crushed chow mein noodles and a packet of hot and spicy Szechuan seasoning. Dunk legs into beaten eggs, let excess drip off and dredge through coating (or shake in plastic bag). Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray and bake legs for 30 to 35 minutes.
Wednesday: Open-face gyros
Give your rotisserie chicken a tasty twist with Middle Eastern chicken flatbread. Spread store-bought roasted garlic hummus on toasted pita or flatbread. Layer on shredded rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced cucumbers, diced tomatoes and shredded Romaine lettuce. Sprinkle red wine vinaigrette over all. Serve with a side of couscous studded with toasted almonds and sliced dried apricots.
Thursday: Tradition rules
The Columbia restaurant’s 1905 Salad (see recipe) has been a tradition at the Tampa Bay restaurant chain since the 1940s. (The name comes from the year the Columbia was founded.) It is often served as a side salad there but it’s easily a main-dish offering thanks to the meat and cheese. The dressing makes the dish, so don’t shy away from preparing it from scratch.
Friday: Grilled steak
Marinated grilled skirt steak with sautéed onions and mushrooms pairs well with a Caesar salad. Marinate the beef in whatever you like and toss it on a hot grill. Start the veggie sauté with sliced onions seasoned with salt and pepper in olive oil. Let soften and add some fresh thyme leaves. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until they are soft and have given up their liquid. Top cooked beef with veggie melange. I’d gild the whole thing with some Roquefort crumbles. Pungent and bright.
Saturday: Easy Entertaining
Your guests will welcome Mustard-Crusted Salmon (see recipe) for dinner tonight. Serve with sugar snap peas and couscous. Add a spinach salad and baguettes.
For a showstopper dessert, serve maple-sauced pears. In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place 6 peeled and cored pears upright. Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup maple-flavored syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine, 1 teaspoon orange zest and 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger. Pour over pears. Cover and cook on high 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Remove pears; place upright in serving dish. Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice; stir into sauce in cooker. Cover and cook on high 10 minutes or until thickened. Spoon over pears.
Sunday: Family Day
Impress the family with your own broiled lamb chops. On the side, you’ll further make a good impression with creamy Mashed Potato Bake (see recipe). Add green peas with cucumbers. Cook frozen petite green peas as usual; drain, then stir in 1 cup diced seedless cucumber, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon dried dill and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.
Add whole-grain rolls. Colorful Cherry Pie Cups (see recipe) are an easy dessert.
Original Columbia ‘1905’ Salad
For the dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
For the salad:
4 cups iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 ripe tomato, cut into eighths
1/2 cup baked ham, julienned (may substitute turkey or shrimp)
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, julienned
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green Spanish olives
2 cups dressing
1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Make the dressing: Mix olive oil, garlic and oregano in a bowl with a wire whisk. Stir in vinegar, gradually beating to form an emulsion, and then season with salt and pepper. For best results, prepare 1 to 2 days in advance and refrigerate.
Make the salad: Combine lettuce, tomato, ham, Swiss cheese and olives in a large salad bowl. Before serving, add dressing, Romano cheese, Worcestershire and the juice of 1 lemon. Toss well and serve immediately. Makes 2 full salads or 4 side salads.
Source: Columbia restaurant.
MASHED POTATO BAKE
4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup hot skim milk
1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 ounces 50 percent reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
Cook potatoes in boiling water about 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Combine cooked potatoes, milk, cream cheese, sour cream, parsley flakes, garlic powder, salt and nutmeg. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high until potatoes are fairly smooth and creamy. Spoon mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bacon. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot. Makes 14 servings.
Per serving: 213 calories, 10 g protein, 9 g fat (36 percent calories from fat), 5.3 g saturated fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 30 mg cholesterol, 272 mg sodium, 3 g fiber. Carb choices: 1 1/2.
CHERRY PIE CUPS
2 refrigerated piecrusts (from 2-crust box), softened as directed
1 (21-ounce) can light cherry pie filling
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Unroll crusts on work surface. With 3 1/2- or 4-inch round cutter, cut 6 rounds from each crust; discard scraps. Fit rounds into 12 ungreased regular-size muffin cups, pressing in gently. Spoon about 2 tablespoons pie filling into each crust-lined cup. Bake 14 to 18 minutes or until edges are golden-brown and filling is bubbly. Makes 12 cups.
Per cup: 136 calories, 1 g protein, 7 g fat (47 percent calories from fat), 3.1 g saturated fat, 17 g carbohydrates, 3 mg cholesterol, 153 mg sodium, 1 g fiber. Carb choices: 1.
1 1/4 pounds center-cut salmon fillets, cut into 4 portions
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Heat broiler. Line broiler pan with foil, then coat with cooking spray. Place salmon, skin-side down, on pan. Season with salt and pepper. Combine sour cream, mustard and lemon juice. Spread evenly over salmon. Broil 5 inches from heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until salmon is opaque in center. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 216 calories, 30 g protein, 8 g fat (37 percent calories from fat), 2.3 g saturated fat, 1 g carbohydrates, 74 mg cholesterol, 298 mg sodium, no fiber. Carb choices: 0.