Category Archives: side dishes

Thanksgiving Memories of Not So Long Ago

Thanksgiving week is here. The planning is complete and implementation is about to begin. In recent years we have had a blended family Thanksgiving. Along with family, recipes get blended as well. I have been in charge of stuffing/dressing and gravy. Since both of these are near and dear to my heart, it’s an assignment that I welcome every year. I shared the whole process several years ago and the time seemed right to revisit the experience before I relive it this Thanksgiving.

Stuffing or in this case dressing, as it will not see the inside of a turkey, is many folks’ favorite part of the dinner. It certainly is mine. I make a dressing that has evolved over the years to become an homage to my time in California and my Italian heritage. I gave it the rather silly name of Mama D’s Cali-Itali Stuffing. This is a seriously hearty stuffing filled with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. The bread is sourdough, next to rice-a-roni, the San Francisco Starch of choice. Artichoke hearts add flavor and as the recipe has evolved, I now use frozen (Trader Joe’s are the best) instead of canned. It also now gets baked in a bundt pan, because who doesn’t want a nice slice of stuffing.

Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
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Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until it is well browned. Turn and break apart as needed.
  2. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute stirring frequently until the onion is golden and the garlic is fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the artichokes and spinach to the pan and continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. The artichokes should have a little color and the spinach should be wilted.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, sausage, and the vegetables from the pan (include all the drippings, too). Toss to combine.
  5. Add the seasonings that you are using along with the cheese and toss again to combine.
  6. Pour in the eggs and blend well. Add the chicken stock. Use enough so that the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to the seasonings. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.
  7. Grease a large rectangular baking dish. Add the stuffing and smooth out evenly. Do not pack it down. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
  8. Combine the remaining olive oil and the melted butter. Remove the stuffing from the oven. Take off the foil and drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Every Thanksgiving table needs a boat of gravy. Since in our blended Thanksgiving someone else is making the turkey, I had to come up with a recipe that would be rich and tasty without the benefit if turkey drippings. This Garlic and Wine Gravy fills the bill. It is flavorful but has a lightness about it that makes it feel slightly less a guilty pleasure.

Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, 5 - 7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
  4. Add about 1 cup of the stock and continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the reserved garlic and wine mixture and the Italian Herb Blend.
  5. Continue to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve with turkey, dressing, or anything else you want to put it on.
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This year I have so much to be thankful for. Our family is thriving and the younger grandboys are a true delight. I cherish the time I get to spend with them. Our first grandboy is “home” for the holiday and the time spent with him is precious. I hope that you too, have many things that make you thankful and happy. Enjoy the day and all the blessings that it brings.

 

Brussels Sprout Love

I do believe that Fall is here. Pumpkins are everywhere along with what I consider the essential Fall vegetables. In Mama D’s Kitchen the Love extends to squash, sweet potatoes, and those lovely little green cabbages,

Back in our California Days, we would drive by Brussels Sprout fields.Brussels Sprouts, the stalks standing proudly, perfuming the air with their mild cabbage scent. Driving along highway 1, we would keep a lookout for a beat up old station wagon on the side of the road. Every time we saw it, we would stop and greet a man older and more beat up than his car. His name was Dutch and he sold Brussels Sprouts and artichokes out of the back of that old station wagon. Every visit resulted in a bag of sprouts and a baby artichoke or Brussels sprout (Dutch’s gift) for both of my sons. They would each hold on to these treasured gifts all the way home.

These days, we get our Brussels sprouts from the store and at this time of year they seem to be the sweetest of all. I want to share some of the ways that I love these “little cabbages” in the hope that you will invite them into your kitchen. My very favorite way to prepare them is roasting. All they require is a drizzle of olive oil and whatever seasonings your heart desires. Salt and pepper go without saying, but earthy herbs, smoked paprika, and cumin are always welcome additions.

