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Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

I was going to spend yesterday evening creating a snack station and post about that today… but instead I spent the evening crying over videos of kittens on YouTube. Pregnancy – it’s not for the faint of heart! So instead I’m reblogging one more recipe from my archives – and this one is timed pretty well, if I do say so myself, since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend. If you have a picnic to attend, do consider this fresh, healthy alternative to the traditional mayo-laden potato salad. Enjoy!

At last, at last, it’s summer.  You can feel free to break out the white jeans, the linen skirts, whatever blows your hair back.  But more interesting – at least to me – is that summer is Picnic Season.

I LOVE picnics.  Cookouts, too.  Food just tastes better outside, if you ask me.  I think it has something to do with memories.  I have a lot of great memories, already in my twenty-something years, and many of them involve eating outside.  There were many, many barbeques at my parents’ lake house… including plenty of servings of my favorite marinated chicken, and the infamous day when my mom dumped citronella wax over our family friend’s fabulous peach upside-down cake.  (We ate the cake anyway, just picked off the wax.  If you’d met our friend, you’d understand.  It would be a crime to waste her cake over something as minor as a little wax… or even a lot of wax.) There were snacks on the beach, where the sand blew into the food and added that certain crunchy je-ne-sais-quoi.  Even in the winter, we ate outside, on days when the sun was beating down despite the snow and we were warm from skiing.

I still eat outside whenever possible.  My picnics nowadays consist of anything from a few coworkers eating Cosi sandwiches on the National Mall, to fruit and cheese at one of my favorite Virginia wineries, to lounging beside the Potomac, watching the tour boats go by on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.  I’ve been known to carry a cherry pie on my lap in the car and plunk it down in the grass.  Why not?

If you ask me, the quintessential picnic food would have to be potato salad.  Whether it’s my grandma’s decadent potato salad with eggs – mandatory every Easter – or room-temperature boiled potatoes glazed with a salt water reduction and chives, or this wonderful, slightly more healthy, tangy and fresh yogurt potato salad, I’m more likely than not going to be toting some version of chilled potatoes in dressing along on my outdoor gustatory adventures.  Potato salad can be anything from outrageously rich to light and refreshing.  Who wouldn’t want some in their cooler?

Yogurt Potato Salad with Dill

2 cups chopped potatoes (red or Idaho)
1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt (regular or Greek-style)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 scallions, finely sliced
fresh black pepper

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain and allow to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Add potatoes and toss to coat with yogurt mixture.  If necessary, add more yogurt a little at a time until proportions reach your preference.
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Serve chilled.

Source: Covered In Flour

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Lemon Herb Quinoa

Today I have a super versatile side dish for you.  It’s quick and easy and can be eaten hot or cold.  How’s that for a staple?  I had a scoop of this quinoa while it was still warm for lunch on Sunday, served it hot as a side on Monday and ate the rest over a salad later in the week.  I’ve indicated here enough quantity to last several meals as long as you don’t make it your main course, so you might consider whipping up a batch on a weekend  and eating it over the course of the week.  And of course, it would easily double if you need to feed more people or if you go through grain salads quicker than I do.  Enjoy!

Lemon Herb Quinoa

1 cup dried quinoa (or substitute brown rice, millet, or another small grain)
2 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Combine quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes (or otherwise according to the directions on your particular package of quinoa).
  • When quinoa has absorbed all its cooking water, fluff with a fork.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine well.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • Serve hot, warm, or cold.

Source: Covered In Flour

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Caramelized Skillet Tomatoes

I’m a little ashamed.  It appears that in my quest to caramelize anything that sits still long enough, I have overlooked something that is obviously brilliant.  Dear readers, I owe you an apology.  I shouldn’t have quit while I was ahead.  I should have continued to caramelize until I had coated the entire world with a chewy-crispy-crust-of-goodness.  But you can rest assured that the caramelizing hiatus is over.

You accept my apology?  Great!  Okay, let’s talk tomatoes.  Skillet tomatoes.  Caramelized skillet tomatoes, to be precise.  Let me say that a little more slowly so that you can take it all in.  Caramelized.  Skillet.  Tomatoes.

