sides

dress up your stuffing mix

Stuffing is one of those dishes with the most liberal of interpretations, depending on who makes it and what ingredients are used. Technically, what I make is not stuffing, but rather dressing. It’s not stuffing because it’s not stuffed in anything. (I never roast my bird, and frying a stuffed turkey would just be bad news.) But I like calling it “stuffing” anyway, because that word is just more fun to say than “dressing.” (Plus I always think of salad vinaigrettes when I hear “dressing.”)

One of my earliest memories of stuffing was when I was in college and had a box of StoveTop for whatever reason. Maybe I was looking for an easy side to accompany some chicken I’d made. But I quickly became addicted to StoveTop and would eat it by itself as a full meal. There was so much flavor, and there was something about the pillowy texture that exuded comfort.

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sweet creole corn

I love corn and have to have it every Thanksgiving. It adds a nice crispy texture next to the creamy potatoes and casseroles. Back when I was an amateur cook, I used to serve them straight out of a can with some butter, salt, and pepper. Now I’ve graduated to cutting them off the cob and increasing the number of ingredients used.
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whipped potatoes

When I think of American comfort food, I think of potatoes. I love potatoes in all forms: fried, baked, mashed, smashed, or whipped.

What, you might ask, is the difference between mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, and whipped potatoes? After digging around online, I’ve come up with this answer.
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roasted brussels sprouts with candied bacon

Brussels sprouts, as they’re named, are of Belgian and Roman origin. They resemble miniature heads of cabbage, and while that may not sound appealing, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables of late. They’re nutritious and delicious with their anti-cancer properties and earthy, nutty flavor. Overcook them, and they’ll be gross. But when made right, Brussels sprouts offer just the right balance of texture: tender yet crispy. So forget those soggy, bland, dull gray Brussels sprouts of yesteryear. Roast and/or broil them, and you’ll get some stellar sprouts. My foodie twin, Sherry, fed me Brussels sprouts tossed with candied bacon and a classic homemade vinaigrette, and I’ve been dreaming of them ever since. The candied bacon combine both salty and sweet components and add an oomph of flavor to the Brussels sprouts. Then the vinaigrette pushes it into bliss with the acidity edge. Serve them as a first course salad or as a vegetable side component like I did with the dirty rice stuffed Cornish hens. If the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

Recipe: Candied Bacon

Ingredients

  1. 12 slices bacon
  2. Ground black pepper
  3. 1/3 c. Light brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put bacon slices in a bowl. Season with pepper and toss with brown sugar. Cover baking sheets with parchment or foil and arrange in a single layer. Sprinkle any leftover sugar from bowl over the bacon. Top with another layer of parchment or foil, and top it squarely with a second baking sheet. (This will flatten the bacon as it cooks.)
  3. Place tray in center of oven and bake for 12 to 16 min. Halfway through cooking, flip bacon and drag through syrupy liquid. If bacon is not yet golden brown after 16 min., bake for another 5 to 10 min or until dark as mahogany.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

  1. 2 lbs. brussels sprouts, unwashed & halved lengthwise
  2. 3 tbsp. Cooking oil
  3. 2 tbsp. Melted Butter
  4. Salt & pepper
  5. Candied bacon, cut into bite-sized pcs. (see recipe – 2 servings)
  6. 4 tbsp. Vinaigrette dressing (see recipe – add 3 tbsp. reserved bacon fat)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 or 420°F.
  2. Toss brussels sprouts with oil, butter, salt & pepper. Arrange sprouts, cut side down, in one layer on a baking sheet covered with foil. Roast sprouts for 30 to 35 min. Until crispy on top.
  3. Combine sprouts with bacon. Right before serving, toss with vinaigrette dressing.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Recipe: Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients

  1. 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil and/or bacon fat
  2. 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 heaping tbsp. Brown sugar
  4. 1 generous tbsp. honey
  5. Juice from 1/2 lemon
  6. 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  7. Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a sm. Bowl, combine ingredients and whisk until blended.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

smashed purple potatoes

Smashed purple potatoes

Smashingly delicious.

