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Brown Sugar Baked Beans with Bacon

14 Jun

Here’s one of my favorite side dishes to take to summer potlucks and barbecues.  These brown sugar baked beans with bacon are beyond easy.  The kind of easy that seriously simplifies your day.  They are so yummy that I always make extra.  Because it’d be a bummer to run out of these sweet beans.

Brown Sugar BBQ Baked Beans 2

Everyone loves these savory yet sweet baked beans.  They will think you slaved in the kitchen all day, soaking and cooking those beans.  Little do they know that this bean dish took you about 3 minutes to assemble (yes, assemble) and just a bit of time in the oven.  Let’s not tell ’em the secret.

Brown Sugar BBQ Baked Beans 3

This perfect BBQ side dish consists of canned beans, brown sugar, and just enough real bacon to give it that extra yum factor.  This bean dish is a favorite side, as it’s sweet, salty, and a little bit smoky all at the same time.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to burgers, more burgers, chicken, or whatever you’re grillin’ up.  It’s awesome next to a super easy and delish potato salad.

Brown Sugar BBQ Baked Beans 4

Even my kids will eat up these baked beans, and kids aren’t known to be bean-a-holics.  People who aren’t bean fans will come back for more.  And it only takes a few minutes to get this dish on the table.  I seriously don’t know if I’ll ever be able to post another recipe with such teensy directions.  Happy cookout season.

Enjoy! 🙂

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BROWN SUGAR BAKED BEANS WITH BACON
(serves 15-20 side dishes)

INGREDIENTS

2 cans (29 oz each) of good quality baked beans (Bush’s Country Style is great)
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 TB brown sugar
2 tsp mustard powder
3 TB ketchup
2 TB onion powder or dried minced onion
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Set oven to 350F.

Combine all ingredients, except for bacon, in a serving dish of your choice.  Stir to fully incorporate ingredients.  Sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly on top.  Cover and place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until dish is hot.  Serve warm.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

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Asian Sticky Rice

7 Jan

We grew up on sticky rice.  Sometimes it was beautifully wrapped in ti leaves, steamed to a soft and savory perfection.  Other times, the sticky rice was served grub-style, in a big pot and ready to fill up hungry bowls.

Sticky Rice 3

Hubby’s grandmother was especially skilled at creating Asian treats, both sweet and savory.  For Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year), she would begin her kitchen magic before dawn.  She alone cooked up a roomful of mouth-watering goodies that kept her big family jubilant throughout the Lunar holiday.

Sticky Rice 2

Hubby and I are very “watered down” when it comes to Lunar New Year celebrations.  Even though we honestly don’t remember the date each year, we still love the food.  I do make a mean sticky rice, at least.

Sticky Rice

Our sticky rice is definitely of the grub variety.  No fuss; goes from pot to bowl, easy and delish.  Since we’re on a mostly preservative-free lifestyle, I sub out the Chinese sausage with with fresh ground meat.  I use ground turkey, which is delicious in this sticky rice.  If you’re adamant about doing it with the traditional Chinese sausage, go for it!  You’ll find it at Asian markets.

Sticky Rice 4

My kids love, love, love sticky rice.  They down huge helpings of it.  Hubby devours sticky rice, one of his favorite Asian dishes.  We think you’ll enjoy it, too.  It’s a breeze to whip up, and so good as either a main or side dish.  It keeps well and reheats wonderfully.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 10 side servings)

INGREDIENTS
3 cups short-grain glutinous rice (not sushi rice)
1 cup dried Shitake mushrooms
1 TB vegetable oil
1 TB finely minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/3 cup Chinese rice wine
4 TB regular soy sauce
3 TB Asian oyster sauce
4 tsp Asian pure sesame oil (typically brownish in color)
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 1/3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

For the meat mixture:
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 TB Chinese rice wine
2 TB regular soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

Do ahead:  Fully cover rice with water and soak for 3-4 hours.  Drain in sieve and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.  Soak mushrooms in warm water about 1 hour.  Drain and finely chop.  Set aside.

