Tuesdays are always pretty crazy around here, with Husband being gone at work all day and grad school at night (his classes are on Mondays and Tuesdays this semester) and two additional children in my house (that I babysit). I usually have some friends over from across town for an early dinner, then we take the kids to a local inflatable gym. The inflatable gym has a deal where you can buy one of their t-shirts for $10, then get in free any Tuesday wearing the shirt. Since it would normally cost $4 for my 3 year-old to get in, this works out very much in our favor — especially considering we’ve gone about ten times already!
To account for the varying tastes of my guests and allow flexibility for my friends to bring something of their own to contribute, most Tuesday dinners are a small plates affair. We’re all a bit sniffly today, though, so we stayed home and didn’t have anyone over. That’s probably for the best, since my kids were taking turns with my time all day.
I started the day already playing catch-up — I had to make two loaves of Banana Bread with Cauliflower (a recipe featured in Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious) because I bought a bunch of bananas and cauliflower last week and the bananas weren’t going to hang on much longer. So I steamed the cauliflower before lunch, set aside some of it to eat with lunch, and pureed the rest of it. One cup of the puree went into the banana bread, and the rest got frozen with some pureed lentils for baby food. Lots of fiber and vitamin C!
In an effort to get all my dinner prep done in the morning, I started the lentils for the salad. I wasn’t following a specific recipe for the salad, rather, I had what I thought was a great idea to merge two recipes that I really like. The first recipe — Lentil Snacks, from Grocery Cart Challenge — is a super nutritious, frugal, crunchy snack that I’ve been tossing around in my head for weeks as the protein for an actual meal. I wanted to add a sweet and creamy component, hence the second recipe — Apples and Celery with Gruyere from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone— a salad that features celery as the green portion, apples for sweetness, and nuts for additional crunch. The creaminess doesn’t come from the gruyere, which is in chunks, but from a dressing of tarragon vinegar, walnut oil, and mayonnaise or yogurt.
For my Toasted Lentil Salad, I envisioned the diced celery from Deborah Madison’s salad, dried cherries for sweetness, the lentils for protein and crunch, and a mixture of red wine vinegar, mayo or soy yogurt, and celery leaves for dressing. The Lentil Snacks have oil and spices in them already, so thew wouldn’t need to be added.
Well, I’m not sure why this sounded good originally, because it just didn’t work! It’s so obvious now, but it’s hard to get food ideas out of my head unless I experiment. Failure is essential to learning, I guess! The mixture isn’t too bad as a crunchy topping for an actual lettuce salad, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Check out the Lentil Snacks recipe at Grocery Cart Challenge, though, because it is AWESOME. And if you think of a way to make this into a meal, let me know.
I didn’t get around to making the green beans (the easiest part!), but I can eat them later this week. They’re probably the last green beans we’ll have this year anyway, so I should hang on to them a little longer. I made the sweet potatoes, though, and we had a very simple meal with the lentils and banana bread. Here is how we made oven-baked sweet potato fries:
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees, then scrub and peel the sweet potatoes. Count on one potato per person, that way you have a little more than what you need. Also, some people don’t peel them, but I think sweet potato peels are a bit too earthy. I don’t mind leaving peels on regular potatoes, though.
2) Chop into fries, being careful not to leave sharp or really thin edges (these will burn easily).
3) Blanch the fries and dry well. (Blanching = drop them into a pot of rapidly boiling water for a minute or two, then empty the water and quickly add very cold water to stop the cooking.) Don’t leave them in for so long that they get mushy.
4) Once you’ve dried them well, put them in a bowl and add some olive oil (I just drizzle it on — I probably used a tablespoon or so for two large sweet potatoes), sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Mix until coated well. Spread onto a cookie sheet, spreading them about evenly.
5) Cook until edges brown, maybe 20-25 minutes? (I’m terrible at paying attention to time.) Turn them over about ten minutes in to brown both sides and achieve maximum crispness. They should look like this:
My camera must be on it’s last leg, because I only got one other clear picture — this one of the Banana (and cauliflower) Bread, with the Lentil Snacks in the background:
Husband is grilling steak tomorrow, so that should be pretty straight-forward. 🙂