Back in October, I had taken a trip to the Bay area and upon a dinner at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Restaurant, I came across these wonderful purple potatoes that were the highlight of my evening meal. They stole the show even next to the Wagyu beef skewers. After returning to home sweet home in Houston, I had to find and cook these purple potatoes myself.

Indeed I found them in the potato section of H-E-B, and John kindly reminded me that he’d suggested I try these purple potatoes long ago but that I was initially repulsed by the idea of my spuds looking like Barney. Alas, I’ve changed my mind.

I was so enamored with purple potatoes that I wrote a Ingredient of the Week post for Eating Our Words, and now I present to you a simple yet delicious method for preparing these smashingly good smashed purple potatoes. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Smashed Purple Potatoes

 

  1. 1 lb. purple potatoes, scrubbed
  2. 1/3 c. whole milk
  3. 2 tbsp. butter
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. 1/2 tsp. pepper

 

  1. In a med. saucepan, boil potatoes in salted water for approx. 15 min. or until tender but not mushy.
  2. Meanwhile, combine milk and butter in a sm. saucepan. Heat to a simmer and set aside.
  3. Drain potatoes and return to low heat to dry.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Line potatoes in a single layer in a baking dish. Using a fork, lightly smash each potato, making sure each potato remains whole. Then in a med. bowl, toss potatoes with buttermilk mixture, salt, and pepper. Re-line potatoes in the baking dish. Roast for 10 to 15 min. or until slightly crispy.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

roasted new red potatoes

2010 will be our first Christmas celebrated as husband and wife. To mark this mini milestone, John and I are hosting Christmas lunch for some of our family. So what’s on the menu this time?

Well, I started off the month of December with a cold, and so the rather unfortunate circumstance had me rethinking whether we should even host a holiday gathering at our house at all. But then after some of the Nyquil fog cleared from my head, I decided maybe we’ll just buy pre-marinated meats from Costco, pop it in the oven Saturday morning, and call it a meal. But when we went to Costco to look for something, there weren’t really many options. And so back to the ol’ drawing board it was; time to go to plan B.

Then I found a recipe for [insert mystery meat here] online and decided the [insert mystery meat here] wouldn’t be too difficult to make. So after running it by my husband, we’ve decided to go ahead and attempt yet another fancy dinner from scratch. So what is the mystery entree? You’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out. What I will tell you is that this side dish and the quick and easy and delicious country green beans are what we’ll be serving alongside the main entree. Can you guess what it’ll be?

Potatoes are so versatile and yummy. They can go in soups, stews, or salads. They can be baked, mashed, pan-fried, or deep-fried. At the grocery store, there are mountains of potatoes, and I’m talking potatoes of all kinds: russet, white, yellow, gold, red, new, fingerlings…The options are endless. So how do you go about choosing the perfect potato? It all depends on what you are trying to do with the spud. This calls for a lesson in potatoes, which I’ll be posting soon. But for now, let’s cut to the chase. We’ve got four days till the Noel and no time for B.S.

These potatoes should be fabulous complements to a savory meat. Serve a few as a side next to roasted chicken, roasted duck, rack of lamb, strip steak. Their simplicity should add to the dynamic flavors of the dish, not vie for center stage. And with only four ingredients and two cooking steps, this is definitely a dish the Blind can Cook.


Recipe: Roasted New Red Potatoes

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. small new red potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt & freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Adjust rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil, salt & pepper. Arrange, cut side down, on a single layer on a lg. lipped cookie sheet or baking pan.
  2. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 min. (Check after 20 min.) Transfer to a serving bowl.

Variations

For something a little extra, try sprinkling rosemary, parsley, or basil over the potatoes halfway through roasting.

Cooking time (duration): 40

Diet type: Vegan

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

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slow-cooker mashed potatoes

Happy “Gobble, Gobble” Day! You didn’t think I would forget to post anything on the biggest binge eating day of the year, did you?