Mix everything in meat mixture in a bowl, incorporating thoroughly.  Cook ground turkey in large skillet, breaking it up into small bits.  Set aside cooked meat.

Heat a heavy large pot (I use my largest All-Clad) with 1 TB oil until hot.  Add ginger and stir fry for a minute.  Add meat and mushrooms, stir frying for another minute.  Stir in rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, and drained rice.  Stir to coat thoroughly.  Add broth, stir to incorporate, and bring to a low boil.

Once it reaches a low boil, immediately reduce to simmer.  Cover tightly and cook 45 minutes.  Turn heat off and let it sit for at least 10 minutes, covered.  Do not peak!

Carefully stir cooked sticky rice, from bottom to top throughout.  Cover and let stand another 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with freshly sliced scallions, if desired.  Enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Note:  Alternatively, you can use Chinese sausage, found in Asian markets.  Just chop up 5-6 links and use in place of ground turkey.  If using Chinese sausage, no need to flavor or precook it, as it comes fully cooked and flavored.  

I use regular Kikkoman soy sauce.  If you prefer lower sodium, use low-sodium soy sauce.

Sweet Corn Muffins, Moist ‘n Tender

16 Nov Sweet Corn Muffins

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we’ve all been thinking about the dishes that we hope will grace our family dinner table for the eagerly anticipated holidays.  Though sweet corn muffins are a treat our family savors year-round, these moist ‘n tender muffins would be a fabulous addition to either breakfast, lunch, or dinner for the holidays.

Sweet Corn Muffins

We’ve been using this perfect corn muffin recipe for years.  Ten years, to be exact, as my tattered old Cooks Illustrated subscription reminds me.  There has never been another corn muffin (or cornbread or any sort) that has rivaled this recipe.  These muffins will be loved by both grown ups and kiddos, who will beg you to make them again and again.  They aren’t overly dry/crumbly, like so many corn bread/muffin recipes I’ve tried in the past, which is what made these muffins a keeper.

Sweet Corn Muffins

Not only are these sweet corn muffins easy to whip up, they are hearty and stay moist for days, as long as they aren’t overbaked.  They are tender and sweet, yet not at all cakey.  These muffins retain a wholesome cornmeal flavor and rustic quality to them, due to the whole-grain cornmeal and corn kernels, replacing the usual degerminated cornmeal.

Sweet Corn Muffins

Pat on some whipped honey butter, plain butter, or eat em’ just as they are… they are perfectly satisfying with any meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Sweet Corn Muffins

…or go a bit unconventional and call it dessert 🙂

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RECIPE (12 large muffins)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups (10 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup (4.5 oz) fine ground, whole grain yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup white sugar
8 TB regular butter, melted
3/4 cup whole sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

DIRECTIONS

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.  Heat oven to 400F.  Grease a standard muffin tin.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl to combine well.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs in second bowl until well combined and pale light yellow, about 20 seconds.  Add sugar and whisk vigorously until homogenous, about 30 seconds.  Add melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition.  Add half of the sour cream and half of the milk.  Whisk to combine.  Whisk in remaining sour cream and milk until combined.

Combine wet and dry ingredients together, mixing gently with rubber spatula until batter is just combined and evenly moistened; do not over mix. Gently fold in frozen corn kernels.

Using ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, dropping to form mounds.  Do not level or flatten tops of mounds.

Bake until muffins are light golden and toothpick comes out almost clean (few tender crumbs are perfect.)  Bake about 18-19 minutes, rotating tin halfway through baking time.  Actual baking time varies with each oven, but watch closely not to over bake.

Cool muffins in tin for a bit.  Serve warm.

Leftovers keep well in airtight container and can be reheated in microwave or oven.

By chewoutloud, adapted from Cooks Illustrated

*Note:  Whole grain cornmeal has a fuller flavor than regular cornmeal milled from degerminated corn.  To determine what kind of cornmeal a package contains, look at the label.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar Crumble – Side dish, or dessert?

12 Oct Sweet Potatoe Casserole with Brown Sugar Crumble

Ooh, it is almost time!  Not much longer until this most favorite holiday side dish gets to make its yearly and highly anticipated appearance.  This is one of those best-est recipes that gets requests every year.  Even people who don’t typically like sweet potato or mashed potato anything become a fan of this one.

