In the Advent Kitchen -- December 23
Sliced Tomatoes With Basil
Dark Cherry Fool
Tonight’s meal is short on fuss and long on flavor. Slice some tomatoes, place them on some lettuce leaves, and sprinkle them with basil, fresh or dried, for a simple start. You can drizzle the tomatoes with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar, if you want to be fancy. Reuben Chicken requires few ingredients and bubbles away in your slow cooker, sending wonderful aromas through your home. The chicken tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen, even if you didn’t. Nestle some cleaned red potatoes in the slow cooker alongside the chicken, and they’ll soak up some of the flavor and make an easy side. Roasted carrots are ready in 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkled with rosemary and thyme and drizzled with a bit of honey, they otherwise require little work on your part. If you’d like something a little extra to soak up the chicken juices, you could heat up some French bread alongside the carrots. The dark cherry fool is a perfect dessert to make ahead and save yourself from any last minute rush. The fool is a sort of swirled parfait, full of sweet dark cherries, tart Greek yogurt, crunchy meringue cookies, and whipped topping. If you want to dress up the fool, sprinkle some chocolate shavings on top. The dessert is beautiful and makes a sweet, simple ending to an excellent meal.
Easy Reuben Chicken – Serves 6
You can’t get much easier than this chicken dish, and it’s really, really good. The chicken is tender, moist, and seasoned nicely with a combination of sauerkraut and cheese. If you’d prefer to use chicken breasts rather than thighs, feel free. They won’t be quite as moist, but they’ll be good. I like to use bacon crumbles to add a layer of smoky flavor, but they aren’t essential. If you don’t want to cook the potatoes with the chicken, be sure to serve the dish with rice, mashed potatoes, or even bread to soak up the tasty sauce.
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 ½-2 pounds)
2 tablespoons of bacon crumbles (optional)
1 can, jar, or package of sauerkraut (14-16 ounces)
1 cup of shredded, low-fat Swiss cheese
½ cup of low-fat thousand island salad dressing (commercial or homemade)
12-18 small red potatoes, scrubbed well (optional)
2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley (optional)
Coat a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and arrange the chicken in the bottom. Top the chicken with the bacon crumbles (if you’re using them), sauerkraut, cheese, and then the thousand island dressing. Nestle the potatoes alongside the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and cook the chicken on low for 5-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until very tender. Serve the chicken sprinkled with parsley, if you’d like.
Roasted Carrots – Serves 4
Roasted carrots are a simple, elegant addition to holiday—or other— dinners. The addition of thyme and rosemary gives the sweet, caramelized carrots a hint of freshness. If you’d like to use pre-cut “baby carrots,” feel free. Just make sure that the carrots you use are dry before you toss them with the oil, or the carrots will steam instead of roast.
16 ounces of carrots, trimmed and cut lengthwise
½ teaspoon of dried thyme
1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of honey
¼ teaspoon of salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Add the carrots and oil to the baking sheet and toss or stir the carrots to coat them with the oil. Spread the carrots into a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with the thyme, rosemary and salt. Drizzle the honey over the carrots. Roast the carrots, stirring them after about 15 minutes, for about 30 minutes or until tender and a bit crispy.
Dark Cherry Fool – Serves 4
This is a very quick, no bake dessert, and it looks lovely in clear glass bowls. The fool is cool, creamy, and full of dark, sweet cherries. Make the dessert early in the day or well before dinner and let it sit in the refrigerator to let the meringues soak up the cherry sauce. Kids really love this sweet ending to a meal, but adults will “ooh and ahh,” too.
½ cup of cherry juice
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup of dark cherries (from a jar is fine) + four extra cherries for garnishing
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon of almond extract
8-12 smallish meringue cookies, crumbled (about the size of a flat golf ball)
½ cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
½ cup of light whipped topping + extra for garnishing
Chocolate shavings (optional)
In a small, microwave safe bowl, combine the cherry juice, the sugar, the cornstarch, and the cinnamon and stir the mixture to dissolve the cornstarch and sugar. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir it well, and microwave it for another 15 seconds. Stir the mixture again. If the sauce is not clear and thickened, heat the juice mixture again for 15 seconds and stir it. Set the cherry sauce aside to cool to room temperature. When the cherry sauce has cooled, gently stir in the cherries, vanilla extract, and almond extract. In a large bowl, combine the meringues, the yogurt, and the cherry sauce and fold them gently together. You want streaks of white and cherry sauce throughout. Add the whipped topping and fold the topping into the mixture gently, again, just making streaks and not fully combining all the ingredients—you want the red and white to show. Put the dessert into a large glass bowl or individual glass dishes and top with additional whipped topping, a cherry, and/or chocolate shavings, if you like.