As mentioned in a previous post, I always serve up fried turkey, broccoli rice casserole, StoveTop stuffing (I like the chicken flavor best), kernel corn, and Betty Crocker Homestyle mashed potatoes (get the butter & herb flavor). This year, I’m going the extra mile and will make the mashed potatoes from scratch.

I’ve made mashed potatoes from scratch before in college, and it’s often turned out to be a disaster. It’s utterly time consuming; even with a hand mixer, my arms ache from mashing pounds and pounds of potatoes; and the end result is never as good as that darn Betty Crocker woman’s boxed kind. Regardless, I’m going to try this recipe I found online this year. What attracted me to it (besides the positive reviews, of course) was that it utilizes the slow-cooker. I am a fan of the slow-cooker–even though most of the dishes I’ve had that came from a slow-cooker were never anything to rave about, I like that you can just throw in all the ingredients and forget about it for hours. With John and I having such busy lives, anything convenient is welcome in our kitchen. Of course, I don’t like to sacrifice quality and taste for convenience, so if this pot of potatoes turns out under par, you can bet I won’t hesitate to throw the recipe out.

Making these mashed potatoes will give us the chance to try out this Cuisinart hand blender that we received for our wedding shower. A friend had told us it was the “new thing” in contemporary kitchens, but the last few times I’ve tried to use it, I only managed to make a mess in the kitchen. I think of it as a substitute for a hand mixer, but I think it’s more of a blender. All the cookie dough I’ve used it on ended up splattered across our blacksplash. Oops. Hopefully it will redeem itself with these mashed potatoes. If not, it’s time to get one of these for future baking and just use the fooc processor for mashing potatoes.

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. red potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic or to taste
  • 3 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a lg. pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the potatoes, garlic, and bouillon until potatoes are tender but firm, about 15 min. Drain, reserving water.
  2. In a lg. bowl, mash potatoes with sour cream and cream cheese, adding reserved water as needed to obtain desired consistency.
  3. li>Transfer mixture to a slow-cooker, cover, and cook on low for 2-3 hrs. Just before serving, stir in butter and season with salt & pepper.

Quick Notes

I like to leave the peels on the potatoes because: (1) it’s less work, (2) it adds taste and texture, and (3) it’s where the nutrition is.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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green bean casserole

Every Thanksgiving, I serve fried turkey and broccoli rice casserole (which I make from scratch), and corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes (which I don’t make from scratch). The sixth side always changes from year to year. First it was asparagus (which I later realized is a mistake because asparagus is apparently out of season in November). Then it was steamed green beans which turned out to be very boring. I knew I wanted this fifth side dish to be something green since so many of the other dishes were not as nutritious, and we all know Thanksgiving is the week of binging on high-calorie, high-sodium foods, so I figure why not throw something a little more healthy in there? Well, the steamed green beans were too healthy, and so this year, I will settle on a compromise between healthy and tasty. I will make a green bean casserole. (Okay, I know with these canned beans and all the cheese, sour cream, and butter, this is far from healthy, but I’m deluded into thinking anything green = good for you.)

Casseroles never sound that tasty to me; I always think of a slop of leftover ingredients piled on top of each other in a baking dish and thrown into the oven until it all melts together into some congealed mass. I think of it as the American version of fried rice: its sole purpose is to use up leftover food, and anything goes. That is, until I made that broccoli rice casserole some nine years ago. Then I thought, Maybe, just maybe, casseroles don’t all have to be nasty.

Fast-forward some years later to 2007 or so. Our church catered our holiday dinner from Cleburne Cafeteria. I had the first enjoyable green bean casserole. So now in 2010, I will attempt to make a version of this homestyle favorite.

I do have to admit that the great thing about casseroles is their ability to be prepared ahead of time. For example, today I will prepare both the broccoli rice and this green bean casserole, cover it securely, and refrigerate it until it’s ready to go straight into the oven. So go ahead and prepare these casseroles today, then bake it tomorrow. For big holiday dinners (or just any time you’re entertaining), it’s nice to have a repertoire of dishes that can be prepared ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself scrambling to do everything last minute on the day of.

