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In the Advent Kitchen -- December 15

In the Advent Kitchen -- December 15, Broccoli-Bacon Salad Cheeseburger Bake Quick Brown Bread Butterscotch Nut Cake

Broccoli-Bacon Salad

Cheeseburger Bake

Quick Brown Bread

Butterscotch Nut Cake

Tonight requires bread. So how about a simple brown bread made with whole grain? The kind you can eat plain, warm and crumbly from the oven. The bread goes well with a cheeseburger bake. Start the bread cooking while you put the casserole together, and then put the cheeseburger casserole into the same oven while the bread continues to bake. While the two dishes are in the oven, you can prepare the broccoli-bacon salad. It has lots of crunchy vegetables, apples, and a sweet-salty dressing. Serve the salad “as is” or atop whatever salad greens you have on hand. As long as you have the oven on for the bread and cheeseburger bake, you might as well add a butterscotch nut cake. It’s simple to mix up and can bake while you eat dinner. The cake takes about an hour to cook and cool, so it should be ready to eat and enjoy while you relax with milk or coffee once the leftovers have been stashed (if there are any) and the dinner debris has been cleaned up (I recommend enlisting spouses/children/significant others for this).

Broccoli-Bacon Salad – Serves 8+

This is a wonderful, nutritious salad made with vegetables that are easily available in the fall and winter. The salad serves a crowd or furnishes lots of leftovers, which keep quite well. In fact, the flavors of the salad seem to improve as the salad sits in the refrigerator. If raw broccoli bothers your digestion, try microwaving the bite-size pieces just until they are crisp-tender, letting the broccoli cool completely, and then using it in the salad.

1 medium-sized head of broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small red onion, chopped

3 tablespoons of bacon crumbles

¼ cup of dried cranberries

¼ cup of shredded carrots (or finely chopped)

1 medium red apple, cored and chopped

½ cup of chopped walnuts

¼ cup of light mayonnaise

¼ cup of cider vinegar

3 tablespoons of sugar

½ cup of fat-free Greek yogurt

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss to mix and coat everything with the dressing. Serve the salad immediately or, better yet, chill it for at least several hours to blend the flavors.

Cheeseburger Bake – Serves 6+

This casserole is kid and adult friendly, easy to put together, and uses ingredients that are relatively inexpensive and readily available. The dish is perfect for a family dinner or for sharing with friends. The flavors of cheeseburger are all there—beef, tomato, pickles, mustard, onions, and cheese—and are nicely melded during a quick bake in the oven.

12 ounces of macaroni (or other pasta)

1 teaspoon of oil

1 medium onion, chopped

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

16-24 ounces of lean ground beef (93 percent lean)

2 15-ounce cans of tomato sauce or 1 29-ounce can of tomato puree

½ cup of chopped pickle relish

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup of Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon of pepper

½ teaspoon of salt

8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese

3-4 chopped green onions, optional

3 chopped plum tomatoes, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a large casserole dish or 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the pasta in boiling water until barely tender and drain it. While the pasta is cooking, heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. When the pan is hot, add the ground beef and onion and brown them for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic powder, tomato sauce, pickle relish, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pepper, and salt and stir to combine everything. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes. Stir in the pasta. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish, cover it with foil (to prevent sticking, coat the side of the foil you intend to place down on top of the casserole with nonstick cooking spray), and bake the casserole for 30-35 minutes until bubbling. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top of the casserole with cheese. Bake the casserole about 5 minutes more or until the cheese melts. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes and, just before serving, sprinkle the top of the casserole with the green onions and tomatoes, if you’re using them.

Quick Brown Bread – Makes 1 Loaf

This is a whole grain version of Irish soda bread, and it’s a good recipe to use when you need a basic bread but don’t have time to go through the multiple risings of a yeast dough. The bread is hearty and moist from the tangy buttermilk. If you’d like, you can grate the zest from an orange and add it to the batter for a nice citrus flavor. The bread is great “as is” with dinner, with a slice of cheese for lunch or a snack, as an accompaniment to soup, or slathered with jam for breakfast. If you’d like a more seasonal taste and flavor, try adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients when you whisk them together and fold in a handful of dried cranberries before pouring the batter into the pan. The bread will smell wonderful when baking and be mouthwatering warm from the oven.

2½ cups of white whole-wheat flour

1 cup of quick oats, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

2 cups of low-fat buttermilk

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, 1 cup of oats, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together and add them to the dry ingredients until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of oats. Bake the loaf for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it.

Butterscotch Nut Cake – Serves 8+

This is a prepared food splurge with ingredients like a pudding and oatmeal muffin mix as well as butterscotch morsels, toffee bits, nuts and coconut. Nonetheless the dessert—more of a dense pudding than a cake, really—is quick and well worth the “one-in-a-while” indulgence. The toffee bits merge with the butterscotch morsels, nuts, and coconut to create a topping somewhat similar to that on a German chocolate cake. In this case, the topping mixes with the cake. My husband likes the cake plain, but my son and I (as always) like it with low-fat ice cream to cool it. The cake keeps well and is quite good served at room temperature or cold for the next day or two (or for as long as it lasts, which usually isn’t that long).

1 small coconut cook-and-serve pudding mix

1¾ cups of low fat milk

1 7-ounce package of oatmeal muffin mix (such as a “Jiffy” mix)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of coconut extract

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

1 cup of butterscotch morsels

½ cup of toffee bits

1 cup of chopped walnuts

¼ cup of shredded coconut

In a medium saucepan, prepare the pudding mix with the milk as directed on the package. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat an 8 or 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray. To the prepared pudding in the saucepan, add the oatmeal muffin mix, the vanilla extract, coconut extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Sprinkle on the butterscotch chips, toffee bits, walnuts, and coconut and press them down gently or shimmy the pan to settle the topping ingredients a bit into the batter. Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes. It should be firm and dense, but it won’t rise. Don’t worry if it’s a little jiggly. It will set up as it cools. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and serve it “as is” or with low-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

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