Category Archives: Side Dish

Squash Casserole

Yellow squash is one of those vegetables I have loved since I was a kid. My mom would saute the squash with plenty of onions and bacon fat to make a simple side dish. I still like making yellow squash this way although I have cut down on the bacon fat and salt pork my mom used.

The other day I saw someone making a squash casserole on a cooking show which involved crackers, mayonnaise and sour cream. I liked the idea of a casserole but using such rich and high calorie ingredients was too much for me. Instead, I decided on ingredients that were a bit lower in fat content yet tasty and surprised even me.

The real surprised was my taste tester son who said “This is good mom”. I wasn’t sure he would like the squash since he was giving me the side eye while I was slicing it up. When he asked what was for dinner and I said Squash Casserole T did not have an excited look on his face. The only response was humph.

I am going to categorize this as a quick an easy dish. The hardest part of the recipe is waiting for the casserole to finish cooking in the oven. Before and after that piece of the process is easy peasy. With summer upon us and the bounty of squash at the local grocers and farmer’s markets, Squash Casserole is a repeat dish in our house!

Squash Casserole

Ingredients:

2 yellow squash sliced

2 zucchini squash sliced

2 eggs beaten

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

½ small red onion diced

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp grape seed oil or olive oil

1 tbsp Kosher salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tbsp dried oregano

½ tbsp dried basil

½ tsp onion powder

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter and grape seed oil in a large no-stick frying over medium heat. Add red onion and saute for approximately 1 minute. Add squash and season with salt, ground black pepper and onion powder. Stir and saute until squash slightly softens. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together eggs, oregano, basil and cheeses (reserve some cheese to sprinkle on top of casserole). Add squash and onions then stir until well mixed. Pour into a casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the center is set and topping has turned light golden brown.

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Rice and Spinach Casserole

Some days are harder than others to come up with side dish ideas. Potatoes, pasta and rice in various forms usually come to mind but can become boring or routine.

The other day I was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover rice in the fridge because I had made too much. Chicken and rice soup was one idea but we were still eating the Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup I had made two days before. So, soup was out. Then I thought about making a casserole and maybe making it similar to my Macaroni and Cheese recipe. The idea morphed into a Rice and Spinach Casserole.

This recipe was so simple and quick to make because the rice was already cooked which meant it did not take long to pull the recipe together. I must say the Rice and Spinach Casserole did not come out exactly like my macaroni and cheese but it was doggone tasty. I think because rice and pasta have two different consistencies the rice did not come out as creamy as macaroni and cheese. Still the rice dish had a certain level of creaminess. It’s kind of hard to explain so I will just say you will have to try the recipe to see what I mean.

As always, I use my family as a guide to whether or not a recipe is blog worthy. Both my youngest son and hubby enjoyed my “new” side dish and happily had seconds of the Rice and Spinach Casserole. I will say a side dish tastes even better when the entire meal is good so that folks want to get just a little bit more of everything.

Rice and Spinach Casserole

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked rice (leftover rice works well)

1 ½ cups fresh baby spinach

1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese

½ cup half and half milk

1 can 2% evaporated milk

2 tbsp butter

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a medium sized casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside ¼ cup cheddar cheese.

Place cooked rice into the casserole dish. Pour evaporated milk and half and half over the rice. Add spinach, cheese and butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well then top with remaining ¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is evaporated and a knife comes out clean when placed in the middle of the casserole.

Remove from oven and serve with your favorite dish.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

What can be an easier side dish than Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms? Not too many things. Depending on what you are using to stuff your mushrooms the process can be easy or a little complicated. The process I used for this recipe was extremely easy.

Stuffed mushrooms were one of the my favorite appetizers back in the days when it was safe to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a full course meal. In the days of Covid-19, my family and I are cautious about social distancing and staying as safe as possible. Although we miss dining out, we are definitely supporting our local restaurants by doing take out a couple of times each week. I enjoy cooking for the family but even I need a break now and then.

