Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

November 18, 2009

We had our first real cold-font sweep in yesterday, the perfect excuse to finally make that Cheesy Vegetable & Chicken Noodle Soup I’ve been meaning to cook up for the past week.  I made the soup earlier in the afternoon so it would be ready whenever we decided we were hungry for dinner…only I completely forgot to start the bread machine, and realised as I was setting the table I didn’t have anything to go with the soup.  Ack!

Pioneer Biscuit Mix to the rescue!  These delicious and hearty dinner biscuits are a quick and easy compliment to soup or salad.  They whip up in minutes and presto…fresh bread with dinner.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits (these are similar to the ones from Red Lobster)

Prep time: 5 min / Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

  1. In a large bowl mix 3 cups biscuit mix, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2  cup water, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp oregano
  2. Stir just until dough forms
  3. Drop large spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet or in a 9×13 baking dish, leaving a few inches between; brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake at 425°F for 10-15 minutes (or until golden)

Tip:  instead of pepper and oregano, try seasoning with rosemary or dill (in addition to the cheese)

Oven Baked French Fries

November 10, 2009
First of all, let me say “yes, yes, I know…baked fries is an oxymoron!”  But quite a tasty one ;-)
Hamburger IMG_4320

Skillet Hamburger and Oven Baked Fries

Last night was supposed to be Cheesy Chicken and Veggie soup with fresh bread; however, as the afternoon came and went and the sky turned a pretty pink, I had absolutely zero initiative to pull out the cutting board and invest the necessary 20 minutes prep-time needed for the meal.  Besides, it’s been hot and sticky and warm soup just didn’t sound good any more!  So quick change of plans…Hamburger Night!

There are some grill aficionados who would just gag at the idea of pan frying hamburger patties, but to them I say “So what!”  On a Monday night when you just aren’t quite ready to let go of the weekend, there is nothing tastier than a hamburger and fries…go ahead and use your skillet to cook up those patties; it’s a very low-mess, healthy, and fast way to have a juicy hamburger and fries.

While traditional oven fries can be too time intensive for a quick dinner, if you microwave your potatoes first you can cut your baking time in half and have crispy oven potato fries ready in a snap!

Oven Baked French Fries (the fast way!)

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

  1. Scrub potatoes and thinly slice into rounds, wedges, or strips (the thinner the slices the faster and crispier they will cook up.)
  2. Place slices into a microwave safe bowl and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  3. Remove from microwave just a few minutes before potatoes are completely done; toss with a little butter or olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika.
  4. Bake at 450°F in a single layer on a large cookie sheet for another 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until they are golden and as crispy as you would like them.

    French Fries IMG_4310

    Homemade Oven Fries

Toasted Pumpkin (and Squash) Seeds

November 9, 2009
Pumpkin Eli IMG_4149

Pumpkin Carving

Tradition seems to dictate that pumpkins be carved before Halloween; however, I see no reason for not enjoying this fun (albeit gooey) fall activity any time between Labor Day and Christmas…or whenever you can get your hands on a pumpkin!  I came to this conclusion as my sweet munchkin and I sat on our porch carving our belated Halloween pumpkin last week ;-)

Though there are many good reasons to carve a pumpkin (using large, very sharp knives to slice through the thick skin is high on my list…second only to the most excellent shoulder workout gained by plunging your entire arm into the gooey abyss of an overgrown squash to scrape out the innards), the thought of warm toasted pumpkin seeds is what gets me running to the store each fall as soon as they set out the pumpkins!

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

*You can also toast Butternut Squash seeds like this, too!*

  1. Separate seeds from all the pulp with your hands and rinse under cool water (I promise it’s not as time consuming as it sounds!) 

    Pumpkin Seeds 1 IMG_4188

    Step 1: Separate from pulp and rinse

  2. Boil seeds for 10-15 min in salt water solution:  roughly (2 cups water + 1 Tblsp salt)/(half cup of seeds)
  3. Drain seeds and pat dry, then toss with either butter or olive oil (some recipes call for drying the seeds overnight before baking, however I’ve never done this and it works just fine)
    Pumpkin Seeds 2

    Step 2: Boil in salt water

     

  4. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F

Enjoy!

Spotlight on (Special) Mashed Potatoes

October 21, 2009

While I love almost any food, there are a few that I just can’t get enough of…one of those being homemade mashed potatoes!  Instant have come a long way and can be pretty good (definitely in the “Super Quick Sides” category) but if you have the time to let them cook, homemade can be mouth watering.  And for you budget conscious folks out there, you can get more potatoes than you could ever eat for almost nothing ($5 for a 10lb bag!)

Ok, so I know this is technically a re-post from yesterday, but that meatloaf post was way too long.  Buried near the bottom and tucked into the recipe for mashed potatoes were some tips for adding a little something special to your ‘taters.  Seeing as how I am so in love with the potato, I thought fabulous veggie deserved it’s own chance in the spotlight.

