Easy Lunch: Sweet Potato & Salad

What to do when you don’t want a sandwich for lunch, but you don’t want to put in any more effort than that? You need something hot and that doesn’t require a lot of time actively preparing. What could be easier to make than a baked potato? 

For a little more flavor and even more nutritious goodness, I like to have a baked sweet potato. Stick it with a fork, wrap it in aluminum foil, and put it in the oven until it’s squishy. Don’t worry- you would have to leave it in the oven an awfully long time before it would burn! It takes a while – mine was in the oven for an hour and a half – but you can go about your business and it’ll cook itself.

I like to top mine with butter, cinnamon and ground ginger. A lot of people like to use butter and brown sugar, but given the option I generally go the savory route.

There are lots of things that pair wonderfully with sweet potatoes, especially of the green variety. Green beans, macaroni and cheese, and a sweet potato forms the ultimate triumverate in my book, but since we’re keeping things easy today, how about a nice salad?

Confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of the raw-vegetables-and-ranch style salad. Vegetables are for cooking and ranch is for party platters. Give me a good old vinegarette any day! I also love to use fruits on salads instead of the vegetables. 

The good news is that you can’t really go wrong here. Just look into your fridge and see what’s there! I had apples and avocados, so that’s what I’m having. Bonus points for the avocado: it’s replacing the cheese that would have been here in its place otherwise.

Salads with fruit are even better with nuts, so I’m adding some walnuts as well. 

And there you have it! Easy, delicious, and healthy. In addition to that, if you left off the butter, this could easily be both vegan and gluten free, which I can’t often say about my food, due to my love affair with bread and cheese.

Advertisements

Apple Cheese Sandwich

img_7345

Let’s face it – for most of us, sandwiches are a part of life. However much we may dream about sitting down every day to a delicious, beautiful, and decadent yet healthy meal prepared by our own personal chef, chances are it’s not in the cards.

Now that I’ve gotten the bad news out of the way, let’s move on to the good news. Sandwiches don’t have to be boring! It’s time to break out of that deli-turkey-and-swiss rut and embrace the joys of creative sandwiching. As a child, the definitive sandwich was probably peanut butter and jelly on Bunny Bread; maybe you got crafty like Mr. Rogers taught you and made faces out of banana slices and raisins on peanut butter. Maybe that doesn’t sound so great now, but the key is to channel that same sandwich excitement that you had then and bring it to the lunch table now.

For this sandwich, I started off with the old staple (for me, at least) of a cheese sandwich. This has sort of become my new PB&J recently: fast, easy, and tasty with some good potato chips. I decided it could use a little something different, though. My solution not only lightens it up a little, but updates the humble cheese sandwich for fall.

I started off my new sandwich adventure with some great, flavorful bread. The cranberry walnut wheat bread that I used gave a nice blend of sweet and tart and some good nutty depth. I got my bread at Earth Fare, but whatever bakery or grocery store with a bakery that is near you should have options that will work. I switched out the usual mayonnaise and mustard for some honey mustard sauce, which is nothing but a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and honey.

The extra sharp cheddar that is the basis of the sandwich stays the same, but I added slices of apple to it. It gives it a satisfying crunch, refreshing juiciness, and a nice blend of sweet and tart. I used honeycrisp apples for mine, but you can substitute any you would like. I suggest a variety that has plenty of flavor somewhere between sweet and tart, but if you are a devotee of the golden delicious or granny smith apple, go ahead and give it a shot!

So there you have it: an absolutely delicious sandwich that is no trouble at all to make, but will liven up your lunch in no time! If you want a little more to eat, pair this sandwich with some butternut squash soup for a rich autumn feast.

Microwave Stuffed Potato

Image

When you need something quick to eat, but don’t want a sandwich, leftovers, or takeout, a baked potato can be the perfect solution. You can cook one quickly in the microwave, then add whatever toppings you like to change it up.

Just wash your potato, preferably with a plastic scrubber to make sure you get the dirt off, then poke it with a fork. This keeps the potato from exploding in the microwave. (It is also a good way to take out your pent-up aggression or stress from the day). Wrap it in a paper towel and put it in the microwave. The cook time will vary based on you microwave and the size of the potato. I usually start at about three minutes and add from there if I need to. You can test it by giving it a squeeze to see if it is squishy yet. When it is, wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil. This will keep it hot and keep cooking it until you are ready to eat it.