So, since I couldn’t have Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms at a restaurant I made my own version at home. Instead of sauteing baby spinach and chopping up onions along with other veggies, I used frozen creamed spinach to reduce my prep time. By adding a few seasonings along with some grated Parmesan cheese I created a quick filling. Viola! I made a lovely Spinach Stuffed Mushroom appetizer or side dish to compliment dinner.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

12 large mushrooms cleaned (chop stems and reserve)

1 pkg frozen creamed spinach

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ tsp Kosher salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp garlic powder

Grape seed oil or olive oil

Pinch of cayenne powder or red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw creamed spinach in a medium sized bowl. Add salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, ½ of the bread crumbs and cheeses. Stir to mix well.

Rub mushrooms with a little grape seed oil them place in a rectangular baking sheet lined with foil or a casserole dish. Stuff each mushroom with the creamed spinach filling then top with remaining bread crumbs. Drizzle a little grape seed oil over the bread crumbs and sprinkle with paprika then place in oven. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and golden brown.

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Quiche

During warmer weather I shy away from always fixing meals that require me to be around the stove for any length of time. One pot meals and meals that go into the oven are my favorite things to prepare when it is hot.

Quiche is one of those meals you can quickly prepare then stick it in the oven to do its thing while you do something else. Quiche is also versatile because you can use anything you want for the filling whether it is veggies, meat, cheese or a combination of all three. The only thing I haven’t tried in a quiche is pasta. But who knows, that might work too. I’ll let you know if I ever get bold enough to try it.

I have two quiche recipes you can try for my vegetarian friends and meat eaters like me. I encourage you to experiment with the ingredients to make this your own favorite recipe.

P.S. Crab quiche is wonderful too. I’ll write a recipe on that one too sometime soon.

Quiche

Basic Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:

6 extra large eggs

1 ready made pie crust (roll out to fit in pie pan)

½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup half and half

1 tbsp butter or olive oil

½ tsp mushroom seasoning (Trader Joe’s)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cracked black pepper

¼ tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried thyme

2 dashes of hot sauce (optional)

cooking spray

paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pie crust in a pie pan sprayed with cooking spray. Gently tap the bottom of the pie crust with a fork to prevent puffing. Set aside.

Beat together eggs, seasonings and half and half until well blended. Fold cheeses into the egg mixture. Sprinkle with a little paprika. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Test to make sure the quiche is cooked thoroughly by placing a butter knife in the center after 30 minutes. Cook a few minutes more if not completely done. Let the quiche cool for about 5 to 10 minutes then serve with nice soup or salad.

Additional Ideas:

Mushroom Quiche:

Saute 1 package each of baby portobella mushrooms and white button mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil. Place on the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Bake according to basic the recipe.

Chicken and Broccoli Quiche:

Season one package of cooked diced white meat chicken with a little salt, onion powder and pepper.  Set aside.  Blanche 1 package of broccoli florets in salted water for about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and sprinkle broccoli with a little salt. Place chicken and broccoli in the bottom of the pie crust then pour egg and cheese mixture over the filling. Bake according to the basic recipe.

 

 

 

 

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Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese

A steak, pork chop or chicken might be the star of the show on a plate but all stars need a co-star to be truly successful.

Thinking of new side dishes isn’t always easy. Sometimes it depends on what vegetables are in season or it may be as simple as what is in the refrigerator. On the day I decided to make Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan Cheese I just happened to have an eggplant calling my name and begging to be created into something delicious. I didn’t want to turn it into a casserole or a stew so I settled on baking the eggplant.

I like easy and this recipe is just that… easy. There is not a lot of fuss when all you need to do is slice the eggplant and mix together a cheesy topping. Since my sons are learning how to cook a little more I think I will pass this recipe on to them to impress the women in their lives.

Eggplant with Crispy Parmesan

Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant

½ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

salt

cracked black pepper

olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together Parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, oregano, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Slice eggplant into ½ inch rings. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Top each slice of eggplant with the cheese topping and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until eggplant is fully cooked and topping is brown and crispy.