Sweet Potatoe Casserole with Brown Sugar Crumble

I wasn’t a huge sweet potato casserole kind of gal until I met this recipe.  Instantly converted.  This sweet side dish has graced both potluck tables and formal tables alike every year in our family ever since.

Sweet Potatoe Casserole with Brown Sugar Crumble

I would be remiss not to give Hubby credit here.  He’s the guy that brought this sweet potato dish over for a holiday gathering many years ago.  Hubby’s been making this dessert-like side dish since his post-college days (that would be eons ago.)  He first saw it in one of his Bon Appetit mags, and I’m glad he kept the recipe.  Yeah, he really did subscribe to food magazines on his own.  And wine ones.  And food + wine ones.  But we’re talking about sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoe Casserole with Brown Sugar Crumble

None of us can agree – is this actually a side dish or a dessert?  We know it’s labeled as a side dish and deserves a place next to the turkey or roast.  I think it’s a dessert in disguise, with its smooth, maple-sweet interior and crisp streusel topping.  The brown sugar and pecan topping is the star of this yummy dish.

My favorite thing about this?  Once again, here’s something that can totally be prepped the night before.  It’s true.  We all have enough going on the day of a major holiday.  This sweet potato dish is one less thing to worry about.  I always assemble the casserole the night before, with streusel in a separate container.  The day you want to serve it, just throw the prepared streusel on top and bake!  How easy is that?  If you haven’t yet tried making sweet potato casserole this way, you’ve gotta give it a go.

RECIPE (one 9×13 dish)

INGREDIENTS

5 lb red-skinned sweet potatoes (or yams)
4 large eggs
3 T pure maple syrup
2 T vanilla extract
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 tsp table salt

For Streusel Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Mix together brown sugar, chopped pecans, and cold butter in a small bowl until mixture is grainy and comes together.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

Wrap each sweet potato in foil and bake at 400F for about 1 hour, or until potatoes are easily pierced by fork and very soft.  Actual bake time depends on size of potatoes.  Let cool enough to handle.  Remove sweet potato skins, and mash potatoes well in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.  Mix in the mashed sweet potatoes until smooth and incorporated.  Transfer sweet potato mixture to a buttered 9×13 dish.  At this point, you can wrap tightly with cling wrap and put in fridge until ready to use.

Sprinkle pecan topping evenly over casserole.  Bake at 350F until casserole is set and topping bubbles.  About 1 hour.  Serve warm, and enjoy!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by Bon Appetit

Notes:

*I always choose to cook sweet potatoes in the oven because I really like the deep roasted flavor it creates.  You can also cook peeled, cubed potatoes in boiling water until very tender.

* If you want, you can make extra crumble topping, for a thicker layer of crunch on top.  Up to you!

Basil ‘n Lemon Pesto

10 Oct Basil Pesto

My beloved basil plants have just completed their season here.  If you’re lucky enough to grow herbs in a climate where it’s still warm, you’re probably not seeing the sad demise of your plants.  Alas, mine are pretty much seeing the end of their days.  I salvaged what was left of my basil plants, brought them indoors, and stuck them in water until I could figure out what to do with them.  I thought about blanching and freezing the leaves.  Or drying them for future use.  In the end, I decided to whip up a batch of pesto, which I know will keep in the fridge awhile and comes in handy for all those weeknight meals.

Basil Pesto

We usually have fresh lemons around, so we make lemon-basil pesto.  It is so refreshing, and gives the pesto that perfect lemony tang.  If you prefer plain basil pesto, just omit the lemon.

Basil Pesto

Pack in those basil leaves.  Goodbye, garden, until next spring!

Basil Pesto

Of course, good extra virgin olive oil.

Basil Pesto

Voila!  That’s it!  Now we’ve got a nice reserve of beautiful pesto, ready to go when needed.

