Labor Day Weekend Food

We often have a crowd around the dinner table for the three holiday weekends of summer because we have a house on the lake and we enjoy keeping it filled with family and friends. I’ve put together a list of my favorite, A.K.A. easily prepped or cooked ahead of time, recipes to serve at mealtimes.  I’m a big believer in delegating so everyone can participate and have an enjoyable weekend. My blog makes it especially easy for my family to find our special recipes.

 A Few Appetizers

Crunchy Roasted Tamari Almonds
I keep these almonds in my kitchen year-round. They are just salty, tangy, and crunchy enough to be my go-to snack. The almonds are roasted with gluten-free tamari sauce.

“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
This is a favorite for both family and friends. My son’s friend, Grant, makes this whenever he has a party in NYC and often sends me a photo of his guests eating it. It is delicious served on sliced baguettes.
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A Quick and Easy Baked Hummus and Feta Appetizer
This requires baking, but it is one of those appetizers you can bring to someone’s house with the ingredients still in a shopping bag, arrange the ingredients in a pie plate, and then bake when needed. It will become a grazing station.

Breakfast Options

The Biscuit King
My husband makes these biscuits whenever the family is in town. We serve them with homemade jellies and sorghum.

50 Ways to Make a Frittata
This is always a good breakfast food to make the last morning you are together because you can add almost any leftovers to the egg mixture, bake it, and call it a meal. The egg to milk to cheese ratio remains the same no matter what you add.

Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
This is the moistest summertime quickbread I’ve ever made. We love it. One can throw a few chocolate chips into if one is so inclined.

Homemade Artisan Bread the Easy Way
The dough for these boules of bread can be made up to two weeks ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to shape and bake them. The bread is wonderful with butter or the Croatian Cheese spread on it.

Other breakfast options: eggs, bacon, sliced avocados, and fruit

Lunch Options

The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich
I never had pimiento cheese until I moved South. Now I love it. I’ve served it as a sandwich for lunch or used it as a spread on crackers for an appetizer.

My Favorite Gazpacho
I’ve been making this recipe for over twenty years. What makes this gazpacho extra delicious is the addition of garlic-seasoned homemade breadcrumbs. The gazpacho is the most time and ingredient intensive recipe on this list; I only make it when I am highly motivated to do a lot of chopping and when summer vegetables are at their peak.

Other easy lunch option: pork barbecue with rolls, cole slaw, and pickles

Dinner Options

Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts
This is my go-to recipe for moist, grilled chicken. The breasts only take ten minutes to grill because you pound them to a flat, uniform thickness before marinating.
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Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
When I have a houseful, I’ll often make this for dinner on one of the nights. I use Premio Italian sweet sausages from Costco. They are equally good grilled, sautéed, or simmered in sauce.

Meera’s Arugula, Feta, Cherry, and Toasted Almond Salad
My friend, Meera, brought this to a potluck dinner at the lake once. All of the ingredients were in a Trader Joe’s shopping bag. She fixed the salad for dinner, and the next day, I had her recipe up on the blog! I love it. I eat variations of it almost every day for lunch.

String Bean Salad
My mother taught me how to blanch vegetables when I was in high school. I’ve been doing it ever since. The only vegetables I routinely blanch nowadays are string beans, broccoli and cauliflower. I roast most of the others.

Roasted Ratatouille
I roast zucchini, eggplant, onions, and tomatoes together when I have a glut of them in my summer “Italian” garden. The vegetables require lots of chopping, but roasted veggies are delicious and I usually have a lot of helpers in the kitchen. Sometimes, I serve the ratatouille over pasta.

@judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing
I keep a bottle of this homemade four-ingredient salad dressing in my cupboard 24/7. I use it in many of the recipes mentioned above, either in salads or as a marinade.

Other options: Roasted white and sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes

Sweets

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Last Christmas, I made these when I had lots of kids in the house. When I got up the next morning, the cookie container was empty. Now, that’s a good cookie. They are barely sweet, but between the butter and eggs and the nutty flavor of the toasted sesame seeds, the cookie is exquisite.

Very Berry Clafoutis
This is an easy dessert to make. There is no pie crust, just eggs, milk, flour, some sugar, and whatever ripe fruit is in season. It tastes great for breakfast, too. I cook it in a pie plate, but you could cook it in a cast iron pan just as easily.

Bon appetit!. Have a nice weekend.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

A Quick and Easy Baked Hummus and Feta Appetizer

Recently, I  hosted my book club’s annual dinner where guests signed up to bring either beef or chicken chili, salad, cornbread, dessert or an appetizer. When Book Hunters member, Janna, uncovered her Greek-style appetizer, the aroma of warm feta and olives wafted through the kitchen attracting us like moths to a flame. Guests started scooping up the dip with abandon, or at least I did. Soon, there was a lot of gushing going on in my kitchen.

Janna said the appetizer was easy to make.  Even better.

Ingredients:

1-pound container hummus
6-ounce container crumbled feta
5 ounces (¾ cup) flavorful tomatoes, chopped
4 ounces (¾ cup) flavorful kalamata olives, cut in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mise en Place:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350º. Allow ingredients to come to room temperature if times allows.

Layer ingredients in an 8″ by 8″ square pan or other ovenproof containers, as shown. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Bake in a 350º oven for 20-25 minutes.

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Serve with pita bread or crackers. We loved it with naan dippers.

A few words about the ingredients. I tried this with cherry tomatoes but thought the sliced tomatoes had a lot more flavor. One tomato was enough.

It took me a few attempts to find kalamata olives that were tasty. Make sure the ones you choose are flavorful.

