Showing posts with label vegetable sides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetable sides. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Almond and Herb Crusted Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

Alright, this is another one of those non-recipe-recipes that I urge you try. I know everyone's super busy with the kids going back to school and the cramming of the last bits of errands and family vacations and activities before this season is out. The last thing you may want to do is try something complicated for dinner. This is not a complicated side dish. Bear with me. I mean, really. TRY IT. Throw a piece of fish, steak, tofu, or chicken on the grill. Then boil some potatoes, nuke some frozen green beans or saute some spinach, and MAKE THESE TOMATOES! Because, they turned out INCREDIBLY delicious!

We've had a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes because my parents have decided to turn their tiny backyard into a tomato sanctuary. They somehow manage to make time for these beauties despite their long work hours. They baby them. They worry about whether they get enough water. They love to share them. It's truly precious. And because of their nurturing, I get to share in this amazing bounty. But there's only so many tomatoes a person can eat before getting creative. So, after spying my pantry was either pistachios or almonds. I went with the almonds because I thought of the beloved Romesco sauce...check out the nutty coating:

So this side dish, is summer boiled down. Garden tomatoes. Herbs. Nuts. It's's's delicious. We served these little veggie wonders with some hot crash potatoes (thank you Pioneer Woman--those are a dinner staple in our house), edamame, a Costco veggie souffle, and some ciabatta bread. Our little family loved them. LOVED them.

Try them with a variety of heirloom tomatoes for the best presentation--I had yellow, green, and red tomatoes. The savory crunch really compliments the flavor of the roast tomato. They shrink down a bit when you roast fact, I'm making a double recipe next time because they were that good. And then I'm going to put the leftovers in a sandwich. Maybe with Havarti cheese and some turkey or veggie bacon.

*In my 'recipe,' I used a mixture of both fresh and dried herbs. Remember that if you're using dry herbs, use a little less than fresh herbs--dry herbs tend to be much more potent in flavor. 

My three year old wanted to 'take my picture'---the result is below. Have to encourage creative outlets...

Loosely adapted from

Serves 2-4

  • 4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced in ~1/4 inch slices (or just slightly bigger)
  • 3/4 cup almonds (roughly)
  • One handful fresh herbs--your choice, rinsed and patted dry--(I used fresh basil, mint, rosemary, and dill and added a small dash of DRY parsley and oregano)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ~1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
  • ~1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray and set aside.

Place the almonds and herbs in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined and the nuts have been made to look similar to bread crumbs. 

Place crumbs in a shallow bowl and add the rest of the seasonings (salt and pepper, garlic powder, and paprika). 

Dip each tomato slice in the nut mixture and pat the mixture on if it starts to come off. Place the tomato slices onto the baking sheet and spray the tomatoes lightly with olive oil. 

Bake for 15 minutes and then gently flip each tomato piece--being careful not to scrape off the herb-nut coating. Continue to bake for another 15 minutes. They should be browned and crispy. 

Serve the tomatoes warm or at room temperature.

Serves about 3-4 as a side dish OR 2 people if they are more of the main entree.

I think these tomatoes would be amazing with a piece of good cheese (layer with some goat cheese for a pretty presentation), some fresh bread, and a lovely Chardonnay. But they'll probably taste best if you eat them on the porch during a cooler August evening. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Black-Eyed Pea Salad that Makes a Browned-Eyed Girl Happy

My husband used to sing 'Brown-Eyed Girl' to me when we were dating. It always made me love him more--how can you not love a man that celebrates a common trait in an average woman? Black eyed peas are the only legume with a human characteristic. Makes me think they're a little special among the more common beans and peas. Maybe that's why I always felt this kinship to black-eyed peas....they're a little misunderstood. It's unfortunate, because they're quite versatile and the more I make with them, but more please I am with them! Black-eyed peas are delicious. I recently used them in a salsa and was super impressed. Will post on that sometime--but, in the meantime, try this great little side that comes together quite quickly if you have the peas cooked ahead of time.

Some fun facts about black eyed peas:
  1. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is considered to bring good luck (mainly in the South)
  2. Black-eyed peas are heat-loving and do well during droughts. 
  3. They produce a lot of nectar and large crops can be used for honey.
  4. They were introduced in the United States in the 17th century in Virginia. 
  5. It is thought black-eyed peas originate from India and China but brought to West Africa by slaves.
  6. They are originally named 'cowpeas'.
  7. They are a key-ingredient to Hoppin' John--which is considered a staple in African-American soul food. 
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

I came up with this simple, easy lunch salad one afternoon and we have loved it so much that we've made it three times so far. It's great alongside sandwiches on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and terrific with a slice of homemade brown bread and a hunk of good cheese such as Manchego. It's even good with some feta sprinkled on top. Add more veggies, if you like! 