Basil Pesto

Pesto is awesome in so many pasta and chicken dishes.  It’s supposed to be good in some fish recipes, too.   I used to avoid pesto, for some reason.  I suppose I thought it was greasy…probably from less-than-ideal  restaurant experiences.  What a difference when you make it yourself!  Pesto is actually pretty healthy when I get to put in my own fresh ingredients.

Basil Pesto

No need to ever buy jarred pesto sauce.  A little goes a long way, and this keeps nicely in fridge awhile.  I am generous with the salt in my pesto, because once it marries with all that pasta, the richness of the sauce thins out and becomes lighter.

The great thing about pesto is how versatile and flexible it is.  If you don’t want to use pine nuts, other nuts can often work nicely.  Sunflower seeds are a decent alternative, if you’re allergic to nuts.  You can make it more or less garlicky, depending on how much close social contact you’re expecting to have in the next 24 hours 😉  If you’d like the color to be greener, simply add some flat leaf parsley to the mix.

Here’s our favorite basic (and easy!) pesto recipe.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 small lemon (or half of a large lemon)
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (only add upon serving)

DIRECTIONS

Put basil, garlic, and nuts in food processor and pulse several times until chopped.  Add olive oil and lemon zest with juice.  Process until smooth and well blended.  Transfer pesto to large bowl and season with kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste.

If using immediately, add in Parmesan cheese and mix together well.

If saving for future use, just transfer pesto to airtight container (if desired, divide into 2 separate containers) and drizzle with bit of oil on top or place cling wrap directly on pesto to seal out air.  Simply thaw and mix in the Parmesan cheese when you want to serve it up!

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

5 Oct Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Recently, I felt compelled to obey that bread-making compulsion that comes calling now and then.  Everyone knows the fall season is synonymous with a sudden onset of baking activity.  For me, that includes bread.   Armed with a craving for rustic bread, an addiction to garlic, and a fondness for the heady aroma of rosemary, I decided to bake the Best Rosemary Garlic Bread ever.  If such a thing can be decided 🙂

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

I was super thrilled that this actually resulted in the Best Rosemary Garlic Bread we’ve ever had.  It’s most definitely a family favorite now.  The mouth watering aroma from the oven is one big ridiculous temptation.  Seriously, we all sooo wanted to tear into this loaf the minute it came out.

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Needless to say, once the dinner bell was officially rung, the bread lasted maybe seconds.   Oh-So-Good.  The exterior has that artisan, rustic texture – a gorgeous golden crisp crust.  The inside?  Everything I’d want in a hearty dinner bread… it’s chewy, soft, yet robust… delicious.  The roasted garlic and rosemary are absolutely meant for one another.  The seasoning flavors this bread perfectly.

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

I always make homemade bread by hand, only because I’ve never purchased a bread maker.  I’ve thought about getting one, but so far it’s been fine without; if you don’t have a bread maker, no worries.  You can absolutely make this fab bread at home with a little extra elbow grease.

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread

Plan ahead to allow time for rising.  Depending on the temperature of your room, it could take a couple of hours for the dough to double.  I like to put mine in an oven that has been slightly warmed up, which helps the rise time go a bit faster.  No doubt, this bread is so worth it.   You’ll be one popular baker at the dinner table.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, 110-115F
2 tsp white sugar
2 tsp fine salt
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 TB dried rosemary
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 head of roasted garlic
extra olive oil for brushing on top and serving
coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top
balsamic vinegar for serving
clean water in spray bottle

DIRECTIONS

In large bowl, Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup warm water.  Mix in the sugar and salt.  Let sit for about 10 minutes or until it foams.  Add in olive oil.  Add flour and knead (by hand or stand mixer) for about 10 minutes.  Add rosemary, black pepper, and oregano.  Knead another 5 minutes.  Finally, gently knead in roasted garlic by hand, about 1 minute.  Dough should come together well at this point; slightly sticky is fine.  Place dough ball in well oiled bowl, turning dough a few times so that dough surfaces are protected by oil.  Tightly cover bowl with cling wrap.  Place in warm, draft-free area to rise until dough is doubled, approx. 1 hour, depending on room temp (if your room is cooler, it could take 2 hours.)

