Easy Peasy Seasoned Rice

kabob

Rice is a quick and easy side that goes well with almost every meal. I love it with grilled chicken and vegetables (as pictured above), tossed in hot soup or served with stir fries. The lovely thing about rice is that you can add in a plethora of spices and flavorings to amp up the flavor. For this recipe though, I like to keep it simple by substituting a good chicken stock (I like the Kitchen Basics® brand) for the water and sautéeing a little diced onion for flavor. I prefer chicken stock over chicken broth as it has a much deeper, richer flavor unlike broth which can be salty and watery. Add a little Kosher salt, ground black pepper and a handful of parsley to finish the rice off. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben’s Original Long Grain Rice, uncooked
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • small handful of fresh OR dried parsley

Instructions

In a large saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the rice and “toast” over the heat for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and add the Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat down to medium-low and cover. Simmer about 20 minutes or until most all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the rice from the heat and add parsley. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve hot.

Fresh Green Beans

green beans.jpg

Fresh green beans are a summer staple in my house. They are quick and easy to make plus they are a lovely side dish to so many meals, especially a nice steak dinner. The great thing about green beans is that are very versatile so you can easily adjust the seasonings to suit your taste. You can swap out the garlic for shallots or even add both! You can replace the olive oil with butter or better yet, brown the butter first for an even nuttier, more complex flavor. Add in slivered toasted almonds or crumble up some crisp bacon into the beans. You can even try experimenting with different spices as well for a unique and flavorful spin. However you choose to prepare them they will be a delicious and healthy accompaniment to almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh green beans, ends removed
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced OR a spoonful of roasted garlic
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir often. Sauté until they are glossy and bright green, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the garlic, salt and black pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir continuously while cooking.

Pour the water into the pan and cover. Cook another 2-3 minutes until the beans are bright green and “crisp tender”.

Remove the beans from the heat, add in the red pepper and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Summer Tortellini Salad

tortellini.jpg

I love a really good tortellini salad. Not only are they flavorful and delicious but they are so easy to make as well. There is an Italian deli by me that makes a great tortellini salad but at $7/lb it’s a little pricey for my taste. Instead, I make my own which is just as yummy and way more wallet friendly. Plus, it feeds a crowd!

This is one of those recipes where you just need to eyeball everything and adjust to your liking. You really do not need to measure AT ALL which is why this recipe is a cinch to make. Plus, you can add in or take out anything you wish. Don’t love olives? Drop them! Like a lot of onion? Add more in! Prefer a drier salad? Use less oil! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this tortellini salad, just go with your gut and play around with the flavors until you’re happy with how it tastes.

I really love this salad as a side dish to my BBQ meals in the summer but it also makes an awesome light lunch as well. You can even throw in a little grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella and now you have an easy summer dinner or picnic lunch. You can serve it cold or at room temperature however, I prefer it somewhere in between. When the salad is too cold, you lose some of the flavor. Allowing it to sit at room temperature for just a bit before serving really allows all of the flavors to pop. Keep a little extra oil on hand as it tends to dry up just a bit in the fridge, add some oil and toss just before serving. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and cooled
  • 1 can of large black olives, sliced thick
  • 1/2 lb Sicilian cracked olives, pits removed and roughly torn
  • Oil from the Sicilian cracked olives
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced
  • Handful of fresh torn parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

In a large bowl, add the cheese tortellini, black olives, Sicilian olives, red onion, red pepper and torn parsley. Drizzle the reserved oil from the Sicilian olives all over the salad. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and a healthy amount of ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Adjust seasonings as needed and allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes prior to serving so that the flavors can come together. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

**Tip – If you do not like Sicilian cracked olives, use plain extra virgin olive oil on the salad. Alternatively, you can also toss the salad with a homemade or store-bought vinaigrette or Italian dressing.**

 

Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread

cornbread

Buttery, tender cornbread is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, especially BBQ, so when my daughter asked me to make her Crock-Pot Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce I decided to whip up a batch of cornbread as well. She was in heaven!

What I liked about this recipe from Serious Eats was the addition of brown butter which I think makes food so much more flavorful. Brown butter, also know as a beurre noisette, imparts a delicious nutty and complex flavor that elevates any dish, sweet or savory. Pay close attention when you brown butter, especially in a hot oven, because it can quickly go from nice and brown to burnt and inedible.

