Tonight we had a sort-of Italian dinner: Cheese Ravioli with chickpeas and spaghetti sauce; Stir-fried Artichoke Hearts with Bacon; Garlic Breadsticks; Carrot Sticks; Sliced Kiwi Fruit; and Dried Fruit Bars.
The ravioli was the frozen kind; I cooked it first, drained it, and then combined it with the chickpeas and about half a can of spaghetti sauce, all in the same pot, and let it warm through. It does tend to stick to the bottom of the pot when you're heating it, so you have to warm it very gently.
We were going to have a salad, but the lettuce got eaten up earlier in the week along with most of our other green vegetables. I wasn’t sure what we were going to have along with the ravioli until I noticed a forlorn can of artichoke hearts that I’d bought for the Common Room’s pasta-chickpea-artichoke heart-spinach salad...we don’t eat pasta salad much in the winter, so the can had gotten pushed to the back. Betty Crocker turned out to have exactly the right recipe (since we also had just a few strips of bacon left in the fridge):
Artichoke Hearts Saute
2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into halves
1 tsp. lemon juice
Cook bacon in 10-inch skillet, stirring occasionally, until limp, about 1 ½ minutes. (I cooked it until it looked just about done, and then drained off the fat.) Stir in artichoke hearts; cook and stir until hot, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. (It will be noted that not all the Squirrels wanted to try this, but Crayons at least made a brave attempt to be open-minded.)
The Garlic Breadsticks were a half-batch of Miss Maggie’s recipe, here. Last time I made them, I divided up the dry ingredients and made only a half-batch in an 8-inch square pan; so this batch went together pretty quickly.
Dried Fruit Bars was a recipe of Mary Carroll’s that I clipped from Vegetarian Times a long time ago. Crayons, who loves to cook, helped me put it together. (She did not think it tasted delicious, but the Apprentice happily ate Crayons' share.) Notice that it’s vegan, which means it’s also good for people with dairy/egg and even wheat allergies, if your granola’s wheat-free.
Dried Fruit Bars
2 cups low-sugar granola
1/4 cup apple juice (we used orange juice)
oil or spray for greasing pan
4 cups mixed chopped dried apricots, pitted dates and prunes (we had no prunes but used raisins)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup pear or other light fruit juice (we used orange again because that’s what we had)
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In blender or food processor, grind granola to a coarse powder, then transfer to a large bowl. Mix with juice. Lightly oil or spray a 9 by 12-inch baking pan (we used a 9 by 13 pan) and press the mixture into the bottom of it.
In the blender or food processor, puree the remaining ingredients. (Actually, what we did was chop the dried fruit to make sure that we had about four cups of it – I measured it by dumping it into a four-cup plastic container – and then it went back in the food processor with the other ingredients to get pureed.)
Spread the mixture over the prepared granola crust. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into squares (Mary Carroll says 12 bars, but we cut it in smaller squares). Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. You may have a rim of dry crumbly stuff around the outside if your fruit didn’t quite cover the crust, but you can cut the nice part into squares and serve them on a plate, and nobody will know, right?
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