Holiday

Valentine’s Day Dinner Part 1: Seasoned Asparagus

baked asparagus with seasoning for valentines day dinner

 

I’m really excited for this week’s post because I will be launching a Valentine’s Day special!  This means that throughout the week I will be updating the blog with recipes I created as part of a full Valentine’s Day dinner.  So by the end of the week, all you soon-to-be cupids out there will have a super delicious meal to make for the person you are trying to trick into liking you…I mean your loved one <3

We’ll start with the simple recipe first, and work our way through the rest of the course together, as the recipes become a little bit more complex as we go.  But no worries, I will be here every step of the way!  To keep your motivation up, just think of the finished product, how proud and accomplished you’ll feel, and how special it will be for your person! 

(And if all goes to hell in a hand basket, abort mission and go to plan B.  Order a pizza and have a great laugh about it!)

Now let’s get started with our first guest of honor…the one and only, seasoned asparagus!

 

asparagus in skillet with seasoning

 

 

Never underestimate the power of some simple baked veggies in oil and seasoning.  This dish takes very little time to prep, but has maximum taste bud satisfaction…oh and asparagus is super healthy too!  For one thing, it has a really low calorie count, but more importantly it’s a good source for antioxidants, and contains high amounts of folate and vitamins A,C, and K.  

 

asparagus in skillet with oil and seasoning
Asparagus pre-bake

 

For this recipe, you’ll want to take a bundle (or large handful) of fresh asparagus, and cut off the bottom stems.  Usually this part of the asparagus is white, or I just cut the bottom inch off to keep it simple and easy.

Rinse your asparagus before placing in a greased baking dish.  Drizzle oil on top and then season with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning.  Bake and serve!

 

baked asparagus with seasoning on top ready to eat

 

And just remember, nothing says love like the gift of stinky pee…

 

baked asparagus with seasoning
Baked Asparagus

 

Seasoned Asparagus

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Side Dish
Keyword: asparagus, baked, everything but the bagel, healthy, seasoned, simple, trader joes
Servings: 2 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bundle fresh asparagus
  • 2 tbsp EVOO or avocado oil
  • Everything But The Bagel Seasoning Trader Joe's

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a small baking dish.
  • Take bundle of asparagus and cut an inch off the bottom stem.
  • Rinse asparagus, then lay in baking dish.  Drizzle oil overtop and season with Everything But The Bagel.  Add as much seasoning as you'd like, or enough to cover surface of asparagus.
  • Bake for 30 min.
Vegetarian Meals

Traditional Greek Salad

two greek salad with oil, balsamic vinegar, and cucumber on the side

 

Rounding out this Mediterranean themed week with my all time favorite greek cuisine…the simple yet flavorful, GREEK SALAD.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, David and I were lucky enough to make a trip to Greece last summer with a few of our friends, and let me tell you, it was a dream come true!

 

friends visiting mykonos town, mykonos greece

(The group in Mykonos Town, Mykonos)

The country is so old, history so rich, and the land is beautiful!  We toured the National Archaeological Museum and Acropolis, met some of the nicest and most accommodating locals, lounged on their sun filled beaches, and indulged in some of the best and freshest food (and drinks)!  

 

having drinks on a rooftop bar overlooking the acropolis is greece

(Enjoying those drinks at a bar overlooking the Acropolis!  Bar: A for Athens Cocktail Bar)

(Walking through the ancient Acropolis of Athens)

If I’m being honest, I always enjoyed Greek Salads here in the U.S., but they weren’t anything I’d obsess over.  So obviously, first day in Greece, I had to try out a traditional Greek Salad from the homeland to see how it compared.  Final verdict?  OH.MAH.GAWD. it was life changing.  And no lie, I ate one every.single.day.

You think one would get tired of eating the same food every day, but that was not the case at all.  It actually had the opposite effect, in that I required a Greek Salad with a side of fresh bread and olive oil, every day in order to survive.  The best way I can explain it is like this…I’m stuck floating out into space, and the Greek Salad is my oxygen filled space suit GIVING ME LIFE.

But I digress…

 

greek salad with block of feta and basil on top

 

Aside from the seriously ripe, home grown tomatoes and cucumbers, the biggest difference in Greek Salads in Greece vs Greek Salads in the U.S. is the FETA CHEESE.  Every place you went to in Greece gave you these big blocks of brine-soaked feta, drizzled with oil and oregano.  This was a GAME CHANGER.

