This time of year has weather extremes: lion or lamb — we never know which one is going to show up! Winter prevails, but sometimes balmy weather stops by for a quick visit. These swings in temperature affect our appetites and wreak havoc on meal planning. Who wants a pot roast or bean soup on a 70-degree day? But when the snowy weather returns, a hearty crockpot dinner is a welcome menu.
TIPS & TRICKS
- A mix of plain yogurt, a dash of onion salt, a diced cucumber and fresh, if possible, dill makes a cooling accompaniment to many dishes.
- Lemon zest, fresh-chopped parsley and minced shallots make a delicious “drizzle” on any fish without crumb topping or served on the side.
- Turkey meatballs can be substituted for most beef meatball recipes, although beef ones give a richer flavor.
Here are some recipes for a variety of “climate changes.” All are easy, healthy-ish and can be prepared in advance. I love shopping in Trader Joe’s. So many kosher choices. The fabulous easy meatball soup recipe uses their ingredients, but any can be substituted with kosher ones of your choice. The idea is to use small meatballs, so any can be cut in half or quarters. And the tilapia fish recipe is so good; using panko bread crumbs is the secret. Weather in Baltimore can be unpredictable, but planning ahead can make you ready for anything.
THREE-INGREDIENT MEATBALL SOUP
1 package meatballs of your choice
1 carton Trader Joe’s lower sodium chicken broth
1 jar TJ’s chunky salsa (low fat)
Heat meatballs according to package directions. (You can microwave or use oven. I used the oven and then wrapped them in paper towels to get rid of extra grease.) Combine meatballs, broth, salsa. Heat in a large pot on stove until hot. When serving, you can sprinkle with tortilla chips. I also added some chunks of ripe avocado, because I had them. Serve with a green salad. Perfect dinner for a cold night!
EASY CROCKPOT SHREDDED CHICKEN
6 frozen skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 12-ounce bottle barbecue sauce (choose a good brand)
½ cup Italian salad dressing (choose a good brand)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
> Place chicken in a slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the barbecue sauce, Italian salad dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the chicken. Cover, and cook 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Flavor and texture is so good. I like to shred the chicken and place open face on challah rolls. 6 servings.
6 tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
½ cup melted margarine
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup unseasoned panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking pan lightly with oil. In a shallow dish, combine the melted margarine, garlic powder, salt and lemon juice. In a separate shallow pan, combine panko crumbs and Old Bay. Dip each fillet in the margarine mixture, shaking or rubbing off excess. Roll well in the panko mixture covering all sides. Place fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking pan. Press remaining panko crumbs on top of each (important). Bake 12 to 14 minutes until flaky, do not turn. Serve with lemon wedges (also important). 6 servings.
Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.