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In the Advent Kitchen -- December 17

In the Advent Kitchen -- December 17, Layered Salad Talapia Baked in Mustard Sauce Egg Noodles Strawberry Muffins Simple Pear Dumplings

Layered Salad

Tilapia Baked in Mustard Sauce

Egg Noodles

Strawberry Muffins

Simple Pear Dumplings

We are indeed fortunate we have so much to eat.

Start tonight’s meal with a layered salad you can prepare early in the day. The salad is beautiful in a clear glass bowl and includes lots of healthy vegetables. The economical tilapia takes five minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake. The fish goes well with egg noodles—try whole-wheat, if you’d like more fiber in your diet—to soak up the sauce. You can boil the noodles in less time than the fish takes to bake. And as long as you have the oven on to cook the fish, how about baking a pan of strawberry muffins? They are inexpensive, mix up quickly, and are a wonderful treat with the baked fish. Speaking of treats, how about some pear dumplings for dessert? The comforting dumplings can bake in 10-15 minutes after you pull the fish and muffins from the oven. Pop them in and set the timer while you eat. They should be cool enough to eat plain after dinner, although, as with many warm desserts, a cooling bit of low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream might be nice.

Layered Salad – Serves 8+

This is a rather old recipe. I remember eating something similar to this at a family gathering during the time when I was in graduate school. That was more than 30 years ago. This version is a bit lighter than the original but nonetheless very similar. The salad is beautiful in a clear glass bowl. Just remember to tell people to dig deep to get all the good stuff at the bottom.

2 cups of fresh spinach, washed, and picked over

2 cups of baby lettuce greens

1-2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cup of chopped tomato or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small/medium red onion, chopped

1 cup of chopped or shredded carrots

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup of frozen peas, thawed

½ cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

Layer, in the order listed, all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl. Combine the dressing ingredients below and spread on top of the peas and cheese. Garnish the top of the dressing with some chopped green onions and chopped tomatoes, if you like.


½ cup of low-fat mayonnaise

½ cup of fat-free Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons of bacon crumbles

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon of lemon pepper

Optional Garnish: 2-3 green onions, chopped

¼ cup chopped tomatoes

Tilapia Baked in Mustard Sauce – Serves 4

This is a simple 20-minute main dish that tastes like you fussed. The creamy mustard sauce really wakes up the mild fish. Although the fish is good with noodles, you could also serve the tilapia with rice, baked potatoes, or just some French bread to help soak up the tasty sauce.

1½ pounds of tilapia filets

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 cup of light sour cream

2 tablespoons of grainy Dijon mustard

2-3 tablespoons of capers

1 teaspoon of brine from the capers

2 teaspoons of dried minced onions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking pan with non-stick spray. Place the tilapia on the baking pan and brush or mist the fillets with olive oil. Sprinkle the fish with the salt and pepper. Combine the remaining ingredients. Divide the sour cream-mustard mixture among the fillets, spreading it to cover the tops of the fillets. Bake the fish for 15 minutes or until it flakes with a fork.

Strawberry Muffins – Makes 12

These muffins combine the sweetness of strawberry jam, the nuttiness of nutritious whole-wheat flour, and the gentle bite of lime zest. The muffins are a little different from the usual bakery fare and are a nice treat without going overboard on the sugar and fat. So you can enjoy the muffins without guilt for dinner, with your breakfast coffee, or for an evening snack. With their seasonal red and green colors, perhaps Santa might even appreciate one or two of the muffins to sustain him on his long trek.

1 cup of white whole-wheat flour

½ cup of flour

1½ teaspoons of baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of baking soda

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup of sugar

1 egg

½ cup of low fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

zest from 1 lime

1/3 cup of canola oil

¼ cup of strawberry jam, stirred to soften it

¼ cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use cupcake liners spritzed with spray. Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract, lime zest, canola oil, and jam well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to moisten all the ingredients. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with the walnuts. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Simple Pear Dumplings – Serves 8

This is an almost instant dessert and is easy to make with everyday ingredients. The sweet, juicy pears are simply rolled up with a sugar and spice mixture in crescent roll dough. You don’t even have to peel the pears unless you really want to do so or you’re using pears with particularly hard skins. The little dumplings bake in 10-15 minutes to a perfect golden brown. Serve the dumplings warm, either plain or with a little low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream. Any leftover dumplings are likely to be targets of opportunity for breakfast.

4 medium pears, cored and halved (and peeled, if you want)

1 tube of refrigerated crescent roll dough (8 rolls)

¼ cup of raw (turbinado) or brown sugar

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ginger

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the raw sugar, cinnamon, and ginger and sprinkle about a third of the mixture on a sheet of waxed paper. Separate the crescent rolls into triangles and flatten each one slightly on the sugar/spice sprinkled waxed paper. Sprinkle another third of the sugar/spice mixture on the top of the crescents. Place a pear half on the wide end of each crescent, sprinkle the pears with the remaining sugar/spice mixture, and roll the pear halves up in the dough (the dough won’t completely cover the pear halves). Place the rolled up pears on the baking sheet, with the point side of the dough facing down on the baking sheet. Bake the dumplings for 10-15 minutes until they’re golden. Let the dumplings cool for 5 minutes before serving them.

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