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Category Archives: side dishes

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!

Arancini, a Sicilian Rice Ball, Cajun Style


Arancini are rice balls famous in Sicily. They are made from leftover rice and risotto. The center is traditionally filled with a bit of ham and cheese or a ragu of meat and vegetables. The large fist size balls are breaded and deep fried. It’s a fast food you can pick up at a take away or order at a restaurant . We tried the traditional and gourmet varieties in Sicily this past spring. The gourmet type can be filled with anything from shrimp to pistachio!

Arancini from Palermo filled with ham and melted soft cheese. Notice the saffron color of the rice.   

These Arancini are filled with a ground meat and vegetable ragù.  
 I made Cajun Dirty Rice this week and had a lot of leftovers, so my husband was inspired to make Arancini!

First he molded a snowball size ball of Dirty Rice by taking a handful of rice in one hand and then placing a tablespoon of chopped andouille sausage in the middle of it. Then he took another handful of rice to combine with the first to make a  ball. 

Rice balls ready for the bread coating


Arancini ready to bake instead of frying

Next he rolled them in 3 layers

1st: rolled in flour

2nd: rolled in beaten egg

3rd: rolled in Panko breadcrumbs 

Next he placed them on a baking sheet lined with a rack 

Finally he sprayed them with olive oil

Baked at 350 for 40 minutes



Dirty Rice


This is Dirty Rice, Baked Spicy Cajun Chicken and Gingersnap Gravy.

Dirty Rice is a Cajun recipe that Paul Prudhomme made famous with his spicy style of cooking!

The Cajun people originated in southern France, emigrated to Nova Scotia in the early 1600’s, and settled in a colony that became known as Acadia. In the 1700’s the British drove them out and many migrated to Louisiana where they were well received by the French population there. Many settled along waterways and became farmers, trappers and fishermen.

Chef Prudhomme developed his skills and shared his love of Cajun food with the world.

So what’s the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking? Both cuisines were based on the use of local fresh products. 

Creole originated in New Orleans and is a mixture of the traditions of French, Spanish, Italian, American Indian, African and other ethnic groups.

Cajun is very old French country cooking which began in France, moved to Nova Scotia and then came to Louisiana. Creole is more sophisticated and complex than Cajun. It’s city cooking.

Creole cooking was prepared by the cooks and servants for the changing aristocracy of New Orleans. Cajun was prepared by country folks for their own families.

Here’s the ingredients

Paul Prudhommes recipes usually have a seasoning mix. My recipe is 1/3 the salt, cayenne and black pepper he uses. I like hot spicy food, but Paul’s heat is too much for me. Our Louisiana friends tell us the Cajun food does not have as much heat as Prudhommes. 

  • Combine these seasonings in a small bowl:

1 and 1/3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/3 teaspoons black pepper

2 and 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • In a large saucepan combine over high heat:

1 pound chicken gizzards and hearts, ground

1 pound ground fresh pork

4 bay leaves


  • Cook and stir until meat in thoroughly browned and broken up into tiny pieces with your spoon, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the seasoning mix and stir well
  • Add:

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

4 teaspoon minced garlic


  • Reduce to medium heat. Cook and stir 10 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups chicken stock and simmer with the lid partly on, about 10 minutes.


  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked rice.


  • Stir, cover and reduce to the lowest heat possible. Cook 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and keep covered 10 minutes or until rice is done. 
  • Serve immediately alone, as a side dish or with  Gingersnap Gravy and Spicy Baked Chicken

This rice a very meaty. Yummy as a main dish or a side. Traditionally the rice is served in a rounded form. I spooned some in a small cup and then inverted it on the plate. Gingersnap Gravy is a surprising addition, but not essential

What do you think?

Farro Risotto with Hard Apple Cider, Fennel and Apple

Farro is a grain very similar to barley and is also rich in fiber and protein. Farro is also called spelt. It’s extremely comman in Italy, especially the region of Puglia, which is located in the heel. 

This recipe is an adaption of a Food52 recipe. The apple and fennel is sautéed separately and added to the cooked farro. This risotto uses hard apple cider and chicken stock as its liquid. You can make your own hard cider with a non-pasteurized cider that sits in your frig a couple months!

1 cup of dry farro cooks to about 3 cups. A more simple way to cook farro is just as you do pasta, in a large pot of water. The cooking time is longer, 30-45 minutes. Then drain in a colander as you do pasta.

You can also cook it like rice. Add twice as much water or broth as farro. Cover. Bring to a boil. Simmer 30-45 minutes till firm to the bite.