One last note, when I made the cornbread I did not have any sour cream in the house so I substituted with yogurt which is the closest in taste and tang to sour cream. Also, if you do not have any buttermilk on hand you can easily make your own with milk and a little lemon juice. Just add 1 tbs of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, stir and let it sit and thicken for about 5-10 minutes. Use it just like you would a store-bought buttermilk. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 7 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425°F. Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and heat until the butter is melted and well browned, 10- 12 minutes. Once browned, pour butter into a heatproof cup or bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon remaining in the skillet.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk in a second bowl and whisk until well combines and smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the reserved brown butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until well combined.

Remove skillet from the oven and swirl to coat all surfaces with melted butter. Spoon batter into skillet, smooth top lightly and then transfer to oven. Bake until lightly golden brown on top and a wooden skewer inserted into cornbread comes out with no crumbs, about 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in skillet. Serve with extra butter at the table.

**Tip – Leftover cornbread can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.**

American Potato Salad

american potato salad.jpg

I am SUPER PICKY about store-bought potato salads because they tend to be overly drenched in mayonnaise, too mushy or just completely flavorless. This recipe is hands down the BEST mayo based potato salad I’ve ever had and so easy to make that I’ll never buy store-bought again. EVER.

As with a few other recipes on my site, this one also comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons. If you have to add one cookbook to your collection let this be the one. I’ve made so many recipes from it and ALL of them have been “spot on“. For those who are a little hesitant in the kitchen, if offers really great tips, information and very clear step-by-step instructions. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this purchase.

This recipe calls for the use of Yukon Gold potatoes which are my absolute favorite potato, especially for mashed potatoes. They are a rich golden color with a buttery delicious flavor that is hands down superior to other varieties. While you can substitute in another potato such as a Red Bliss, I highly recommend sticking with the Yukon Gold, they are a standout.

Instead of using dill pickles, as suggested in the recipe, I went for Kosher Dills because I love the flavorful garlic kick they offer. You can opt to use any pickle you wish, for a sweeter flavor try baby gherkins. Using the pickle juice in this recipe gives the potatoes a nice tangy and lightly sweet taste as opposed to the harsh flavor of plain vinegar. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 large hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 3 tbs dill pickle juice plus 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced

Instructions

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tsp Kosher salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. A sharp knife should easily pierce through the potato without causing it to crumble to pieces.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly then spread them out on a small rimmed baking sheet. Mix 2 tbs of pickle juice and mustard together in a small bowl. Drizzle the pickle juice mixture over the potatoes, gently toss to coat and refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1 tbs of pickle juice, chopped pickles, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, black pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion and celery in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled potatoes, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Gently stir in the chopped eggs just before serving.

**Tip – The potato salad can be kept for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Also, if serving outside on a warm day place the salad bowl over ice to keep it cool and refrigerate soon after serving as the mayo and sour cream can spoil quickly in the heat.**

Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole

sweetpotato

Thanksgiving is only a week away so naturally I am beginning to daydream about all of the delicious food I’ll be gobbling up in just a few short days. One dish that is a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner is my Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s hands down the BEST I’ve ever had! I don’t even like sweet potatoes but I could eat this yumminess all day long. The sweet pecan topping is really what makes this dish, it adds just the right amount of crunchy sweetness to the potatoes without being too overpowering. It’s perfect! Consider adding this side dish to your menu, I promise you’ll be the star of Thanksgiving if you serve this casserole at your next holiday feast!

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes

  • 3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (from 2 lbs raw OR two 16oz cans)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the pecan topping

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and milk. Mix well. Spoon into a 2 qt. casserole dish.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, butter, and pecans until well mixed. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.

**Tip – You can assemble the casserole in advance and bake later. The casserole can be refrigerated uncooked for up to 2 days. Increase the cooking time if baking the casserole directly from the refrigerator**

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese

My husband is a macaroni and cheese fanatic, even more than our kids, so I am always on the hunt for great mac n’ cheese recipes for him. Honestly, if left to his own devices, he’d eat it every day, all day. When I came across this recipe for baked mac n’ cheese I knew I had to give it a whirl. I do have a tried and true recipe for both baked and stovetop macaroni and cheese but this one looked too good to pass up. Plus, it was SO quick and easy to pull together. This recipe absolutely did NOT disappoint. It was very rich and flavorful and the pasta was cooked to perfection in the sauce.

The original recipe is from The New York Times and it can be found right here . The only changes that I made to the original recipe was to use ricotta in place of cottage cheese and I substituted mini penne regate pasta for elbows. The great thing about this recipe is that you do NOT need to precook the pasta. You simply toss the dry, uncooked pasta with the milk sauce and cheese then bake. It doesn’t get much easier than that! During baking, I recommend placing a piece of aluminum foil underneath your pan, the macaroni and cheese bubbles up a lot during baking and it did drip a little in the oven. The aluminum foil will help to catch the mess and avoid any cheese from burning to the inside of your oven.

