Tag Archives: side dish

Sizzling Spuds

30 Aug

Potatoes. It’s a love hate relationship sometimes. Either you love potatoes but want to eat low carb or you don’t like them and they are on every menu. Potatoes can be made a zillion ways and have SO many personalities. They can be dressed as a spectacular side dish (garlicky and mashed), as a magnificent main dish (brisket and cheese loaded baked potato), or as a super little snackie (name your fav chip). Easy or complicated, it doesn’t matter. When the craving strikes bring on the spuds!

I am still not what you would call a huge fan, so I don’t eat potatoes often, but sometimes that nagging craving just won’t pass. Exactly my predicament recently. And I gave into my craving. Creamy potatoes were on my mind, but that wasn’t all. Crispy creamy to be more to the point. Wait…what? Can you have it all? You betcha!

First the right potatoes are needed. For baked, Idahos are the best-good and starchy. And for mashed, I use Yukon Golds. But fingerling potatoes are creamy and can crisp up under the right circumstances. What is better than creamy inside and crisp outside all at once? Soooo yummy! If I am cooking up some spuds, that is the way I want them. And achieving it is easy.

The key is using a cast iron skillet-the perfect utensil to get a nice pleasing char on the potatoes. I started by getting a mixing bowl out and halving the potatoes.

Next these spuds needed seasoning. So I used some fresh chopped basil (my summer garden is still overflowing with basil so I couldn’t help myself!), 2 cloves of fresh garlic roughly chopped, a bit of lemon zest (delicious and bright for summery spuds) and a drizzle of butter and olive oil. I dusted this gorgeous mixture with salt and pepper too.

Into a bowl they go for a bit of seasoning-including chopped garlic and lemon zest!

I gave it a good stir, but something was missing. After a peek in the fridge, I made my decision.

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I couldn’t resist just a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese to add another savory layer. Another good stir and these were ready for cooking. Got my trusty cast iron skillet out. It is the perfect pan for this job.

I heated the pan up over medium heat, and tossed the spuds in. I patted them into an even layer to let them crisp up a bit. Now patience comes into play.

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The cast iron skillet is just what these taters needed!

They sizzled on the stove top without being stirred for a couple of minutes. This made sure the skin was crisping up. After a stir to move them around, they went into a 400 degree oven to finish up.

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These were delicious! they paired perfectly with a hot spicy pork sandwich!

After about 10 minutes in that hot oven these guys were perfection! I took them out of the oven, let them sit for a minute to cool down, then loaded onto my plate next to a sandwich. This definitely hit all the marks and satisfied my tater craving! I wonder how I will cook them next time! What is your favorite way to cook your spuds?

 

 

 

Sweet Sauté

3 May
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Yes please! YUM!

Cooking up something fresh is divine. And in this case, quick and easy. There is nothing like the golden bliss of sautéd onions. The house becomes wrapped in the scents of oniony deliciousness wafting through the air. That, my friend, is an epicureans dream.

When cooking onions, cook up a big batch. Why? Well because of their versatility and their big flavor pop. They last for a couple of days in the fridge, and freeze beautifully for 3 months-always ready to pull out and jazz up just about anything,

For this recipe, the onions need to be uniformly sliced. A mandolin makes quick work of slicing onions, and a cast iron skillet practically does the rest of the work for you. First, get everything ready and you can zip through this recipe in no time.

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Just a few simple ingredients to yummy sautéed onions!

Get your skillet warmed up over a slow low heat while gathering prepping ingredients. You will need a couple of sweet onions (I prefer vidalia), butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Time to peel and cut the onions. After your onions are free from their papery outer layer, a mandolin makes slicing the onions a snap, and they will all be the same width. Perfect for sautéing. But if a mandolin is out of the question a good sharp knife will work just fine.

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Slicing vegetables is so easy with a mandolin-a very useful kitchen tool.

After the onions are ready for the pan, turn your heat up to medium. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Let that heat up, and then gently slip in the onions. Drizzle the oil over the onions and stir.

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Slide those onions gently into the hot skillet.

Just listen to that sizzle as you add the onions! Oh yes, this is simple but special. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over these guys, give them a stir, and let the hot pan do its job.

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Just a dusting of salt and pepper is perfect for these onions.

Salt and pepper is perfect for these sweet onions, but if you are feeling moody or sassy, go ahead and add more spice, like red pepper flakes. That will kick these fellas up a bit! Give this a stir and let the cast iron skillet and heat do the work.

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A quick stir and you can sit back for a bit.

The onions can sizzle on medium heat for about 10 minutes before moving them around the pan a bit. If they seem a bit dry, go ahead and drizzle a bit more olive oil into the pan.  These little beauties should be getting brown-and getting sweeter.