Serves 10-12 side dishes

2 cups farro

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups hard apple cider, heated

4 cups chicken stock, heated

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 fennel bulb, sliced or chopped

3 apples, chopped, about the same quantity and size as the fennel

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white wine

Preparing the apples and fennel:

  • In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil and butter. Add apple and fennel. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Sauté the apple and fennel until browned and carmelized.
  • Deglaze pan by adding white wine
  • Set aside

Preparing the farro

  • In a large saucepan heat olive oil and butter.
  • Add farro. Saute and stir until slightly toasted, several minutes
  • Stir in the wine.
  • Continue stirring close to constantly, add 1/2 cup at a time the cider and stock.
  • It’s time to add more liquid when the spoon leaves a path in the bottom of the pan when it’s pulled through.
  • The risotto takes at least 30 minutes or more to cook.
  • When tender, but firm to the bite, add the prepared apple and fennel.
  • Heat through and serve hot
  • If the risotto becomes dry, add more cider, stock or water.

Thanksgiving Stuffing


The stuffing is my favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve made many variations of stuffing adding ingredients like ground beef, diced giblets, fennel, eggs, dried fruit…. The recipe below is our family favorite! It’s a classic stuffing with dried bread cubes, sautéed vegetables, herbs and turkey broth. The cornbread and sourdough bread is from Martha Stewart’s recipe. A 24 oz or so size of standard white bread is also very good! Such a loaf is Aunt Millie’s Buttermilk Bread


I’ve been following Martha Stewart since she began her empire. This stuffing is based on her recipe.

At least a day before prepare a cornbread recipe in an 8×8 inch baking pan. I use a Martha recipe. The recipe on the yellow cornmeal container is also good

I use a local bread called Spatz white bread. A sourdough also is good. It needs to be dried out on a rack at least a day before.

An alternative is to only use a standard loaf of white bread such as a 24 oz loaf of Aunt Millie’s Buttermilk bread instead of making cornbread and using Spatz bread.

I also make my own turkey  stock. At least 2 days before, follow my recipe for Chicken Soup with Vegetables. Make the stock only and roast 2 turkey wings and 2 drumsticks.

Also a day ahead I like to sauté the vegetables and herbs together.  This is not necessary though. You can sauté the vegetables the same time you’re making the stuffing.

  • In a large saucepan melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sauté the following:

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 carrots, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 fennel bulb, chopped, optional

2 large cloves garlic, minced

  • When softened add these herbs:

2 teaspoons each dried sage, thyme and marjoram

2 tablespoons each fresh rosemary and parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • Sauté another 5 minutes. Cool and refrigerate overnight or mix in with the bread if you’re ready to go!
  • On serving day put the stuffing together.


  • In a large mixing bowl combine the dried cornbread and white bread that has been sliced into cubes. I slice the bread into 16 squares
  • Mix in the vegetables.
  • Optional is to add 1 cup dried Michigan cherries. I usually don’t.
  • Lastly, take 4 cups turkey stock that has been heated and mix into stuffing.


  • Pour into a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. It only needs to be heated through and slightly crisped up. Over baking will dry it out. 🦃
  • Voila!



Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The ultimate comfort food for all ages!

My young grand kids were coming so I prepared this for them. It was a family favorite when I was a child and when my children were young. Everyone loves it!

This is from a Chicago cooking school back in the day, The Francois and Antoinette Pope School Cookbook, where my mom took lessons. This was before Julia Child, post WWII.

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked in salted water and drained

In a large saucepan melt 2/3 cup butter

Whisk in 2/3 cup flour and simmer a few minutes.

Whisk in 2 tablespoons dried mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer a minute.

Gradually whisk in 4  1/2 cups hot milk. Stir constantly and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 12 ounces American cheese or Velveeta cheese. Stir until melted.

In a buttered 2 quart casserole layer the macaroni and cheese sauce in several layers. Top with sauce.

Layer 5 American cheese slices on top and bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until browned.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Watermelon Radish, Walnuts and Cranberries

Brussels Sprout Salad with Watermelon Radish, Walnuts and Cranberries

Brussels sprouts are quartered and lightly roasted. The bright red watermelon radishes are sliced thin. Also add coarsely chopped walnuts and quartered dried cranberries. Then toss with olive oil and champagne vinegar. So colorful and delish!

Raw Beet Slaw with Fennel, Tart Apple and Parsley

This was beautifully prepared by one of our dinner club friends, Steve Kin, for our get together last night. It’s a Better Homes and Gardens recipe and is sweet, tart and fresh! We all loved it, except the beet-haters 🙂

Raw Beet Slaw

Raw Beet Slaw

Use a mandolin if at all possible. And protect your fingers with the hand guard too.

In a small bowl combine:

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon or orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium bowl toss together:

2 medium beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored and cut into matchsticks

1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into matchsticks

1 cup firmly packed roughly chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss. Chill up to 8 hours. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Fennel, Celery & Pomegranate Salad

Thank you to Steve and Mary Kin for hosting our Dinner Club this week and especially for assigning me this recipe! I have made it 3 times this week! I hope to make it for Thanksgiving or Christmas too. The red and green colors are so festive!

Fennel, Celery & Pomegranate Salad

Fennel, Celery & Pomegranate Salad

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2014. I only increased the quantities because I could not find small fennel bulbs and I wanted a larger quantity to take to a party. You can easily cut this recipe into thirds, but we ate dinner size portions of this with a small piece of meat on the side. It does not keep well, so use it within 1 day for best appearance. It gets a little wilted.