After dough is doubled, punch it down and shape into a rounded loaf.  Using sharp knife, make a criss-cross design on top.  Place rounded loaf on greased baking sheet.  Cover up loaf with large mixing bowl inverted over it.  Make sure bowl is large enough that it gives your loaf room to rise.  Let rise until doubled again, approx 1 hour.

After dough has doubled again, gently brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a bit more rosemary.  Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, spraying loaf with water once during the middle of baking.  Bump oven up to 425F and spray loaf with water again.  Watch carefully – bake just until top is a  nice golden brown, taking care not to over bake.

Serve bread fresh and warm, with your favorite blend of good olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and balsamic vinegar!

by chewoutloud, adapted from Jo’s Rosemary Bread

Pan Grilled Flatbread, Like Naan

28 Sep Grilled Flatbread Like Naan

Weeks ago, I shared my favorite recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, which was a huge hit with everyone who has tried it.  I’ve been so busy with fall that I just now realized this fabulous naan-like recipe has been waiting for its turn in the spotlight.  It very well could steal the show.

Grilled Flatbread Like Naan

Grilled Flatbread

Like the Chicken Tikka Masala, I have tried numerous times to create a decent flatbread that reminds me of the naan I’m so used to ordering from my favorite Indian eateries.  I even tried a popular “naan” recipe from allrecipes that looked promising.  Unfortunately, none of the recipes worked out well enough to write home about.  Until…you guessed it…now.

Grilled Flatbread Like Naan

This could well be the closest I’ll ever come to making Asian flatbread akin to Indian naan.  I’m very okay with that, given the happy results of this delicious flatbread.  In all truth, it’s extremely difficult (maybe next to impossible) for most home cooks to make authentic naan bread.  That is because most of us do not happen to have a home kitchen adorned with a traditional clay oven, which can get up to 900F.  At least, I don’t. 🙂

Grilled Flatbread Like Naan

Grilled Flatbread, similar to Naan

This scrumptious flatbread turned out soft, tender, and flavorful.   These came out with lots of nice, airy bubbles when they finished cooking.  I made the naughty mistake of covering them up with foil after cooking.  The warm condensation caused my big, pretty bubbles to flatten.  I share that tidbit so it won’t happen to you 😉   Regardless, none of my eaters cared or noticed – these were gobbled up as soon as they were released.

Overall, this tasty flatbread is a bit thicker and chewier than traditional naan, but it has made a worthy name for itself – every last bit of the bread was scraped up.  No leftovers means no experiments with reheating could be conducted this time.  Guess that’s a good thing.

Grilled Flatbread Like Naan

The only part that takes some time is, of course, the rising.  The rest of it is simple and straightforward.  You just have to stay patient while cooking them because, unless you have multiple cast iron skillets and uncanny hand-eye-speed coordination, you will probably be cooking them 1 at a time.

You’ll have to bat away all those hands trying to grab the bread before you’ve officially rung the dinner bell.  Good thing these cook up fast!  Do be sure to serve these up while still warm and fresh, so cook them up right before you’re ready to nosh.  Enjoy!

RECIPE (8 flatbreads)

INGREDIENTS

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup (1 3/8 oz) whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups (13 3/4 oz) bread flour, plus more for dusing
1 cup room temperature water
1/4 cup plain whole yogurt
1 TB olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
4 TB melted butter for brushing on flatbreads
kosher salt to taste
garlic powder to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a standing mixer, combine yeast, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour, and bread flour in the bowl of mixer.  Mix with paddle attachment until blended, about 15 seconds.  Add water, yogurt, and olive oil.  Mix on low until a shaggy dough forms, about 30 seconds.  Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed until smooth and glossy, about 8 minutes.  Add more flour, only 1 TB at a time, if needed in order to get a dough that clears the sides of the bowl.  Be careful not to add too much dough.  It should still stick to the bottom of the bowl.   (If mixing by hand, knead dough until smooth and elastic, 12-15 minutes.)

