Category Archives: Side Dish

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

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I love one pot meals.  I love being able to build layers and layers of flavor in one dish.  And it’s usually in the form of pasta for me.  I usually do meal prep for at least two days on Sundays.  Being able to reach in the fridge without having to do any additional food preparation is really a help with an impatient toddler.  

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This dish is quite decadent.  For a friend lunch I had at home, I was able to serve this with sandwiches and salad, without any leftovers.  It’s a great side dish you would similarly get in a cafe or bistro that you can make yourself at home.

For dinner, this pasta dish would be wonderful with grilled chicken or a great piece of salmon.

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fusilli pasta
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pesto
  • 1 (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 and 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (I used sunflower seeds because it’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the fusilli pasta in salted water to al dente per the pasta instructions.  Drain and cool to room temperature.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and puree.
  4. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta.
  5. Add the Parmesan, peas, pine nuts, salt, and pepper.
  6. Mix and test for salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

 

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Filed under Pasta, Side Dish, Vegetarian

Home Fries

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Saturday breakfasts are sorta my thang now.  Sundays are usually donut days, and weekdays are quick toast and egg or oatmeal days.  Saturday mornings, despite the pancake debacle, have become a special time of week for us.  I usually wake up an hour before everyone and get things started without any interruption.  It’s a glorious time – no screaming, no asking for anything, and total control of my kitchen.

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I have attempted home fries many times in the past.  I have usually been left with something of a mish-mash that resembles coarse mashed potatoes.  Nothing about that is right.  I recently attempted it again determined to get it right.  And, huzzah – going into the repertoire.  Under a farm fresh over-easy egg, it’s just heaven.

Home Fries

barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl, top with 1 tablespoon butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave until edges of potatoes begin to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes, shaking bowl (without removing plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional two minutes until the onions are golden brown.  Transfer to small bowl.
  3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula.  Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes.  Stir in onion, seasonings of your choice and salt and pepper to taste.  Try not to mess with the potatoes too much because you don’t want to break them apart.

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Filed under Breakfast, Side Dish, Vegetarian

Isaiah’s Curious George Themed First Birthday Party

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Let’s get some cliché things out of the way:

  1. I can’t believe he’s already 1!
  2. It seems like yesterday I just gave birth to him.
  3. This year has flown by with him.

*He is actually 15 months right now, but this post took a long time.  🙂

Cliché and so so true.  When he turned one I got really sad thinking of how much he’s grown.  From a tiny 7 pound baby to a 20+ pound tubby.  With his big hair, eight teeth and personality, he’s really not at all baby and has become a real boy.  And, it’s been quite an adventure with him.  Just when I think I have something figured out or a semblance of a routine, he changes and then we start again.  There is no relaxing with this kid.

As a crazy obsessed mother, I have been planning his first birthday much earlier than I want to admit.  I wanted it to be cozy and filled with family, close friends and things he loves.  What does this one year old love?  Curious George.  Balloons.  Without being too attached to everything Curious George, we kept the essence through the balloons, colors and some Curious George/monkey-themed items strewn about.  

First, for the invitations, we got a Curious George invitation and door sign, which helped kick off the monkey-themed party.  

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Similar to the one at my surprise birthday, I wanted to have a photo booth for kids to take pictures.  The photo booth was a hit.  Kids, families and parents really got into it.  The only person that didn’t?  The birthday boy.  He couldn’t sit or stand still to take a picture in front of anything.

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My sister, the Pinterest fiend, made a multi-colored balloon garland and decorated corners of the house with bunches of balloons.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.

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One of the main reasons I wanted to post this party is because of all the fun I had planning and putting everything into action.  And, with the menu I had, I had little to no work during the actual party.  I really despise having to be running around finalizing anything after guests arrive.  My house was prepped and ready to go on time.

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As the party was held from 2-5, I didn’t plan a big meal but offered heavy appetizers and desserts.

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We had more than enough variety and just the perfect amount of food but still have a little left over for later grazers – mostly me and my sister.