The key is to use a mandolin slicer to thinly slice the fennel, celery and shallots. Be careful of your fingers. Always use the protective handle.

Fennel, Parsley, Celery, Shallots, Pomegranate, Lime Juice, Olive Oil

Fennel, Parsley, Celery, Shallots, Pomegranate, Lime Juice, Olive Oil

A Mandolin Slicer set on the thinnest blade

A Mandolin Slicer set on the thinnest blade

Slicing the fennel with the protective handle in place on the fennel bulb

Slicing the fennel with the protective handle in place on the fennel bulb

Slicing the celery 3 half stalks at a time

Slicing the celery 3 half stalks at a time


Coarsely Chopped Celery Leaves

Coarsely Chopped Celery Leaves

Coarsely Chopped Parsley

Coarsely Chopped Parsley

Pomegranate Sliced in Half and Then Broken into Quarters

Pomegranate Sliced in Half and Then Broken into Quarters


Sliced and Chopped Vegetables Ready for the Marinade

Sliced and Chopped Vegetables Ready for the Marinade

Completed Fennel, Celery & Pomegranate Salad

Completed Fennel, Celery & Pomegranate Salad

3 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

9 celery stalks, thinly sliced

3 shallots, thinly sliced

1 cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped (most of the leaves are on the inner celery stalks or the celery hearts)

Seeds from 1 whole pomegranate (slice in half and then break into quarters to easily pop out the seeds)

1/2 cup FRESH lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

  • Place the mandolin slicer over a large mixing bowl and thinly slice the fennel, celery and shallots directly into the bowl.
  • Add the coarsely chopped parsley and celery leaves, and the pomegranate seeds
  • In a small bowl combine the lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix lightly and pour over the vegetables. Toss with large mixing spoons.
  • Serve as a side dish or as the main course for a light salad lunch.

Genoese Basil Sauce/Pesto

All the ingredients you need to make pesto! All the ingredients you need to make pesto!
IMG_7265 Take a stem of leaves in one hand and wipe the leaves with the other using a damp paper towel
IMG_7275 Add to the food processor the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil
IMG_7271 Pureed ingredients before adding the cheese. You can freeze the sauce at this point and add the cheeses at a later date when you are ready to serve the Pesto.
IMG_7282 Pour the pureed mixture into a mixing bowl
IMG_7285 Add the Parmesan and Romano cheeses
IMG_7289 Pesto ready for freezing in the ice cube trays and mini muffin tins. When frozen, pop them out and store in Ziploc freezer bags or cartons in the freezer

Pesto ready for the frig!
Pesto ready for the frig!
Dave’s basil was bountiful this year. He filled two large garden pots with 4 plants each. The leaves were not huge and since the plant was beginning to flower, I cut it all down and made five batches of pesto today. That’s about 20 cups of fresh basil leaves!

I have two other Pesto recipes posted on my blog. Today’s recipe is closest to the traditional Genoese Basil Sauce. Genoa is the city where Pesto originates. Christopher Columbus was Genovese and he carried pesto on his ships to the New World, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. I wonder why I remember all this?

This recipe is to be made in a standard size food processor. It is an adaption of Marcella Hazan’s from her cookbook, The Classical Italian Cookbook. A well-rounded pesto is never made with all Parmesan or all Romano. Marcella and I use 4 parts Parmesan to 1 part Romano in this recipe.


4 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly wipe the leaves with a damp paper towel to clean. Basil does not like to be wet and will brown quickly. I grab a stalk with one hand and then with a damp paper towel wipe the leaves. Then gently tear leaves into two or more small pieces. Be careful not to crush the basil. The purpose is to make fairly even sized pieces for uniform measuring. I prefer the traditional green leaf basil. It makes a nice bright green pesto. The purple basil produces a darker brown-green pesto.

1 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with a heavy knife and peeled (don’t over do the garlic; a very large clove counts as 2 cloves)

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1/4 cup pine nuts, (about 1-1.5 ounces)

1/4 cup freshly grated Locatelli brand Romano cheese (other brands are fine, but this is my favorite)

1 cup (about 1/4 pound) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. In a food processor place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and salt. Process with the knife blade until pureed. Do not overprocess or allow the basil to heat up. Scrape the sides of the bowl during processing.

2. Pour the sauce into a medium size bowl and stir in the cheeses.

3. Freeze pesto in ice cube trays  or tiny muffin tins and when frozen, place the cubes in a freezer carton or bag for storage in the freezer. You can also store the pesto in a jar in the refrigerator by keeping a layer of olive oil on the surface and covering with a lid. Presto!

4. Serve with pasta as the original recipe. Use as a spread on tomatoes and fresh mozzarella or sandwiches and bruschetta. Add as a flavoring to soups, sauces and stews. Use as a marinade for chicken.

OPTIONAL: Instead of freezing with the cheese, omit the cheese and add it instead after thawing the cubes. This will give a fresher flavor, but is another step in your preparations.