Quick and Easy Fried Rice

Fried Rice2

Who doesn’t love fried rice? Even my kids are a fan (after they pick out the veggies, lol) so I was interested in finding a quick and easy recipe that I could whip up at home. While Chinese take-out is delicious, it can be very calorie dense and laden with salt and sugar. I really love the idea of being able to control the ingredients myself and make a somewhat “lighter” version that is just as yummy as what I can get from a take-out place.

Enter this awesome recipe from the blog, Gimme Some Oven which is true to its name, “The Best Fried Rice“. It was really easy to make and it came out great! I made mine as the recipe specified leaving out the oyster sauce as I didn’t have any in the house. The resulting dish was still very good even without this ingredient. The most important step in this recipe is to use cold rice. Grab whatever leftover rice you have in the fridge or make the rice in the morning and chill until you’re ready to cook it up for dinner.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can get creative if you so desire. Add in a variety of different veggies or toss in some chicken, pork or beef. It is so delicious no matter how you serve it. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups cooked and chilled rice (preferably short grain)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 tbs low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

Instructions

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the egg and cook until scrambled. Remove egg and transfer to a separate plate.

Add an additional 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the carrots, onion, peas and garlic and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion and carrots are soft. Increase heat to high, add in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Immediately add the rice, green onions, soy sauce and oyster sauce (if using) and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3 minutes to fry the rice. Then add in the eggs and stir to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil until combined.

Serve immediately or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Tuscan Panzanella Salad

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Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOOOOOOOVE Panzanella Salad. It’s light, crisp, refreshing and those garlic infused bread cubes are heavenly! It’s also a super easy salad to whip up and will make great use of all those wonderful tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in your summer garden.

Panazella is a Tuscan bread salad consisting of cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, a little basil and garlic infused toasted bread cubes. It is typically a very popular summer salad and goes great as a side to any BBQ you’re serving up. Some recipes will call for red wine vinegar however, I much prefer a really nice dark, thick balsamic as I feel it adds so much better flavor. My all time favorite balsamic vinegar is one called “25 Star Balsamic” that is available from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY. You can readily purchase it in the store or online by clicking right here .

To save time, you can make the garlic infused bread cubes ahead of time and store in a sealed plastic bag until you’re ready to use them. Take note, the bread cubes will quickly begin to soak up all of the oil, vinegar and moisture from the vegetables so for maximum freshness and taste, toss the bread cubes with the salad only about 15 minutes before serving to avoid soggy, mushy bread. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 loaf of good rustic bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbs good quality balsamic vinegar, more as needed
  • 1 tbs minced shallot
  • pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 hothouse (English) cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

Instructions

For the bread cubes – Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot remove from the heat and add the garlic cloves. Set aside and allow the garlic to infuse into the oil. Once the oil is cooled, discard the garlic cloves.

Toss the bread cubes with 2 tbs of the garlic infused oil. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden and crispy, about 7-10 minutes. Occasionally turn the cubes while baking.

For the vinaigrette – Combine the remaining garlic infused oil with the vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well.

For the salad – In a large bowl, toss the toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes before serving so that the flavors have time to blend. Sprinkle with additional basil and serve.

 

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

carrots

These are my favorite way to prepare carrots! It’s not only an easy recipe but also full of delicious flavor which makes these carrots a great side dish to almost any meal. They are perfect with a roast chicken, meatloaf or Thanksgiving dinner! This recipe comes from one of my favorite cooks, Ree Drummond who is better known as, “The Pioneer Woman“. Click here to link to her site.

The recipe calls for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey® but really any good whiskey will work well. My personal favorite is Tullamore Dew® which is also what I use in my out-of-this-world Whiskey BBQ Cocktail Meatballs . Also, when I am in a rush and don’t have time to peel a bunch of carrots, I have used the small baby carrots instead. Just grab a paring knife and dice them up into small, thick “pennies”.  For an extra kick of flavor, top the finished carrots with chopped chives. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
  • 1/2 cup Jack Daniels® or other whiskey
  • 3/4 – 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped chives, optional

Instructions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60-90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet.

Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. Once the butter melts, sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Stir together and then add the carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.

Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

 

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

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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.**

Grilled Caesar Salad

grilled salad

I’ve never had a grilled salad before but now that I have, I am sold! This Grilled Casesar Salad was OUT OF THIS WORLD!! It retained the cool crispness you’d expect from a salad but with a slightly warm and deliciously charred taste from the grill. It was perfect in every way. The grilled baguette slices took this salad right over the top! This amazing recipe comes straight out of the The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons which is chock full of incredible, easy to make recipes. If you’re interested in expanding your cookbook collection, this one is a must!

This salad relies on hearty toasted bread slices instead of small croutons which are extra yummy and super easy to make however, I didn’t want to waste time oiling the bread at the grill and then rubbing each slice with a garlic clove. Instead, I decided to prepare an garlic infused olive oil that imparts a more intense garlic flavor which I love.

To make garlic infused olive oil – In a small saucepan, pour in some extra-virgin olive oil (I used more than what was called for in the recipe) and toss in a few smashed garlic cloves. Add a little Kosher salt and ground black pepper to the pan. Over medium-high heat bring the oil to sizzling and then remove the pan from the burner and set aside. Allow the garlic to sit in the oil and steep.

When you’re ready to use the garlic oil simply remove the browned garlic pieces and using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the bread slices with the garlic oil. Set aside until you are ready to grill. The bread will toast up beautifully and full of flavor! Just watch it closely once you place it on the grill as it browns quickly.

The only other small change that I made was to use an anchovy paste instead of the fillets. As it’s not an ingredient I use often, the paste is easier to use being that it’s in a tube and it can be stored in the refrigerator for later use. I didn’t measure out the paste, I just used a small squeeze. The flavor of the dressing was perfect, thick and creamy and absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the dressing

  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed OR small squeeze of anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad

  • 1 (12″ long) baguette, cut on a bias into 1/2″ thick slices
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise through cores
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

For the dressing – Combine lemon juice and garlic in a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Process the mayonnaise, grated cheese, lemon-garlic mixture, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, Kosher salt and pepper in a blender for about 30 seconds. With the blender running, slowly add in the oil. Blend until well combined. Set aside 6 tbs of the dressing to use later on the romaine lettuce.

For the salad – Brush the bread with oil and grill uncovered until browned, about a minute on each side. Transfer to a plate and rub each side with the garlic clove. Set aside.

Brush the cut sides of the romaine lettuce with the reserved dressing. Place the romaine, cut side down, on the grill. Grill uncovered until lightly charred, about 1-2 minutes. Place on a platter, drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Serve immediately alongside the grilled bread slices.

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**