Totally a winter person, I’m never happier than when I get up early to find the world frozen solid with snowflakes dancing down in the glorious mist. Once the coffee is made, I cast my eyes around the kitchen to see what’s available to bake for breakfast. Who doesn’t want to turn the oven on when the windchill is below zero? This morning, I saw I had way over two hours before it was time to leave for worship (if we made it – the roads were looking slick) and quickly zeroed in on a bunch of blackening bananas. Banana Bread it was, but it needed to be banana bread with a healthy twist. Yes, I’m on a roll. Bad pun there.
At our house, a wedge salad shows up most often in the good ol’ summertime. One week there’s a run on BLTs and the next, wedge salads begin to appear at the side of grilled burgers or chops. There’s no good reason not have them come winter, but maybe it’s about tomatoes? I would, however, be the first person to tell you homegrown Colorado tomatoes are not so terribly wonderful even in high summer. So, no. They are not Illinois tomatoes, nor are they New Jersey tomatoes. They crack from overwatering or they wait for October snows only to be ushered into the house for a very sad and slow paper bag ripening. Sometimes they’re ready (or rotted) by Thanksgiving. That said, I’ve not a true complaint as I keep a large carton of Campari tomatoes on hand 52 weeks a year. Which is why, once in a happy while during January, a summer-ish wedge makes an appearance on our dinner table, much to my husband’s thrilled amazement and big-eyed wonder. (He’s a big wedge fan because #1 he loves blue cheese and #2 he loves bacon more. If there’s a wedge on a restaurant menu, he’ll order it. Almost always.) And when I was pondering all of this the other day, ready for our January splurge, I wondered why we couldn’t have a wedge for breakfast? I love eggs with any vegetables; you might remember. I mean, nearly everyone eats Huevos Rancheros with lettuce and tomato, don’t they? Some breakfast tacos come with shredded lettuce and tiny diced tomatoes, too. What about veggie benedicts? Our favorite breakfast place serves a ton of salads with fried eggs, or avocado toast, or omelets. And anyway, bacon — a main wedge ingredient — is for sure breakfast food. So why not a BREAKFAST WEDGE? A nice hunk of blue-cheesy lettuce and some lacy fried eggs. Really crisp bacon. I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. Maybe a side of UK grilled mushrooms and tomatoes?
If you’re like lots of other folks come January, you might be cutting back on this or that–maybe carbs, red meat, fat, sugar, or alcohol. Or did you make a commitment to increase your veggies? Sigh. Same here; I’m watching what’s going in with the hope of making up for the few extra pieces of bread and glasses of wine I enjoyed during the Mexican cruise. But there’s no need to suffer and every reason to adore the meals meant to increase health and decrease the waistline. This Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli Bean Bowl (how do I name these things?) is a new favorite at our house and because it’s made up of mostly pantry and colorful vegetable bin ingredients, it goes together pretty quickly and fills you up. While the Brussels sprouts and broccoli roast, there’s time to chop the rest of the vegetables and grab the last few ingredients that serve as a dressing. Garnishes of juicy cherry tomatoes and perky olives top the whole thing off and, while I didn’t think hard about it at first, this vegetable-heavy meal scores at the checkout, too at about $4 or less per serving (depending on how you make it or which sales you hit.) And if that’s not enough, you’re getting about 15 grams of protein in each 2-cup serving! Between the tender-crisp roasted sprouts and broccoli, the crunchy fresh vegetables, the creamy beans, the bright lemon, and the briny high notes, my bowl sings of balance, textural difference, and colorful vibrance. Since the ingredient list isn’t terribly short (chop, chop, chop), I offer a quicker option without a few of the fresh vegetables. (Perhaps as a side for a game day spread? Add feta for fun.) Many home cooks look at long ingredient lists and quickly move on, so I offer this option if that’s you. I keep any number of vegetables at one time because I like God’s own garden in my salads and a mixed variety of choices for dinner without making another grocery run. And, as a mostly retired person, I don’t mind lots of chopping. I know not everyone is like that. Ti piace, as my choral conducting professor at University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota) used to say. You like it! Do as you please. Make it just the way you want it. (Or, as we Americans might say, “do it your way.”) Ti piace always sounded better!
In December, I promised you I’d have a few more Quarter-Sheet Pan Dinners and, right on time a month later, here’s the next! If you’re like me, you’re ready to put the holidays in the rear view window and have something different to eat after those big meals and all of those leftovers. (Do you have cookies in the freezer?! I do. Ok; we’re good. And you’ll guess our tree is up until Epiphany.) This week’s quarter-sheet pan meal features a simply seasoned pair of thick, bone-in pork chops paired with some fresh beans, thyme, red onions and thinly sliced sweet potato. A fast searing of the chops on the stovetop and the whole shebang slides into the oven for all of 20 minutes while you pour the wine, chat with a friend, or watch a little bit of the new, fab PBS News Hour. (I’m going to miss Judy Woodruff so!) With hardly any work — isn’t that what the oven’s for?–you have a gorgeous, real-deal dinner quick like a bunny. And, wink-wink, this doesn’t feed 4, 6, or 8; it makes just a couple of servings. Exactly what you or someone you know needed.