 

 

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Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta (or Turkey Bacon)

My hair stylist Eb (and little brother) and I often discuss anything from family, food and sports to politics while I am sitting in his chair. A while ago we talked about a couple of the dishes he makes for Mother’s Day. He showed me a picture of one recipe in particular he had created which consisted of brussel sprouts and turkey bacon. I must say it looked absolutely delicious and of course made me want to create my own brussel sprout recipe. So this post is dedicated to Eb and all the brussel sprout lovers of the world.

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables I found that people either love or hate. I am on the side of loving them. Not just because I love most foods but because they are very low in fat and have a high percentage of potassium and vitamin C. Plus, they have a nice little bite in flavor. Contrary to what some folks think, brussel sprouts are not baby cabbages. Where as cabbage grows out of the ground and we eat the head of the cabbage, brussel sprouts are buds that grow on thick long stalks. Both vegetables are in the same cruciferous family along with kale, collard greens, bok choy and other types of greens.

The haters of brussel sprouts have given this vegetable a bad rap. Probably because whomever prepared them were not totally sure how to cook them. Take frozen brussel sprouts off your list. Once frozen they are not quite as delicious as they could be. Brussel sprouts need to be cooked fresh. The smaller the brussel sprout the sweeter the taste. Larger brussel sprouts tend to be more bitter but if they are prepared the right way large sized brussel sprouts will taste wonderful too. Lightly browning or caramelizing the brussel sprouts enhances the nutty flavor and cuts down on the bitterness in my opinion. Pairing the brussel sprouts with other wonderful flavors like pancetta and onions also brings out the savory taste of the sprouts.

However, you decide to fix them just make sure you give brussel sprouts the tender love and care they deserve. I think if given another chance, even haters will grow to love brussel sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Ingredients:

10 – 15 small brussel sprouts cut in half

1 pkg pancetta

1 clove garlic minced

½ small onion sliced thin

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

Heat olive oil and butter in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and pancetta and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion softens and pancetta slightly browns. Add brussel sprouts and seasonings. Stir to mix the pancetta, onions and brussel sprouts. Lightly brown the brussel sprouts for approximately 3 minutes then add the chicken broth, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until the brussel sprouts are fork tender but do not over cook. Serve with your favorite fish or meat.

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Spicy Meatballs

Spicy Meatballs are one of the simplest dishes I have ever made.  Most good chefs/ cooks know how to make a meatball.  Whether you are adding them to pasta or making a meatball sandwich, meatballs are pretty easy to make. The trick is to make them flavorful. This meatball recipe was created to go with my Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side.

Follow the link for another delicious recipe.

Spicy Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 package fresh Italian sausage

1 package ground pork

1 package fresh hot sausage

1 egg

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup milk

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to low broil.

Combine Parmesan cheese, egg and milk in a small bowl. Place meats and seasonings in a large bowl along with panko bread crumbs. Add egg mixture to the meat. Mix well to combine but do not over work the meat. Form into golf ball sized balls (or whatever size you like) and place meatballs in a large iron skillet. Place in the oven and brown the meatballs for about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs and place in a large pot with marinara sauce. Simmer over medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until meatballs are cooked all the way through.

These are good for spaghetti and meatball dishes, meatball sandwiches, appetizers and of course Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Meatballs on the side.

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Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

My hubby and I have started on a new journey to eat a little healthier than we have in recent months. Because I enjoy cooking and love to build on flavors I used butter, sugar and bacon as a great source of flavor. Fast forward to a few weeks ago which is when our journey began and that all changed.

I really wanted to lose weight and find ways of cutting out the things I knew added loads of calories but tasted so doggone good. I finally got my mind, body and spirit in sync to commit to a different lifestyle of eating. To do this I (we) had to jump in feet first and do it in “cold turkey” fashion. I did my research and found a plan that eliminated my usual fare and replaced it with other flavors that are just as tasty and still doggone good.

