Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

I love Jiffy corn bread. It costs around 60 cents per box and it consistently cooks to beautiful, golden perfection. But this past weekend, I wanted to see what it would be like to make my own cornbread mix and attempt to make a healthier version. Sure, it may be a sacrilege to mess with cornbread given that it is usually associated with Southern cuisine which is anything but healthy. But isn’t that the point?

I came across this basic corn bread recipe and stuffed it full of vegetables and beans to give it a little extra flavor and some much needed protein. I replaced the typical white flour with nutritious whole wheat flour. But I’m not crazy, I kept the buttermilk in the recipe to give it some much needed fat. If buttermilk is not available, you can substitute 1 cup of buttermilk with 1 cup of regular milk and 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity will match the pH of buttermilk which helps your cornbread rise.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 10 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 c cannelini beans (substitute black eyed peas, black beans, or anything you want)
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Begin by placing the cornmeal, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk ingredients together to combine.

Note: Whole wheat flour typically yields a more dense cornbread. You can easily replace this with white flour which will yield a fluffier cornbread.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, sugar, and egg and whisk to combine.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture to make the cornbread dough. With a wooden spoon, stir until until just combined. Place the tomatoes, beans, and red peppers in the middle of the dough and cut in so as to not break up the vegetables. Place the dough mixture in a greased baking dish. Cook for 25 minutes or until the top of golden brown.

5. Allow cornbread to cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

With the winter holidays fast approaching, I’m beginning to consider what I should add to the family’s holiday meal. Here is a recipe that was a mega-hit at Thanksgiving that I’m sure will appease even the most finicky eaters.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke holes in sweet potatoes and place on rack. Cook for 1 hour until sugar oozes from holes and skin begins to wrinkle.

2. Remove potatoes from oven and set on counter. Place a towel over the potatoes and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Remove skin and mash flesh in a large mixing bowl.

3. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Place remaining ingredients in the bowl and mix to combine. Adjust the seasonings to your liking, but do be careful with adding too much bourbon. For a deep orange flavor, you can add orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier in place of or in addition to the bourbon. You can also add 2 tbsp maple syrup for a sweeter side dish.

4. With a hand mixer, whip potatoes until desired consistency. Place in a oven safe contained and warm in oven for 20 minutes. Serve with orange garnish.

Why kid ourselves? Fried things are delicious and have been for centuries.  But everytime I read an article about health conscious people or doctors trying to scare the world into succumbing to a non-fried, non-carb, all vegan diet, I can’t help but wonder why no one is talking about the concept of moderation. In fact, in the ten years that I’ve really researched food and diet, Weight Watchers is the only organization that makes any attempt to teach people how to make better eating decisions instead of completely cutting out an entire portion of the food pyramid.

From where I sit, it’s relatively simple. If you eat fried foods consistently and make it a staple at your work lunches and last minute dinners, you’re body is not going to react well and you are putting yourself at risk for major health problems. But is there anything wrong with enjoying a fried meal once a week especially if it contains healthier ingredients? I say no. So in that respect, I submit for you a cornmeal based vegetarian fritter that is incredibly easy to prepare and sure to appease most anyone that sits at your dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 c packed zucchini, grated
  • 1 c frozen corn kernals (can use fresh off the cob, never canned)
  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1/4 c white onion, minced
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • vegetable oil, for frying

1. Heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Place the corn, zucchini, thyme, and onion in the sauté pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

2. Combine the flour, muffin mix, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix the egg and milk together and pour into the dry mix. Whisk until just combine. Fold in the sauteed vegetables and cilantro. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

     

Note: The batter will be lumpy. This is normal and should be ignored. If you whisk the batter too much, you will develop more gluten and your fritters will be dense. Dense = bad.

4. Heat 2″ worth of vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil has come up to temperature (around 325 degrees), drop a heaping tablespoon of batter into the oil. Repeat until the pan is full but the fritters are not touching.

     

Note: Work in batches. Don’t try to overcrowd the oil. Not only will too much batter lower the temperature of the oil, but your fritters will stick together.