The scents floating though the kitchen when these are cooking are so enticing. Just imagine what you can put these on (a big ol’ sandwich), or into (a succulent rice dish), or along side (a zesty barbecue chicken thigh) or layer onto (a pizza)! Just sayin…

When the onions are sweet, brown, and ready to come off the heat, its time to finish this off right. Grab your balsamic vinegar and layer on some more flavor. Just a bit will add nice balance to these onions.

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A little bit of acid finishes these onions off perfectly.

And Voila! In a snap you have a glorious onion dish. Use them as you wish, and if you have leftovers, they keep in the freezer beautifully for 3 months. Whatcha doing with your sweet sautéed onions? Let me know!

Amys Sautéed Sweet Onions

  • 2-3 sweet onions, sliced thin
  • 2 T. high quality butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat pan to a medium heat. Place butter in pan, and when melted and bubbling hot, add onions. Stir and add olive oil over the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir. After 10 minutes stir again. When limp and golden brown, turn off heat, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, adjust seasonings and remove from pan. They are now ready to enjoy!

 

 

 

Blissful Brussel Sprouts

14 Apr

 

Growing up I was not a fan of brussel sprouts. They only graced the dinner table in my midwestern childhood home on Thanksgiving. And they were of the boil in bag variety. In other words, boring, limp and swimming in “butter” sauce. It became, for me, a dish to pass along quickly-without taking any.

Times have changed. Brussel sprouts have become a fav of not only mine but my kids as well. I still won’t eat the boil in bag sprouts, but now I like them raw and shaved in salads. The most delectable way to enjoy them, however, is roasted. With bacon. YUM.

Savory roasted brussel sprouts are so easy to make there is no reason not to start making them. Let’s get started with a look at what is needed for this recipe.

The ingredients needed are fresh sprouts, olive oil, lightly cooked and crumbled bacon, balsamic glaze, and salt and pepper. That is all you need for this heavenly side dish. Don’t eat bacon? Leave it out. No big deal. You can customize this recipe to suit you.

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These simple ingredients are all you need for this delectable recipe!

The brussel sprouts were whole, and I wanted them more in bits size pieces. Halving them would work here,  but first things first. They needed to be washed.

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Wash those sprouts!

 

After they are washed, pick out the bad ones. Hey, nature being what it is, you will have some unusable sprouts.

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Toss any brussel sprouts like this one that are blemished or soft.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. This is a high temperature but these will roast to perfection. Next spend a couple of minutes cutting these in half.

Cut these in half. After cutting them, lay them on paper towels to dry them off.

Lay them on paper towels to dry. This is an important step. If you don’t dry these before going in the oven, they will steam instead of roast. That is not what we are going for here. So lay them on paper towels and dry them on the top as well. Place them on a large baking sheet, a flat pan. Drizzle the olive oil over them. Dust with salt and pepper and scatter the bacon over top. Time to pop this into the oven. We will need to check on them, so set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, take the sprouts out of the oven and give them a good stir. They should be starting to brown and crisp up. Resist the urge to nab one off the baking sheet and sneak a quick yummy taste. Put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. It is that easy. When they are golden brown they are done. Pull them out of the oven, put them in a pretty bowl, and drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy!

These delectable little nuggets of yum are irresistible.

You can use these for a side dish along just about anything. Another option is to let them cool, drizzle a light vinaigrette over them, and serve them as a cold salad. So many ways to go with this simple side! Let me know what you do with them! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Recipe:

  • 12 ounces fresh brussel sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 4 slices bacon, lightly cooked and crumbled
  • 1-2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together, place on baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Serve immediately, or cool and use in a veggie salad.

Recipe note-

I microwave a couple of pieces of bacon to crumble in this recipe. Easy with very little clean up.

 

 

 

 

Basics

12 Feb

If you don’t have one, run out and get one. What in the world am I talking about? A cast iron skillet. It is a kitchen must have. A basic. But don’t go to an expensive kitchen store to get one. Go to your local hardware store. You will find the best brand at your good old hardware store-Lodge.

As I love to cook, I have a couple cast iron skillets. One  of my favorites has ridges to sear a lovely tenderloin, grill some delicious hamburgers. or make a creamy warm panini. There are a zillion ways to use your cast iron skillet. If you keep it seasoned, it will also become something you can hand down through the generations. Here is one of my well seasoned cast iron skillets.

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How do you season it you ask? It is easy. But remember, you need to continue to season your cast iron skillet every so often. Here are some tips to season your skillet:

  • Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply melted solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish so keep your application thin.
  • Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  • Store the cookware uncovered
  • Repeat as necessary
  • When I use and wash my skillet, I dry it not with a towel but over low heat on a burner.

