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Keeping it Real for Valentine’s Day

There are some who will go all out for Valentine’s Day – reservations at a romantic restaurant, roses, chocolates, champagne, etc.  That’s wonderful and sweet and everyone should experience that once in their lives.  For some of us though, a more casual event is in order.  If you are like me and you are married, and a mom, and you have to get up for work the next day; you might want a simple evening at home.  Maybe you’re hosting a singles party for those without a significant other.  Maybe you and your sweetie can’t be together for whatever reason.  That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourselves.  I have the perfect menu for you.  The recipes that are fun and easy and great for any time of the year.

Aphrodite’s Love Boats

Ingredients

Romaine Lettuce – 1 head or 2 hearts
Hearts of Palm – 1 can (15 oz.)
Artichoke Hearts (in oil) – 1 can (14 oz.)
Cucumber – 1
Feta Cheese – 8 oz. (crumbled)
Red Pepper Dressing (recipe follows) – ½ to 1 cup

Directions

  1. Cut the base off the romaine, leaving the leaves intact. Rinse the lettuce and drain.
  1. Drain the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Thinly slice the hearts of palm and artichoke hearts.
  1. Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds by scraping with a small spoon. Thinly slice the cucumbers.
  1. Arrange 8 – 12 romaine leaves on a platter.
  1. Toss together the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, cucumber, and feta cheese and fill the romaine leaves with the mixture.
  1. Drizzle red pepper dressing over the top of the “boats” and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

Ingredients:

Red Peppers – 3-4
Red Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Olive Oil – ½ cup
Garlic – 1-2 cloves (fresh or roasted)
Fresh Basil – 4-5 large leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
Salt and Pepper – to taste

Directions:

  1. Char red peppers until skin is completely blackened.
  1. Put peppers in a bowl and cover with foil to steam.
  1. When they are cool enough to handle, remove skins and seeds.
  1. Place ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until blended.

Note: You can use store bought roasted peppers. Drain them and skip to step number 4. The dressing will be a little denser but you can thin it out with more liquid like vinegar, oil, or even water.

Venus de Mezze – Mediterranean Appetizer Platter

Chicken Gyro Meatballs

Ingredients

Ground Chicken – 3 lbs.
Bread Crumbs – 1 ½ cups
Eggs – 3
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves – minced
Dried Dill – 2 tsp.
Dried Coriander – 2 tsp.
Dried Oregano – 1 tsp.
Salt – 2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Mix meat, bread crumbs eggs, garlic, dill, coriander, oregano, and salt together .
  1. Form and roll mixture into small meatballs.
  1. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Spanakopita Bites

Ingredients

Phyllo Dough Cups – 2 pkgs (15 each)
Frozen Spinach- 2 boxes (thawed)
Red Onion – 1 small
Garlic – 2 cloves
Eggs – 2
Feta – 4 oz.
Dill – 4 sprigs
Scallions – 3
Salt and Pepper – to taste
Olive Oil – as needed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  1. Thaw spinach, then wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze excess water out.
  1. Dice red onion and mince garlic. Chop dill and thinly slice scallions. Beat the eggs.
  1. In a large sauté pan, cook onion and garlic until softened.
  1. Turn off heat and mix in spinach, dill, and feta. Stir in eggs and add salt and pepper.
  1. Fill each phyllo cup with 1-2 tsp. of filling.
  1. Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes until filling is cooked through.

Hummus

Ingredients:
 
Garbanzo Beans – 1 can (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
Garlic – 1 clove (or more to taste)
Sesame Oil or Tahini – 1 tsp.
Lemons – 1- 2 (juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste
Pita Chips (4 pitas toasted)

Directions:
 

  1.  Wash and dry lemons and zest them.
  2. Crush and peel garlic clove.
  3. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon.
  4. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. Serve with toasted pita chips.
Eros is My Hero – Steak Sandwiches with Thai the Knot Chimichurri Sauce
Ingredients
London Broil – 2 lbs.
Marinade (recipe follows)
Chimichurri (recipe follows)
Good Quality Bread – 8 thick slices or 16 thin slices
Olive Oil – 2-3 tbs. for toasting the bread

Directions

  1. Marinate the steak for at least an hour in the fridge or up to 24 hours. Take it out about 30 minutes before grilling so it can come to room temperature.
  1. In the meantime arrange the greens on a serving platter.
  1. Remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.
  1. Place steak on a hot grill for about 2-5 minutes per side depending on thickness.
  1. Allow meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  1. Slice thin pieces against the grain.
  1. Drizzle bread with olive oil. Toast bread in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned and slightly crisp around the edges.
  1. Arrange about 4 oz. of meat on 8 pieces of bread. Drizzle with chimichurri. Can serve open-faced sandwich just like this or place second piece of bread on top.