Because this is a baked macaroni and cheese it will not be as creamy or “soupy” as a stovetop version. If you prefer it a little more on the “wet” side, cut down on the cooking time by a few minutes so that the pasta doesn’t have time to absorb all of the cheese sauce. Also, feel free to play around with what cheese you use in this recipe. Cheddar cheese is a classic choice but other cheeses such as Asiago or American will also work nicely in most macaroni and cheese recipes. Be creative and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  •  Pinch cayenne
  •  Pinch grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Instructions

Heat oven to 375ºF and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tbs butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

In a blender, purée ricotta cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

garlic pasta

This is a fantastic pasta to serve as a side dish or even as a main meal. The nice part is that it’s made in one pot and basically cooks itself. It doesn’t get much easier than that! To serve this as a main meal, simply add in some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and you have a nice, quick dinner. To save even more time, use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own.

I came across this recipe online at Damn Delicious blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I followed the recipe pretty much “as is” with only a few minor substitutions. Instead of chicken broth I used chicken stock which is more flavorful and rich and I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan. Since it was the only side dish that I was serving alongside my Chicken Caprese , I doubled the recipe.

This pasta is best when it is served right away so that the sauce is silky and smooth. Once it stands, it tends to clump. If that happens, just return the pasta to the pot over medium low heat and stir in a little extra milk until the sauce loosens back up. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 cup milk, more as needed
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or thin linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, milk, butter and fettuccine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.

Potato Croquettes

Potato Croq1

There are three things that I love most in the world. My husband. My kids. And mashed potatoes. I mean honestly, what is better than creamy, buttery, homemade mashed potatoes smothered in steaming hot gravy? Almost nothing UNLESS of course you turn those scrumptious mashed potatoes in a crispy potato croquette.

Because I adore mashed potatoes so much I usually end up making way too much when I cook them so I inevitably will have leftovers. Most times I have too many leftovers to eat before it’s time to toss them so I like to put those potatoes to good use before that happens, That is where potato croquettes come in. They are really simple to make as most of the work is already done for you. The first time that I made them I used straight mashed potatoes and nothing else. They were absolutely divine but I wanted to up the ante so the next time I made them I added diced ham (or prosciutto) in the croquettes along with small chunks of mozzarella cheese. Absolute heaven! I usually double this recipe because I would rather have “too many” potato croquettes than not enough. You can always freeze what is left and then bake them off the next time a craving hits. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cooled mashed potatoes
  • 2 tbs finely minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

Combine the cooled mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

Set up 3 bowls, one for the egg, one for the breadcrumbs, and one for the flour.

Form the potato mixture into 2-3″ logs. Dip them first in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs.

Attach a deep fry thermometer to the side of a large pot. Add the oil and heat until it reaches 350ºF. Maintain the temperature between 350-375ºF while frying.

Add the potato croquettes to the hot oil, 3-4 at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack or paper towel lined plate. Cool slightly and serve.

Potato Croq2

Fresh Summer Corn Salad

corn salad

A few summers ago a friend of mine brought this amazing fresh corn salad to a BBQ and it was love at first bite! This dish is everything a summer salad should be, it’s light, fresh, and so flavorful. It’s a great side dish for burgers, sausages, steak, and other grilled meat. I really enjoy it because it’s a nice change of pace from the standard grilled corn on the cob and it’s also very easy to pull together.

This recipe for Fresh Corn Salad comes from Ina Garten and in all the times that I have made this dish I have followed it exactly except to also add in a small, finely diced, red pepper. I like the extra little crunch and flavor that the pepper brings to the salad. You can also try substituting in other flavored vinegar however, I think the sweetness that is added from the apple cider vinegar is perfect so I’ve stuck with that.

When making this salad, be sure to not overcook the corn, you’re just looking to cook out the starchiness but you want it to stay nice and crisp, not mushy and chewy. Three minutes in boiling water is all you need and then immediately place the cobs of corn in ice-cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. This dish can be served at room temperature but I think it’s better when it’s nice and cold so that the veggies keep their firm crisp texture.

Ingredients

  • 5 ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 finely diced small red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Instructions

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until all of the starchiness is gone. Drain and place the corn in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Once the corn is completely cooled, cut all of the kernels off of the cob cutting as close to the cob as possible.

In a large bowl, toss the kernels with the red onion, red pepper, apple cider vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil and combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.