Archive | side dishes RSS feed for this section

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges

13 Jul

Fly-by post, y’all, of something simple and yummy.

I grilled, on an outside grill, for the first time ever the other night. I know, right? It took me a bit to get the flame just right, but dinner of burgers and sweet potato wedges was yummy. And I could have done the ‘taters in the oven, but this gave them a beautiful char that was delicious, without heating up the house.

Easy peasy: Peel two or three sweet potatoes and cut them in half (same way you’d half a lemon–right through the short side, in the middle). Cut the halves into wedges (I got six wedges out of each half). Boil them in water on the stove for 5 minutes, drain in a colander, and let them sit until they’re almost all the way dry.

Heat your grill up. Spray or lightly pat your potato wedges with oil, and put them on the grill. Turn after a few minutes, when they start to char up, until all sides are crispy. Sprinkle with a little salt (brown sugar would also be yummy) and enjoy.

Crockpot Mac n Cheese

12 May

I’m so sorry I haven’t been around much, gang. Rest assured, it is not my smokin’ hot social calendar keeping me from you all and my stove (*snort*). I’m editing a magazine for an association on a long-term contract, and it is kicking my butt. In a good way, mind you. It’s nice to be regularly employed after 12 years of freelancing (which I’m also still doing for my other magazine clients). But time is not exactly available in huge doses, if you know what I mean.

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe, and it is a huge hit. All the time. I made it last weekend for my daughter’s first communion, and it rocked. Four ingredients, y’all. FOUR.

I know, right?

So. Two words of caution: Do not use cheddar jack or any other kind of cheese besides cheddar in this. It won’t hold up. And do not leave this on low more than four hours. It will burn. Burning is bad. Four hours on low and switch to warm, stirring it frequently.

Make this. And thank my sister-in-law, who totally rocks.

1 pound macaroni noodles, cooked to al dente and drained

1/2 stick of butter, cut into small pieces

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Mix everything together in a greased Crockpot. Stir every so often, cooking on low. Enjoy.

Spanish Rice Without the Box

20 Apr

I am embarrassed to tell you all that until the other night, I’d never made my own Spanish rice. Despite our frequent meals of fajitas and tacos and enchiladas, I’d never attempted the side dish. Ours always came out of the box.

Last week, I went to make fish tacos and opened my pantry, and there was no box. We were all out of Spanish rice. I stood there for a minute, drumming my fingers on the cabinet door and chewing on the corner of my mouth, pondering the situation. And then I thought about what I knew was in Spanish rice, figured “how hard could it be?”, shrugged a bit (I have fantastic conversations with myself, gestures included), and pulled a few things out to hit the stove.

It wasn’t hard at all, y’all. Everyone ate, nobody complained (score!!), and I am never buying another box of sodium-packed Spanish rice again. This was faster and easier and healthier, and I already had everything I needed in my cabinet. I bet you do too, and I hope you’ll try this and see how simple it really is. You only need:

1 cup of regular long-grain rice (Uncle Ben’s or something similar)

2 tbsp diced onion (I used a little hunk of onion hanging around in the fridge–measurement is approximate)

1 clove garlic, diced

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 1/4 cups of water or chicken/vegetable broth

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground turmeric (leave this out if you don’t have it–it just turns the rice yellow without much flavor)

Salt and pepper

Heat up a small saucepan over medium heat and give it a shot of olive oil to just coat the bottom. Stir together your rice, onion, and garlic, and let it toast for a minute or two. Add in everything else except the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to low, put a slightly-askew lid on the pot to let a tiny bit of steam out, and cook until the rice is tender, stirring after about 10 minutes (mine was done in about 20, but your stove’s power and pot thickness may change this). Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Not-From-The-Freezer Garlic Bread

12 Apr

I know. Those frozen garlic bread logs in the freezer at the grocery store are really easy. Lay them on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven, give them 15 minutes, and voila. Buttery, garlicky, carby goodness.

Guess what? Making it yourself is even faster. Pinky swear.

You need a small handful of ingredients and about 10 minutes for this, and the bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the best part is that you haven’t ingested tons of preservatives or an astounding amount of fat.

My kids love this. Beg for it. Which leads me to a secret I’ll share with you if you promise not to tell: I make this out of regular sandwich bread when I haven’t had time to grab a loaf of Italian at the store’s bakery. It’s just as good and takes garlic bread from a sometimes-treat to a regular indulgence (and a whole-wheat indulgence if you roll that way).

I use garlic bread seasoning I buy from The Spice Hunter. You can also use plain garlic powder with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. It’s all good.