One substitute I made on my journey is to use prosciutto instead of bacon as a topping for salads. We eat salads year round and making a BIG SALAD for dinner is our favorite on hot summer days. Rather than crisping up a few slices of bacon and crumbling them over the salad, I now heat up a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil (my new substitute for butter) and crisp up prosciutto. Just chop up those crispy pieces then sprinkle them over a nice salad and you will be in salad heaven.

Okay, I can hear a few critics say wait a minute. Doesn’t prosciutto have more salt than bacon? The answer is yes. Prosciutto is saltier than bacon but has less calories and saturated fat. Of course, like everything else, prosciutto should be eaten in moderation. A few slices won’t hurt you and it will add a nice flavor to your salad without adding extra calories and fat like bacon.

Give it a try and see for yourself that prosciutto can be your new source of flavor.

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Refreshing Tomato Salad

Let me say right off the bat that if you don’t like the taste of mint you can leave it out to this salad. My friend Doll does not like anything with mint so before she makes the “ewww” sound after reading the recipe I want her and all mint haters to know the mint is optional. Doll claims to be a southern girl but how can she really be southern if she doesn’t like the taste of mint. Come on! Mint julpes are a southern staple. At least where my family comes from and they are southern.

Hubby and I both like the flavor of mint in salads. I think it adds a refreshing taste to quite a few dishes. My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip and I love an ice cold peppermint patty. The creation of my Refreshing Tomato Salad was my welcome spring and summer gift to the family. It is packed with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, artichokes and of course Tomatoes!

I was fortunate this year to have a good crop of tomatoes so I was able to add our homegrown tomatoes to this salad. I have not tried growing cucumbers yet but maybe next year I will. I prefer English cucumbers because regular cucumbers have too many hard seeds. But, that is just my preference. Use whatever type of cucumber you like or have handy.

During these last days of summer I have been making this recipe a little more frequently. It is always sad to see the warm weather turn a little cooler because it means the end of short sleeves, sandals and shorts. I for one will miss the warm days but I also look forward to the beauty of fall weather. Good thing for me my Refreshing Tomato Salad is delicious no matter what the weather may be.

Refreshing Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

4 – 6 small tomatoes large dice cut

1 English cucumber diced

1 jar marinated artichokes drained and slightly chopped

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup Italian black olives

¼ cup olive oil

juice from ½ lemon

½ tbsp red onion diced small

½ tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)

½ tsp dried dill

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve as a side dish or add a little bow tie pasta to make it a meal.

 

 

 

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Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Eating with your eyes is just as important as tasting with your tongue. I know I have mentioned this in the past but it is worth mentioning again. If you are going to prepare a dish for family, friends or yourself, you want it to look appealing. Combining different colors is an easy way to create visual beauty with food. This recipe is a nice blend of green, red and orange. Layering the vegetables in a circular pattern also made this a very attractive dish.

Gratins originated in French cuisine and has been adopted in many other culinary cuisines. I wasn’t sure exactly what gratin was until I saw one made on a cooking show. On this particular show the chef made potato au gratin which was gorgeous because of the crispy brown topping. Turns out a gratin is considered the technique of topping a dish with breadcrumbs or grated cheese then browning it.

While most of the gratin recipes I have seen are made with sliced white potatoes I wanted to think outside the box and combine potatoes with other vegetables. Plus, I wanted to make the dish pop with color. Hence, my Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin. A ring of beauty and a delightful dish.

Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Ingredients:

2 plum or vine ripe tomatoes sliced

1 large zucchini sliced

1 large sweet potato peeled and sliced

½ red onion sliced

½ cup shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat bottom of a large iron skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Add minced garlic and spread around the skillet. Alternate slices of zucchini, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in a circular pattern around the iron skillet. Place red onion slices over the other veggies then season with salt, ground black pepper and thyme. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Place on the lower shelf of the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Move to top rack and back for 20 – 25 minutes more. Test potatoes with a knife to make sure they are cooked and soft.

 

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