Next comes the fun part: toppings! My go-tos are butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, sea salt, pepper, and bacon. This time, I used lower cholesterol butter (butter mixed with canola spread) and Greek yogurt instead of the regular butter and sour cream. I also switched out barbecue for the bacon. We had some left over in the freezer from a butt roast we got from a fundraiser. As long as it’s for charity, right? Besides, it is Tennessee, and we are known for our barbecue, after all. It’s the right thing to do!

I put a little Frank’s RedHot Kickin’ BBQ Sauce on the meat. If you haven’t tried it before, Frank’s Hot Sauce is delicious, and they make varieties for buffalo wings and barbecue that I really like.

If you’d rather enjoy bacon on your stuffed potato, the easiest way to cook it is in the oven with a piece of aluminum foil between it and the sheet, dish, or pan you’re using. That way, your clean up is as simple as dropping the aluminum foil in the trash – no need to battle with bacon grease!

I’ll go ahead and throw this out there: stuffed potatoes are not healthy by nature. However, there are things you can do to make it healthier (or perhaps less unhealthy). For example, I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream that is so common. It gives a nice tanginess and moistens the potato, as does the sour cream it replaces. The good news is that the Greek yogurt is healthy, so you can use as much as you want, and not feel bad about the butter and cheese. You can of course leave the meat off, which takes out a lot of the unhealthy parts – it also makes it vegetarian. I actually do that a lot when I make a baked potato. Not only is it better for you, it’s often less trouble! I usually cut way back on the toppings if I’m just having a potato as a side, but when it’s a la carte, it’s delicious to go all out!

Super Quick Baguette Pizza

It’s been a long day. It’s late, and you’re tired and hungry. What to do? Find the quickest and easiest possible supper, of course, and hope it’s not peanut butter.

This is a lot easier to do in the summer than any other time of year. When you have good fresh tomatoes and some basil, your possibilities really start growing; there are so many delicious ways to eat them! Super Quick Baguette Pizza has got to be one of the easiest.

Any time you can make your own bread, it will make everything more delicious, but you can also pick up pretty good bread from a grocery store’s bakery section. Our local store actually does a good baguette. This works out especially well, because baguettes are one of my favorite types of bread, and are kind of a pain to make.

I start out by slicing a section of baguette in half and drizzling the halves with olive oil, and sticking that in the oven for a few minutes. In the meantime, you can prepare your other ingredients. Just slice some fresh mozzarella, a tomato (I used an Italian variety called Pompeii), a few leaves of basil, and chop some garlic. Take the bread out of the oven, and layer on the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil and garlic. Add a little sea salt and pepper and put it back in the oven until everything is warm and the cheese melts. That’s all there is to it!

Image

This is a good way to eat tomatoes for July, because they are just starting to ripen and you may only have a tomato or two ready. The garlic was especially good because it came fresh from the farmers’ market, but any grocery store garlic will do if you don’t have access to fresh.

It sure beats peanut butter!

Quick, Easy, Delicious, Healthy

It’s always a dilemma when you realize it’s gotten pretty late and you haven’t started any supper yet. Do you slave away in the kitchen and not eat until ten o’clock? Or do you break down and order a pizza and tell yourself that it must not be that bad, because cheese has calcium, and tomatoes are good for you, right?!?

Now that struggle is over. I have fallen in love with Ree Drummond’s Chicken Florentine Pasta. The Pioneer Woman really masters quick and easy with this dish, and it just tastes healthy in the best way possible!

ImageEven though the picture is a little blurry (oops!), you can still see the lovely colors- the bright green spinach and bright red tomatoes taste really fresh and remind me of the old rules about eating colorful foods.

I confess that I tweaked the recipe a bit this time by adding a little bit of red pepper flakes. I love spicy food, and that little bit of heat really rounds the dish out for me. If you don’t like hot food, don’t worry, the recipe is delicious as it is! I love that this pasta is so good for tweaking; one time in the past I didn’t have any chicken, so I put in mushrooms instead. It is a nice light meal either way, but especially with the mushrooms substituted. Meatless, it is almost like a hot pasta salad; you could even use it as a side dish!

This pasta is also good left over. There is some in my refrigerator right now – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!