501 Life Magazine | Love is in the air (and on the table)
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Love is in the air (and on the table)

For make-ahead meals, consider a crock pot beef stew with rolls warming in the oven for when the stew is ready.

Another idea – perfect for vegetarians – is homemade Alfredo or primavera sauce, which can be made in advance with only the pasta to prepare at the last minute. Accompany the pasta dish with a Caesar salad and garlic bread to complete the meal. 

Using these tips can help alleviate the stress you might feel from being in a kitchen all day.

If togetherness in the kitchen works for you, assemble all of the ingredients ahead of time for a wonderful tossed salad and then make it together. Have steaks or chicken breasts marinating in advance so they can be grilled just prior to mealtime.

Baked potatoes can be pulled from the oven when the meat course is ready.

For a make-ahead dessert, consider an assortment of dessert tarts. Purchase the pastry tart shells, bake them and fill with your favorite instant pudding flavors when cooled. Top with a variety of garnishes including: fruit, cookie crumbles or candy pieces.
 

Mushroom Onion Rice

2 tablespoons margarine
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed French onion soup
1 (4 ounce) can canned mushrooms, drained
2 cups water

Melt margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in rice and cook just until lightly browned. Mix in soup, mushrooms and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 25 minutes. 

Pecan Tarts

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
5 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease 8 3-inch tart tins.
Roll out pastry and cut 8 5-inch circles. Fit pastry circles into greased tart tins.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, butter or margarine, corn syrup and vanilla extract. Mix well, then stir in pecans. Pour an equal amount of mixture into each pastry-lined tart tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until pastry is golden brown and filling is set.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped

Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt and pepper; pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots and celery.  Cover, and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on high setting for 4 to 6 hours. 

Grilled Lemon Chicken

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, red bell pepper, salt and pepper. Set aside 1/4 cup of the mixture to use for basting. Place chicken in the bowl, and marinate at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Preheat grill for high heat.
Lightly oil grill grate. Drain and discard marinade from the bowl, and place chicken on the grill. Cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until juices run clear, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade.