Make Ahead Meals: Part 3 — The Chill-Out, No-Cook Dinner

The 5pm Chill-Out

A Rare Occurrence: Blogging at 5pm

A Rare Occurrence: Relaxing at 5pm

It’s 5:05pm on a Tuesday night and — guess what! — I’m not cooking!!

It’s a beautiful evening here and my three birds and I would, ordinarily, be at our pool but it’s a little chilly.  So I’m sitting on my back deck enjoying the (rare) sounds of the kids playing nicely together and a glass of water after doing some gardening.  Now, I’m sitting down to write because tonight’s dinner has been done and ready for HOURS! (I’m starting to dig this whole ‘make-ahead’ thing!)

It took about 10 minutes to make the majority of the meal last night. This morning, I put on PBS Kids so I could take a few minutes more to add the finishing touches.

Done!

The rest of today was spent outside with the kids: preschool soccer practice, a picnic play date at the park, a quick trip to Target, more park time.

Pretty great day — aside from the fact that I almost set my house on fire while trying to steam an artichoke in a wooden steamer basket. But we won’t tell the Hubs about that.

I digress.

So now, it’s time to sit down and recount just how this glorious moment came to be!

(Moment of truth: no sooner did I get to this point in my writing, then the Hungry, Hungry Kiddos came screaming to me about their hunger!  My Moment of Zen is over.)

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto and White Bean Spread on Crostini, with Tossed Salad

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Toast, Tossed Salad

Chilled Cucumber Soup, Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Toast, Tossed Salad

Tonight’s meal was ‘Summer on a Plate’ and may be one of the prettiest dinners I’ve ever made.  But, in all honesty, I didn’t think anyone in our house would like it, let alone eat it. Even me.  I mean, it’s not exactly the type of meal we have regularly.

But I loved how easy it was. And while I usually give mad props to my Crock Pot, my Cuisinart food processor was the real star of this no-cook meal. (great for those hot summer nights when you don’t want to heat things up!)

Chilled Cucumber Soup (I loosely based it on several recipes, including this Martha Stewart recipe)

  • 3 cucumbers chopped
  • 2 6oz containers plain Greek Yogurt
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • parsley (I put this into the mixer and used some as garnish)
  • splash of lemon juice
  • cumin (about 1 tsp)
  • fresh mint leaves (about 1 tsp)

Put it all into the food processor and pulse until blended throughly. Chill.  Serve. (I chilled overnight, but I’d suggest waiting to add the lemon juice until shortly before serving.)

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini:  (loosely based on this recipe

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini

Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini

  • 2 cans cannellini beans (1 can drained, 1 can undrained)
  • 2 cloves garlic (to taste)
  • pinch of rosemary
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil until you get the consistency you like

photo-63Put all of the ingredients into the food processor and blend.  Chill. (This took me about 5 minutes, and could stay a couple of days in the fridge if refrigerated.)

Other recipes tell you how to make Crostini, but I kept it simple by using Melba Toast instead. So I spread the white bean dip onto the Melba Toast, topped it with some thin-sliced prosciutto, and sprinkled some parsley on top.  I ‘plated’ this dish soon after blending the White Bean Spread, and refrigerated it until it was time for dinner.

photo 3-1

Tossed Salad: made with a variety of lettuces, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, bleu cheese, drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon juice.

The Results

  1. Cucumber Soup:  My kids love cucumbers, which is why I chose this chilled soup. So I should have known they would love it. But my husband really, REALLY didn’t like it.  He didn’t like the yogurt-texture of the ‘soup.’  And I think I’d pass on the lemon juice the next time.  It made the soup a bit too sour.
  2. Prosciutto & White Bean Spread on Crostini:  Everyone really liked this dish — even my 6yo who HATES white beans.  (I told him what he was eating after he gave me the thumbs up and said it was ‘delish!’)  But I personally think it was a bit too much like an appetizer.  So, the next time, I think I’d skip the salad and put the white bean spread onto some good bread with the prosciutto, some arugula, slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella.

***Note:  if you want to make this meal vegetarian and skip the prosciutto, I think the spread was really good and could stand on its own when paired with the Melba Toast or a good baguette or crostini.***

It was fun to make this meal – and even more fun to see what how the kids reacted to it. I think they liked how different it was from what we usually eat.  I liked how easy it was to prepare.photo-65

We ate it outside, which seemed appropriate on this beautiful night.  And, to add to the summery feel, we ate a bowl full of cherries for dessert.  A great way to end our ‘chill-out’ day.

Life is a bowl full of cherries...

Life is a bowl full of cherries…

Plans are already underway for another ‘make-ahead’ meal for tomorrow!

In the meantime, happy eatings!

Sharon

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