Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Help for Menu Planning

this book can be purchased at Williams Sonoma stores or via Internet

Menu planning is something I love to do, and for my detail-oriented personality, I need to do. I am truly at loose ends if 5 p.m. rolls around and I have no idea what to cook for supper. I'm seldom one who can just "wing it," even though there are only two sitting at my supper table.

don't walk away from the skillet while toasting almonds (or any nut) --
they scorch quickly when left unattended

Probably my great interest in good nutrition, combined with avoiding my food allergens, has a lot to do with the need to plan out menus ahead of time. I've found some books over the years that are very helpful with this, but even with that assistance, there are usually menus that call for ingredients Beloved and I don't eat or care for. No one book or plan is perfect for us at all times. 

Currants are like itty bitty raisins
But with that said, I'm using a book now that is fun.  A person needs to enjoy cooking and the challenge of using unfamiliar ingredients, which I do.  In my younger years when the children were still living at home and my schedule was much more strenuous, this style of cooking would have driven me mad with its demands, but now, it's more like a hobby!

This is curly parsley. Flat-leafed parsley is considered more gourmet,
but you use what you can find, right?
The recipes in Williams-Sonoma's Salad of the Day, 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year are defined as gluten-free, so I skip over the ones that don't work for me, or I substitute ingredients if possible.

yellow squash or green zucchini -- either will work well for this recipe
Last week we enjoyed a warm salad combination that I made early in the day, so the flavors could meld. Then at dinnertime I reheated it and served it atop some colorful lettuce greens. For Beloved (the meat-eater), I boiled some sausage to serve on the side, and the meal was complete. It was great! 

But even if a recipe is not that good, the joke around here is that we don't have to eat it again for another year, since this book has something entirely different for 365 days!

sliced leeks display our Creator's beautiful symmetry of design

I adapted this recipe for what I had on hand, for what I could find in my grocery store on a day when I was in a rush to get home, and for the number of people sitting at my table. This is not the original recipe in the book.

the flavor of sautéed leeks is heavenly!
Please note that leeks tend to harbor sand/dirt, so rinse them very well and be on the lookout for additional bits of dirt that may be hiding as you slice them up. Just rinse them off with water.

this is the rice I used

The original recipe called for wild rice and brown rice and cooked them separately before combining them in the final dish. I could not find just wild rice the day I was shopping, so I got this pre-packaged mix that is wonderfully easy and flavorful. It worked out well.  This particular flavor of Uncle Ben's is gluten-free. If that is a concern for you, always be sure to check the labels.

Leeks are large and have a wonderful aroma raw and well as cooked.
Be sure to rinse them well, allowing the water to run down
between the layers to remove all the sandy dirt.

Wild Rice and Leek Salad (for 2)

1 large leek, well washed 
1 package Uncle Ben's Ready Whole Grain Medley 
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup slivered and blanched almonds
extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow summer squash (or green zucchini)
1 sprig fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon red pepper (cayenne pepper)
1/4 cup lemon juice

In a dry skillet heat the almond slivers for about 3 minutes (or less), stirring often, until toasted. Remove the almonds to a bowl to cool. 

Thinly slice the white and pale green portion of a leek. (Save the tougher dark part for soup on another day.) Put about 1/3 cup oil in the skillet, add the sliced leeks and salt to taste. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Transfer the leeks to a large bowl.

Cook the brown rice and wild rice according to package directions (90 seconds in the microwave and they're done!) and then add the rice to the bowl with the leeks. 

Cut the squash (or zucchini) into 1/2-inch slices.  Add more oil as may be needed to the skillet and cook the squash until they are tender-crisp, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add the squash to the bowl with the leeks and rice.

Add the remaining ingredients (the chopped parsley, ground cumin, ground allspice, ground coriander, red pepper, the toasted almonds, and lemon juice, stirring to combine well. Adjust the seasonings as may be desired.

You can serve this immediately or refrigerate all day for the flavors to meld.  I spooned this mixture over a colorful lettuce mixture for a beautiful presentation. 

Wild Rice and Leek Salad over mixed salad greens
Let's eat!


  1. I wish I had the discipline to do some menu planning. I'm lucky to think of something on my way home from work. Good for your, and the salad sounds and looks healthy.

  2. I very rarely cook with leeks! I should look for them and try this! I like William Sonoma Cookbooks very much --they are usually all reliable and delicious recipes.