Transfer dough ball to well oiled bowl.  Turn dough in bowl, so surfaces of dough are protected by oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in draft free, warm spot until dough has doubled in bulk.  About 1 hour.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  If sticky, sprinkle lightly with flour.  Cut dough into 8 equal portions.  Roll each portion into round ball.  Roll or flatten each ball into a 4 in. circle, always keeping other dough balls covered while working. It helps to set them on wax or parchment paper, to prevent bottoms from sticking.  Let the 4-inch circles rest for 10 minutes.  One at a time, with lightly oiled rolling pin, roll each into 6 inch circle.  Keep others covered as you work on each one.

5-10 minutes before cooking, heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Working one at a time, gently lift a dough circle, stretch it about 1 inch larger, and place in skillet.  You can also press it into a better circle quickly right after you put it into the pan.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface of the dough, about 30 seconds.  Using a large, flat spatula, flip the bread and cook until bottom is speckled and deep golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes.  Flip bread over once more and cook until bottom is speckled and deep golden, 1-2 minutes.

Transfer bread to a wire rack and cool for a couple of minutes.  If desired, brush bread lightly with butter and lightly sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and/or garlic powder to taste.  You can cover loosely in clean towel to serve warm.  If you do have leftovers, wrap bread tightly in foil and reheat at 300F for 15 minutes.

by chewoutloud, adapted from Baking Illustrated

Red Potato Ranch Salad- Simply Yummy

23 Aug Red Potato Salad 8

With the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, many folks will be enjoying a BBQ cookout at the park, in someone’s backyard, or their own pad.  Whether you are the host or a party goer, you’ll want easy-to-make, tasty side dishes to go along with those burgers or hot dogs.

Enter this super easy, fuss-free red potato salad.  It is tender, tasty, and simple.  Dare I say, fail-proof?

Red Potato Salad 8

Red Potato Salad – just a few ingredients

This tasty red potato salad is comprised of just a few simple ingredients.  If you love ranch dressing, you’ll adore this potato salad, as its base is ranch rather than the traditional mayo or sour cream.  Throw on green onions, bacon, and season to taste!  It’s tastes as great as it looks.  The red skin on these potatoes is gorgeous.

Red Potato Salad 7

Red Potato Salad – creamy ranch, chives, and bacon

I usually make this red potato salad a day beforehand and let it sit in fridge until I am ready to pack it for a picnic or potluck.  The flavors meld together when it has a little time to sit.  It’s one less thing to worry about on picnic/party/BBQ day.

Red Potato Salad 6

Red Potato Salad – crowd pleaser

Even those who don’t usually like potato salads (me) go back for seconds on this one.  Potatoes, ranch, and bacon?  What’s not to like?   Bonus: It somehow just looks and feels like this potato salad is a little healthier than most, since it doesn’t rely on loads of mayo and sour cream.  I can’t guarantee it really is much healthier, but it gives off that vibe 🙂

Red Potato Salad 5

Red Potato Salad – serve it up this weekend!

If you have any leftovers, red potato salad keeps very well in the fridge for a couple of days, as long as it hasn’t been sitting outdoors too long.  Happy Labor Day Weekend, and take some time to rest!

RECIPE (10-12)

INGREDIENTS

3 lbs Red skinned potatoes, skin on, washed and cubed to bite-size
3-4 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
1 large bottle good ranch dressing (Hidden Valley Ranch or other good ranch b/c it makes a diff!)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional:  dashes of garlic powder

DIRECTIONS

Fill a large, heavy pot with salted water about 2/3 full.  Bring to boil.  Boil cubed potatoes for about 8-9 minutes or to desired tenderness.  Do not overcook, or results will be mushy.  Drain and rinse potatoes with cold water to cool it down.  Gently work in as much ranch dressing as needed, to desired consistency.  Mix in sliced green onions and crumbled bacon.  Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Add a dash or two of garlic powder, if desired.  Chill and enjoy!

Grilled Peach Caprese – a Sweet Twist!

