Impromptu nights with friends are so much fun. When you have an hour to get ready and no one is expecting much, it’s always a great time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I’m terrible about putting so much effort into every cocktail party that I often lose sight of the reason that I invited my friends over. In my head, all I want to do is sit on the couch and catch up. But when it happens, I’m running around like crazy re-arranging flowers or obsessing over how clean my floor is or stressing over a simple appetizer. I’m the classic Martha in the Mary and Martha story in the Bible – I spend all of my time preparing and none of my time listening!
For the quinoa, you will need:
- 2 cups water and 1 low-sodium chicken bouillon cube, or 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped
- Heat 2 cups of water with 1 chicken bouillon cube and the rinsed quinoa to boil.
- Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes.
- When quinoa is cooked, remove from heat and let rest for five additional minutes.
- Stir in 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. fresh parsley
For the saute, you will need:
- 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
- 6-8 fresh asparagus stalks, trimmed
- 1 – 2 cups leftover meat, any kind
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Italian spice blend (or a mix of dried basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and thyme)
- 8 cherry or cherub tomatoes (any mini tomato)
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- Heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet on medium-high heat for three minutes.
- Add in asparagus and lemon juice. Cook for five minutes, then stir in leftover meat and spice blend. Cook for an additional five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring carefully (you don’t want them to burst) for five more minutes.
- Serve hot on top of quinoa, topped with creamy pesto-marinara sauce.
For the creamy pesto-marinara sauce, you will need:
- 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 cup pesto
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. each sea salt and black pepper
- Dash red pepper flakes, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Stir all ingredients together in a bowl. Transfer to a 9×9 oven-safe cooking dish.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheeses are bubbling.
- Remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Stir mixture to evenly distribute as needed.
- Serve hot, as a dip with pita chips or baguette.
- Reserve 1/4 cup or so to stir into the veggie saute, if desired.