I recently used this skillet to sear some zucchini for dinner. I simply split the zucchini lengthwise, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Next, I got my cast iron skillet good and hot on the stove. Then I seared the zucchini halves with the flesh side down first.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum! I seared it much like a piece of meat. After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side. I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So yummy!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

This recipe is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and so very tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

 

 

 

Beet the Heat

16 Aug

Beets are the best.  Roasted.  Pickled.  Sautéed.  Cold.  Hot.  Beets are great as a side dish with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.  They are delicious roasted along side other vegetables.  I’ve even eaten them right out of the can.  Being raised in the midwest, vegetables were always on our dinner table, but somehow beets got overlooked. So how did I get hooked?

My love affair with this herbaceous plant began in adulthood.  The first time I tried beets was a happy surprise.  I was tired of my usual repertoire of veggies and decided to try beets.  In the grocery store one day, I impulsively grabbed a fresh bunch of beets with the intention of simply roasting them.

I brought them home, put the beets on the counter, and stared them down.  Hhhmmmm.  This would be an adventure.  I washed them and laid them on paper towels.  Off came the green tops.  I peeled the fresh beets, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled some olive oil over them, and into the oven they went.  The beets cooked up beautifully.  One taste and I was hooked.

But the thought of those greens going to waste was unthinkable.  Out of curiosity, I pinched off a green and popped it into my mouth expecting it to be tough and woody.  I was delighted to find the greens tender and flavorful.  Oh heck yes!  I would find a way to eat the greens too!  That was many seasons ago…

Now summer is on the horizon. I am beginning to think grilled, chilled and easy.   I do not want my oven on this time of year.  What is the best way to enjoy beets this season?  Piled on a garden fresh crisp salad!

But first, let’s chat for a second about the virtues of beets.  Some would say they are not a desirable or sexy vegetable, or even a popular one.  But since they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and so versatile, beets cannot be overlooked.

The health benefits of including beets in the diet are numerous.  They are a good source of fiber, have lots of vitamin C, and are high in folate and potassium.  Beets are also a rich source of antioxidants, compounds that prevent disease and the damaging effects of oxidation of cells throughout your body.  They are very low in fat, and certainly don’t need a lot of added fat to make them taste good.

While they come in many varieties, we most often see the “blood turnip”, or red beet. They are a root vegetable, like a carrot or potato and they like to grow in cool weather.  They are available canned all year long, but we see them seasonally featured in the spring and the fall.

And remember how I said it was not considered a sexy vegetable?  Well think again.  Fruits and vegetables, like herbs, were used in ancient times as medicine.  One of the first known medicinal uses for the beet was as an aphrodisiac in ancient Greece.  There.  I said it.

Anywhoooo….beets are very easy to prepare.  If they are fresh, they can simply be peeled, drizzled with olive oil and roasted.  They are also wonderful diced and  sautéed.  Canned beets are fabulous hot or cold.  Simply open the can, rinse the beets, and toss them on a salad.  They can also be heated and enjoyed as a simple side dish.

Back to those green tops for a minute.  If you have fresh beets with the greens, do not throw those away!  The greens are also a nutrient dense food and adaptable to many dishes.  Like beets, the greens can be enjoyed raw, such as mixed with other greens in your summer salad.  They can also be sautéed much like spinach, in a little olive oil.  Season them a bit with salt and pepper, and you’ve got another phenomenal side dish.

If you’ve tried beets and didn’t like them, try them again.  If you’ve never tried them, its time to add some variety to your diet.  The health benefits  of beets are plentiful, they are budget friendly, and just plain delicious.  Let your own impulses go wild, pick up some beets up at the farmers marker or grocer, and begin your own adventure!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Zucchini-Grilled

30 Mar

I really like vegetables. Even more than fruit.  Eating seasonally and taking advantage of farm fresh vegetables all year long not only provides great flavor and variety, but eating seasonally is budget friendly. My kids and I are adventurous when it comes to food, so I am challenged to find new ways to cook veggies.

Since it is winter, root vegetables have been the staple lately.  Luckily, my family enjoys carrots, potatoes, squash,beets…all the delicious colorful winter vegetables.  Did I say all?  Um, I meant most.  My kids aren’t crazy about one winter vegetable…brussel sprouts.

My kids tend to delight in normal kid stuff like, well, farts.  Brussel sprouts, closely related to cabbage, are notoriously gas producing.  Shouldn’t that be my number one selling point in adding brussel sprouts to our dinner repertoire?  I mean, what could be more fun than that for my kids….seriously.  With their competitive nature, I see this as a win win food offering, if you catch my drift (waft, hang time…).