Marinade

Ingredients

Pineapple Juice – 1 cup
Tamari (Gluten Free Soy Sauce) – ¼ cup
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup
Garlic – 3 cloves – grated or chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece – peeled and grated or chopped

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  1. Pour over the steak and let it marinate for 1-24 hours.

Thai Inspired Herb Dressing

Ingredients

Basil – 1 handful
Cilantro – 1 handful
Mint – about 5 leaves
Garlic – 1 clove
Ginger – 1 tsp. grated
Limes – 2
Rice Wine Vinegar – ¼ cup (if needed)
Salt – to taste
Neutral Oil – ½ cup (vegetable or canola)

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor combine basil, cilantro, mint, garlic, ginger, a pinch or two of salt, and the juice of 1 lime.
  1. Blend until ingredients are combined.
  1. Drizzle in oil until you get a dressing consistency.
  1. At this point, taste and adjust. You can add more salt or lime juice or rice wine vinegar as needed.

Note: Sometimes limes don’t provide enough juice. You can use rice wine vinegar to add a mellow acid note if the limes aren’t juicy enough. You can also just use the vinegar if you don’t have fresh limes on hand.

Love me 2 Thymes Potatoes

Ingredients

Red or White New Potatoes – 30 small
Salt – 2-3 tsp. as needed
Olive Oil – 2 tbs.
Lemon – 1 (zest and juice)
Dried Thyme – 1-2 tsp.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  1. Scrub potatoes. Place in pot with enough water to just cover them. Simmer until cooked through. Add 1 tsp. salt while potatoes are simmering.
  1. Drain potatoes and allow them to cool slightly.
  1. Using a pastry scraper or small pan, press on potatoes to flatten them.
  1. Zest juice the lemon.
  1. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, lemon zest, 1 tbs. of lemon juice, thyme, and a few pinches of salt.
  1. Spread potatoes in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  1. Bake until potatoes are browned and slightly crisped.


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Realish Food on the Road – The Maine Event

First of all, need I say more? This is the lovely view from our hotel in York, Maine. All we had to do was step out the front door and take this in. It is the epitome of a quaint, New England seaside town. This particular day was a bit dreary and the tide was coming in, so it feels a bit smaller than it actually is. I don’t mind that at all. It feels very cozy and intimate. Never fear though, the next day it was 80 degrees and sunny and quite crowded.

We stayed at the Union Bluff Hotel in the Annex, which is slightly more motel than hotel, as the rooms open up to the outside. Don’t let that deter you because every room in the Annex faces the ocean and has this view. We were extremely lucky as we booked on a Monday for a stay starting on Tuesday. I advise you not to wait until the last minute though. You could easily miss out on the opportunity to stay at this beautiful place. Rooms book a year in advance, sometimes three years in advance. We booked for next summer as we were checking out.

I can’t say enough about this property. The staff is friendly, accommodating, and helpful.

Now let’s get to the food. Lobster, lobster, lobster… Yes. I ate lobster every day, but not your everyday steamed lobster with drawn butter and a baked potato – not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was really impressed with the innovative ways in which I enjoyed lobster. There was the lobster taco that I enjoyed at Gaskin’s Barbecue and Lobster. I don’t care for aioli or mayo in any way, shape, or form, so I skipped the coleslaw and chipotle aioli, and had them put avocado sauce and kimchi on mine. Yes kimchi. It was awesome and didn’t over power the lobster meat at all. My daughter enjoyed the pulled pork very much and my husband loved the brisket. They get extra points for having gluten free rolls and clearly labeling the gf items on the menu. They also had an array of bbq sauces to try, ranging from vinegar based to tomato based. All were delicious.

Here is my take on a lobster taco.

Lobster Tacos

Ingredients
Corn Tortillas – 8
Lobster Meat – 1 lb.
Avocado Spread (recipe follows)
Quick Kimchi Slaw (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Heat corn tortillas in the oven, in a dry frying pan, or microwave.
  2. Spoon a thin layer of avocado spread on the tortilla.
  3. Pile with about 2 oz. of lobster meat and top with kimchi slaw.
  4. Enjoy. Serves 2-4 people depending on how much you like to eat.