This deli-style salad stores well and would make a great summer side at a picnic. It would also make a great salad to eat on a weekday lunch at work. Try it! It's very healthy, very good. 


Serves 4-6
  • 1 (16 oz.) package frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1 big bell pepper, diced (preferable red, yellow or orange)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (white & green parts)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded or grated
  • 1 (10 or 12 oz) package grape tomatoes, rinsed and dried
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil (or more, to taste)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions (should be 45 minutes or just a little over that). Cool the peas. (You can do this step a day or two in advance and store cooked peas in the fridge until you're ready to toss with the rest of the ingredients).

Gently toss the chilled peas with the vegetables and olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Serve or return to the fridge until ready to serve. 

Store leftovers in the refrigerator--will keep for a day or two.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cauliflower Poppers

This is a real winner from Weight Watchers! I can eat the whole head of cauliflower by myself (seriously). My brother in law is all kinds of wrong...he thinks that cauliflower is like the ugly stepsister of broccoli. He likes to remind me how lonely it looks on vegetable platters at the end of parties. But, I prefer its mild, nuttier flavor to that of broccoli. We also argue the merits of parsley. And reading. And all-inclusive vacations. It just feels so good to tell him he's wrong. Everyone else just laughs at us. But we have fun. One day, I'm going to slip some parsley and cauliflower in something he regularly eats and trick him into reading something other than politics. In Mexico. I may need help. And whatever kind you're thinking is probably right.

But give this a try for a different kind of side item to your meats and or if you're on a low-carb diet. It's one of those dishes that doesn't feel like diet food. And if by chance I'm wrong and it does, just throw some grated Parmesan cheese on top. YUM!

Adapted from Weight Watchers

Olive oil cooking spray
1 head(s) (medium) cauliflower
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces (there should be about 4 cups). Place cauliflower in a medium bowl and add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper; toss well to coat.

Spread cauliflower on prepared baking sheet and bake until cauliflower is tender, but not mushy, stirring halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Yields about 1/2 cup per serving--so according to WW, that would be about 8 servings. I say more like 4 servings. That's how much I like it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Orange Garlic Broccolini with Almonds

I wanted to share my new favorite vegetable--it's not exactly a NEW vegetable, just MY new favorite vegetable. I usually toss this with lemon juice, but on a whim, I tried orange juice and this vegetable was elevated from good to GREAT! I much prefer broccolini this to broccoli--more crunch, more mellowness.

 Broccolini is like broccoli's cousin. It's a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese kale. It's also been called 'baby broccoli' and all you need to know is that if it prepared right (basically, not overcooked), it is DELICIOUS. Unfortunately, it's slightly more expensive than broccoli for the same quantity. Most recipes call for broccolini to be blanched before sauteeing, but I don't know why. I skip that step and still seem to have success. If anyone knows why it is boiled or blanched first, please enlighten me.

When I told my mom about it (because any new creation gets blabbed to her or my aunt), she said, 'So it's like Chinese broccoli?'...well, not sure...but maybe if you added ginger? Try it and let me know. Or I might beat you to it...this was the first time my child actually request and ate anything related to broccoli in the last year so I will be making it again. And again. And again.


Serves ~4 as a side dish

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch broccolini, rinsed (stems trimmed)
  • 1 small orange, juiced
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or slightly less) of sliced almonds

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, broccolini, and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the broccolini is bright green. When the broccolini becomes bright green, add the almonds and toss together with the vegetables. Continue to cook for a minute longer and turn off the heat. (We like ours a little crunchy so cook longer if you prefer softer vegetables.)

Serve warm. Goes great with rice or potatoes and chicken or fish.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Calabacita Squash with Corn, Tomato & Onion

During my first month at home with a new baby, someone gave me a copy of an Oprah magazine. I was intrigued by an article featuring Jennifer Anniston's celebrity chefs. They cook healthy meals--now, as much as I enjoy time in the kitchen (it's stress relief to me), to have a celebrity chef prepare healthy meals for my family and not to have to worry about dishes or clean up is the thing dreams are made of...well, I clipped Jill Elmore's favorite recipe on preparing squash and finally got to make it. What a wonderful way to use up summer's bounty--it's a delicious side dish! So, so, good!

