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Weekday dinner inspiration: Chicken-Artichoke-Cheese Spread for a Crowd and more

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS WEEK EDITION

Mon | Meatless merry

Last-minute shopping? Heck, yes. Fill your belly with something nutritious and head out with list in hand. Penne Caponata is a simple dish that uses a few jars of the prepared eggplant appetizer spread. While the pasta is cooking, gently heat the caponata but don't let it bubble and sputter. If you want a bulkier sauce, add a can of drained northern beans. Mix sauce with pasta and sprinkle with pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with a green salad.

Tues | The night before . . .

Traditions run deep for Christmas Eve dinners, but if you are casting about for a new plan and you haven't spent all your money, do what my family does and have a Florida seafood celebration. First, we serve clam chowder (I am a big fan of Tony's of Cedar Key. You can get it in cans at Publix in the soup aisle) with sourdough bread. Then I put out cold stone crab claws with mustard sauce and roasted peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp with cocktail sauce. Ice-cold Caesar salad accompanies it all.

(At some point during the day, make the Chicken-Artichoke-Cheese Spread for Christmas Day. It needs to chill at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.)

Wed | Rotisserie Christmas

You didn't think we'd forgo rotisserie chicken just because it's Christmas, did you? Make Chicken-Artichoke-Cheese Spread for a Crowd (recipe below) to nibble on during the day or take to family if you're having a potluck. It makes a ton, so halve the recipe if you have fewer mouths to feed or if there will be a lot of food on the table.

Thurs | Holiday hangover

Scour the fridge for leftovers or hope you've remembered to bring them home from the in-laws. Nothing worse that having a hankering for cold roast beef or reheated bread pudding and realizing it is all at someone else's house. If there is roast beef, make Roast Beef and Blue Sandwiches on traditional sub rolls or Cuban bread. Slather the bread with blue cheese dressing and layer on the roast beef with sliced red onions, creamy butterkase cheese and ice-cold, crunchy Romaine leaves. Serve with pickled green beans or okra from the holiday relish tray.

Fri | Thinking ahead

Resolution time is just around the corner, but why not get a jump on that weight loss vow by making a meal that hovers around 400 calories tonight? Fish and Tomato-Leek Saute tastes good and is good for you, too. Use whatever fish you'd like, but a 5-ounce salmon fillet poached in a broth pairs well with grape tomatoes and sliced leeks sauteed in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and fresh tarragon. Serve it with a fruit salad.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586. Follow @RoadEats on Twitter.

>>MODERATE

Chicken-Artichoke-Cheese Spread

for a Crowd

The spread needs to chill at least 8 hours in the refrigerator before serving so plan accordingly. It serves a lot but you can easily halve the recipe.

3 cups diced, cooked chicken

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

4 scallions, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon seasoned pepper

7 to 8 scallion stems for garnish

Stir together everything except the garnish in a large bowl until blended; spoon into a straight-sided 9- by 5-inch loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. (Or make two loaves in smaller pans.) Cover and chill 8 hours.

Invert chilled mixture onto a serving plate; remove plastic wrap. Serve with crackers or toasted French baguette slices.

Garnish, if desired, by plunging scallion stems in boiling water; then plunge stems into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Serves at least 12.

Source: Southern Living

Weekday dinner inspiration: Chicken-Artichoke-Cheese Spread for a Crowd and more 12/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 19, 2013 6:25pm]

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