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Holiday Season Meal Solutions

PERHAPS YOU HAVE NOTICED THE GROWING PROCESSED FOOD
phenomenon called “Meal Solutions” in your grocery store. Packaged, seasoned, and pre-cooked meats and poultry; bags of frozen cut-up vegetables in sauce; boxes of flavored potato, noodle, and rice meals to which you simply add water (and a little of that precooked meat). We understand the need for convenience foods, but we when we look at these “Meal Solutions,” we see a lot of chemical additives and tired, dried out food lacking natural nutrients and flavor. The requisite salt, sugars, and bad fats needed to make the food palatable also make it less healthy. Many of these “Meal Solutions” contain products that are so far removed from the food chain that we simply can’t figure out what they are.

During the holidays, it can be difficult finding time to cook delicious, healthy meals in between the many social gatherings and obligations. So we have come up with our own little “Meal Solutions.” Our Spicy Roasted Ratatouille Spread serves as the basis for an inspired variety of dishes: as a spicy spread for crackers; mixed with goat cheese for a quick and tasty pasta; served as a condiment alongside roasted meat, fish, or poultry; spread over chicken, turkey, roast beef, or lamb to make a delicious sandwich; and even as a flavorful addition to a colorful salad topped with fresh creamy cheese. You can make up a large batch of our Spicy Roasted Ratatouille Spread to use as a holiday party hors d’oeuvre, and then use the extra for a quick and easy weekday meal. No matter which flavorful rendition you choose to make, you’ll have a fresh, nutrient-rich, and delicious alternative to something microwaved from a box.

 

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SPICY ROASTED RATATOUILLE SPREAD

Yields 2–3 cups

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ – ½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1–pound eggplant, peeled, cut into ¾ inch cubes
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 large red onion, peeled, cut into ¾ inch cubes
¼ cup sun–dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Non–stick vegetable oil spray

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a large non–stick baking sheet with non–stick spray.
  2. In large bowl, whisk oil with garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Add eggplant, bell peppers, and onion. Toss to coat. Spread mixture on baking sheet.
  3. Roast vegetables for 10 minutes and then turn. Continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet.
  4. Transfer vegetables to food processor. Add sun–dried tomato, parsley, and basil. Process, using on/off turns, until coarse purée forms. Transfer to bowl and adjust seasonings.
  5. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. Serve with crispy crackers.

© 2003 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts

PASTA with SPICY ROASTED RATATOUILLE
And GOAT CHEESE

Serves 4

4 cups fusilli or farfalle
1½ cups Spicy Roasted Ratatouille (see recipe above)
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
4 ounces goat cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and return to sauce pan.
  2. Place saucepan over medium–low heat. Add Spicy Roasted Ratatouille, broth, goat cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until well incorporated. Lower heat, cover the saucepan and allow pasta to cook one minute more until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

© 2003 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts

ROASTED MEAT, FISH, or POULTRY
With SPICY ROASTED RATATOUILLE PURÉE

Use several tablespoons of warmed Spicy Roasted Ratatouille as a purée alongside each serving of roasted meat, fish, or poultry.

© 2003 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts

CHICKEN, TURKEY, ROAST BEEF,
Or LAMB SANDWICHES
With SPICY ROASTED RATATOUILLE SPREAD

Use one or two tablespoons of Spicy Roasted Ratatouille as a spread on chicken, turkey, roast beef, or lamb sandwiches.

 

© 2003 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts

SALAD GREENS with SPICY ROASTED RATATOUILLE
And FRESH CREAMY CHEESE

Toss salad greens with a balsamic vinaigrette (see Recipe Archive for our balsamic vinaigrette recipe) and divide onto salad plates. Place one or two tablespoons of Spicy Roasted Ratatouille on top of the dressed greens and sprinkle top with a fresh creamy cheese, such as goat or feta cheese.

 

© 2003 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts