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Category Archives: side dishes

Cowboy Casserole Light

Cowboy themed foods are traditionally very hearty and full of calories and fat. Not this one! You’ll find here a lower calorie, low fat and low carb “Cowboy Casserole” which was a hit at the recent potluck dinner hosted by The Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region. Jeanne, one of the parents brought this casserole and it was devoured!

Here is the recipe and it’s many versions she shared with me. Thank you Jeanne!

Cowboy Casserole is a very quick and easy one dish meal to prepare. It’s as good reheated as it is fresh from the oven too!

Basically it’s a layering of mashed potatoes, shredded chicken, bacon bits, grated cheese and BBQ sauce! I used puréed cauliflower in place of the potatoes for fewer carbs and an even lighter taste. Mashed or puréed are good

Other options are to use instant potatoes or adding flavoring packets to your mashed potatoes such as Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix or Caesar Salad Dressing Mix.

I used grated sharp cheddar cheese. You may prefer another cheese like white cheddar or Parmesan. If you prefer more meat add more. Add more or less bacon. Use your favorite BBQ sauce. I like Sweet Baby Rays or Billy Bones.

Poach your own chicken in water with onion and celery, bay leaf and black peppercorns My method is quick and easy. Cover the chicken with cold water. Add 1 unpeeled onion, quartered. Add 2 stalks celery, 1 bay leaf and 7 peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Cover and place on the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. Voila!

Or buy a rotisserie chicken

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower or 2-3 pounds potatoes cooked and mashed or puréed or a large package of instant potatoes or a large package of frozen or premade mashed potatoes or cauliflower

Ranch Seasoning mix optional

Butter for lining a baking dish

Foil

2 -3 large chicken breasts or 1/2 to 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded

1/3 cup real bacon bits or pieces of leftover cooked bacon

1 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup or so BBQ sauce

Here’s the Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Spread the pureed or mashed cauliflower or potatoes in bottom of baking dish
  • Place shredded chicken over potatoes
  • Sprinkle bacon over chicken
  • Sprinkle cheese over bacon
  • Squirt or spoon BBQ sauce over cheese to cover in s striped pattern
  • Cover with foil
  • Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until bubbly
  • Remove foil and bake about 15-20 minutes until browned and slightly crispy
  • It’s best served with a large flat spatula so the layers remain intact on the dinner plate
  • Reheat as needed
  • Voila!

Spread puréed cauliflower in buttered baking pan

Sprinkle on shredded chicken

Sprinkle on bacon pieces

Sprinkle on shredded cheese

Squirt or spoon on BBQ sauce

Cover and bake

Remove foil and bake till browned

Here’s how to poach your chicken. Don’t cook them too long! Chicken breasts are easy to over cook and dry out

Place chicken breasts of equal size in a large cooking pot. Cover with water by 1 inch. Add an unpeeled onion, quartered, 2 celery sticks, 1 bay leaf and 5 peppercorns Also salt if you like.

Bring mix to a boil. Then reduce heat to lowest level to barely a simmer for 15 minutes. Check temperature of chicken with an instant read thermometer. Remove chicken from water at 155F degrees and set aside 10 minutes. The chicken will reach 165 degrees while resting at room temperature.

To make some wonderful stock, continue simmering the broth uncovered until it’s reduced by half. Pour through a fine sieve and ladle into jars or freezer containers. Store in the frig or freezer

Puréed Cauliflower

Cut up 1 head of cauliflower into large pieces and place in a large saucepan with at least 2 inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer covered 15 minutes or until very fork tender. Drain and mash with a bit of added butter and milk

Enjoy!

Potatoes the French Way

This is the style of potato served in France. It has no flour in the cream sauce. Only heavy cream, grated cheese and garlic! It is baked in a heavy shallow baking pan and arranged in rows of upright slices. I used a cast iron fry pan. Serves 6-8 but can be doubled for a crowd which is what I did!

This recipe is from spoonforkbacon.com as Cheesy Garlic Potatoes Gratin

I did not add the final 2 tablespoons butter to the top of the cheesy potatoes. Otherwise the recipe is the same

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 heaping cup of grated white cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for sprinkling

3 large cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Procedure

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Heavily butter your shallow heavy baking pan
    In a large bowl combine cream, cheeses, garlic, salt and pepper
    Thinly slice potatoes with a mandolin slicer
    Mix potatoes into cream sauce
    Arrange potatoes in upright stacks in your baking dish so they are standing vertically
    Pour the remaining cream sauce over the potatoes
    Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes
    Remove from oven and sprinkle with the additional Parmesan. Keep uncovered
    Bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned and tender
    Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving

Add potato slices to cream sauce

Arrange potatoes as vertically as you can. My slices were pretty thin and delicate

Puréed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes and Concord Grapes

This recipe was inspired by a photo on Instagram. It’s a bed of puréed corn that is warmed and topped with colorful cherry tomatoes and seedless Concord grapes. The original picture idea had melon balls but I could not pass up these seedless Concord grapes! Serves 8

Ingredients

6 ears fresh sweet corn

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

1 pint colorful cherry tomatoes

1/2 pint seedless Concord grapes or other fruit or vegetable of your choice

Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Aged thick balsamic vinegar

Flaked sea salt

Procedure:

  • Bring a large cooking pot of water to a boil
  • Add the corn and cover
  • Bring to a boil
  • Turn off heat and let sit 10 minutes
  • Drain and cool
  • Using a sharp knife cut the corn off the cob
  • Place corn in a food processor
  • Purée
  • Add melted butter and pepper flakes
  • Purée until completely smooth
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Serve warm. Reheat if you make this ahead and refrigerate before serving

Assemble the salads:

  • Arrange about 1/2 cup of corn on the plate. Make a shape or smear it around. Think of it as painting on a plate
  • Top with an arrangement of sliced or halved tomatoes and whole grapes
  • Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Sprinkle with flaked sea salt

Voila!

Corn is cut off the cob and placed in a food processor

Melted butter and hot red pepper flakes are added

Purée again and season with salt and pepper if desired. I don’t think it needs salt

The corn mix is puréed to a very smooth consistency and arranged on serving plates with colorful tomatoes and grapes.

When I find the pineapple tomatillo I will add that for a sweet taste. It should be ripening in September in Michigan.

I really want to grow them in my garden. The paper like husk is beautiful and a nice addition to food presentation

The dressing is not really needed but just a few drops finishes it off. You can apply the oil and vinegar artfully to look like abstract strokes or drops of a modern painting

Below is the original photo which inspired me. TheJamLab was out to dinner here

Enjoy!

Scalloped Creamed Potatoes

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Scalloped Creamed Potatoes is a comfort food my family has made for decades. The recipe comes from The New Antoinette Pope School Cook Book and was a professional cooking school in Chicago where my mom took classes during the 40s and 50s.

It’s a favorite to make a double batch for during the holidays when we have a group of 8 or more and want to have enough for at least 2 meals. The recipe uses Velveeta cheese because it melts so well. The original used American cheese. The Antoinette Pope School Cook Book was published in 1948, and again in 1953, 1961 and 1973. Velveeta was prolific then!

Here is a single recipe using a deep 1 and a 1/2 quart or 2 quart deep casserole. To make a double recipe just do that and use 5 pounds of potatoes. I prefer yellow.  Also use 2 casseroles  Below I used a 2 and 1/2 quart & a 1 and 1/2 quart

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Ingredients

2 to 2 and 1/2 pounds peeled yellow or red potatoes, sliced very thin with a mandolin

1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, optional

1/4 teaspoon pepper, optional

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin with a mandolin (more or less onion as you like)

1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed for quick melting

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 and 1/4 cups hot milk

1 teaspoon salt

  • before peeling the potatoes, make the cheese sauce
  • preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • in a medium saucepan melt the butter
  • whisk in the flour and simmer a few minutes
  • slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring to a simmer.
  • add the salt
  • whisk and simmer 5 minutes
  • add the Velveeta and whisk till smooth
  • remove from heat, cover and set aside
  • butter your casserole(s)
  • peel and slice the potatoes and onion
  • layer some potatoes on the bottom of the casserole
  • sprinkle with salt and pepper is the original recipe, but I skip this step
  • layer some onion rings as desired
  • layer some cheese sauce
  • continue layers ending with a generous amount of cheese sauce on top
  • cover casserole and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
  • lower temperature to 300 degrees and remove cover.
  • bake 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender
  • if sauce begins to boil over, place a baking sheet or piece of foil under the casserole
  • the top should be well browned. If not, place it under the broiler a few minutes
  • for a double recipe increase the baking time about 15 minutes

My Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe is very similar. It uses the same cheese sauce and the recipe comes from the same cookbook! Look above under Recipes, then Sides for Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

Voila!