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Almost everything I made (except the grilled cheese) was make ahead. So, the day of, I was really just warming or baking, which is a much better project than cooking.  The grilled cheese came together in the last 10 minutes.  I will definitely make it again and I’ll show you the method to make grilled cheese for a party.  It’s a game changer.

The day before, I made a smash cake and didn’t focus too much on making it perfect as I fully expected my rambunctious kid to destroy it.  Well, turns out he had no interest in smashing it and preferred to eat it a bite at a time with a spoon!  If he would only do that with soup or any other meal.

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So, because he was so careful with the smash cake, we served it up with the cupcakes.  All of it – gone.  Made me so happy.

Finally, for favors, I wanted a food gift that was quick and easy to make.  Look no further than caramel corn, friends.  I don’t know why I was intimidated at all about trying it.  It was so easy, and a little effort makes a whole bunch of popcorn that really disappear quite fast.  (Recipe coming soon!)  Favors were stacked in Curious George containers to keep the theme of the party even as guests departed.

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If you’ve made it this far in the post, I appreciate you and wanted to share this special day with you.  All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better day with family, friends, and a little boy who eats his smash cake with a spoon.  My outfit was eternally grateful for that, kid.

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Filed under Appetizers, Birthdays, Cake, Cupcake, Favorites, Life, Side Dish, Snacks, Soup

Perfect Brown Rice

I can’t walk and drink at the same time.  Even with a straw it’s awkwardly done.  I can’t really even walk straight for that matter.  I zig and zag a lot, and have blamed many a missteps on my poor dog.  While I accept that I am clumsy and prone to any accident you can think of, I really just can’t handle the basics.  Whether I subconsciously will myself to fail or if I just can’t understand it, certain basic things are just really hard for me.

If you will entertain me, rice is one of those things.  I don’t know why but I had a propensity to mess it up.  Too dry.  Too mushy.  Undercooked.  Whatever you want to say, it was always off.  And, then I baked it, which I thought was the answer.  It was perfectly cooked and tasted wonderful the day of.  However, leftovers were back to being slightly dry.

Then, I went to my mother.  Why was she the last resort?  If you met my mother, you would understand that I would never hear the last of it.  I haven’t.  But, it was well worth it.  Unlike most people and sites I have checked, my mom does not let the water absorb into the rice (the way I make quinoa).  She boils the rice and strains.  Never mushy.  Perfectly cooked.  And, the test that it works – leftovers are perfect, as well.

Perfect Brown Rice

from my mother

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 5 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Clean the rice by rinsing it thoroughly under cold water.
  2. Bring water in a large pot to boil on high.
  3. Once boiling, add rice, bring back to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the rice is tender.
  4. Once ready, remove the pot from heat.  Drain the rice and put the drained rice back into the pot (off heat).  Cover with a lid until ready to serve.

*You can increase the water if you want more rice, of course.  Just make sure the rice is completely and utterly covered and has enough room to boil.  Think similarly to pasta and water.

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Filed under Side Dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Mango Quinoa Salad with Orange Cardamom Dressing

With summer coming to a close, I’m desperately clinging to all the seasonal fruit I can get my hands on.  Bar none, mango is my absolute favorite fruit.  I rarely cook or use it in a dish because I always end up eating it just as it is.  However, when I recently tried a mango salsa, I was motivated to start using it in dishes to give a vibrancy to capture the essence of summer.

I developed this recipe to satisfy my sweet tooth and also to add to my breakfast/brunch options.  Combining mango and mint with earthy quinoa, raisins and nuts offers different dimensions of flavor in a dish that packs a nutritional punch.  Adding the orange-honey-cardamom dressing is just the icing on the healthy cake.