Avocado Spread

Ingredients
Avocados – 1-2 (ripe – soft to touch but not mushy)
Cilantro – 2 tbs. (finely chopped)
Fresh Lime Juice – 1-2 tbs. (to taste)
Salt – at least 1 tsp. or more to taste
Hot Sauce – a few dashes or to taste

Directions

  1. Cut open avocados and scoop flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add in lime juice and salt.
  3. Mash together until you get a smooth paste.
  4. Add cilantro and hot sauce.
  5. At this point, you should taste and adjust seasonings.

Really Quick Kimchi Slaw

Ingredients
Cole Slaw Mix – 1 bags
Radishes – 8
Scallions – 4
Garlic – 3 cloves
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Soy Sauce – 1 tbs. + 2 tsp.
Chili Sauce or Chili Paste – 1-3 tbs.
Sugar – 1 tbs.
Rice Vinegar – 3 tbs.

Directions

  1. Thinly slice the radishes and scallions and toss them with the cole slaw mix in a large bowl.
  2. Grate the garlic and the ginger and whisk together with the soy sauce, chili sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar.
  3. Toss together the dressing and the veggies and hold at room temperature until ready to serve.
  4. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

http://www.unionbluff.com/

https://www.gaskinsbarbecue.com/


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Tell Your Turkey to Hit the Road – To Southeast Asia

Today we will address how to use up leftover veggies. Whether boiled, roasted, or just sliced and diced, there are always leftover veggies. We will call on a favorite, fast, and easy dish from Thailand and Vietnam to turn those veggies into appetizing packages. Summer Rolls are delicious, filling, and refreshing – and they’re really fun to make and eat.

Summer Rolls with Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Rice Wraps – 8-12
Leftover Veggies – 2 cups – carrots, celery, etc.
Cilantro – 1 handful of leaves
Mint – 1 handful of leaves (optional)
Vinegar – rice wine or apple cider – ¼ cup
Salt – to taste
Neutral Oil – ½ cup
Sesame Oil – 1 tsp. (optional)
Pomegranate Dipping Sauce – recipe follows

Directions

  1. Chop or shred veggies into small pieces.
  2. Make a light dressing with the vinegar, salt, and oils. Toss veggies with a minimal about of dressing.
  3. Fill a shallow bowl or baking dish with water.
  4. Pass rice wrap through water to make it pliable.
  5. Lay it flat and fill bottom third with veggie mix. Add a few cilantro leaves and some mint if you are using it.
  6. Roll like a burrito. Roll up from the bottom to cover mixture. Fold in the sides and continue to roll.
  7. Cut in half diagonally. Serve with pomegranate dipping sauce.

 

Pomegranate Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Pomegranate Juice – 1 cup
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce) – 1 tbs.
Brown Sugar – 1 tsp.
Fresh Ginger – 1 tsp. grated
Garlic – 1 clove grated
Scallions – 2-3 thinly sliced.
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Directions

  1. Simmer all ingredients in a small pan until combined and slightly thickened. Allow to cool. Garnish with scallions.
  2. Serve with summer rolls.


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Tell Your Turkey to Hit the Road – To Mexico

Today’s International Idea is sure to become a leftover fiesta favorite. This is a new take on how to use up both turkey and cranberry sauce. In this case we are using the cranberry jelly that comes from a can, but any extra cranberry sauce will work.

Turkey Enchiladas

Ingredients

Turkey Meat (white or dark) – 2 cups
Chili Powder – 1 tsp.
Cumin – 1 tsp.
Salt – to taste
Lime Juice – ½ – 1 lime – to taste
Olive Oil – 1-2 tsp.
Corn Tortillas -12
Monterey or Pepper Jack Cheese – 4-8 oz. shredded (optional)
Cranberry Tomatillo Salsa – 2 cups or as needed (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Toss together turkey, chili powder, cumin, salt, lime juice and olive oil.
  3. Heat corn tortillas until they are pliable.
  4. Spread about 2 tbs. of turkey on the bottom half of the tortilla. If using cheese sprinkle about 1 tsp. over the turkey mixture.
  5. Roll up the tortilla and place fold side down in baking dish. Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled.
  6. Spoon salsa over the top to lightly cover the enchiladas.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes until heated through.
  8. Serve with remaining salsa.

Note: If you love cheese, feel free to sprinkle some extra over the whole thing before you bake the enchiladas.