One of my favorite brine-soaked feta blocks is made by Dodoni, an authentic Greek feta imported from the homeland itself!  I get mine at Costco in a big container, so as you can imagine it lasts me a while!  Trader Joe’s also has a good selection of blocked feta, so don’t be afraid to try it out and take the extra step of cutting it up ypurself…its worth it!

 

two greek salad with cucumber on the side and Dodoni blocked feta

 

So as you can imagine, I was determined to recreate this in my own home and I think this recipe is pretty darn close.  The key is to keep it simple.  Use large chunks of veggies, quality EVOO, and a big ol’ block of brine soaked feta for good measure!  Do not underestimate the power of simple, quality ingredients, as evidence by this life giving salad.

 

greek salad with block of feta and dodoni blocked feta container

 

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, sit back, relax…and take a picture to send to you friends telling them you took a last minute trip to Greece!

 

two greek salads with oil and balsamic vinegar on the side

 

Traditional Greek Salad

Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salad
Keyword: feta, greek, salad, traditional
Servings: 2 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cucumber cut into large chunks
  • 2 tomatoes cut into large chunks
  • 1/4 cup red onion sliced thinly
  • 1 large block of feta
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh basil chopped

Instructions

  • Dice cucumber and tomatoes in large chunks and add to bowl.
  • Thinly slice the raw red onion and sprinkle over top of cucumber and tomato mixture.
  • Drizzle oil and vinegar over salad mixture.
  • Cut a large block of feta and lay overtop individual salads.
  • Drizzle a little extra oil over feta and sprinkle whole salad with dried oregano.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped basil.
Holiday

An Ode to Thanksgiving: A Few of My Favorite Things

stuffing in red casserole dish, mac and cheese in red casserole dish, with cranberry sauce on black table with decorations of nutmeg and herbs

 

GUYS.  We are days away from Thanksgiving, which I might add…is my ALL TIME fav Holiday.  Thanksgiving is the epitome of what this blog is all about, which is why I’m so excited to share these recipes with you!  Not to mention, this Holiday is basically an entire day that revolves around food.  Can I get an amen?!

In honor of Thanksgiving being my favorite Holiday, I decided to feature 3 of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes to share with you guys!  So without further ado, let me introduce you to the crew…

  • THE BEST Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

This mac and cheese will change your life forever.  I’m serious.  It’s so dang good that anyone you serve it to will become your new best friend.  This was a recipe my mom used to make for us growing up, and it continues to be a classic to this day.  AND to make this all the more exciting…there’s a secret ingredient!  Yup…NUTMEG.  Adding nutmeg takes this mac to a whole other level, and will seriously challenge your will power to not eat all the cheese sauce before adding pasta!

THE BEST Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Course: Side Dish
Keyword: creamy, mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, nutmeg
Servings: 8 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 pint half and half cream
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 block velveeta cheese cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 block sharp white cheddar cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tsp fresh nutmeg ground
  • 1 1 lb box rotini pasta cooked
  • 1/2 cup panko

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lay out all of your ingredients ahead of time, as the sauce will need to be stirred while cooking to prevent hardening or burning.
  • Prep the cheeses by cutting them into thin slices (that way they melt in the saucepan quicker).  Allow cream to get close to room temp, to avoid curdling.
  • Once ingredients are laid out, add butter to saucepan over medium heat.  Allow to melt and then whisk in flour.
  • Slowly pour cream into saucepan in stages, while continuously stirring.  This will thicken and create the roux for your cheese sauce.
  • Once you have added all the cream and created your roux, start to add the cheeses and continually stir.  Add cheese in stages (a handful of velveeta and cheddar at one time).  Stir in cheese until it melts, then add another handful until everything is blended together. 
  • Sprinkle in nutmeg and stir.
  • Add most of your cooked noodles to the cheese sauce and stir (I leave out a handful of noodles so it's extra creamy!).
  • Transfer to a greased baking dish.
  • Melt butter in a separate bowl and stir in 1/2 cup panko.  Take panko mixture and sprinkle on top of mac and cheese.
  • Bake for 30 min with foil on top for first 20 min.