SEASONING IDEAS TO SPRUCE UP YOUR MASHED POTATOES

  • Always start with butter, milk and salt
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Sour Cream
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Garlic (fresh pressed or the paste you can buy in a jar)
  • Dill and Sour Cream (my favorite)
  • Rosemary and grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Morton “Nature’s Seasons” Seasoning Blend (you must add this seasoned salt blent to you spice cabinet; I use it on everything from eggs to chicken to casserole to fajitas, veggies and anything else you can think of that would need seasoning!)
  • If you have a favorite potato seasoning, please feel free to leave a comment and share…I’d love to try it out!

GETTING THE PERFECT TEXTURE

  • Use an electric hand mixer if you want super creamy potatoes (yes, this works even if you leave the skins on)
  • Use a hand-held potato masher for that creamy-yet-slightly-lumpy texture
  • Use a large cooking spoon to stir everything together for a lumpy, almost baked-potato type texture…so good, especially if you leave the skins on and mix in grated cheddar cheese and ranch dressing!  Don’t overcook thought (just until tender and very soft when pierced with a fork, but not so tender they fall to pieces)

Mashed Potatoes (for anyone who has been using instant for so long they have forgotten ;-))

  1. Scrub potatoes under cold water to remove any dirt; peal if desired.
  2. Chop potatoes (the smaller the pieces the faster they cook) and place in a large pot.
  3. Add enough water to cover potatoes by at least an inch.  Make sure water level is at least 2-3 inches from top of pan or you will have a hard time keeping them from boiling over.
  4. Boil for 20-40 minutes; cook time depends on size of potatoes and quantity.  Test with a fork:  potatoes are ready when they are tender and break apart easy.
  5. Drain and return to pot.
  6. Add butter, salt, milk and seasoning to taste
  7. Mash or use a hand-held electric mixer

On the menu tonight…

October 20, 2009

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

Mom's Meatloaf

Mom's Meatloaf

While it does take a while to cook, the actual prep time you will spend in the kitchen is minimal.  It took me about 10 minutes to mix up the meatloaf  and start it baking in the oven, and then another 5 min to scrub the 4 large potatoes we had left, chop them up and set them on the stove to boil in a stockpot.

Left everything to cook itself and went for a nice long bike ride; when we came back there were only 10 minutes left on the meat loaf…plenty of time to drain and mash the potatoes, make a salad of spinach and sliced tomatoes, and set the table.

Total time in the kitchen:    20-30 minutes

~ TIPS ~

  • Use a stand mixer to mix up your meat loaf; it will speed things along!
  • Modify your meatloaf recipe to what you have time for; you don’t always have to use fresh onions and peppers.
  • If you are going to be gone, use your oven timer!  Meatloaf is hard to really overcook so don’t worry about it sitting in a warm over for a little while after the cooking time it up and the oven shuts off.
  • Did you happen to notice I mentioned using a stockpot for my potatoes? I knew I wanted to go out for a bit, and potatoes are notorious for boiling over if the pan is too full or the heat too high; using a pan which you might think way too big for the quantity you have means you won’t have to keep an eye on them to prevent boil-over-mess-cleanup!
  • Leave the skins on your potatoes; this adds extra nutrients, saves you time, and actually tastes great!

~ RECIPES ~

Mom’s Meatloaf (if you don’t already have a favorite meatloaf recipe, this one is delicious!)

  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, thoroughly mix 3/4 – 1 lb. lean ground beef (uncooked), one 8 oz can diced or stewed tomatoes or tomato sauce, 1 small can mushrooms, 2 Tblsp Worcestershire Sauce, 1 sleeve crushed white crackers, 1 egg, 1/4 cup milk or less, 1/4 cup dried onion, oregano to taste.
  2. Spread in square baking dish and top with a thin layer of katsup
  3. Bake for 1 hour at 350

Mashed Potatoes (for anyone who has been using instant for so long they have forgotten ;-))

Homemade is always best!

Homemade is always best!

  1. Scrub potatoes under cold water to remove any dirt; peal if desired.
  2. Chop potatoes (the smaller the pieces the faster they cook) and place in a large pot.
  3. Add enough water to cover potatoes by at least an inch.  Make sure water level is at least 2-3 inches from top of pan or you will have a hard time keeping them from boiling over.
  4. Boil for 20-40 minutes; cook time depends on size of potatoes and quantity.  Test with a fork:  potatoes are ready when they are tender and break apart easy.
  5. Drain and return to pot.
  6. Add butter, salt, milk and seasoning to taste (seasoning ideas: sour cream, garlic, ranch dressing, dill, rosemary, grated cheddar cheese)
  7. Mash or use a hand-held electric mixer

Quick Sides…

October 13, 2009

Quick side dishes make for a super quick dinner (or a fast lunch)! 

Uncle Ben's Ready Rice

Although it’s a bit more expensive than buying a huge bag of plain rice ($2.39/packet from Albertsons), it’s so nice to have a few packets of these on hand for those times when you need a quick side dish and don’t have 20-30 minutes to cook a pan of rice.   

I’ve found that each 8 oz packet is more than enough for two very hearty servings, up to 4 servings if you are using as a side dish.  There are a variety of flavors, and they all cook up in the microwave in 90 seconds!  I was skeptical at first, but each type I’ve tried so far is delicious and moist.  Did I mention this will also save you from scrubbing a rice pan?