You don't feel like you're eating healthy in a frustrated can use whatever cheese you have around--I used Swiss and enjoyed it. It's a flexible recipe--I used 3 large zucchini and a bag of frozen corn with good results. And because I was in a hurry, I didn't drain the zucchini. I think it would make a difference so I definitely will not skip that step next time. This vegetable recipe would make a great side dish or something different to bring to a potluck dinner.

You might be asking what calabacita/calabasita is. And I have seen it spelled both with a 'c' and with an 's'. It means 'little squash' in Spanish. It's a lighter skinned, shorter (squattier), summer squash used in Mexican and Hispanic cooking. I have read that it has a less bitter skin. I used this kind of zucchini squash. It was labeled as 'calabacita' in my Hispanic grocery store, but you can find it in regular grocery stores too. I imagine that any zucchini would work, really. Not really sure which is the proper way....but in any case, at last you can eat like Jennifer Anniston with this dish (ha).

Adapted from The Family Chef by Jewels and Jill Elmore
Serves 5
  • 4 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ears corn, kernels sliced off
  • 2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella or feta (optional)

Place diced zucchini in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt; toss and let stand 20 minutes. (This draws the excess liquid out of the zucchini.)

Transfer zucchini to a kitchen towel and pat dry. (This step is optional but worth the time: Drying zucchini prior to sautéing it keeps it from becoming watery, and Jill think this step removes its occasional bitterness.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Do not brown. Add zucchini and corn kernels. Saute 6 to 7 minutes until vegetables are almost tender. Add diced tomato; sauté 2 to 3 minutes until softened and zucchini is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese if desired.

Per serving: 143 cal, 4 g pro, 21 g car, 4 g fiber, 7 g fat (1 g sat fat), 0 mg chol, 602 mg sod

Jill's Tip: She says she loves adding leftover calibasita to scrambled eggs in the morning for a breakfast burrito. Add a dash of hot sauce, roll it up in a tortilla and hit the road!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Super Succotash

My child and I have a love for lima beans. And now succotash. I recently learned that this dish came about during the Great Depression because of widely available and inexpensive ingredients. This is my version below. It makes for an awesome summer lunch. Flavorful, fresh, and resplendent with grilled meats and potatoes. Another example of how a vegetarian dish can be full of flavor. Also, it makes a great meal to pack for work.

Keep in mind that the version below is a bit fresher than traditional succotashes which saute the onions and bell pepper--feel free to do so and toss with the corn and beans if you prefer. Also, if you really want to 'kick it up a notch' (as our friend, Emeril, says)--add about 3-4 pieces of crumbled cooked bacon (we use turkey bacon). Feel free to add more butter--it really makes for a better taste with the creaminess of the lima beans and sweetness of the corn. We love this--hope you do too!


Serves 4-6

  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen lima beans
  • 1 big red bell pepper, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped--white and green parts
  • 3-4 ears of cooked corn--kernels cut off OR 2 cups of corn from either cans (drained) or cooked from frozen
  • 2 Tbsp. of sesame seeds (heaping)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. light butter (melted) or extra virgin olive oil (can use Earth Balance spread for vegans)
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (a bit heavier on the pepper)
Cook lima beans according to package directions (either on the stovetop or in the microwave). While still warm, toss the onions and bell peppers with the lima beans--this softens the 'bite' of the onion. Add the corn and sesame seeds and garlic powder. Pour the melted butter (or oil), citrus juice (if using) over the ingredients and gently mix it all together. Season with salt and pepper--taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tomato, Squash & Feta Gratin

Hello folks! Let me introduce you to my new favorite vegetable side dish....courtesy of the Costco Connection. I have SO many summer vegetable gratin recipes. And for some reason, I never made a one. Not today. Today was not the day that I would shirk away from a dreamy vegetarian, eye-popping recipe. This took about 15 minutes to assemble. The dish requires few ingredients and yes, it's worth turning on your oven for this one once the sun goes down.  This side dish is truly wonderful--a little cheese goes a long way and I'm mighty disappointed I didn't make two pans of this gratin. Serve it with a rice pilaf and grilled meat. I was thinking it would also go well with some roast chicken (or Worthington multigrain cutlets) and mashed potatoes.

