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Posts Tagged ‘Side Dish’

Let’s Talk Turkey

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Let’s consider this my Thanksgiving post mortem.  While I wholeheartedly admit that this information would have been far more useful a week or more ago, I was not sure how well my first attempt at cooking the Thanksgiving meal would go, well, until it was done.  Although I spent hours pouring over recipes in order to pick the perfect menu, I had my doubts on how I would be able to pull this off.

The Good:  From my limited number of diners (thanks mom, dad, and husband), the consensus was that everything was great.  Highlights were:  the apple tart (“best tart crust I’ve ever tasted”), the stuffing (“sausage and caramelized leeks?  Delicious!”), the gravy (“the color, taste, and texture are perfect”), and the cranberry sauce (the next day, my mom ate a heaping spoonful of cranberry on its own).

The Bad: While my parents didn’t have any criticism, my husband and I agreed that the turkey was dry.  Though the meat was very flavorful, I think the white meat was overcooked and that I should have pulled the turkey from the oven sooner.  That and I burned my arm.  Oh right, the bottom of the tart pan moves!

Lessons Learned:  Given that this was the first Thanksgiving I’ve prepared on my own, to say it was a learning experience is an understatement!  Here are my thoughts:

  • Prepare in advance:  I recognize this is a luxury.  I had time off to burn, so I took the week off.  If you can get the time off of work, take it in order to get a few things ready before company arrives.  On Tuesday, I made cranberry sauce, turkey stock, pie crust, mashed potatoes, citrus glazed carrots, and port glazed pearl onions.  Having a few items that just needed to be heated made all the difference.
  • Be prepared for a frozen/partially frozen turkey:  I was not prepared for this.  In fact, I hadn’t even considered it as a possibility.  When I picked up my turkey, that per the Whole Foods website should have been fresh, it was frozen solid.  Thinking nothing of it, I just put it in the fridge and assumed that I would be able to salt the turkey as planned the next morning.  Knowing what I know now, I would have done a few things differently.  First, I would have confirmed with the store that the turkey had not been frozen.  Second, I would have picked the turkey up on Monday, instead of Tuesday, in order to allow more time for the turkey to defrost in the refrigerator.  Finally, I would have done a bit more research on defrosting and cooking a turkey, which leads me to my next point.
  • Trust your instincts:  I put my 19 pound unstuffed turkey in the oven around 9 am.  After 4 and a half hours, the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh was about 166 degrees.  I should have pulled the turkey out of the oven at that point.  Instead, I kept the turkey in the oven based upon the cooking time I had discussed with several other people, drawing on years of experience cooking this type of meal.  I should have trusted my instincts; I think the turkey would have been that much better if I had.

All in all, the meal turned out very, very well, and I’m pleased with the results.  Sure, there are a few things I would have done differently, but even though hindsight is 20/20, I was very happy with the praise I received for a meal well cooked!



Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I’ve never been a huge fan of polenta, but when I came across this recipe, I wanted to give it another shot.  The original recipe called for medium grain polenta, but I happenend to have a box of instant polenta in my cabinet.  I used that instead, and I was quite pleased with the result.

Golden Corn and Saffron Polenta (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

5 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch saffron threads, chrushed

1 package instant polenta

1 package frozen corn kernels, thawed

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, cover, and cook until the onion is translucent.  Do not allow the onion to brown.  Add the broth, salt, and saffron.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and add the instant polenta.

Using instant polenta, this mixture will cook cookly.  Cook for 2 minutes covered.  While this is cooking, add the corn to a food processor and blend until it forms a coarse puree.  Mix into the polenta.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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Best Homemade Mac n Cheese Ever!

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

When my mom’s family gathered in Minnesota for 4th of July, my aunt and I cooked dinner.  It was quite the challenge cooking for 25 people, but we managed to pull off quite the feast.  My aunt made macaroni and cheese, which was a big hit.  When I got home, I was inspired to try making my own mac n cheese.