Next time you’re cooking Italian, give this a whirl. I promise you won’t go back to the freezer stuff. You only need:

1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced about an inch thick (or whatever bread you have)

Enough butter to lightly cover both sides of the slices

Garlic bread seasoning or garlic powder and Italian seasoning

Shredded Parmesan cheese

Line a baking sheet with foil. Pre-heat your broiler, on low if it has settings, and by just turning it on if not. Put your oven rack in the middle slot of your oven.

Lay your slices of bread on the baking sheet. Butter one side and sprinkle it with the spices. Put that under the broiler for just a few minutes, until it starts to golden-brown up. Take it out.

Flip the slices over. Butter the other side, sprinkle them with the spices, and then sprinkle them with the Parmesan. Put the bread back under the broiler for a minute until you see golden brown. Enjoy.

Sweet Potato Hash, Diner-Style

4 Apr

Back in the day, before desktop publishing took over on university campuses, I was editor of my college paper, The Greyhound. We published on Tuesdays, which meant that a core group of about 10 staff members stayed up all night every Monday, banging on huge typesetting machines, cutting the type into columns with X-Acto knives, and pasting it down onto boards with hot wax (and wolfing down Berger cookies and dancing around to all kinds of alternative music and riding down deserted hallways on our office chairs…but those are stories for another day). And then, in the wee hours of the morning, three or four of us would pile into my LeBaron GTS for the 30-mile drive to the printer.

After that? The diner around the corner, punch-drunk and happy, for some comfort food on a college student’s meager budget, before a very quiet drive back to school and 8 a.m. classes.

Some 20 years later, I still crave a diner breakfast when I’m physically or emotionally worn out. Of course, I have little guys running around my house, and so my late-night grease runs are momentarily delayed. Armed with my cast-iron skillet and a few cheap ingredients, though, I get my fix right in my own house, which is often the best place to be if one is in a diner-food kind of mood.

Technically, this is a breakfast dish. But I had it for dinner last night, fresh off a long drive with my little guys and our young (read: hyper and barky) labrador retriever, and a weekend of fun away. It was perfect–comforting and delicious and easy and cheap, and I couldn’t shovel it into my mouth fast enough, if we’re all being honest.

The trick to this is a hot pan. You want your onions to caramelize and the potatoes to get crispy and dark, dark brown on the bottom. The flavors all come together into a sweet-salty, crunchy-creamy plate of pure heaven. It’s the perfect at-home diner food. I ate mine with two eggs on top, but those are optional–if you’re making this for a crowd, stop with the hash, pile it into a bowl, and serve it family-style, all by itself.  Either way, you will not be disappointed.

(You can, actually, make this much healthier–skip the bacon, use a very thin coating of olive oil on the bottom of the pan for your onions and potatoes, and then go from there. Just make sure your pan is screaming hot when you start, or all the dark brown crunchy parts will stick)

To make this amazing, simple dish, you’ll need:

2 slices of bacon, in one-inch pieces (I used turkey, but any kind will work)

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

1 – 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes



2 eggs (optional)

Get a cast-iron or other heavy skillet screaming hot, over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until it’s crispy, and then fish it out and set it aside.

In the bacon grease, cook the onions until they turn soft and translucent–about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes, toss them with the onion, and flatten them into a single layer in the pan. Turn your heat down to medium and let it sit about 5 minutes, until the bottom of the potatoes starts to brown. Carefully flip them over, give them another 5 minutes, and then cook, stirring every few minutes, until the potatoes are crispy outside and soft inside.

Stir potatoes up with your reserved bacon and salt and pepper to taste. For a side dish, stop now. Otherwise, mound the potato mixture into a lump in the middle of the pan and crack two eggs over it. Put a lid on it and cook it about 4 minutes, until the eggs are cooked but soft. Carefully turn out on to a plate and enjoy as an entree.

Multi-Tasking Lemon-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

31 Mar

I have not been intentionally ignoring you guys. I promise. Work is crazy-nutso busy this week and there has been little time for kitchen playing. I’m going to make up for it today, because this recipe is a triple-duty treasure that works as a side dish, appetizer/finger food, and for breakfast (stay with me on that one).

I made this for a baby shower my bookclub held for one of our members last night. We had appetizers and desserts (Georgetown Cupcakes–mmmmm!) in potluck style. Easy and cheap for everyone, and really a lot of fun to see who made what and enjoy so many different flavors and textures. This recipe worked because you can pick up the stalks with your fingers and eat them that way, or cut them into bites and use a fork (if you’re all civilized and stuff). It’s very low fat, very high in vitamins, and quite delicious with the sweet vinegar and the sour lemon playing very nicely together.

I sprinkled these with Parmesan. I suggest you skip that. The cheese became a gloppy mess, to be quite honest, and didn’t bring much to the flavor party. I did, though, serve them with Prosciutto on the side for those who eat it (I don’t), and people seemed to enjoy the combination.