The recipe below is the one featured in Connie Guttersen's book, The New Sonoma Cookbook. Dr. Guttersen is the creator of "The Sonoma Diet". Another cookbook that I own, that has yet to be dusted off. But now that I've tried this recipe, I can't wait to see what else she's got for me :))

And speaking of Sonoma...did I mention how in love with it I am? Below is a (tiny) picture my husband took from a trip back a few years ago while we were at the wonderful Chateau St. Jean winery--an exquistely beautiful and peaceful place (just couldn't get the picture to stretch with my blog format).

So, while we can't exactly go back to Sonoma for a while....I will enjoy its food. Hope you will too!


Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 6 oz zucchini sliced 1/4" on long bias
  • 6 oz yellow squash sliced 1/'8' on long bias
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used reduced fat feta cheese)
  • 12 oz tomatoes cut in half then sliced 1/4"thick crosswise (If you use Roma tomatoes, you don't need to cut again)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Lightly oil 6" diameter corning ware or pyrex dish (Dr. Guttersen says saute pan works fine too).

Toss zucchini with salt & pepper. Toss yellow squash with salt & pepper. In a bowl mix scallions, garlic, oregano, & feta.
Lay zucchini slices in pan slightly overlapping like shingles. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Top with a layer of tomatoes slightly overlapping. Sprinkle on half of the scallion mix. Top with a layer of yellow squash & another of tomatoes sprinkling each with salt & pepper. Top with remaining scallion mix then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 30 min at 400 degrees or until top is slightly browned. Allow to sit for 10 min then cut into wedges & serve. 4 servings.
Here's the part where I come clean: I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I was lazy. I didn't weigh the squash, tomatoes, etc....I can tell you that I used approximately 1.5 zucchinis, 2 yellow squash zucchinis, about 3 Roma tomatoes, 1 big clove of garlic, and 1 1/2 green onions. Then I mixed the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. I alternated the vegetables in the pan, drizzled the oil-garlic-oregano on top and sprinkled it all with the green onions and feta. My way seemed much easier (maybe it's not). And it was simply amazing. I'm going to continue to eat my vegetables this way....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vegetable Ceviche

Sometimes eating vegetarian is just dreamy. Try this recipe and I think you you will agree. This dish is great for days when it's too hot outside to turn on your oven.

Last May, my husband and I vacationed in Cabo San Lucas. We had a great time and decided to celebrate our anniversary dinner a little early at a posh restaurant with NO menu. It was a 7 course meal and the chef was informed of any exclusions in our diet. So when the first course came out as sea bass ceviche, I was a deer in headlights--here was RAW fish. (By the way, here's the scoop on ceviche.) Even when I do eat meat, I don't want to see blood on the plate and I certainly didn't expect raw fish outside of a sushi roll. One would say, I am limited. But one would be wrong--because I ate that raw fish and it was fantastic! Needless to say, the rest of the meal was one of the most amazing culinary experiences we have ever had.

And now that spring is here again, I have been dreaming of that ceviche and wondering how to make a vegetarian option. The result below is very, very good. And incredibly healthy. I ate about half the recipe by myself. But, it would make a great starter option or even as a side dish to grilled fish.

Next time I make this, I will try it with bell pepper and serve it on a lettuce bed with pita chips. It's almost like salsa (is what you're thinking.....)


Makes approximately 4 cups (Can probably serve 4-6 as a small starter)
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 pound (about 6 ounces) of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, slightly drained or 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (or 1/3 cup scallions, chopped)
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice (I juiced only half a lemon & it was enough)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the avocado. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When thoroughly chilled, stir in avocados. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve cold and with pita chips.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Excellent Side: Baby Carrots with Dill Butter

I'm always looking for new ways with vegetables and it's probably safe to assume that we're all needing to eat more of them.... This has been a recent favorite that we've been having alongside rice, some protein, and another green vegetable. It's super easy and very delicious! And a change from brown sugar carrots that most people serve. My daughter (who is not a big carrot fan for the last year) really loves them too. The original recipe calls for bagged baby carrots, but I love to use regular carrots in bias cut. Give these carrots a try--you'll wonder why you hadn't thought of eating them like this before.

Adapted from

1 (16 ounce) package baby carrots (or about 6-8 medium carrots, sliced)
2 Tbsp. butter or a butter-flavored spread (light is fine)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill (dried dill works great too!--just use slightly less)
1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~1/4 tsp. salt
~1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place carrots in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook about 9-10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat, and drain.

Gently toss with margarine, dill, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes about 4-6 side servings.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Spud's For You! How to Make the Perfect Baked Potato

Looking for a cozy comfort meal? Pair baked potatoes with soup or salad for a wonderful cold-weather meal. Get ready for a simplistic post....