Brussels Sprouts play well with others. Onions have a strong affinity, as do sweet potatoes, Red and Yukon Gold potatoes. Even peppers and fruits like apples or cranberries can co-mingle . By themselves or with other vegetables they make a wonderful side dish, and in the case of this Panzanella Salad, a one dish side.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
Print Recipe
Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Salad
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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While roasting brings out the sweetness and imparts color beyond compare, Sprouts are very happy when they meet a hot skillet. I like the results, too. Did I mention that sprouts enjoy a bit of pork love? Here they join forces with bacon, but pancetta is also delightful.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
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As you can tell, I really enjoy cooked brussels sprouts in various forms, but lately I have come to discover their beauty raw. They make a wonderful salad and though the slicing is a bit tedious, the resulting crunchy sensation is worth the effort. Think of it as an earthier cole slaw. This salad is dressed with a warm Shallot Vinaigrette. The shallots ( and there was a good amount of them) are sautéed in olive oil. Sherry Vinegar and honey give it the perfect sweet and sour sensation that makes this salad a perfect counterpoint to rich meat. Why it could even top a burger and be happy.

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Brussels Sprout Salad
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 8 Ounces Brussels Sprouts Thinly sliced
  • 1/3 Cup Shallots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey More or less to taste
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Or other herb of your choice
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat up for a minute or so. Add the shallots.

  2. Cook the shallots for 5 - 7 minutes. they should be soft, fragrant and slightly golden.  Add the thyme, vinegar, and honey to the skillet. Allow the dressing to cook for a couple of minutes to let everything heat through and blend together.

  3. Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, and more honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the sliced sprouts and toss to coat evenly. Serve.

So there you have three of my favorite ways to enjoy Brussels Sprouts. There are many other variations on these themes that are waiting to enter your kitchen.

Sprouts have been showing up everywhere. Restaurants as well as social media are jumping on the Brussels Sprout bandwagon. I’ve had a wonderful Brussles Sprout Salad served as a bed for Lamb Pastrami and a frizzled egg for brunch at River Roast in Chicago. I’ve noticed variations on roasted and even fried Brussels Sprouts showing up on more appetizer menus and as a side dish as well.  I just saw a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts that would make an awesome Game Day appetizer.

Nobody is putting this “Baby Cabbage” in the corner any more. Let her grace your kitchen and take center stage.

Bringing Back Summer…Grilled Turkey Tenderloins

Remember a short time ago when I was gushing about Fall coming to the Midwest? Well, this is the Midwest after all and seasons are relative. My last casserole adventure had barely been seen when the weather decided it wasn’t quite finished with Summer. For what seems like an eternity we have been plunged back into hot humid weather and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in the foreseeable future.

Here in the Midwest grills never really get put away. Oh, we may cover them, but we never seal them because we know that we might wake up to another summer day when we least expect it. So, I’d like to share a mostly grilled dinner that happened recently. The protein is Turkey Tenderloin. This has been a staple all summer long.

These come from Aldi. a grocery store chain that is re-inventing itself and the way people look at buying food. These stores have been a “no frills,” limited inventory, house brand, haven for people looking to save money. This year they began a multi-million dollar project of revamping their stores to expand their product line and tap into the shopping habits of more consumers. To illustrate this, everything on the plate came from Aldi; Organic Rainbow Baby Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, and Sweet Potatoes. Even the Memphis Barbecue Sauce that glazed the sweet potatoes was an Aldi find.

I didn’t set out to create an “All Aldi” dinner. It just happened and it is happening more often thanks to the fact that I can once again walk to my local Aldi (the above mentioned re-vamping caused the store to close for a month, yes, a month). They reopened brighter, bigger, and more grocery store like. The quality of their products has been improving over the last few years and this remodel is the final step to compete with, if not the “big boys,” at least the smaller more boutique chains that are expanding everywhere. Yes, they are a cousin of Trader Joe’s.

