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Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

These little guys are incredibly easy to put together – so easy that they are perfect if you happen to be looking for ways to get your kids engaged in the cooking process. Here’s my little helper putting potatoes in a bowl:

I usually pull up a chair for him to stand on while I prep ingredients. He knows that only adults can touch knives, and reminds me each time I use one that they are “very very sharp” and can “give you owies.” Once I’ve chopped everything up, I let him put ingredients into a bowl and/or stir them together. For this recipe, which involves dividing the potato mixture into four parts and putting each part into its own foil packet, I also let him spoon the mixture onto each piece of foil, sprinkle with parsley, and put a dab of butter on top.

Sure, maybe he insisted on putting one potato piece at a time into each packet. And maybe it took much longer than if I had done it myself. But he loves cooking, and I love that he is excited about it. Plus, it’s nice to be able to channel some of that toddler “I do it!” mentality into something constructive.

Anyway, this recipe only uses a few ingredients and is easily customizable. I used parsley because I had some, but I’m thinking a rosemary/thyme combo would taste great. If you have some of those individual foil sheets (like these), they work perfectly here. If not, use pieces about 12″x12″ so that you have ample room for the potato mixture.

Simple Potato Packets

1 lb roasting potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used purple potatoes, but red ones would be perfect, too)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine potatoes, garlic, bell pepper, and green onions in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place 1/4 of the mixture onto each of four foil sheets. Top each with a sprinkle of parsley and teaspoon of butter. Draw up the sides of each foil piece and pinch at the top to create a packet. Place on a baking sheet and cook about 25 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

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I really, really don’t like mayo, so I don’t eat most people’s versions of potato salad. This one, however, is perfect. It’s fresh, easy, and absolutely mayo-free, coated instead with a dressing made of whole-grain mustard, spring onions, and olive oil. If you are still finalizing your Memorial Day menu (like me), try adding this salad to the list.

Red Potato-Green Bean Salad (adapted from Epicurious)

8 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
2 tablespoons champagne (or white wine) vinegar
1 spring onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon whole-grain (or Dijon) mustard
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add potatoes* and boil about 15 minutes, until tender. Add green beans to the water about 4 minutes before potatoes finish cooking. Empty potatoes and green beans into a colander to drain.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing. Combine onion, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small food processor and process until smooth. Place potatoes and green beans in a large bowl. Add dressing and mix to combine. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. You can make this a day ahead, but I like it warm.

*I used to avoid boiling potatoes because I hated getting splattered by boiling water when I dropped the potatoes in. Then, I realized that if I used a small strainer like this to lower the potatoes into the water, I’d stop being splattered. Now, my family gets mashed potatoes a lot more often. Try it if you have a strainer laying around and are also tired of being splattered.

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I don’t consider summer to have fully arrived until it is so hot out that all I have to do is step outside to break a sweat. This week was full of days like that, and after spending some time in my garden today, you couldn’t have paid me to turn on my oven or stove.

Enter this simple salad. It’s for arugula lovers, and is full of that green’s peppery bite. I used raspberry white balsamic vinegar for the dressing, which I found at HEB, but if you can’t find it, substitute regular white balsamic or red wine vinegar instead. Add grilled shrimp to make it an entree.

Arugula and Pea Salad (adapted from Recipezaar)

2 cups green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup green onions, cut in 3 inch strips
6 cups arugula or baby spinach
4 cups Swiss chard
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add peas, return to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Drain and cool. Combine peas, green onions, arugula and Swiss chard in a large platter or in a serving bowl.

Whisk together raspberry vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper until well-combined. Drizzle over salad.

Makes 6-8 servings.

*If you aren’t planning to serve the salad immediately, wait to dress it until it’s time to eat.

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I’ve had some people ask how they can make weeknight cooking easier. Boy, I understand that. I have a two-year-old and a full-time job. It’s hard to come home from work and get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Here, I try to provide recipes that can be cooked on a weeknight (most of the time), and if the recipe isn’t inherently fast, I try to come up with modifications that make it quicker to prepare. Just so we’re on the same page, “fast” to me means getting dinner cooked and on the table in under an hour, including prep time.

My advice for weeknight dinners is this: First, plan ahead. Use the menu plans I provide on this blog, or make your own. Either way, take a day a week to look through your pantry and your fridge and figure out what you need to buy at the grocery store to make enough food for the week.

Then, as you plan your week’s menus, pick one element of each meal to concentrate on, and make the rest of it easy. By that I mean, if you are serving a side dish that takes some preparation, like this summer squash gratin, fix easy grilled chicken or pork as the entree. You get the idea.

This recipe should help your weeknight dinners come together quickly. Some foods just lend themselves to fast preparation, and green beans are one of them. This stir-fry only has six ingredients, plus some water, and cooks in less than 10 minutes. It’s also really tasty. I used some of the baby onions and leeks I had on hand in place of the 1/2 onion in the original recipe, and the oyster sauce adds some salty depth to the beans’ flavor. If you don’t have it, just season with soy sauce at the end instead. Be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go when you start cooking.

