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In the Advent Kitchen -- December 9

In the Advent Kitchen December 9, Spinach-Avocado Salad Garlic Baked Talapia Orzo with Tomatoes and Feta Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Truffles

Spinach-Avocado Salad

Garlic Baked Tilapia

Orzo with Tomatoes and Feta

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Truffles

It’s time to look after your body with a healthy heart dinner! To start, a spinach salad with avocado, onion, orange slices, and chopped walnuts gives you a great dose of important vitamins and heart-aiding fats. The baked tilapia doesn’t taste too “fishy” and instead sends out a wonderful garlicky aroma as it bakes with crispy, cheesy whole-wheat breadcrumbs on top. Orzo with tomatoes, parsley, and feta adds wonderful color to your plate and, with whole-wheat pasta, some important fiber to your diet. You’ve had a healthy meal, so why ruin your good efforts with something bad for you? Instead try peanut butter and dark chocolate truffles, which, though they sound decadent and taste scrumptious, are made from ingredients that are pretty wholesome. Just don’t eat them all at once!

Spinach-Avocado Salad – Serves 4-6+

This salad is really special with it’s sweet-tart oranges, creamy avocados, and vitamin-rich sweet spinach. The dressing is easy complements, rather than hiding, the flavors of the rest of the salad. The pomegranate arils will add a touch of seasonal red color and another sweet-tart note to the salad.

4 cups of spinach leaves, washed well and dried

1 large ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and sliced

2 large oranges, peeled and sectioned

2 tablespoons of orange juice

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of sugar

Few grinds of lemon pepper seasoning

2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts, preferably toasted

½ cup of pomegranate arils (seeds), optional

Divide the spinach among the plates. Top the spinach with slices of orange and avocado. Combine orange juice, olive oil, sugar, and lemon pepper and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Drizzle the dressing over the salads. Top each salad with some of the chopped walnuts and pomegranate arils, if you’re using them.

Garlic Baked Tilapia – Serves 4

Garlic and Parmesan cheese turn these relatively inexpensive fillets into an exceptionally good dinner. The fish cooks quickly and doesn’t have a “fishy” taste.

1½ pounds of tilapia fillets (4-6 fillets)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

½ cup of seasoned breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of dried parsley

¼ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Lay the tilapia fillets on the baking sheet, and brush them with the olive oil. Drizzle on the lemon juice, and sprinkle the fillets with the salt and pepper. Combine all the other ingredients and divide the mixture among the fish fillets. Bake the tilapia for 15 minutes and let it cool a minute or two before you serve it.

Orzo With Tomatoes and Feta – Serves 6

This is a versatile dish that goes well with fish or simply cooked or grilled meats. If the fresh tomatoes are too pricey in December, feel free to substitute a can (15 ounces) of diced tomatoes. The orzo won’t taste as fresh, but it will be quite good. You’ll probably want more.

8 ounces of orzo, preferably whole-wheat

2 tablespoons of olive oil

½ cup of crumbled feta cheese

½ cup of chopped parsley (or basil)

½ teaspoon of lemon pepper seasoning

1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved, or 1 cup of chopped tomatoes

Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package until just tender. Drain all but a little water from the pot (leave about ¼ to ½ cup, depending on how moist you like your pasta). Add the olive oil and lemon pepper and stir to coat the pasta. Gently stir in the feta, parsley, and tomatoes. Serve the orzo warm or at room temperature.

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Truffles – Makes 18

These peanut butter and chocolate truffles are full of nutritious ingredients but taste quite decadent. They are a fantastic treat that requires no baking. Whip them up in the food processor and chill the dough while you do something else. Once the dough has chilled, the truffles will be easy to roll and coat with cocoa powder. Put them on a nice plate in the refrigerator, and you’ll have a quick, easy, and special after dinner indulgence that’s reasonably good for you.

1 15-ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons of peanut butter

2-4 tablespoons of honey

5-6 tablespoons of cocoa powder, divided

In a food processor, combine the white beans, peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of cocoa powder. Pulse about 10 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pulse again until everything is combined and smooth. Taste the mixture and pulse in more honey if you like sweeter and smoother truffles. Chill the mixture—at least a couple of hours—and, with damp hands (keep a bowl of water nearby for ease), form the dough into 18 balls. Roll the balls in the reserved cocoa powder, place them on a plate, and cover and refrigerate the truffles until serving time.

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