Steamed Spinach with Garlic, Raisins and Pine Nuts

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Food & Wine Magazine published this as Catalan-Style Spinach. It’s very light with a sweet and crunchy bite! This serves 8 generous portions using 40 oz raw spinach!

Ingredients

1/2 cup raisins, soaked in boiling water and then drained for plumping

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted in a hot fry pan

40 oz stemmed spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped

Kosher salt and pepper

Follow these steps:

  • In a very large cooking pot bring 1/2 cup water to a boil
  • Add half the spinach in large handfuls, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more
  • Cook over moderately high heat stirring until just wilted, about 5 minutes
  • Transfer to a colander to drain
  • Repeat with another 1/2 cup of water and remaining spinach
  • In a large saucepan heat olive oil until shimmering
  • Saute garlic over moderately high heat stirring constantly until fragrant. Don’t over cook
  • Stir in spinach, raisins and pine nuts and a generous pinch of salt
  • Cook stirring until spinach is hot, about 3 minutes
  • Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot
  • Voila!

 

 

 

Roasted Tomatoes, Onion and Garlic

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These little cherry size tomatoes are spooned over toasty bread spread with labneh, a soft yogurt cheese. You can find that recipe here too!

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I found these little gems at our local farmers market. It’s the end of October in mid Michigan and we’re seeing the last of the vine ripened tomatoes, so it’s time to roast two batches for the week. These picture are of a double recipe!

Ingredients

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, whole or halved, your choice

1 large onion, cut in wedges and then cut in half crosswise

6-8 cloves garlic, mashed and unpeeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Toss together on a large baking sheet onions, garlic and tomatoes
  • Drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Gently toss
  • Place in hot oven
  • Roast 30 minutes or so, until tomatoes have burst, onions are tender and some browning has started. Stir gently every 10 minutes
  • Toast your sourdough or other crusty bread. Spread with soft goat cheese or labneh.
  • Spoon the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with a thick aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Sprinkle with flaked sea salt
  • Serve as whole pieces of toast for lunch or with dinner, like a bruschetta
  • Or cut them in bite size pieces and serve as an appetizer
  • Voila!

These vegetables are ready for roasting in a 400 degree oven

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Wilted sweet vegetables ready to eat! Scrape all the liquids and leftovers into a storage container. Use a rubber spatula to get every drop!

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Voila!

Crispy Baked Onion Rings


We love restaurant style onion rings! The whole fresh made rings are best. The chopped onion version is not as good. Too bad they have to be deep fried and are so greasy! 

But now you can make home made crispy onion rings without all that fat and mess!

1 large white onion, about the size of a softball!

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

2 cups original panko style breadcrumbs

3 1-gallon size Ziploc storage bags

Spray vegetable oil

1 Parchment paper lined baking pan

  • Take the large white onion and slice off the ends and the outer peel
  • Slice the onion horizontally into 4 even slices, about 1/2-3/4 inch wide. Slice carefully so the rings stay together.
  • Seperate the rings where they naturally break apart. Try to keep at least 2 layers in each ring
  • Place the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings and let sit 30 minutes. Mix around a few times.
  • While the onions marinate get your Ziploc bags ready.
  • In one Ziploc place 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In another bag place 3 beaten eggs 
  • In the last bag place 2 cups panko style breadcrumbs
  • After 30 minutes drain the onion rings in a colander
  • Add half the onion rings to the bag of flour, zip closed and mix around well. 
  • Shake off the excess flour.
  • Add the floured onion rings to the bag of eggs. Zip closed and mix around until coated
  • Shake off the excess egg and place the onion rings in the breadcrumbs. Close bag and mix around until coated.
  • Place the panko coated onion rings on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Repeat with the other half of the onion rings.
  • Place the smaller rings and inner center pieces inside the larger rings so they all fit in one baking pan.
  • Spray with vegetable oil until lightly coated
  • Bake at 375-385 degrees for 30 minutes. The onion rings will be lightly browned. If the oven is too hot they will blacken or brown too quickly!
  • Serve immediately
  • Voila!