I’ve tried a couple of different recipes for macaroni, but the following recipe is my favorite.  The original recipe calls for 16 ounces of colby cheese and 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar, but I used 16 ounces of cheddar and 8 ounces of Monterrey Jack.  I wasn’t in the mood to grate cheese, so I just picked up what was already grated.  I was very pleased with the results.

Backed Macaroni and Cheese (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Best Cover and Bake Recipes)

1 pound elbow macaroni

6 TBSP unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press

1 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

6 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

3 1/2 cups milk

16 ounces Cheddar Cheese, grated

8 ounces Jack cheese, shredded

Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring salted water to a boil, and cook the macaroni until al dente, about 6 minutes.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the garlic, the dry mustard, and the cayenne.  Cook for about 30 seconts, until fragrant.  Add the flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the broth and milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often until the mixture is thickened and bubbling.  This should take about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese.  Mix until the cheese is completely  melted, and season with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Be sure to break up any clumps.  Pour the pasta into a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.



Grilled Potato Salad

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Potatoes are my favorite side dish.  Sadly, if I’m torn between two items on a menu, one with a potato side dish and the other with something else, the potato is usually the tiebreaker.  Unfortunately, my husband is not a huge fan of my favorite side dish, so I’m always looking for a potato recipe he’ll eat.

The following recipe was a winner.  I came across this recipe a few summers ago when my husband picked up The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue, and it has since become a staple in our barbecue repertoire.

Grilled Potato and Arugla Salad with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette (Adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue)

1 1/2 lbs. potatoes (my favorite potatoes for this recipe are red potatoes)


2 tbsp olive oil


1 tbsp rice vinegar

3 c arugula, sliced into ribbons

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin chunks

3 tbsp chives, minced

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 shallot, minced

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, cut the potatoes into slices and skewer the potatoes.

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Place the skewers in the boiling water and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the skewers to a baking sheet and coat the potatoes on all sides with olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Slide the potatoes onto a cutting board and cut the potatoes into smaller pieces.  Transfer to a bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients.

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Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I didn’t mention this in my scone post, but I am not a baker.  Most of my attempts at baking have been miserable failures, but I keep trying.  I am determined to figure out this whole baking thing!

Last night, I attempted cornbread, and I was very happy with the results.  The cornbread turned out very light and moist, just as the recipe promised.  I don’t have a cast iron skillet, so I took Cooks Illustrated’s advice and used their “corn muffin” recipe and baked the mixture in an 8X8 square baking pan.

Corn Muffins (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated The Best Recipe Soups and Stews)

1 3/4 c yellow cornmeal

1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 c. rapidly boiling water

1 1/4 c buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

2 tbsp butter, melted (the recipe called for unsalted butter, but I used salted)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Coat the baking pan with cooking spray.

Measure 1/2 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl.  In another bowl, combine the remaining cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside this mixture.

Pour 1/3 cup of the boiling water into the bowl with 1/2 cup of cornmeal.  Stir quickly to combine.  Continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until the cornmeal and water become a thick mush.  I used 8 tablespoons.

Gradually whisk in the buttermilk, breaking up any lumps.  Whisk in the eggs.

Stir the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened.  Stir in the melted butter.

Fill the baking pan with the cornbread batter.

Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool for about 5 minutes.


Coconut Black Rice

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I was flipping through a cookbook a few months ago, and I was intrigued by a recipe for black rice.  According to the introduction to the recipe, black rice has a sweet, nutty flavor and is rick in iron and fiber.  I filed the idea away as a “recipe I’d like to try.”

A few weeks later, I was in an Asian supermarket in Denver and picked up a bag of the so-called Forbidden Black Rice.  After a few more months of stalling, I finally got up the nerve to try this recipe.

The rice turned a deep purple color during the cooking process, and the final product was delicious.  True to the recipe’s introduction, the rice was a little on the sweet side and had a deep nutty flavor.

