Sunday Dinners: Cooking Small, Simple Bites

Sunday Dinners: Cooking Small, Simple Bites | Positively SmittenThis week’s dinner is going to concentrate on simple, small bites. These dishes will be easy to prepare and light on your waistline.  (Yay!)

Sometimes a family dinner leaves you feeling weighed down and wanting to roll away from the table and sleep in a blanket fort in the corner. So here’s the opposite of that, these recipes are meant to leave you feeling invigorated, but hopefully still pleasantly full — and yes, of course, you can still go chill in that blanket fort!

The Menu

This menu is intended to serve 6.

First Course: Mussels with Zesty Sauce, a dainty bite to start that has strong flavors, it wakes up your taste buds for the other courses.

Soup Course: Lamb and Lentil Stew, is the heaviest course here, the lentils will fill you up and the lamb will add richness to the meal. This recipe yields about 4 servings but with this menu I stretch it to six. Note: lamb is usually a bit on the pricy side but this recipe calls for trimmings, any grocer that sells lamb should have left over trimming to buy for really cheap. Take the bulk of fat off the trimmings and you’re still left with really rich meat. If you cannot find trimmings, replace it with the cheapest lamb cut your butcher has and it will do the job.

Salad Course: Grilled Asparagus on Bed of Spinach with Walnuts, light but still substantial. This salad can easily be served undressed if you don’t like balsamic vinegar. To toast the walnuts, put them in a dry pan over low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dessert: Cheese, Nut,  and Fruit course, since we’re concentrating on lightness and simplicity today this will be the easiest dessert course yet! Don’t write it off though, this is decadent!

Bonus: Old Fashioned with a spin! In honor of “Mad Men” returning today, I am bastardizing a drink Don Draper loves!

Mussels with Zesty Sauce


  • 1 cup Chablis or other dry white wine of your choosing
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup clam juice
  • 1 roasted red pepper (from a jar, in water), diced finely
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound of clean and debearded mussels
  • Olive oil, to dress


  1. In a large pot bring the first six ingredients to a boil. Add the mussels.
  2. Cover and cook for 7 minutes or until the mussels have all opened. (If a few mussels remain closed toss them, they aren’t good.)
  3. Remove mussels, reduced the sauce by half. Pour over the mussels and dress with a few teaspoons of olive oil.

Lamb and Lentil Stew


  • ¼ pound of lamb trimmings, most of the fat removed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 carrot, chopped finely
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped finely
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped finely
  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Prepare lentils according to package, generally simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender, set aside.
  2. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Sauté lamb over medium high heat, remove when browned. Lower heat to medium. Sauté onion, carrot and celery in the rendered lamb fat until tender.
  3. Add vegetable broth and crushed tomatoes, bring to boil, reduce to simmer.
  4. Add lamb to pot, add lentils.
  5. Simmer for a few minutes longer to marry the flavors.

Grilled Asparagus on Bed of Spinach with Walnuts


  • 1 bunch of asparagus ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and cracked pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups baby spinach, already cleaned
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted and lightly chopped
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil, to dress


  1. Heat your grill or grill pan on medium-high heat. Dress the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until almost tender. Cool slightly. Chop roughly.
  2. Lay spinach on serving platter. Scatter walnuts, cheese, and cranberries over the spinach. Put asparagus on top.
  3. Dress with drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cheese, Nuts, and Fruit Decadent Caramel Cream Cheese Dip


  • ½ pound of assorted cheese—Generally you want one soft, one semi-soft , and one hard. (The dip could replace the soft cheese)
  • 2 apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup grapes, concord or red
  • 2 pears, sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • ¼ cup dried apricots
  • ¼ cup candied pecans
  • ¼ cup smoked almonds
  • 4 ounces of fat free cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed tightly
  • 2 tablespoons creamed honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Warm honey and brown sugar over low heat. Heat until turn liquid and simmer for four minutes.
  2. Let cool slightly, add vanilla, mix in a large bowl with the cream cheese. Chill dip slightly, the dip is a bit runny.
  3. Arrange fruit, cheese, and nuts around dip.

Old Fashioned with a Twist

Ingredients (for each cocktail)

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Spritz of club soda
  • 2 ounces of bourbon or whisky
  • Splash of limoncello (the bastardization)
  • Maraschino cherry


  1. Put sugar cube (or ½ teaspoon of granulated sugar) in old fashioned low ball glass, add the bitters and a spritz of soda, muddle!
  2. Add the whisky or bourbon. Top with the limoncello. Drop in the cherry.
  3. This drink is fun to drink like it’s a macchiato: tasting each layer as it is, but it’s also good to stir it up (this is the drinkers’ decision though).

Now relax in your blanket fort with your bastardized Old-Fashioned and think about how you are the coolest cool cat on your street and probably the only one doing what you’re doing! Hope you enjoyed these recipes!

Be sure to check out our previous Sunday Dinners columns. Have something you’d like to see featured here? Leave a comment! 


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