Cranberry Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients

Tomatillos – 1½ pounds
Red Onion – ½ of small onion
Garlic Cloves – 2
Serrano or Jalapenos – 2
Jellied Cranberry Sauce – ½ – 15 oz. can (or more to taste)
Lime Juice – 1 lime or to taste
Cilantro – 1 handful
Salt – to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a sheet tray with cooking spray.
  2. Remove husks from tomatillos, rinse and cut in half. Peel and cut onion in half.
  3. On sheet tray place tomatillos, onion, garlic cloves, and serranos or jalapenos. Spray lightly with cooking spray or drizzle with oil.
  4. Roast until tomatillos are softened.
  5. Peel garlic gloves and remove stem and seeds from chiles.
  6. In a food processor, puree roasted veggies with cranberry sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and salt until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

All you need is love…

Well actually all you really need are carrots, celery, onions, and a few other things to create delicious meals on a regular basis. You know how I feel about ingredients. They are affordable and enable you to prepare your own healthy meals whenever you please. I’ll give you two lists of things that you should keep on hand to make delectable dishes and a couple of easy peasy recipes to prove it.

Fresh Ingredients
Carrots
Onion
Celery
Bell Peppers
Garlic
Chilies (jalapeno, Serrano, etc.)
Cilantro (or any fresh herb you use on a regular basis)

Pantry Ingredients
Rice
Beans (at least 2 or 3 kinds)
Stock/Broth (I like vegetable, but chicken or beef work too)
Canned tomatoes (diced, pureed, whole)
Oils
Vinegars
Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)

I’m working under the assumption that you have salt, pepper, and sugar (or some kind of sweetener) on hand already.

Let me explain my rationale for these choices. There are certain bases that you can create for any number of dishes. I’m all about that base, ‘bout that base. Sorry I couldn’t resist. Here are some examples.

Mirepoix is a classic French combination of diced carrots, celery, and onions. It’s usually one part carrots, one part celery, two parts onion. For example, it would be ¼ cup of carrots, ¼ cup of celery, ½ cup onions. It’s a great start for soups and stews.

Trinity is classic in New Orleans cooking. It’s a combination of diced celery, onions, and bell peppers. I’m pretty sure you can’t make gumbo without it, although I’m not a gumbo expert.

Sofrito is a Latin base that is much more flexible in it’s ingredient list, but could include any or all of the following: onions, bell peppers, chilis, garlic, cilantro. The list goes on. There are as many variations as there are cooks.

Here is a short list of meals you can create with the ingredients listed above and, as promised, recipes follow.   There are also links to recipes that I have provided previously on this site.

Vegetable Soup
Lentil Soup
Black Beans and Rice
Vegetarian Chili
Veggie Stir Fry
Fried Rice
Stuffed Peppers
Quick Refrigerator Pickles

Vegetable Soup (Vegan)
1 quart vegetable stock
2 cups water
1-15oz. can diced tomatoes with it’s liquid
2-3 carrots, sliced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
¼ to ½ cup onion, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Note: Add any additional vegetables that you have on hand. This is a great way to use up leftover veggies. Just don’t cook them for as long as the raw ones. Feel free to add any herbs and spices that you like as well. You can even add some beans to bump up the protein and make the soup a more complete meal.

Variations

Gringa Style: Add 1 tsp. each of cumin and chili powder as well as ½ cup each of sliced zucchini and corn kernels.   To finish, add some chopped cilantro. Some cooked black or pink beans would also be a delicious addition. (add approximately ½ cups of beans or more to your liking)

Italiano Style: Add 1 tsp. (or more to taste) of each dried basil and dried parsley. Add up to 1 cup zucchini and/or summer squash as well as some cooked white or garbanzo beans. (add approximately ½ cup of beans or more to your liking)

Stuffed Peppers (Vegan)
2 – 4 bell peppers (any color you like)
Leftover Black Beans and Rice
Tomato Sauce, at least 2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bell peppers in half. Remove stems and seeds. Stuff with leftover Black Beans and Rice. Place peppers in baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until peppers are cooked and everything is heated through.

Note: If you really want to be efficient and save yourself another night of cooking, prep the peppers on the same night that you prepare the Black Beans and Rice. Double the recipe, if necessary.   Set everything up in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate (or freeze). On a night when you don’t have time to cook, pop the baking dish in a 350 degree oven and cook through.


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Veganomics – Hummus – Recipe

realishhummus

Okay, let’s just say that I LOVE hummus. It’s delicious, affordable, versatile, and crowd-pleasing. My husband and I have often made a meal of it with sliced veggies and pita bread or crackers.   I personally use dried beans almost exclusively, but in this case I often make an exception. The recipe below is very straightforward and easy to remember so that’s the one I’m providing. It’s basically one of everything: 1 can of beans, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. tahini, 1 lemon. Olive oil and salt as needed. It’s extremely easy to double the recipe.   I wouldn’t make more than 2 cans worth (or ½ lb. dried) at a time as the food processor might not be able to accommodate more ingredients. You can also use this recipe if you have a mini-food-processor. The one of everything version is perfect. The only issue is that you can’t drizzle the olive oil while the processor is going. You have to add a little olive oil at a time and start and stop until you get the consistency you like.

