I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Friday Night Dinner

Pinto Bean and Feta Cheese Quesadillas

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Sunday Night Dinner

I love feta cheese. Tangy and flavorful, it punches up any dish. My current favorite brown bag lunch is a feta and tomato sandwich. I use a sprouted grain bread (Alvarado Street Bakery), spread one side with plain greek yogurt and tomatoes, top with feta and the other slice. Feta feels summery to me. As we tire of winter and our cold spring, bring on the feta!

I first made this recipe on July 3, 1994. Back in the early days of marriage when I was trying new recipes, clipping them out, and pasting them into a little notebook, with the date carefully noted. Exactly 5 years before my son was born. This recipe has evolved to a simple weeknight meal that is healthy and appealing. We call it Bean Burritos. Even my (now) 16-year old son loves them, albeit with flour tortillas (and no feta, and definitely no olives).

Pinto Bean and Feta Cheese Quesadillas, aka Bean Burritos

  • 1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 – 6 oz feta cheese, sliced
  • Sliced ripe olives
  • Tortillas (I use 100% whole wheat, check sugar content and use a brand without sugar, it tastes weird if it’s too sweet. My husband and son prefer traditional flour tortillas. Corn tortillas do not work well.)
  • Salsa

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, combine beans, chili powder, cumin, and lemon juice and blend. It does not have to be smooth, a little texture is nice.

Spread ~2 Tablespoons of bean mixture on 6-8 tortillas. Top with feta. Sprinkle with olives. Roll up.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add tortillas – in 2 batches – and toast until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place in an oven-proof dish.

Heat tortillas in oven, until feta melts, about 10 additional minutes.

Top with salsa.

Serves 3-4 as main course, about 2-3 tortillas per person.

Butternut Squash Panzanella

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aka Butternut Squash Panda Elk

I have a lot of food rules. Whole grains! Less bread! Less sugar! No dessert! It’s exhausting.

In an attempt to be a bit more flexible with what I eat, and to reinstill my joy in cooking … and eating, I’ve been trying new recipes that I think both my husband and I will like. This winter salad is delicious. I adapted it from a recipe that was recently published in the New York Times and it is easily adjusted and reinterpreted to fit your taste and your mood.

It was a big hit and is now in regular rotation. When I texted my husband what we were having for dinner, “Panzanella” (bread salad) auto-corrected as “Panda Elk,” which is now our nickname for this dish.

Butternut Squash Panzanella

  • 1 ¼ pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2” chunks
  • Olive Oil (about 11 Tablespoons)
  • 8 oz bread (stale bread is traditional – I used a high quality loaf of not-stale sourdough), torn into 1/2” chunks
  • 10 oz sugar snaps, trimmed
  • 3-4 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 1 small bunch arugula, rinsed, dried, and torn into smaller pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 4 oz goat cheese (optional)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons pignoli toasted (optional)

Heat oven to 425° F. Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast 25 minutes or until soft and caramelized at the edges, turning the chunks halfway through. Remove from heat.

Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bread and toast until crisp, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Steam sugar snaps in microwave for about 2-3 minutes, still a little crisp.

Combine sugar snaps, celery, sage, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes. Celery will soften and absorb the vinaigrette.

Combine squash, bread, arugula, vinaigrette mixture. Add cheese and nuts, if using.

Serves 3 as a main course and 6 as a side dish.

Friday Night Dinner

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Snow Day Lentil Stew

Dinner is a juggling act. My husband would prefer Spaghetti and Meatballs. Every night. Fortunately he makes meatballs regularly so they are on frequent rotation. My son is currently aligned with his dad, which is as it should be a 16. He thinks Mom is kind of strange. Loveable but quirky. Indeed. Nothing makes me happier than some vegetarian concoction and frequent breaks from pasta.

By Friday night, after a week of everyone going in different directions with different activities and different food cravings, we try to come together. Sometimes, now, it is just my husband and me. While he cooks the more traditional fare over the weekend, ideally with leftovers, Friday night is my territory. I try to find something quick (I’m tired!) and healthy.

Snow-bound on Saturday, I was in the mood for lentil soup and rummaged through the tired vegetables in the back of the vegetable bin to round it out.  I hate canned soup (too thin, too salty, not enough flavor), but frequently make homemade soup/stew in the winter.  Perfect for a weekend lunch or an easy Friday night dinner.

Snow Day Lentil Stew, with Potatoes and Celery

  • 4-5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • (Onion and Carrot would be good also but I didn’t have)
  • 1 small Idaho potato or 3 Yukon Golds, chopped fine (I pre-cooked the Idaho potato in the microwave for 2 minutes)
  • 1 cup lentils (I prefer French Green lentils, they are smaller and the texture is more firm, less mushy)
  • 5-6 cups of water
  • Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (Fage 0%)

Heat olive oil in medium to large sauce pan

Saute garlic, celery, potato and any other vegetables in the back of your refrigerator. Take your time with this step, a good 10-15 minutes, stirring infrequently, so that everything gets a little bit crispy brown. When your wonder if you’ve gone too far and worry that it’s about to burn, it’s perfect.

Add lentils and water and thyme.

Simmer for an hour, until potatoes and lentils are soft.  Add vinegar, salt, and pepper.

If too thin, you can take about a third of the soup and blend it. Return it to the rest of the soup to thicken the texture.

Top with 1-2 Tablespoons of plain Greek. Yum! This is the trick that adds creaminess and tang. My husband prefers his with parmesan cheese and Sriacha.

Serve as is with good bread or over brown rice or quinoa. Salad and wine round out the meal.

Serves 4

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