Last night, I made the closest I've ever come to the PERFECT baked potato. Just like at a steakhouse....This is one of those dinners that you can customize with whatever toppings you have on hand. Below is my research--maybe you can use it too. Despite all my wording below, it's a RIDICULOUSLY easy process. But yes, it does take time. You have to plan ahead a bit.

I don't know about you guys, but I have always wrapped my baked potatoes in foil before throwing them in the oven. Apparently, that just STEAMS the potatoes instead of actually BAKING them (resulting in mushy crust).

 A couple of tips:
  1. Use Russet or potatoes labled as 'baking' potatoes--they are white fleshed and starchy (which gives the their 'fluffy' texture). This will ensure that you have a mild tasting and not overly sweet.
  2. Make sure the potatoes are smooth, hard to the touch, and do not have roots (sprouts) protruding from them.

  • Russet or baking potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse salt (or kosher)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your potatoes clean with COLD water (hot water starts them cooking and then the rest won't catch up) and dry them off with paper towels. Do not soak the potatoes in water either--it will make them soggy.

Poke your potatoes with a fork 8-12 times--you need to give steam an opportunity to escape. If not, they can explode (imagine that mess!).

Lightly rub your potatoes with oil (some people like canola, but I prefer the taste of olive oil). They should be shiny, but not dripping with oil. This also helps regulate the moisture in the potato and also create a crispy skin. Sprinkle the potatoes or roll them in salt.

Now there are two ways to do this--1) You can place the potato directly on the top rack in the center of the oven. You will have to place a baking sheet underneath the rack where you place the potatoes so that you can catch any of the moisture/oil dripping (and therefore prevent a mess). 2) You can place the potatoes directly onto a baking sheet. This is the only method I have tried and my results were great!

Depending on the heat of your oven and size of your potatoes, they will be done within 60-90 minutes--if you have a few small potatoes, they can sometimes be ready in as little as 45 minutes--but check first. To check for 'doneness', use fireproof gloves and give the potatoes a squeeze. If the skin feels kind of crunchy but the middle feels tender, the potatoes are ready!

And to serve--cut them in half lightly and squeeze the ends while slightly pushing them inward (this is after letting the potatoes cool for a few minutes, or using fireproof gloves).

And here's the fun part--TOPPINGS!!!!

Topping Options:
  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Salt & pepper
  • Green onions and/or chopped chives
  • Chili
  • Cooked broccoli and cheddar cheese
  • Bacon
  • Beans
  • Salsa
  • Cottage Cheese, Parmesan cheese, blue cheese, feta, or any other kind of cheese!
  • Mushrooms
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Caramelized onions
  • Smoked salmon
  • ETC., ETC., ETC
You are only limited by your imagination.....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Green Bean Salad with Walnuts, Fennel, & Goat Cheese

This salad has made an appearance at my Thanksgiving for a couple years now--a lighter approach to the traditional green bean casserole. I particularly like this dish for the holidays because you don't have to make room for one more thing in the oven--it can be served chilled or at room temperature. I think there is room for both types of green beans next year :)

The fennel adds a wonderful flavor and crispness to the salad. You should be able to find fennel in the produce section of your grocery store (it looks like a root with green fronds--often called 'anise').

Hope you enjoy it--even though Thanksgiving is over, this green bean salad would made a great side dish to a steak and potatoes any other night of the week for dinner.

adapted from Real Simple magazine

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (or as we used above, whole grain or stone ground mustard)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced into half-moons (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 4-ounce log fresh goat cheese, crumbled

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the oil and whisk until well combined; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, run under cold water to cool, and set aside until you're ready to assemble the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the green beans, fennel, and walnuts. Add the goat cheese and vinaigrette just before serving. (NOTE: I like to add the goat cheese last so it doesn't get as mushed up and stays in clumps for easier eating and a more intact flavor).

Toss the salad well and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zucchini Alfredo--SO Simple & SO Good

You may remember that I discussed my handy dandy veggie shredder tool in this post. Well, I have pulled it out again...If you don't have a vegetable shredder, I think you can cut the zucchini lengthwise until it is spaghetti-thickness (it'll just take you a bit longer time).

I ran across this recipe while perusing (AMAZING website when trying to figure out what to make for dinner with what you have; especially good for us lazier/impulsive cooks who don't schedule all our meals in advance--more power to you if you do though!!!). I have modified it somewhat to make it more healthy (less fatty), but it is still very delicious.