And that’s how I tried to sell it to my kids. They know enough to know what a cruciferous vegetable is, and what that produces.  Slow roasted fresh brussel sprouts gently browning in the oven smell, well, cabbage like.  Rats.  That wasn’t going to sell my kids on these delicious sprouts.  Of course my mouth is watering, but the kids are scrunching their nose up.  So in the interest of family peace, I now reserve brussel spouts for when I dine at a restaurant.   So I took the sprouts out of the family dinner rotation, but continue on a quest for a fresh seasonal change.

Still wanting variety, I reverted back to another inexpensive vegetable…zucchini.  I like to roast these with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with perhaps a few shreds of fresh parmesan.  But on this particular night, I was pinched for time and looking for a quick veggie option.  I still used zucchini, but took it in a super quick and easy direction.

Splitting the zucchini down the middle, I then pulled my cast iron grill pan out and heated it up.  I drizzled with zucchini with olive oil, and onto the grill pan it went.  I seared it much like a piece of meat, not quite knowing how it would end up.   After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side.  I then put a bit of fresh parmesan cheese on top.  The result was fantastic.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum!

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan. It was sizzling and searing. Yum!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and oh so tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

Oh, and  you may want to take a page out of my book and order your brussel sprouts out at your favorite place Saturday night!

 

 

Roasted Veggies-3 ways

7 Dec

The other day I had two things:  a lot of good fresh fall vegetables and a little extra time.  So I went to my happy place…the kitchen.  I decided to roast the vegetables.  I started peeling, chopping and layering.  This was going to be a big honking batch of veggies!  Mushrooms, bell peppers, butternut squash, onions, celery…Yum!

A big batch it was.  After they were chopped, I dusted the vegetables with salt, pepper, basil, and parsley then sprinkled olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar on them as well.  After a good healthy stir, I poured them onto a lined baking dish and placed them in a preheated 400 degree oven.  Almost immediately, warm succulent aromas began to fill the house.  My mouth began to water with those decadent scents wafting though the air.

I checked the vegetables after 15 minutes in the oven and couldn’t resist sneaking a taste. Ooh!  What a delicious bite!  Back into the oven for a few minutes, and then they were ready.  We enjoyed the roasted  veggies with lovely grilled salmon.

Did I mention that it was a big ol’ batch of fall veggies?  And that I love leftovers?  Did we ever have leftovers!  But that’s okay.  They were fantastic to have around.  And like spaghetti, the vegetables were more flavorful as leftovers.

Leftovers day one: Roasted veggies made an amazing addition to an omelet the next morning.

Leftovers day two:  I cooked quinoa to mix into the vegetables.  That created  a powerhouse side dish of veggies and quinoa.

Leftovers day three: Roasted veggies piled on a turkey sandwich.  Who needs mayo??

And that is what you do with leftovers my friends.  I used a little extra time to cook big, and had nutritious  leftovers to launch other dishes.

Quinoa and Roasted Vegetables

2 Oct

Stand back.  This delicious dish is not only obnoxiously nutritious, it is incredibly versatile.  It can be a meatless main dish, a savory side dish, a cold leftover lunch.  But one thing is for sure…any way it is served, it is bound to be terrific!

I roasted some vegetables that I had on hand.  The roasted vegetables included carrots, grape

Lovely vegetables, cut and ready to roast!

Lovely vegetables, cut and ready to roast!

tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, fresh green beans, a zucchini, and a handful of chopped green onions.  I chopped them up and sprinkled them with olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, I love vinegar! I find any excuse to use it!  If you are not a fan, you can leave it off.

While that was in the oven roasting, I cooked some quinoa.  This is a fantastic grain that is wheat and gluten free.  The quick cooking variety is available, and really makes for a fast side dish.  Toss one part

This quinoa is a tri color blend of the heirloom variety.  Cooked in 15 minutes!  Love that!

This quinoa is a tri color blend of the heirloom variety. Cooked in 15 minutes! Love that!

quinoa (start with one cup) and two parts water or broth (2 cups) into a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Bring this to a boil, cover, turn the heat down and let simmer for about 15 minutes…then its ready to go.

When the veggies came out of the oven, I added more fresh ground black pepper,ground on top, added the quinoa, gave it a stir and took it to the table.  The ooohhs and aahhhs as it came to the table spoke volumes!  The mmmm’s that followed the first forkful finished telling the story.  Success.  Try this for a nutrition packed addition to your regular side dish repertoire.  Personalize it for your own taste and enjoy!  Bon appetite!

The final dish!  If you are in a garnishing mood, sprinkle this with feta or goat cheese before serving.

The final dish! If you are in a garnishing mood, sprinkle this with feta or goat cheese before serving.