We preferred the dip with the garlic-flavored hummus.

Things to knit while watching the game

How to Knit a Hat and Make a Pom Pom
A Birthday Tribute for my Mother: Knitting Neck Warmers with Mom’s Stash
What to Knit for a Baby: a Hat, a Sweater and a Blanket

Foods to serve a crowd on Super Bowl Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meera’s Arugula, Feta, Cherry, and Toasted Almond Salad

If you need to bring a side or a salad to a Labor Day Weekend fête, I’ve got just the one.

This salad is quick, colorful, and delicious with the added bonus that it could easily become dinner with the addition of sliced grilled chicken. The first time I had it, on the weekend of the eclipse, my good friend, and relative, Meera Ballal, brought all the ingredients over in a Trader Joe’s grocery sack. By the time the chicken was grilled, the salad was assembled and on the table. Everyone loved it!

Yield: Serves 10-12 as a side dish

Ingredients
2  7-ounce bags arugula, (have a third on standby to perk up the salad)
1  8-ounce package dried, tart Montmorency cherries
1  6-ounce package crumbled feta cheese (sometimes Meera uses 2 containers)
1  8-ounce package raw, sliced almonds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Judy’s Chickens Every Day Salad Dressing or TJ’s Balsamic Vinaigrette
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breasts  (optional)

Mise en Place

Instructions

Put the arugula, feta and dried cherries in an extra-large mixing bowl that leaves plenty of room for tossing the ingredients together.

Next, toast the almonds in olive oil to enhance their nutty flavor. To do so, pour olive oil in a warmed medium-sized sauté pan. Add almonds and mix to coat. Sauté over medium-low heat for about two minutes. Meera told me to stir the nuts almost constantly because they go from toasted to burned, quickly. She said, with her infectious laugh, “This is not the time to multitask in the kitchen.” She was right about that. The nuts went from creamy-white to brown, to dark brown around the edges of the pan in the blink of an eye. When they start to brown, dump them immediately into a small bowl to stop the cooking process. Keep the nuts warm in a separate bowl until dinner time.

 

Just before serving, add the nuts and salad dressing. I like to use my own homemade salad dressing  @judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing.  I sprinkle a little white balsamic vinegar over the greens for added “bite” before tossing. The greens start to collapse quickly, so don’t add dressing until you are ready to serve.

For the grilled chicken, try my chicken marinade recipe, Lemony Thyme Grilled Chicken Breasts.  The lemon and thyme in the chicken enhance the flavor of the salad.

The cost of this salad? $17.14 if you use your own salad dressing.

For a fun Labor day activity, check out Catfishing with Noodles on Lake Barkley, Kentucky!

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

When a cookie can transport me back to a summer afternoon in the jalousie-windowed sunporch of my grandmother’s house, complete with a tableful of visiting Italian relatives sipping coffee, that’s a pretty powerful cookie.

Such was the case when, after many attempts, I came up with a recipe for these Italian Sesame Seed Cookies. When I finally got it right, I fixed a cup of coffee and dunked the cookie in; the ultimate taste test. The taste was just as I remembered: light, buttery, nutty, and slightly crunchy, all of it made even more flavorful by the milky coffee. I didn’t normally drink coffee as a young girl, but when the sesame seed cookies were out, my grandmother always gave me a cup so I could dunk with everyone else. Heaven on Earth. Addictive, too!.

Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds come from the fruit pod of the sesame plant. The plant is an annual, and the pod grows very similarly to okra (photo on the right).

 

Once the pods dry, they are turned upside down allowing the seeds to fall out. Here is a photo of the unhulled seeds and dried pods.

When baking with sesame seeds, use hulled, untoasted seeds. I purchase them at the Indian grocery store, Patel Brothers, or from the bulk dispenser at Whole Foods. You need about two cups, so it’s best to purchase in bulk rather than in small cans.

   

Life for many seeds and nuts laden with oils, sesame seeds become rancid when sitting in a cupboard for a long period of time. Thus, if you are not going to finish the package soon after opening it, store it in the refrigerator or freezer. A rancid nut or seed can quickly ruin any savory or sweet dish. Often, you can tell if the seeds or nuts are rancid simply by the smell. Even without a rancid smell, I do a taste test to be sure.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1½-2 cups untoasted sesame seeds
⅔ cup milk

Mise en Place:

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl on medium speed for about one minute. Add the sugar and cream for another minute until batter is light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla and mix one more minute, still on medium speed.

Combine baking powder, salt, and flour in a bowl and stir with a wire whisk.

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Add dry ingredients to batter. Mix on slow for 30 seconds. Do not overwork the dough.

Spread flour on countertop and fold dough over on itself about ten times.

Divide dough into four equal sections.

Roll each section into ¾-inch thick ropes and slice those into two-inch pieces. My relatives would pull off a clump of dough and roll each cookie into a small oval log, but I like to do it this way because there is less handling of the dough.

Set-up two wide-mouthed bowls, one with milk and one with sesame seeds. Put about a cup of milk in one and 1½ cups of sesame seeds in the other. Pick up about 5 pieces of dough and put them in the milk. Then lift each piece of dough and roll it in the bowl of sesame seeds.

 

Arrange dough on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until cookies become lightly browned. Let cool five minutes and then move cookies to a cooling rack.

Other Italian Faves:
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Chicken Cacciatora, or Hunter’s Chicken
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
@judyschickens Everyday Salad Dressing
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Fettuccini with Rapini (aka Broccoli Rabe) and Garlic
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Roasted Ratatouille
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.