Easy Garlicky Green Beans (adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 baby onions, cut into slivers about the same size as the green beans
1 leek, cut into slivers about the same size as the green beans
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water (plus a bit more if you check and the pan seems dry)
2 tbsp oyster sauce (comes in a bottle near the Asian foods in the grocery store)

Heat the wok or a heavy frying pan over high heat for 1-2 minutes, until it’s too hot to hold your hand over it. Add the oil and heat about 30 seconds more, then add the garlic, onion, and leeks and cook for 20-30 seconds, stirring the whole time.

Add beans and salt and cook about 2 minutes, stirring several times. Then add water, cover wok, and let beans steam for 5 minutes. Check about halfway through to see if the pan is dry, and added about 1 tsp more water if necessary.

Uncover the pan and add oyster sauce, then cook 2 minutes more, stirring so all the beans are uniformly covered with the sauce. Beans should still be slightly crisp when they’re done. Serve hot.

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I knew I’d be making this recipe as soon as I saw the bounty of squash we received in our last box. It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve made a few modifications to incorporate some ingredients I had on hand. Fresh squash and baby onions mix with an oregano-parsley pesto, cheese, and brown-butter breadcrumbs to make a dish that’s fresh and decadent. Yum.

Now, as written, this recipe can be time-consuming, but I’m including some suggestions at the bottom to facilitate weeknight cooking.


Summer Squash Gratin (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

zest of one lemon
2 pounds summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 baby onions (about 3-4 in. in diameter), thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups fresh bread crumbs*
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (or Swiss cheese)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Rub a 13×9 baking dish with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with lemon zest, and set aside.

Place the zucchini slices into a colander placed over a sink, toss with the sea salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes (to drain a bit — this softens them up and makes them cook more quickly) and go on to prepare the pesto and bread crumbs.

Make the pesto by pureeing the oregano, parsley, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or using a hand blender. Set aside.

Make the breadcrumbs by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about five minutes until the butter is fragrant and has turned brown. It will smell deliciously nutty. Stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.

Transfer the squash and onions to a large mixing bowl. Add the oregano pesto. Toss until everything is well coated. Add the cheese and half of the bread crumbs and toss again. Taste one of the zucchini pieces and add more seasoning (salt or red pepper) if needed.

Transfer the squash mixture to the lemon-zested pan, top with the remaining crumbs, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes When the dish is finished, you’ll be able to slide a fork easily into the zucchini.

Serves about 8 as a side.

*To make breadcrumbs, tear bread into pieces the size of your thumb, and pulse in a food processor. I like my breadcrumbs a bit larger than the ones you buy at the store, about the size of small pebbles. You can certainly use store-bought breadcrumbs instead of making your own, but reduce the amount to 1 cup, as these are much finer than homemade ones.

To facilitate weeknight cooking, do the following:

  • Use store-bought pesto instead of making your own. Basil would be good, but I’ve seen a Classico sun-dried tomato pesto that I’d love to try.
  • Slice the squash and onions and grate the cheese the night before.
  • Use store-bought breadcrumbs (see note above).

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I’ve been getting a ton of baby carrots in my box lately, as opposed to full-sized adult carrots. Rather than spend a lot of time chopping them up to use as a base in other dishes, I tossed them together with a few other ingredients to create this sweet, simple side dish.

You can probably leave most of the carrots whole, but cut the larger ones in half lengthwise to ensure that they all cook evenly. Also, when you trim the carrots, you can certainly cut the tops off, but I left them on because I like how they look. I added leftover carrots to my lunch salad the next day.

Maple-Glazed Roast Carrots

1 large bunch of baby carrots, trimmed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to coat carrots evenly with syrup. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Spread carrots on the sheet, place in oven, and bake 20-25 minutes, stirring once, until carrots are tender. You should be able to slide a fork easily into them. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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I love me a good slaw. This one has extra crunch from both jicama and green apples, and a citrusy dressing provides just the right amount of tartness. You can find jicama by the potatoes in the grocery store, and it does kind of look like a russet potato. It has a very mild flavor, so it’s great for recipes like this where you just want something that adds a bit of crunch but doesn’t overpower the dish.

If you have a food processor, this recipe will come together in about 15 minutes. I use mine all the time, and you don’t need to go all Williams Sonoma and spend $500 on one. I’ve used my cheapo Black and Decker for about 10 years with no problems. I couldn’t find a link to mine online (like I said, it’s old) but this one is similar. If you don’t have a food processor, use the large holes on a box grater to shred the veggies.

Anyway, enjoy this slaw with grilled shrimp or grilled bbq tofu kebabs. Or pretty much anything else grilled. Heck, it was so good I just ate a big bowl of it as a snack.

Jicama, Apple, and Cabbage Slaw

2 cups shredded cabbage (I used green, but Napa is fine)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and shredded
1 jicama, shredded (about 12 oz)
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 cup sliced spring onion tops (or green onions)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Juice of two oranges (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of two limes (about 4 tbsp)
2 tbsp olive oil

Combine cabbage, apples, jicama, carrots and onion tops in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil. Pour over veggies and toss to combine.

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