Serves 2-4 (depending on how many sides you have)

2 zucchini
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2-3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. light sour cream

Wash the zucchini well and pat dry with paper towels. I mean, wash it WELL--an amazing amount of grit can sit on the surface. Slice the zucchini into evenly sized spaghetti like strips--using a vegetable shredder--or cut if you are skilled.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan. Saute for a min or two. Add the sour cream, Parmesan, and oregano. Warm through.

Add the zucchini and continue to saute until it is just tender. (The zucchini will leave some liquid behind--this is normal since this vegetable is made up of so much water).

This shredded, creamy zucchini is a great side dish to chicken, rice, and sliced tomatoes. Next time, I may serve it the way my favorite restaurant (Al Di La) serves it: halibut on shredded zucchini with black lentils on the side--simply amazing!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Roast a Pumpkin (EASY-just try it!)

I know what you're's the same thing I was thinking....why would you want to roast a pumpkin when you could just buy Libby's? Well, because it tastes AMAZING! And it's fairly easy....with the exception of scooping out pumpkin flesh and seeds....I used the one all the way to the left (purchased for $2 at the Nashville Farmer's Market).

Try roast pumpkin with butter, salt and pepper or butter, cinnamon and sugar. Or puree it and use it the way you'd use Libby's canned pumpkin or any way you'd use butternut squash. YUM!

Pumpkin is low in fat and calories, low in carbohydrates, and is full of fiber, antioxidants, and many other health benefits. Here's a link to some of pumpkin's benefits.

Thanks to my good friend, Misha, for teaching me such a wonderful skill! Ha! She always teaches me cool things!


1 sugar pie pumpkin (NOT a jack-o-lantern)
1 baking sheet (like a 'half' sheet--heavy duty)
some water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the pumpkin. Then, cut it in half and scoop out the flesh and seeds. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and fill the baking sheet about 1/2 way to 3/4 way full of water. This will help 'steam' the pumpkin while it bakes and prevent it from drying out.

Bake for 60 minutes.

Let the pumpkin cool a while--maybe 10-15 minutes. The skin will peel off VERY EASILY! Here is what mine looked like:

Enjoy! Roast pumpkin is really something wonderful. I pureed mine in the Vitamix with a little bit of water and it had the most amazing velvety texture. I hope I recall this correctly--but a small-medium pumpkin (such as the one I used), made about 2 cups of puree. I plan to make some pecan pumpkin butter with this puree. Although the next time I roast a pumpkin, I am going to try some pumpkin soup--such a decadent fall dish....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Horseradish Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

A few years ago, my husband and I had a wonderful meal downtown Chicago at Wildfire. LOVE that restaurant. Cort ordered an amazing horseradish potato encrusted filet mignon. Neither of us have ever forgotten it. The flavor from these mashed potatoes reminds us of that meal and we've replaced my standard garlic mashed potatoes that I put through a potato masher--maybe we've just demoted the latter...

Anyway, these are fantastic! Just incredibly wonderful. The horseradish taste is not very strong (in fact, I add more than is called for and it's still not overpowering) and complements the tang of the sour cream. Usually, I make them with chives. But my chive crop has dwindled as fall is here, so green onions were a good substitute. In fact, I may use both chives AND green onions next time. I liked them equally. Let me know which you prefer.

The recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.


2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes (unpeeled)
*1/2 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. butter (can use light butter)
1 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup chopped chives (or green onions-also called 'scallions')
1/4 cup prepared horseradish (in the refrigerated section close to pickles, cheeses, etc.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place potatoes in large saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well; cool slightly. Peel and mash potatoes ; place in large saucepan. Over medium heat, dry out potatoes for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

(Basically, you put the drained potatoes back in the pot and then stir them over heat for a minute or two. I didn't even mash the potatoes. After 'drying' them out, I poured the milk over them--as the step below states--and stirred with a spoonula until they more mainly mashed--but not pureed. We like a chunkier mashed potato once in a while.)

Heat milk in small saucepan (or in microwave) until warm. Stir butter, sour cream, chives/green onions, and horseradish into potatoes. Add warm milk and stir until completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. OR, you can pour them out into a casserole dish and reheat before serving. I like to microwave them a little bit prior to sticking them in the oven so as to quicken the warming process. If you plan on reheating them, you may want to make sure the consistency is not too dry and add a little more milk as you think is necessary. They can dry out a little bit once reheated. Feel free to garnish with more chives or green onions.