Notes

  • I use Vermont Sharp White Cheddar by Cracker Barrel for my choice of cheddar.
  • Rotini pasta is my favorite to use with mac and cheese, because I find that its shape is best for grabbing the sauce.
  • Gluten Free Wild Rice and Sausage Stuffing 

Just to be clear…stuffing is the real MVP of Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s probably the one item that you could mix in with every other dish and it all tastes bomb.com.  Think about it…turkey? Yup.  Cranberry Sauce?  Yup.  Mashed potatoes?  Yup.  Pumpkin Pie?  Well, maybe not pumpkin pie.  

This recipe gives you a gluten free stuffing to make for the centerpiece of your plate.  Find yourself a GF bread, get yourself some sausage, and mix in all the veggies!  Mixing in wild rice is so yummy and gives it added flavor.

Gluten Free Wild Rice and Sausage Stuffing

Course: Side Dish
Keyword: gluten free, rosemary, sage, sausage, stuffing, thyme, wild rice
Servings: 10 people
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 3/4 loaf bread
  • 8-10 oz sausage cooked
  • 3 tbsp butter grass-fed
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 5 sticks celery peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 pack portabello mushrooms chopped
  • 3 cups chicken bone broth
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice yielded from 1 cup dry wild rice
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large casserole dish with oil.  Set casserole dish aside. 
  • Cook 1 cup of wild rice (should yield approximately 3 cups cooked).
  • Add 2 tablespoons EVOO to saucepan and cook sausage over medium heat.  Break apart with a spoon.
  • Take a loaf of gluten free bread, and cut 3/4 of the loaf into small cubes.  Take bread cubes and set aside in casserole dish.
  • When sausage is done cooking, pour over bread in casserole dish.
  • Chop garlic, onion, mushrooms, and celery.  Add 3 tablespoons of butter to saucepan with sausage drippings, add chopped veggies, and cook over medium heat. Sauté veggies for 8-10 min or until wilted.
  • Add chopped herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), and 2 cups broth to veggie mixture and stir.  Once broth is warmed up, remove from heat.
  • Whisk together 1 cup of broth, two eggs and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. 
  • In the casserole dish, already containing the bread and sausage, add the vegetables with broth, and cooked wild rice.  Stir together and let cool a little.  Then add broth/egg mixture (want the dish to cool down so the eggs don't cook).  Stir all ingredients together.
  • Drizzle apple cider vinegar over the top to bring out the flavor.
  • Bake for 30 min with foil over top.  Remove foil for last 10 min of baking.

Notes

  • In order to cut down on time there are definitely parts of this recipe that can be prepped days ahead.  For myself, I chopped all the veggies the day before making it.  OR you could make the entire dish a couple days ahead of time and store in an air tight container or freezer bag.  Then on the day of serving, just grease the pan and pop in the oven to cook!
  • If made ahead of time, bring it to room temp, add a little more broth (as it was all soaked up while in the frig), blend and bake.
  • If putting the stuffing in a bird, just stuff and cook as usual.
  • Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

There is something to be said about a really good homemade cranberry sauce.  This recipe avoids the refined white sugar and uses natural sweeteners, like honey and oranges, instead.  The sauce has a wonderful mixture of bitter and sweet, with added dimension from the orange juice, and some seasonal spice of cinnamon.  As if the taste isn’t enough to get you to try it, the color it makes is absolutely gorg!

Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce

Course: Side Dish
Keyword: cinnamon, cranberry sauce, fesh cranberry, homemade, orange
Servings: 10
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cranberries fresh or frozen
  • 2 naval oranges juice
  • 1/2 cup raw organic honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  • In a sauce pan combine cranberries, honey, juice from oranges, and cinnamon stick.  (Some chunks or orange fell into the saucepan while I was juicing them and I just left them in there!)
  • Cook on medium heat for 20 min.  Cranberries will start to pop.
  • Stir a couple times while over heat.  This will help blend the ingredients together, and you'll start to see the sauce forming.
  • Remove from heat to allow sauce to cool and thicken.  Once sauce has cooled, remove cinnamon stick.
  • Store in container or mason jar and refrigerate until time to use!

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving this week and that we all take a moment to appreciate those around us.  Enjoy the craziness of family, the time with friends, and the moments shared with one another over some really good food:)