Apppetizer–check. They’re a great side dish for roasted chicken or steaks. I’d even go so far as to serve these alongside a light summer pasta dish, and they’d be great with fish too. You can, if you wish, cut the stalks into bites, roast them that way, put them into a bowl, and serve them as a traditional vegetable, or pop it in the fridge for a few hours, toss it with Parmesan at that point, and put this out as a salad–sesame seeds would be a lovely addition to that.

And breakfast. Y’all, I diced a few stalks up this morning and tossed them into a pan with some onion and a touch of butter, let them all soften, and then made an omelette with them, eggs, and a little cheese. Delish, delish, delish. Highly recommend. They’d work in a frittata too, with some onion and tomato.

Enough with the talk. Make these. They’re good. You’ll need:

About a pound of asparagus stalks, trimmed of their woody ends

The juice of one lemon

A tablespoon of Balsalmic vinegar

Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees while you spray a baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Lay the asparagus spears on the sheet. Drizzle them with the lemon juice, balsamic, and enough olive oil to coat, and toss with your hands to combine everything. Pat them down into a single layer, and roast for about 10 minutes, turning once. You’re looking for a bright, bright green color out of them–don’t let them go any farther than that or they’ll mush up on you. Serve hot or at room temperature as an appetizer or side, and cold as a salad.

Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes

10 Feb

Everybody has a recipe for these delicious morsels of goodness. So this is more about a trick than an actual recipe.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for garlic-roasted potatoes for years, and it was good. Well, it was mostly good. The problem with that recipe was that I always ended up with perfect potatoes and burned bits of garlic (I’m sure it was operator error–no way that recipe has spread so far and wide by burning garlic). Burned garlic is bitter and nasty, and not something we garlic lovers appreciate.

I am a garlic addict. Love the stuff. I make my turkey sandwiches with garlic hummus instead of mayo or mustard. I toss whole cloves into chickens. It goes into my chili, my pasta, and onto bread if I’ve though ahead enough to roast some on its own with a little olive oil. Garlic rocks my world. And that’s why I had to find a new way to make these potatoes–I wanted real garlic, not bitter bits of crunchy brownness.

The first change you’ll notice is in the potatoes. I use baby yukon golds. They’re firm and waxy and buttery on their own, so you don’t need as much oil to roast them, and they offer fantastic mouth feel.

The second is the method. I infuse the oil with the garlic before combining it with the spuds (that’s way easier than it sounds–don’t get scared), which gives me a little hint of yummy with every bite. And using garlic that’s practically pureed means no burned bits when the pan comes out of the oven.

This is among my favorite side dishes, and it’s been known to serve as a main dish when I’m eating by my lonesome for whatever reason. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

You’ll need:

1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled

3 cloves of garlic, chopped and mashed with a knife (or just use three frozen Dorot cubes as they are)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

salt or No-Salt seasoning

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray or olive oil.

Half or quarter the potatoes to get uniform bite-sized pieces.

Combine the oil and garlic in a large Pyrex bowl. Cover it with wax paper and microwave it on high for about 15 – 20 seconds. Let it sit for a minute, and then take it out and stir it. This imparts all the garlic flavor into the oil itself, and that is a very good thing.

Place the potato pieces into the garlic and oil mixture. Toss gently. Lay on the baking sheet in a single layer, with cut sides down on the foil (that’ll give you a great crunch later). Sprinkle with salt. Roast 40 minutes, turning the potatoes over halfway through.

(For a little extra freshness, sprinkle the roasted spuds with a little dill at the end. YUM!)

Spicy-Sweet YUM Sweet Potatoes

25 Jan


That’s my fantasy retort to my children’s frequent occasional protests that they have nothing cool, we never do anything fun, and that they are Sorely and Unfairly Deprived When Compared To Their Friends. I haven’t used it yet, but I’m not above pulling it out one of these days. Because it proves that I am the most deprived person around, and perhaps in the universe.

Sweet potatoes are proof that God enjoys good food. They’re chock-full-of-nutrients good for you, they’re low in calories, they’re easy to grow and thus plentiful all year long, they store forever (so even my Soviet supermarket can’t mess them up like the other produce in the store), and they live up to their names. They are sweet.

Sweet makes me happy. Sweet in a little nutrient bomb that you can cook a trillion ways is just about my idea of heaven on a plate. And since trying my first one a few years ago (blame my parents…always blame the parents), I have been all-out addicted. We always have them in the house and I am forever messing around with them.

I tried something new with chicken last night (we’ll talk about that later this week–I promise) and needed a veggie with a bit of a southwestern flare to go with it. The tubers called to me from their basket under the stove, and a very simple dish was born.

I loved it.

My daughter loved it. My son declared it too spicy, but then ate it. And my husband declared that he “probably won’t like this,” but downed his too. That, my friends, is a vegetable success by any meausure.