Serves 6, according to recipe. But I think it serves closer to 8 or more when you consider that the mashed potatoes are usually a side dish. We had the mashed potatoes with burgers.

*The original recipe says not to add the milk, but I do anyway because I noticed that the potatoes harden/dry out slightly without the milk after sitting out for a while or being reheated.

You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to have mashed potatoes...they took less time than I imagined. You'll be glad you made them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mellow Mushrooms: Roasted Mushrooms with Cognac

I'm the kind of person that has random and various esoteric ingredients just laying around and waiting for that perfect recipe. One such example is Chardonnay salt.....But while digging around (yet again) in the cupboards, I found a little bottle of cognac and remembered that Jamie Oliver had roasted mushrooms with it. The rosemary, cognac, and truffle oil I added (instead of olive oil) made this mushroom dish very woodsy. I imagined these mushrooms would be great side to serve alongside lamb (if you make lamb) or on top of polenta with cheese.

I used all baby bellas and recipe was still good--next time, I will use a mixture of mushrooms. This is a ridiculously easy recipe & made the rest of my dinner pale in comparison. Note: Parchment paper is available in baking shops and also in the baking section of most grocery stores. In addition (or instead of rosemary), you can also use thyme and sage to flavour the mushrooms.


Adapted from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

  • 1 pound of mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake), cleaned with larger mushrooms cut in half
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (Truffle-flavored olive oil is awesome too!)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Chardonnay-flavored salt if you're weird like me)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. cognac
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine your mushrooms in a bowl and add the olive oil, making sure that the mushrooms are evenly coated. Add the salt, pepper and rosemary and mix well. I also added the cognac at this point (why wait?) and mixed all ingredients together.

Take one sheet of parchment paper (it should be roughly 18 x 22 inches in size) and place it on a counter. Pile the mushroom mixture in the centre of the parchment, flattening the mushrooms slightly so that they're not mounded too high in the centre. (Jamie says to drizzle on the cognac at this point.) Cover the mushrooms with another sheet of parchment of equal size.

Fold all the ends of the parchment up and in so that a tight seal forms on all sides. Slide the parchment package onto a baking sheet and then place in the oven. As you can see, I did not have enough parchment paper, so I folded it and put the seam side down on the pan. Worked fine.

Bake for 15 minutes. If you like your mushrooms a little more "done", place them back on the pan and bake for 5-10 more minutes, out of the parchment paper. I think the parchment seals in the flavor first.

Open the package (carefully as a lot of steam will be released). Taste the mushrooms and adjust seasoning.

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and sprinkle on the parsley before serving. Easy!!!!

Yes, they were delicious!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Onions

This is one of those posts where my picture does not do the recipe justice. These potatoes ARE SO GOOD! And soooooo easy! They are an absolute staple in our house. And courtesy of my mother in law, Carol. And a very healthy side dish.

Keep in mind that however you cut the potatoes, they need to all be cut the same (roughly) so that they can cook evenly.


I've tried to estimate proportions, but there is no exact science to it. Seems like for every 2-3 potatoes, use one small onion. Estimate approximately one small-medium potato for each person.

2-3 sweet potatoes, (I like them in thin half moons-but you can cut them any way)
A couple TBsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into rounds or half rounds
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients together and evenly spread them on a large baking sheet. I like to mix them with clean hands directly onto the baking sheet and then spread them out.

Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check halfway into the time (about the 25-30 minute mark) and mix all the potatoes to redistribute them so they get evenly roasted. It's okay if they overlap a little bit.

Serves 3-4 people as a side dish to chicken, fish, or very good part of a vegetarian meal with 'choplets' or 'multigrain cutlets'.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fried (Gasp!) Zucchini Patties

But at least I'm frying a VEGETABLE. Not that it makes it healthy....but these patties are just SO good. Earlier this spring, I had dinner at a family friend's house and the host (Mariana) served wonderful zucchini patties for dessert with powdered sugar. They were amazing! The ones below, that I made for this entry, are savory--not sweet. But, eventually, I still plan on attempting the sweeter version of these patties (that did not include any sugar in the composition).

Serve these savory patties with your favorite dipping sauce--I imagine they'd be great with marinara sauce or Ranch (the patties below are pictured alonside a zesty Ranch).