I’ve found that typical green bean casseroles contain condensed cream of mushroom and are topped with a layer of fried onions. I found this alternative version of the dish which uses sour cream and Ritz crackers instead. Once it’s out of the oven, we’ll take a photo and upload it, and I’ll adjust the recipe according to my personal taste and experience.


Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. diced onion
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 3 (14 oz.) cans French-style green beans, drained
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. round butter cracker crumbs (Ritz)
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a lg. skillet over med. heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for 1 min. Stir in the salt, sugar, onions, and sour cream. Add green beans and stir to coat.
  3. Transfer mixture to a 2.5 qt. casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a sm. bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
  4. Bake for 30 min. or until top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Quick Notes

French-style green beans are the skinnier version of regular green beans. Often they are cut lengthwise into thinner strips.

Cooking time (duration): 45

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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broccoli rice casserole

Recounting the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted back in 2001 (the year I graduated college and finally had a kitchen and place I could call my very own), in addition to the deep-fried turkey, I made this broccoli rice casserole. I probably found the recipe online but I honestly don’t remember where–it could’ve possibly been before I discovered All Recipes.

Regardless, it was very simple to make, and my dad raved about it, asking to take home a chunky portion as part of his Thanksgiving leftovers. My friend, Mark, also asked for the recipe, followed by Danny years later. Nearly going on its tenth year in the making, this dish is a must-have at all my holiday comfort food gatherings. I’ve also brought it to several potlucks; up or down the ingredients according to number of people. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Note: I’ll upload a photo of the dish come Thanksgiving when we actually make it. For now. here’s a photo of the Pancake Bunny.



Pancake bunny

Do you like my new hat?



Recipe: Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 2 (10.75 oz.) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 oz. processed cheese, melted
  • 3/4 c. minced onion
  • 2 c. uncooked minute rice
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook minute rice as directed.
  2. In a med. pan, saute onion in butter over med.-high heat until yellowed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a lg. bowl, mix broccoli, onion, cheese, cream of mushroom, rice, and salt & pepper to taste until well-blended. Pour mixture into a 10″x13″ casserole dish. Bake for 60 min. or until edges are browned.

Quick Notes

I personally like the edges and even the top pretty brown. It adds flavor and texture.

For the cheese, I like to use Cheez-Whiz.

Cooking time (duration): 75

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

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country green beans

Let’s face it. Most Southern cookin’ recipes are not the healthiest–fried this, fried that, butter this, lard that. Typically, a hefty scoop of mashed potatoes would go wonderful with this birthday meal #2 next to the chicken fried chicken and the baked mac ‘n cheese, but I decided to “healthen” it up a bit and cook some fresh green beans instead. The nice thing about this choice is that it also adds color to the dish, making it more appealing to our visual sense. (I know this shouldn’t matter to the Blind Cook, but I am, after all, cooking for others who are sighted.)

Okay, so once I took a look at the list of ingredients, the green beans didn’t look too healthy any more, but I figured I’d be using much more butter in mashed potatoes, so better to just stick with the greens.

It turned out this was the only dish that incurred no leftovers. Was it because a pound of beans could easily be devoured by six hungry stomachs? I like to think that it was just that good. The best thing about these country green beans, however, may be that it was damn easy to cook. I mean, look at the instructions–it’s only one step!


Recipe: Country Green Beans

Summary: Original recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 c. chopped cooked bacon
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. water
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a med. saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer over med. heat until beans are cooked through, about 15 to 20 min.

Quick Notes

You can use kitchen scissors to trim the ends off green beans. But being blind, I found that snapping them off with my fingers was more efficient. This will work if the beans are fresh enough to snap easily. Otherwise, they’ll be too soft and pliable, and you’ll end up losing more bean. In this case, stick with the scissors.

Variations

The original recipe used ham, but since I already had turkey bacon on hand from the clam chowder, I decided to use that instead.

Cooking time (duration): 25

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

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