Now back to this End of Summer, Please! dinner. These tenderloins come marinated. I like the Cracked Pepper Flavor. There are two large tenderloins in each package, so there is plenty for dinner with leftovers for salads and sandwiches through the week. Just open the package, drain off the marinade and they are ready for the grill.

The sweet potatoes went on the grill, too. The wedges browned beautifully and were brushed with a bit of barbecue sauce for a little extra flavor.

The only part of the dinner that didn’t make it to the grill, the carrots and snap peas, roasted in the oven dressed, in a little brown sugar and olive oil. I am in love with Rainbow Carrots. Besides being lovely to look at, they are delicious to eat. Once I had to hunt for them, now I find them everywhere in every shape and size. From 2 pound bags of large carrots to bunches of baby carrots still sporting their ferny crowns, to these baby versions all peeled and pretty and waiting to be cooked.

I even attempted to grow them in my tiny garden this year. My pitiful harvest attested to the fact that “trash gardening” doesn’t work for everything. (magnified to show detail)

Roasting carrots is by far my favorite preparation technique. They only need a drizzle of olive oil and maybe a pinch of brown sugar and some salt and pepper. I like to keep additional seasoning to a minimum so that the sweetness of the carrots comes through. If I want to change things up I may add a little fresh thyme or some cumin, but I don’t often gild this lily.

They can roast by themselves or as in this case be joined by some onions and towards the end of roasting some snap peas. They go with everything color and taste wise.

Non- Recipe, Recipe:

Roasted Carrots

For one pound of carrots you need about one tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2  teaspoon brown sugar ( more is all right, too), salt and pepper to taste. Toss these together in a bowl. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, stirring once or twice. 

This is one dish that really doesn’t have a season. Carrots, rainbow or not, baby or big are available year around and are usually cheap. They will continue to grace the plates of many meals in the Kitchen of Love. Oh, and before I forget….

Fall, please come back. I miss you.

A Very Grill Worthy Side: Artichoke and Mushroom Pilaf

We are finally seeing a change in the weather. The humidity has left the building so to speak, chased away by rain and a more than welcome cold front. Stores are decked out for Halloween and Pumpkin Spice everything is invading earth as we know it. That means that Fall is just around the corner, at least according to the calendar.

Cooler weather doesn’t mean that the grill is going into hibernation. Far from it. These are the evenings that were made for grilling. You can keep your grilling food company outside without breaking a sweat. That little bit of coolness in the air makes me think once again of comfort food. While I’m not ready for hearty casseroles and soups, a bit of a starchy and filling side dish is just what Mama D ordered. That’s how this little gem came to be.img_2319

I have taken some short cuts in the interest of time (school is back in session and so am I). I used one of those cooked rice pouches. These are surprisingly good when mixed with vegetables and seasonings. They have a firm texture meant to soften in the microwave, but when used on the stove with a flavorful liquid, the result is perfect al dente rice. There are several brands out there and they come in various flavors. I used a Long Grain and Wild Rice package. It had a little added flavor of its own without being too unhealthy, but I added a good amount of fresh thyme and homemade chicken stock for more personalized flavor.

You are more than welcome to cook your rice from scratch. If you do, cook it early in the day and let it chill out uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours. This allows the rice to dry out resulting in more flavor absorption and less mushiness. 

The vegetable array consisted of artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s Frozen), crimini mushrooms, and shallot. Then there was that generous handful of garden thyme….img_2325

The veggies sautéed in a skillet with a bit of olive oil and several splashes of chicken stock. When everything sported a late summer golden tan, I added the rice. and the thyme leaves. Then it was just a matter of letting everything get better acquainted while being plied with more chicken stock.img_2333

All of this took about as long as the chicken breasts needed to grill. The plate was finished with sautéed green and wax beans with baby carrots. Simple to make, quick to get ready and delicious to eat.img_2337