3 medium zucchini
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 very small onion (or half a medium onion), diced
1-1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
½ cup Asiago cheese (or Parmesan/Romano)
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Wash and cut the end off of the zucchini--do not peel. Shred the zucchini using the large holes of a cheese grater. Squeeze the shredded zucchini inside of a clean towel until you’ve removed as much liquid as possible. Or, alternately, you can put the shredded zucchini on several paper towels, lay more paper towels on top and pat down gently (repeat a couple times).

Place shredded zucchini into a medium sized bowl. Add garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, cheese (shredded), eggs, salt and pepper. Stir with a fork until well mixed.

Heat olive oil (about ¼ inch deep in bottom of skillet) to a medium heat (I used a bit less and it turned out ok). When the oil is hot enough drop a glob of zucchini batter into the skillet and flatten it a bit.

After about two minutes, turn the cakes over ( they should be a nice shade of golden-brown) and cook on the other side until done (about 2-3 minutes).

Place on paper towels (to absorb any oil). Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice and enjoy!

Serves 6.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fresh Herbs & A Meatless Summer Meal

Another easy, WONDEFUL, summertime meal of vegetarian sides: Black Beans with Feta & Mint, Roasted Potatoes with Olives, and Baked Garden Tomatoes ("easy" if you can have a little patience with chopping--I need my own sous chef!).

My herbs and I have a complicated relationship. They won't grow as well until I snip from them and I can't snip from them until I have a good reason to do so. Well, after spending the afternoon outside with my daughter splashing in the baby pool and enjoying the cooler summer weather, I finally found more reasons to snip....every time the wind blew, I could smell the mint, basil, rosemary, and parsley. There was dinner to make! (My basil needs some help from the aphids though and the rosemary was not used in this entry)

I highly suggest that if you cook with herbs a lot, you purchase one of these scissors made specifically for chopping herbs. It was in my Christmas stocking one year from my mother in law and these scissors have been so useful! Find them at places such as Bed, Bath & Beyond.

When we first moved into our house, the previous owners (whom we loved), mentioned their uses for the herbs left in the garden. While running across a note left by the owner, I emailed them, desperate to attain the recipes they mentioned. I am so glad I did--Laura Curlin, you are a vegetable side genius!!! The black beans and the potatoes are from Laura. Thank you! You have restored my faith in gardening again and conquering these pesky moles that have destroyed my attempts with their tunnels this year. I will prevail!

The baked tomatoes are from Gourmet magazine--something I've been dying to try. Reading the reviews though, people mentioned that they turned out a soupy--but to us, that's just a reason to use crisp, hearty bread to sop up the juices of summer tomatoes! I added basil and green onions, but here is the original recipe if you would like to see it.

This was an amazing meal for us. Hope you try these--you won't be sorry you did.


You can serve these as a side with grilled chicken, etc. or as a middle-eastern dinner when plated together with hummus, naan or pita crisps, falafels and sauteed peppers and onions...Top Falafel with Greek Yogurt

2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
½ c. red onion, very finely chopped
½ c. reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ c. fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Bring to room temp. 10 min. before serving.

Serves 4


You can serve this cooled instead of traditional potato salad.

2 lbs. small red new potatoes, rinsed dried and halved or med. size red potatoes, cut in 1" cubes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ¼ tsp. dried Herbes de Provence or dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives (I used a blend of Greek blend)
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slivers
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp. malt vinegar or rice wine vinegar (I used red-wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Toss potatoes in oil and herbs. Add salt and pepper; place cut side down in s single layer on a cookie sheet. Set pan in a cold oven; heat to 450 degrees. Roast until cut side is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 20-25 min.

Whisk vinegar, yogurt, olives, onion, garlic, and parsley. Add salt and pepper and then whisk in a slowly poured stream of olive oil. Pour dressing over warm potatoes toss to coat. Serve room temp. for best results.

Laura's Note: Whenever we have these potatoes leftover, I add them to an omelet for dinner or I spread it in a single layer on a plate and top with salad greens, red or yellow sweet pepper slices, feta, grape tomatoes, chicken, olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


**You can core and seed the tomatoes if you'd like to make this less "soupy". Or serve with a slotted spoon.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 3/4 pounds fresh vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 green onion (my addition)
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Romano cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Two more ways to go: Add chopped fresh basil leaves and/or small cubes of mozzarella cheese. Or use yellow and green tomatoes with the red ones to add summer color.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Mix in chives (and green onion if using); season with salt and pepper. Transfer tomato mixture to prepared baking dish; sprinkle grated cheeses over. Top with basil (if using).

Bake until cheese melts and begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with big chunks of crusty European bread.

Makes about 4 servings or so.