5. When golden brown, flip the fritters over and finish cooking. Set the fritters on some paper towels to drain.

     

Note: To keep fritters warm between batches, set the oven to 200 degrees and place fritters on a sheet pan.

6. Serve fritters alone or with a dipping sauce.

Note: I’m serving these fritters with a spicy remoulade sauce.


I think bacon makes nearly anything taste better and with Thanksgiving shortly coming, I wanted to inspire people to make one last attempt to enjoy Brussels sprouts as an accompanying side dish. Brussels sprouts are incredibly healthy and contains sulforaphane which is believed to have tremendous anticancer properties as well as indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells.

If you’ve tried Brussels sprouts before in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy the flavor (or lack thereof), I encourage you to try this recipe as a last-ditch effort.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 4 or 5 rashers of thick sliced bacon
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set four or five pieces of bacon on a sheet pan and cook until crispy. Remove and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Crumble the bacon in pieces and set aside.

     

2. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and add to a large mixing bowl. Tilt the sheet pan slightly and collect  2 tbsp bacon fat. Add it to a bowl with the Brussels sprouts.

     

3. Toss the brussel sprouts with the bacon fat until well coated.  Spread the brussels sprouts out on a clean sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the Brussels sprouts over. Some will have begun to caramelize and others may just begin to show signs of wilting greens. Cook for another 15 minutes.

5. Serve the Brussels sprouts hot with the crumbled bacon pieces on top.

Garlic has gotten a bad rap. Vampires and people on first dates have uniformly tried to stay away from garlic for centuries because of its harsh, pungent flavor (or death inducing side effect). Garlic has even been linked in Islamic myths as the fruit left behind from the left footprint of Satan after he left the Garden of Eden (the onion was the fruit of his right). I have hopes of persuading some of you to look upon this root vegetable a little different, I want to showcase garlic in a new light. Like most vegetables, when roasted, garlic takes on a completely different flavor becoming more sweet and mellow and becomes a perfect compliment to foods.

This is one of the easiest appetizers you can make for guests or for yourself on a cold winter day, in addition to the insane health benefits that have been found from the consumption of garlic including prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. When picking a head of garlic, you want to make sure that the white paper is tight and in tact. Squeeze the garlic gently; it should be firm and not yield easily. It should be heavy for it’s weight and should not have any black powder (usually found near the root). This is mold yet most grocery chains will put it out anyway. And stay away from “elephant garlic” as this isn’t garlic at all, but a cousin of the leek/onion family.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the garlic about a quarter of the way from the top making sure you cut through each clove held within.

3. Place the cut garlic on a piece of aluminum foil big enough to enclose the head completely. Pour the olive oil over the cloves. Season with salt and pepper.

    

4. Wrap the garlic up tightly and place on a sheet pan or other baking dish. Place the pan in the oven for 55 minutes.

5. Let the garlic head cool for five minutes on the stovetop before trying to unwrap. The individual cloves will easily pop out of their skin when given a gentle squeeze. Serve warm mashed over bread, in salad dressings, or anyway you desire.

For me, there is nothing more American than potato salad. Sure apple pie gets the glory, but potato salad brings back childhood memories of fireworks, summer cookouts, family, block parties, and everything else quintessentially suburban.

I wanted to reinvent the classic by adding additional flavor while cutting the amount of mayonnaise that usually masks the potato flavor. Here, the potatoes are enhanced by the addition of fresh dill and whole grain mustard delivered in a mayonnaise and sour cream base. By adding apple cider vinegar, this potato salad will keep your guests guessing what your secret is.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 1/2 lbs red bliss potatoes (about 6 – 7 small/medium potatoes)
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 1/4 c Vidalia onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
1. Scrub the potatoes and place in a pot of salted water. Boil for 15 – 20 minutes until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and let cool.

     
2. While the potatoes are boiling, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill, and cider vinegar in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator.

     
3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into bite size cubes. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the onion and egg. Pour the sauce over the potato mixture and combine. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. The flavor will only get better the longer it sits.

     
4. Serve cold with some fresh dill on top for garnish.