Hummus

1 can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
or ¼ lb. of dried garbanzo beans (soaked, and cooked)
1 clove of garlic (or more to taste)
1 tsp. tahini
1-2 lemons – juice and zest (optional)
Olive oil as needed
Salt to taste

Wash and dry lemons and zest them. Crush and peel garlic clove. Add drained beans, tahini, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice (to taste) to the food processor. I like lemony hummus so I use a lot of lemon. Start processor and drizzle in olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Adjust seasonings.  Serve with veggies, pita bread, crackers, chips. Hummus also makes a great sandwich or wrap. Spread bread with hummus and pile on whatever veggies you like.

Note: Tahini can have a seemingly high price tag when compared with the other ingredients. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way. It keeps in the fridge indefinitely, and even if you made hummus once a week, your supply would last from 6 months to 1 year. Also, you can skip it. It’s not mandatory but I think it adds a nice flavor. That being said, if I didn’t have tahini on hand, I would still make hummus.


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Veganomics – Greens and Beans – Recipe

 realishcabbage realishdrywhitebeans

Greens and beans are an Italian classic, especially escarole and white beans with lots of garlic. If you are not familiar with escarole, it resembles a thicker head of green leaf lettuce. It’s delicious and stands up to cooking, but can also be used in salads if it’s allowed a little time to marinate in it’s dressing. I love escarole but I also love cabbage, and I find it to be less expensive and more versatile. Since this is part of my Veganomics series, I’m going with the cabbage for this recipe. You can use any cabbage you like, green cabbage, savoy cabbage, or napa cabbage. These are the three most popular ones that I find readily available. I love savoy cabbage. I call it “medium” cabbage. Regular cabbage can be a little heavy and napa tends to be very light. While the savoy can be a little pricier than the green, I don’t mind spending a little extra and it still stretches a buck.

Even though we are basing this Veganomics series on the versatility and delicious nature of beans, I’d like to give you some ideas for using the leftover greens from the recipe below.

  • Slice it up for a lighter version of cole slaw
  • Chop or slice it and use it as a base for salad in place of your favorite lettuce
  • Add to soups, stews, or stir-fries to bump up the vitamins and fiber in your meal
  • Use it as a wrap in place of bread or tortillas
  • Use whole leaves as serving containers for dips at parties

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that cabbage might play a big role in my next Veganomics series. More to come on that…

Here is my favorite recipe for greens and beans. Mangia!

Greens and Beans

½ lb. of dried white beans (or 2 – 15 oz. cans drained and rinsed)
½ head of savoy cabbage – thinly sliced
1-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper
Oil of choice for sautéing
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)

Cooking the beans

Rinse and then soak dried beans for at least a couple of hours or overnight, if possible. If you don’t have time to soak the beans, you can skip this step. Just keep in mind that it could extend your cooking time. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour until they are cooked through. Add about one teaspoon of salt to the beans about halfway through cooking. If using canned beans, skip this step.

Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with oil. Over low heat, cook whole cloves of garlic until they are very soft. Remove them from the oil. Mash the garlic with a little salt to make a paste. At this point you can raise the cooking heat to about medium. Add the cabbage and cook until wilted. If the pan seems a little dry add some water. This will create some steam and quicken the cooking time without having to add extra oil. Remove cabbage from the pan. Add a little extra oil if needed and then sauté the white beans to heat through and soften up. Add in the mashed garlic and stir to incorporate with the beans. Add cabbage back in and cook until everything is heated through and cooked to your liking.   Along the way add salt and pepper to taste.   Pile on a serving platter. Just before serving you can drizzle lightly with a good quality olive oil and some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Use the red pepper flakes at any point during the cooking process or serve at the table for a finishing touch. Enjoy. Serves 4 as a generous main course portion or as a side dish for 6 – 8 people.

Leftover Tips

While this is delicious reheated, as is, for lunch or dinner, here are some other tasty options.

Turn it into a soup, by adding stock and veggies of your choice (i.e., diced potatoes, carrots, tomatoes) and simmering until the veggies are cooked through. Adjust seasonings and enjoy.

Toss it with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes and dress with some pasta water and olive oil.