Fruity Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 nuts (I used a mix of chopped almonds, pecans, cashews and walnuts)
  • 1 large mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom

Directions:

  • Cook the quinoa.  Heat a saucepan over medium heat.  Roast the quinoa for about 3 minutes in the hot saucepan, stirring occasionally.  Add water, stir and turn up heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to simmer and cover with a lid.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn off stove and remove from the heat for about 5 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • In a pan, melt butter and add raisins and nuts.  Stir to coat and cook until the raisins plump up a bit and the nuts a roasted, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, add the quinoa, nut mixture, mango and mint.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the orange zest, orange juice, vanilla extract and cardamom.  Pour over salad until fully coated.
  • Let mixture sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, Side Dish, Vegetarian

Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables that I don’t eat nearly as often as I should or would like.  I prefer it plain with a dash of salt.  As I’m more comfortable using my oven than attempting to steam something into mush, roasting is my favorite way to cook this beautiful vegetable. In addition to being easy, the flavor is just outstanding.  Hit with a bit of kosher salt and olive oil, this has become a go-to side dish to pair with many types of cuisines.

I know this is not a complicated recipe or really even a recipe for that matter as much as it a how-to on a basic dish.  But, sometimes we just have to be reminded that the simplest things are usually what makes it into the weekly menu rotation.  Easily modified and adapted to whatever main course you are preparing, this is a great base recipe.

Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets (I also keep the stems)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Toss the broccoli with the olive oil.
  3. Lay out an even layer on a cookie sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the florets are tender and some may have browned edges.

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Filed under Side Dish

Pesto Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

We all have our happy places, don’t we?  It’s slipping into your favorite pajamas and socks after a long day’s work and just planting it in front of the TV.  Or, the spot between my puppy’s neck and shoulder that seems to be the best place for a nuzzle.  Lately, watching my kid belly laugh while I ‘gobble up’ his feet.  And, a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.

I’m quite picky about my macaroni and cheese.  So many people make it incorrectly, don’t you think?  Sometimes it’s too watery (the worst) or too dry (big no no).  The best mac and cheese has cheese – and, a lot of it.  Not just cheese sauce, but the cheese blend that coats each nook and cranny of a macaroni.

While I have only enjoyed the traditional macaroni and cheese, with my new pesto stash, I wanted to experiment and give one of my favorite dishes a different flavor profile without sacrificing the creamy-cheesy foundation of the dish.  And, while I wanted to stop at several steps ahead, proclaiming it’s perfect, keep going.  Adding the roasted red bell pepper and the crunchy buttery topping will only build upon the flavors.  But, for some reason if you didn’t have the ingredients or didn’t want to mix in the red peppers or the Panko crust, just know that it’s delicious on its own, as well.

Pesto Macaroni and Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Peppers

loosely adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp basil pesto
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers, drained and diced (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven over low heat.  Once melted, add the shallow and garlic and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the 1 tbsp of pesto, red pepper flakes, bread crumbs and 3 tbsp of Parmesan and mix to combine.  Place the crumb mixture in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large pot of heavily salted water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  3. Using the same pan, add the half and half and bring to a simmer on the same low heat.  You want the mixture to simmer, thicken and reduce, about 5 minutes.  Add the shredded mozzarella.  Whisk until the cheese has melted and no clumps remain.  Add the goat cheese to the cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the remaining Parmesan cheese and whisk until melted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir until incorporated.  Mix in the 1/2 cup basil pesto, pasta water, salt and pepper.  Mix gently to ensure it is evenly distributed and coated.  Add additional salt and pepper if you need.
  5. Gently stir in the roasted peppers until evenly distributed.
  6. Top with the crumb mixture.
  7. Place under the dutch oven broiler for no more than 2 minutes until the crust has browned.   (If you haven’t been using a dutch oven, just transfer the pasta to a baking dish and place in the oven.)  Remove from broiler and let it cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Red Bell Peppers

adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500F.
  2. Arrange bell peppers on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until skin is charred and wrinkled.  Turn them twice during cooking.
  4. Remove from the oven and immediately place in a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.
  5. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.
  6. Once cooled, remove the stem, seeds and skin, and place the peppers in a bowl with any juices.  Pour the oil over the peppers and store in the refrigerator.

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Filed under Pasta, Side Dish, Uncategorized