14 Aug grilled peach caprese

It goes without saying that tomato & mozzarella caprese has an abundance of adoring fans during the summer months.  We’ve had our share of caprese made with luscious heirloom tomatoes around here.  But last week, I just wanted something a little different.  If you’re like me, you’re driven to switch things up often just for the fun of it.  I can’t say I enjoy drastic changes when it comes to  really big things, but when dealing with the likes of fashion or food, I love to change it up once in a while.  Hmm, I wonder if that is why I can’t seem to wear the same hairstyle longer than a season or two.  A year at the most.  Back to food.  Grilled Peach Caprese – oh, my goodness… you really, seriously have to try this.  This is so easy that it begs to be made at least once before summer’s end.

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – choose large, fresh, juicy peaches

Not only is it absolutely gorgeous as an appetizer or salad (or in my case, the meal itself), but it is both healthy  and delicious!  How can it get better than that?!

Grilled Peach Caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – the freshest mozzarella ball and fresh basil

This is reminding me of that lovely Mango Caprese, which was also crazy delicious.   Caprese has such diversity, I love it.  This grilled peach number is fantastic with the simple basil white vinaigrette.  Slice into this refreshingly sweet and savory caprese, while sipping a cool, crisp wine.   These are the little pleasures of summer.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – use high heat to quickly grill up the peaches – easy!

The sweetest, juiciest fresh peaches will obviously turn out the best results.  Use the best fresh mozzarella you can get, and of course fresh basil.  Y-U-M.

grilled peach caprese

Grilled Peach Caprese – beautiful and tasty

I stacked my peach caprese for presentation, but it’s just as lovely layered whichever way you want.  And it stays just as delicious no matter how you’d like to present it 🙂  Enjoy it while fresh peaches abound!

RECIPE (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

2 large ripe (but not overly ripe) peaches, sliced with skin on, almost 1/2 in. thick
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 bunch fresh basil

For Vinaigrette:
4 T white balsamic vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 TB minced fresh basil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
pinch coarse kosher or sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Mix together all ingredients for the vinaigrette.  Can be made ahead and set aside in fridge.

Heat grill to high.  When grill is very hot, set peach slices on top and cook just until grill marks appear.  Don’t over cook.  Set aside to cool off a bit at room temp.

Layer slices of grilled peaches, slices of mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle generously with vinaigrette.
Enjoy!

Wine Pairing Note:  Excellent with a crisp (non-0aked) Chardonnay, Viognier, or Riesling.

The Great Garlic – How to Roast it!

30 Jul roasted garlic

I don’t remember a time in my life when garlic wasn’t incorporated into the daily dinner menu in some shape or form.  Well, OK – during my pregnancies, garlic made me gag – but that’s a totally different story.  Other than that, this amazing bulb has been chopped, diced, sauteed, smashed, pureed, and used in every way possible in our family.  My parents claim garlic’s powerhouse antioxidant properties have benefited their health.  With all the research done on garlic’s medicinal virtues, my mom might be right.  However, we also just love the taste of garlic as an herb that greatly enhances the flavor of food.

roasted garlic

Roasted Garlic – pick fresh, firm bulbs

When I first started roasting garlic many years ago, it was for the garlic mashed potatoes we made every year during the holidays.  Since then, so many reasons to roast my garlic.  It is super easy and so versatile!  First, pick out a firm, fresh head of garlic – larger is better, as it will shrink a bit while roasting.

roasted garlic

Roasted Garlic – hello, antioxidants!

Next, use a good, sharp knife and carefully slice your bulb in half, across the middle.  Generously drizzle both halves with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt over each half.  Close the garlic bulb back together, seal up completely in foil, and roast in oven or toaster oven at 400F for 1 hour.

roasted garlic

Roasted Garlic – amp up the flavor of sauces, spreads, and countless savory dishes.

DONE!  Not too many good things are easier than that.  Pop out the soft roasted cloves and use in whatever way you like.  I already mentioned using mine in our family favorite roasted garlic mashed potatoes.  I also mash up roasted garlic to make roasted garlic mayo and roasted garlic butter.  I love including chopped roasted garlic in pizzas and pastas.  You probably have some delicious ideas of your own.  Here’s to using our imagination and getting more out of The Great Garlic.   Happy garlic roasting!

Source:  Chew Out Loud

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