With spring finally here, cooks do not want to spend all their time in the kitchen. They want to be out enjoying the sunshine and the extra hour of daylight.
Quick and easy is in order. Main dish salads or meatless pasta dishes are good go-to meals for spring, especially since we are in the midst of Lent. During Lent, some Christians do not eat meat, preferring to do vegetarian or chicken or fish.
Throughout the year, I like to plan my weekly menus with at least one meatless day. It never hurts to lighten up family meals. Since we have a toddler in the house, I am always trying new ways to get her to eat veggies or eat, period.
Two readers -- Mitch Burnett and Barbara Anderson of Bradenton -- need recipe help from readers from meatless main dishes to vegetable soup.
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"I have been a natural vegetarian my whole life. By natural I mean I have never liked the taste, texture or look of meat, rather than being against animals for food," Burnett said. "I gag on beef, choke down pork, prefer fish and dairy to chicken, but do eat it a little.
"To top it off, I am not a cook, yet I read your column every week and rarely have I found meatless, easy recipes, something that can be thrown together. I hope you will include some vegetarian recipes in the future, easy things," Burnett said.
Well, Burnett is in luck today. I will share my favorite go-to meatless entree. Readers, please send me your vegetarian recipes that are easy and quick for Burnett.
Anderson, like Burnett, needs readers' help.
"I'm looking for a good, tasty and simple vegetable soup," she said. "My daughter-in-law in Charleston called and asked for one, but I've never made it. I've made plen
ty of chicken soup but never veggie. Can you help?"
Readers, please send in your favorite vegetable soup recipes for Anderson. I will share one today that makes use of fresh vegetables, but remember, frozen vegetables work well in soups, too, and make for a quicker fix.
This soup recipe by Corita Johnson comes from "Cooking on the Coast: The O'Keefe Family Recipe Book." I especially like this recipe because it adds grains, fresh vegetables and pasta, making this a hearty vegetable soup.
Anderson did not say if she wanted a strictly veggie vegetable soup or if she wanted meat in it. This one is made with meat. Most Southern cooks put a soup bone or meat in their vegetable soup.
3 gallons water
4 pounds soup meat or chuck roast
2 cans tomatoes, chopped
2 large onions, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 rutabaga, diced
3/4 cup barley
4 carrots, chopped or sliced
1/2 pound green beans, popped in half
4 Irish potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups pasta
Boil meat in water. Add tomatoes, onions, celery and sweet pepper. Then add rutabaga and barley. Next add carrots. Then add green beans, potatoes, salt and pepper and Lea & Perrins. Finally, add pasta.
Make this recipe in a large 4 gallon pot. It will amply feed 16 or more people a portion of soup and soup meat. The soup meat may be served separately if desired.
For quick and easy soup, use tomato paste and frozen vegetables, but the other is better.
-- Recipe by Corita Johnson from "Cooking on the Coast."
Here is my favorite go-to meatless dish for Burnett. It is easy and very good, even to those in my family who do not like zucchini.
1 package large pasta shells, cooked according to package directions; set aside
1 large zucchini, grated or pulsed in food processor
2 peeled carrots, grated or pulsed in food processor
1 (8-ounce) carton skim ricotta cheese
1 (8-ounce) carton low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2- 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Your favorite jarred pasta sauce
In large bowl, mix ricotta, cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese. In skillet to which a little olive has been added, put in zucchini, carrots and garlic. Let the vegetables soften. Add basil and oregano to vegetables. Take off stove. Pour vegetables into cheese mixture in large bowl. Mix to combine thoroughly. Take 1 cooked pasta shell and fill 2/3 full with mixture. Place in greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Continue filling remaining shells. Pour jarred sauce over stuffed shells. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so until shells are hot and cheese is melted. Serves 6-8.
Here is another favorite of mine that is perfect for any Lenten occasion. Chicken is used in this, but shrimp could be also.
CHICKEN CHUTNEY SALAD
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chutney, chopped
1- 1/2 to 2 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon onion salt
2 cans (6-3/4 ounces each) chunk breast of chicken, drained
1 large unpeeled Red Delicious apple, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1 (8 ounces) can pineapple chunks, well drained
1 cup sliced celery (I omit the celery; can't stand the stuff)
1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup flaked coconut
Lettuce leaves as garnish
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, as garnish
1 tablespoon sliced green onion, as garnish
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder and onion salt until well blended.
Gently stir in the chicken, apple, pineapple, celery, banana, raisins and coconut until well coated.
To serve, line individual salad plates with lettuce leaves. Divide salad and mound in the center of each plate. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and green onion.
Yield: 4 servings.
-- From "Sensational Salads"
Don't forget those easy meatless recipes and the recipes for vegetable soup. Send them my way.
Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.