Everyone loves to come home to a good meal after a day’s work. But the meal doesn’t have to be a big deal. A kettle of soup, a salad and a rich homemade dessert can fill the bill.
That’s what the following menu is all about, a robust trio of foods appealing to all appetites no matter the season. Lentil soup, sustaining and substantial, anchors the menu.
This rendition has all the charm of an old-fashioned lentil soup but with a twist: Fresh vegetables are swirled in at the end of cooking for a light finish. Pair the soup with a salad of sliced mushrooms, green onions, diced bell peppers and shredded cheese. Add a loaf of whole-grain bread from the bakery and finish it all off with tart and tangy lemon shortbread bars.
These recipes can be easily done in advance, even in limited time slots. When your family walks in the door, ready to sit down around the table, all you need to do is reheat the soup, toss the salad vegetables with the dressing and enjoy the meal with your family.
MUSHROOM SALAD WITH RED PEPPER, CHEESE AND GREEN ONIONS
This is a simple salad, a perfect companion to a big bowl of soup. Other cheeses can be used instead of Emmentaler; try Gruyere or Swiss.
1/4 cup minced parsley
2/3 cup oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 large green onions, including green ends, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, thinly sliced
5 ounces Emmentaler cheese
Puree parsley, oil, vinegar, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper in food processor or blender. Can be made 3 days ahead and refrigerated.
Toss onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and cheese in large mixing bowl. Can be made 1 day ahead, refrigerated and covered airtight.
To serve, add dressing to salad. Toss well. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Each serving contains about:
325 calories; 516 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 32 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.69 gram fiber.
LENTIL SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND SWISS CHARD
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 leeks, tough green leaves trimmed, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
5 3/4 cups chicken stock or reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
2/3 cup lentils
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices
6 ounces Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
Heat oil in 4-quart saucepan. When hot, add garlic and leeks. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, lentils, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Mix until well combined. Simmer, covered, until lentils are almost tender, about 35 minutes.
Add celery and sausage to soup. Cook until celery is tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Stir chard leaves into soup and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Soup can be refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen up to 3 months. Gently reheat and adjust seasoning.
Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains about:
345 calories; 1,648 mg sodium; 30 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 2.24 grams fiber.
LEMON SHORTBREAD BARS
3/4 cup butter, chilled, cut into 12 pieces
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons whipping cream
Grated peel of 1 1/2 lemons
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
7 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Process butter, brown sugar, whipping cream, grated peel of 1/2 lemon, flour, oats and salt in food processor until butter is size of small peas. Or, process using pastry blender. Mixture will be crumbly. Reserve 1 1/4 cups crumbs. Press remaining crumbs into bottom of buttered 9-inch square baking pan.
Whisk together remaining grated peel of 1 lemon, condensed milk, lemon and orange juices. Spread over crust. Sprinkle reserved crumbs evenly over surface.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 35 minutes. Cool completely, then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Cut into 2 1/4-inch squares. Sift powdered sugar over top. Refrigerate, covered airtight. Serve chilled.
Makes 16 bars.
Each bar contains about:
264 calories; 152 mg sodium; 37 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.05 gram fiber.