Artichoke and Mushroom Rice Pilaf
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This recipe uses a package of pre-cooked rice. you could cook your own, but do it early in the day and let it chill before adding it to the vegetables. Use any type of rice that you like. You could even do this with quinoa, farro, or barley.
Servings
3
Servings
3
Artichoke and Mushroom Rice Pilaf
Print Recipe
This recipe uses a package of pre-cooked rice. you could cook your own, but do it early in the day and let it chill before adding it to the vegetables. Use any type of rice that you like. You could even do this with quinoa, farro, or barley.
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Swirl the olive oil into a large heated skillet. Allow the oil to get hot. Add the artichoke hearts, mushrooms and shallots to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until everything is lightly browned and tender. Add a little chicken stock if things seem too dry.
  2. Squeeze the package of rice to break it up. I used a Long Grain and Wild Rice Blend, but brown rice or any other grain would work. Open the package and add the rice to the skillet.
  3. Remove the thyme leaves from their stems by sliding your finger from the top to the bottom. Add the leaves to the skillet
  4. Toss to combine the ingredients and use a wooden spoon to separate the rice if necessary. Cook over medium heat, adding the chicken stock as needed. You want things to move around easily and to be a bit juicy.
  5. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. drizzle with a little olive oil.
  6. Serve with grilled meat, poultry or fish.
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As I write this it is a lovely afternoon, perfect for a walk, which I intend to do shortly. Enjoy this wonderful change in the season and give a hearty side dish a whirl.

 

 

Can You Grill It? Potato and Green Bean Salad, Revisited

Yes, the grill on Mama D’s balcony is still working its grates off. It is after all, grilling season and everything is fair game. That’s where my “Can you grill it?” test comes into play. Taking a recipe or food that is usually made in the comfort of the kitchen into the great outdoors can be an adventure. Sometimes the result is wonderful, every once in a while, not so much. This potato salad, however, was a rousing success.

I’ve made this salad before and I’ve even shared the recipe. I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that it would be awesome on the grill. Well, thankfully it did (dawn on me, that is) and I wanted to share it with you.

Baby red potatoes got steamed until almost tender and green beans were blanched before meeting up with some sliced onions.IMG_2057

Everything got tossed with a little salt and pepper and a generous glug of olive oil before diving into the grill basket. Can this really count as a grilled dish if some time on the stove was required?  Why yes, it can. Partly because I said so, but primarily because the potatoes would burn before they cooked through and the green beans would lose their beautiful green-ness if this step wasn’t taken. So there.

My original recipe used a vinegar based dressing featuring a combination of balsamics (white and other wise) with olive oil, garlic, and grainy mustard. For the grilled version I lost the vinegars and went straight to the lemon juice. I know they are available all year, but fresh squeezed lemon juice just says summer to me. I have a condiment crush on grainy mustard right now, so it played a major role in the dressing. Some garlic, olive oil and a few snips of rosemary from the herb garden and I called it dressing.IMG_2052

Once the veggies were suitably golden, I tossed them with the dressing and lo and behold, a perfectly delicious side dish was born. In this case, it was paired with some grilled chicken thighs, but I think that any protein would enjoy sharing a plate with this “Can you grill it?” winner.IMG_2064

Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam the potatoes for 5 - 7 minutes or until they are barely tender. Set aside.
  2. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 -3 minutes until barely tender. Remove from pan and plunge them into an ice water bath. Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the potatoes, beans, and onions in a large bowl. Add a bit of the olive oil and some salt and pepper and toss to coat everything evenly.
  4. Spray a grill basket with non-stick spray and set on a grill over medium/high heat. Spread the potato mixture evenly in the basket.
  5. Cook, tossing occasionally until the potatoes are golden and tender and the beans are tender with a bit of crunch. How long this will take depends on your grill. Don't go too far away.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked place them in a large bowl.
  7. Combine the remaining olive oil and the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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You can be sure that the grilling adventures will continue. There will be more “Can you grill it?” tests that will hopefully result in some fantastic recipes that will find their way into these posts. Until the next time, Happy Grilling!