Flavor Without the Fuss


December, the month when weeks and weekends are filled with back-to-back gatherings where friends, families and colleagues get together to make special memories before the start of a new year. I can never have enough quick and easy recipes handy during this busy time of year. Recipes that require few, simple ingredients, minimal preparation and can be prepared ahead of time will make it easy for you to enjoy the festivities without spending too much time in the grocery store and kitchen. Try out a few of these recipes for your next get together, that all meet my criteria for delivering flavor without the fuss.

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Black Bean and Jasmine Rice Salad

Life of the Party, page 54

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups cooked jasmine rice

1 cup olive oil

¼ cup Key lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

½ to 1 head romaine

½ cup chopped scallions (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine the beans and rice in a large bowl. Whisk the olive oil into the lime juice in a small bowl. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and rice, tossing to coat well. Stir in the scallions and cilantro. Chill, covered, until serving time. Cut or tear the romaine into bite-size pieces. Fold into the salad immediately before serving.You may substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans of black beans for cooked black beans. Rinse and drain the canned beans before preparing the salad. For extra flavor, reduce some balsamic vinegar until it is of a syrupy consistency. Let it cool and drizzle over the salad before serving.

Asparagus Pecan Stack

Life of the Party, page 64

1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup sugar

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus in 1 to 2 inches of boiling water for 6 to 7 minutes or until bright green. Rinse under cold water and drain. Layer the asparagus and pecans in an oblong serving dish. Whisk the oil, cider vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl until well blended. Pour evenly over the asparagus. Season with pepper. Marinate, in the refrigerator, for 2 to 3 hours. May be prepared a couple days in advance.

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Sweet Potato Soufflé with Pecan Streusel

Savor the Seasons, page 57

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1/3 stick butter

3 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1 cup half-and-half

1/3 stick butter, melted

2 eggs

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine 1 cup brown sugar, the flour and pecans in a small bowl and mix well. Cut in 1/3 stick butter until crumbly. Combine the sweet potatoes, half-and-half, 1/3 stick melted butter, the eggs, ¾ cup brown sugar, the vanilla and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with the pecan topping. Bake for 1 hour.

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