It’s been awhile since I really cooked the way I used to before I fell into a funk this summer.  I used to get an idea in my head, rush to the kitchen, roll up my sleeves and COOK with a huge smile on my face as I imagined the beautiful dish, the rich flavors, that I was in the process of creating.  Sometimes it was something I dreamed up myself, other times the catalyst was a magazine like Bon Appetit or Martha Stewart Living.  I would cook with all of my senses, admiring the beautiful colors, listening to the sizzle on the stovetop, breathing in the heady aromas.  Certain things have transpired that stripped me of that joy, at least for a little while.  But with this dish, I finally felt like I was back.  I looked down at the tomatoes in my skillet and they looked like something I might see in the pages of a magazine.  (In person, that is – sorry about the camera flash.  You’ll just have to come over and have them with me and see for yourself how PRETTY.)

But enough about me.  Let’s talk about the tomatoes.  Grape tomatoes hold their shape, and the high heat imparts a beautiful golden crust.  And if you can believe it, they become even sweeter.  Add to the mix a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, oregano and thyme and you have… well, you have a dish that I almost didn’t want to share with hubby.  But I did share with him, because I’m nice that way.  And now I’m sharing with you.

Caramelized Skillet Tomatoes

1 pint grape tomatoes
~1 teaspoon olive oil
~1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
~1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
~1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
~1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

(The symbol ~ indicates a precise measure.  Do as you see fit.)

  • Rinse and drain grape tomatoes, then slice in halves.
  • In a heavy aluminum or cast-iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add grape tomatoes to skillet and stir to completely coat with oil.  Turn heat up to medium-high and cook for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are softened and crusts have formed.  While tomatoes are cooking, stir often and scrape up brown bits.
  • Season with salt, pepper, oregano and thyme and toss well.  Serve immediately on their as a side dish, or heap on top of ricotta-spread crostini… mmmmm.  (Or you could put them in the fridge.  I bet they’d be pretty darn good cold.)

Source: Covered In Flour

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I don’t really know anything about horse racing.  I grew up not far from Saratoga Springs, NY, and we used to go to the track from time to time during racing season.  I never won anything.  (My refined technique of picking the prettiest horse never worked.  I wonder why?)  These days, I am one of the millions of people who only tune into the racing world on Derby Day, or for the Belmont if there is a chance that a horse might win the Triple Crown.  I know who Calvin Borel is, but he’s the only jockey I can name.  It’s safe to say that horse racing is not my sport – although I do love the hats, the roses and the green grass at Churchill Downs.  But if you want to hear me talk intelligently about a sport, ask me about ice hockey, not horse racing.

One thing I do know about, though, is baking.  Different people may disagree on what is necessary for Derby Day.  Some can’t do without Derby Pie; some think the day is incomplete without spiced pecans.  (I think we’d all agree on Mint Juleps, though.)  I personally must have sweet potato biscuits.  You can make these all year ’round, although I think they would also do very nicely for a Southern Thanksgiving celebration.  But I need them on Derby Day.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)
1 can sweet potatoes in syrup
1/2 cup soymilk (or buttermilk)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the Earth Balance (it must be cold) and “cut it in” using a pastry cutter or two knives.  Work the Earth Balance until the pieces are the size of small peas.  Set aside.
  • Drain the canned sweet potatoes, but not too enthusiastically.  (A little syrup left really adds to the flavor!)  Mash with a fork.  Mix in the soymilk and stir until the soymilk and sweet potatoes are smooth.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with hands until dough comes together in a rough/sticky ball.
  • Roll dough or simply pat it into a disk of about 1 inch height.  (It’s so soft that you don’t really need a rolling pin unless, say, you have a lavender silicone French rolling pin that is super cute and you love to use it…)  Using a round biscuit cutter or a small glass (I went with a cordial glass I had lying around, because I actually don’t have a biscuit cutter) cut rounds and place on a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pat the dough scraps back into another disk and continue cutting biscuits and reshaping dough until all the dough is used up.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and serve with…

Maple Butter

1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened or spreadable
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

  • Using a fork, mix the Earth Balance vigorously with the maple syrup until they form a whipped consistency.  Serve in a cute bowl alongside the biscuits.

Source: Adapted from TheKitchn

Psst!  I have a secret for you – these biscuits and the maple “butter” are completely vegan!  You can always make them non-vegan by using butter instead of Earth Balance and buttermilk instead of soymilk, but I really encourage you to try the vegan version.  No one will ever guess that they are vegan – and they will be amazed when you tell them.

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Homemade Bread Crumbs

I know what you’re thinking.  Why on Earth would I bother making homemade bread crumbs when I could just buy them at the store?  Well, take it from me, these are better.  (Even better than Jaclyn’s brand bread crumbs, which they sell at Whole Foods and which I of course own.)  They are crispy and chewy, olive oil and oregano-kissed.  Your second question might be, what would I use them for?  The answer: anything and everything.  They are great over casseroles, but I’ve also sprinkled them over soups and salads instead of croutons and even tossed a handful over hubby’s dinner when he was being finicky.  Worked like a charm.

Homemade Bread Crumbs

1 day-old mini baguette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch sea salt

  • Tear chunks off the mini baguette and place in bowl of food processor.  Pulse until crumbs form at your desired consistency.
  • In a pan over medium heat, warm olive oil.  Add bread crumbs and toss until golden brown and toasted.
  • Sprinkle oregano and salt over bread crumbs and toss to combine.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Source: Covered In Flour

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Lighter Twice-Baked Potatoes

Would you believe that I had never made twice-baked potatoes before?  Shoot, I’ve barely ever even eaten them.  I don’t know why… the few times I’ve had twice-baked potatoes, I liked them.  I liked them very much indeed.  I always make sure to grab the little bite-sized TBPs from buffets when they’re there, but for some reason it never really occurred to me to bake them at home.

Then last spring, hubby and I visited our friends in Texas, and they fed us twice-baked potatoes.  Holy home cookin’ revelation, Batman!  They’re not hard, and they’re always appreciated.  Why not whip some up at home?  Well, time got away from me, as it often does.  But the other night, I found myself looking for a quick side dish to whip up, with a bag of Yukon Golds languishing in the bottom of my freakishly organized pantry.  So I thought I would lighten up the traditional twice-baked potato by mixing it with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, mayonnaise, or Ranch dressing.  It’s not a complete health food, of course… there’s a bit of cheese in there, if you hadn’t noticed.  Hey, protein, right?  Anyway, the flavor is spot on and the guilt isn’t quite as debilitating.  Go ahead, have one.

Lighter Twice-Baked Potatoes

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 + 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese mix
~1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Scrub Yukon Gold potatoes and wrap in two paper towels (one large packet is fine; no need to individually wrap the potatoes).  Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave 8 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Remove from microwave and allow to rest a few minutes until potatoes are soft enough to handle.
  • Meanwhile, position a rack a few inches below the top of your oven and preheat the broiler to high.
  • Halve the potatoes.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the insides of each potato half, making sure to leave enough potato flesh so that the shells retain their structural integrity.  (How’s that for words?  I’m a lawyer!)
  • Place potato flesh in a bowl and combine with yogurt, 1/2 cup cheese, salt and pepper.  Using a fork (or potato masher, if you are fancy like that), mash together the potatoes, yogurt and cheese until they are combined and fluffy, but don’t be too precious about lumps.  We’re going for rustic here.
  • Scoop potato filling back into shells.  Press a pinch of reserved cheese on each potato half.
  • Broil approximately 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and filling is warmed through.

Makes 10 potato halves.

Source: Covered In Flour

Also, just because I can…

This is Ezra.  He’s my new nephew.  He’s part beagle, part rat terrier, part Doberman, ALL cuteness.  Hi, Ezra!

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As we generally do every year, hubby and I decided to stay in and cook dinner together on Valentine’s Day.  We prefer cooking at home, since we will (1) spend less money; (2) eat healthier; (3) not have to deal with crowds and restaurant reservations; and (4) have more time to hang out together and really enjoy each other’s company since we don’t have to drive, find parking…  Every year, we have a blast deciding what to make.  We go through cookbooks, make suggestions, veto each other’s suggestions, and generally act like this is going to be our last meal on earth.  For our first course on Valentine’s Day this year, though, there was no strife at all: hubby requested bruschetta and I was happy to oblige.  Toasty bread, olive oil and tomatoes?  I’m ALWAYS up for that!  Part of what I love about bruschetta is that it is so versatile; you can literally go in about a million different directions with it.  I’ve tried many different versions and I love them all.  How could I not, when toasted bread is the common denominator?  This particular one is elegent in its simplicity, and it’s easy to throw together.  Mangia!

Tomato and Chive Bruschetta

1/2 baguette, sliced thinly
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for baguette
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons (approx.) extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
sea salt
black pepper
squeeze of lemon

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange sliced bread on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toast 10 minutes or so, until fragrant.
  • While bread is toasting, combine cherry or grape tomatoes, chives, remaining olive oil, salt, pepper, and a spritze of lemon juice in a small bowl and toss together.
  • Remove bread from oven and rub with the halved garlic clove.  Spoon the tomato mixture over the bread and serve.

Source: Covered In Flour, inspired by classic bruschetta

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