Coconut Black rice (Adapted from Nourish)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 of a yellow onion, diced

1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

1 c Chinese black rice

1 c chicken broth

1 can light coconut milk

1/2 tsp salt


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Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and both bell peppers, and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the rice, broth, and coconut milk to the pan, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to low.  Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

When I was a kid, I just assumed that I didn’t like Brussels sprouts.  My family never ate this mysterious vegetable, so I just thought that like all those kids on TV that were threatened by these awful green things, that I would never eat them.

Clearly I had an unfounded hatred of a vegetable I had never eaten, and I’ve grown pretty fond of Brussels sprouts over the past few years.  The following recipe is pretty tasty, but it’s not the healthiest recipe I’ve ever tried.  It went really well with the steak au poivre and twice baked potatoes though!

Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream (Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

1 lb smal Brussels sprouts

1 c heavy cream



freshly grated nutmeg

Remove any discolored leaves from the Brussels sprouts.  Trim the stem ends with a knife.

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Bring the Brussels sprouts, cream, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I stirred the mixture after 5 minutes to make sure the sprouts were evenly distributed.  After 10 minutes check to see if the sprouts are tender:  a knife tip inserted into the center of a sprout should not meet any resistance.  I cooked mine for a total of 15 minutes.

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Season with pepper and nutmeg.  Serve and enjoy!

If you would like the cream sauce to be a little thicker, the original recipe suggests transferring the sprouts to the oven to warm while continuing to simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 5 minutes.  When I made these, the cream sauce thickened significantly on the stove, so I skipped this step.


Twice Baked Potatoes

Monday, April 19th, 2010

To me, the only side dish for a good steak is an equally delicious potato.  Mashed, au gratin, baked- it doesn’t really matter to me; I love potatoes, so I’m not very picky.  When I recently suggested we have steak for dinner, my husband suggested twice baked potatoes as a side dish.

In the past, the twice baked potatoes I’ve made have been pretty dry.  When I tried this recipe, I was very happy with the results.  The potatoes were very moist, and the taste was fantastic

Blue Cheese and Chive Twice Baked Potatoes (adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 large russet potatoes

Olive Oil

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon cream

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup chopped chives


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Poke each potato with a fork and coat the potatoes with olive oil.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.

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Once the potatoes are cooled, slice the top third of the potato off lengthwise.  Using a spoon, coop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato on the skin.

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In a bowl, mix the inside of the potatoes with the sour cream, milk, cream, and butter in a bowl.  Mash with a potato masher.  Mix in the blue cheese and chives.  Spoon the fillings into the potato shells.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the potatoes on a roasting pan for 20 minutes.

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Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I tried this recipe for the first time over the summer, and although it is definitely a bit summery for a January dinner, I thought this orzo dish would be a good accompniament for Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts.  I was not disappointed.

This recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, but I’ve used grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a combination thereof.  This time around, I used 1 container of cherry tomatoes, and 1 container of grape tomatoes that I hadn’t used yet.

Adapted from Serious Eats, Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes , Capers and Lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. package of orzo
2 c. chicken stock + 2 c. water
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. capers, drained
3 TBSP pine nuts
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1 TBSP lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Add the tomatoes and garlic.  Cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 4 minutes.

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Bring the water and chicken stock to a boil.  Add the orzo.  Return to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and keep covered for another 3 minutes.  My orzo was cooked, but a little watery, so I drained the remaining liquid.

Mix the orzo, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

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I usually serve this with chicken, but I’ve also added it to salads or served it with grilled shrimp in the summer.


Green Beans with Shallots and Nuts

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I’m always searching for side dish recipes that are quick and easy, and this is one of the best I’ve come across.  I found this recipe on Stacey Snacks and it was a big hit.

Instead of walnuts, I used pecans, mainly because I had them on hand.  Also, instead of cooking the beans in salted boiling water, I steamed mine in a steamer basket.

Here’s the recipe:

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

2 large shallots, sliced

handful of pecans, chopped

salt and pepper

olive oil

Bring pot of water to a boil.  Place beans in steamer basket and steam, covered, for about 7 minutes.  Run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

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Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and saute the shallots until starting to brown.

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Add the green beans and pecans.  Cook for another two minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

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