This is so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to present it as a recipe. But you should try it. At least once. Even if you probably won’t like it. Because I suspect you will. You know that sweet/salty thing we’re all nuts about right now? Sweet/spicy rocks its world, and this is that.

You’ll need:

Three sweet potatoes

About a teaspoon of chili powder

Olive oil spray, either canned or from a Misto, which is  one of the best kitchen toys ever and where I get mine.

Cover a heavy baking sheet with foil and spray it with olive oil. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into about 1.5 inch cubes–slightly bigger than comfortable bite size. Put them into a large bowl.

Spray the top layer of spuds with oil (lightly) and toss them. Do that a few times until all the ‘taters have a little oil coating them. Then sprinkle in the chili powder, a bit at a time, stirring after each addition, until they’re lightly coated with that.

Pour the potatoes onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast about 30 minutes, stirring after 15, or until they’re fork-tender. Let them cool for a minute and enjoy.

Have you entered to win our giveaway yet?

There’s a new button over there on the right (you’ll have to click through if you’re on email subscription, Kindle, or a blog reader–sorry!)? That’s for Playing With My Dinner’s brand-spanking new Facebook page, where our readers are already chatting, sharing ideas, and getting the inside scoop on the blog.

To celebrate its launch, I’m giving away a copy of Aviva Goldfarb’s newest cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’ Clock Scramble To The Rescue.” It’s all about making healthy, Earth-friendly meals your kids will love, and you’re going to love it.

One lucky reader will find a copy in his or her mailbox, and all you have to do to enter is “like” the blog over on Facebook before February 5. I’ll use a random number generator to pick our winner.

So c’mon over! Visit the page, hit that “like” button, and join in the conversation on the wall. See you there!!

Sweet Potato “Fries”

3 Nov

These were so good that I the family gobbled them all up before I had a chance to snap a picture for you. Uh…sorry.

Dinner? Dinner was supposed to be salmon with these on the side. But DH ran late from a trip to another state and I was on my own for supper, and…well…the fish never made it to the oven. A plate of these became my evening meal. And that’s not bad–they’re super healthy.

I’ve tried oven sweet potato fries before. They always tasted good, but they were more roasted wedges than fries. I couldn’t pick them up with my fingers–they drooped. But they were tasty with a fork.

Tonight, I decided to go with the “less is more” theory. No oil. No spices. No honey. No anything, really, besides a little cooking spray and some salt at the end. I flipped them once and left them alone otherwise. And know what?

I got fries.

Real ones. Eat-with-your-fingers fries! They were crunchy on the outside and deliciously fluffy on the inside and they were perfectly perfect for snacking. All the way through the dinner hour.

It’s not much of a recipe. But it’s going into my regular rotation. Starting with lunch tomorrow. You only need:

Sweet potatoes (I used two, which fed the kids as a side dish and me as a meal)

Cooking spray


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cover a heavy baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray (olive oil, preferably).

Wash and peel your sweet potatoes. Cut them in half width-wise, and then into fries, about 1/2 inch wide (they’ll be about three inches long if you’re using medium spuds). Lay them in a single layer on the foil, and lightly spray the tops of them with cooking spray (olive oil if you have it).

Bake them for about 20 minutes. Pull them out and flip a few over with a spatula. If they’ve started to get brown underneath, keep going–flip all of them (if they’re not browning, let them go a little while longer). Bake about another 20 minutes, until both sides are brown. Salt to taste, let them sit outside the oven for about 5 minutes, and enjoy.

Maple Sweet Potato Wedges

14 Oct

I roasted a chicken last night and first thought I’d make some maple mashed sweet potatoes to go with it. But I was feeling lazy and didn’t feel like dirtying both a pot and my mixer bowl. So this recipe was perfect–all the flavor in my favorite mashed potatoes with only one dirty dish.

I found this one at Eating Well’s website and couldn’t resist fiddling with it. They called for a few tablespoons of butter, and I used one of olive oil. I also used a lot less salt than they wanted, skipped the pepper entirely, and found this took longer to roast than they said (which could be because I didn’t use butter, which browns quickly).

Verdict: Delicious. I’ll definitely make this again. It was really easy to make these while the chicken rested post-roasting, and everyone loved them. The maple flavor is subtle but definitely there, and these weren’t overly sweet. And the maple mixture thickened as this cooked, turning into a wonderful glaze by the end of the cooking time.

Give ’em a shot. You’ll need:

Three or four medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces

1/3 cup maple syrup (the real stuff, please)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13″ Pyrex baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray. Place the potato chunks into the dish.

Whisk together the other ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the potatoes. Use a spatula to stir and coat the spuds with the maple mixture. Cover with foil.

Bake covered for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir, and bake another 45 minutes or so, stirring every 15 minutes.

%d bloggers like this: