Appetizers, Side Dishes, Snacks

Recipe—Roasted Carrot Fries

A couple of weeks back we got these GORGEOUS rainbow carrots in our box of organic produce and when my son saw them he honestly didn’t believe me that they were carrots.  They ranged from a deep purple to red and even white. They were just too pretty to get tossed into a salad or cooked any ordinary way. I wanted these to stand on their own. I know I have mentioned in many previous posts that I am always looking for fun and healthy after school snacks for my little man so we decided to make roasted carrot fries. They were awesome! I just sliced, baked, and served them with a little side of ranch (because every 3 year old loves to dip their food in sauce).  These were super quick and a wonderful way to enjoy these rainbow carrots.

INGREDIENTS
4–5 large carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
olive oil for drizzling
salt
ranch for dipping (optional)

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Carefully cut the carrots into “fry sized” pieces.
  • Place the carrots on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Toss the carrots to coat and season with salt.
  • Bake the carrots for 15–18 minutes or until crisp tender, flipping once halfway through cooking.
  • Remove from oven and transfer to a serving dish or plate.
  • Serve with a side of your favorite dressing or enjoy all on their own.
Side Dishes

Recipe—Cilantro Lime Rice

Being frequent consumers of Mexican food we eat lots of rice. Rarely do we consume “plain” white rice. My go to recipes are my Mexican red rice (arroz rojo) or this cilantro lime rice. It just depends on what I’m pairing it with. This rice is very light and refreshing, a perfect complement to any spicy meat. If you have been to Chipotle before, you will recognize the flavors instantly as it is very similar to their recipe. Next time you are looking for a way to make your ordinary rice extraordinary, spend a couple extra minutes and give this flavorful rice recipe a try.

INGREDIENTS
1 c basmati rice
1 1/2 c water
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2–1 tsp kosher salt
1 lime
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

STEPS

  • In a 2 quart saucepan combine the rice, water, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.
  • Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cover and reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer for 16–18 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let rice sit covered for 8–10 minutes.
  • Fluff rice with a fork.
  • Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the juice from the lime and the chopped cilantro.
  • Stir to combine and add additional salt to taste.

Looking for more rice recipes? Maybe you will love these!

Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)

Tropical Macadamia Nut Rice

Rice Pilaf

Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Broccoli Salad

Broccoli SAlad

Over the past several months I have been on a total broccoli salad kick. Whenever we go to the store I can’t resist getting some at the deli counter. I figured I might as well learn to make my own, and so I did. And it was the bomb diggity! This broccoli salad is the perfect balance of crunchy and creamy, and sweet and salty. I could seriously eat this as a meal all on it’s own, okay I did eat this as a meal all on it’s own. I ate it by the bowlful! It is the perfect summer salad. It’s super light and refreshing. I don’t care if you are a fan of broccoli or not, you will love this recipe. I will make broccoli lovers out of all of you yet!

INGREDIENTS
3 heads of broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 c craisins
1/2 c salted sunflower seeds
1 c mayonnaise
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar

STEPS

  • In a large bowl combine the broccoli, bacon, red onion, craisins, and sunflower seeds.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the broccoli salad and toss to coat.
  • Cover the salad and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
  • Stir right before serving.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Italian Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad

My husband and I grew up in a very small town so on the weekends it was not out of the norm for us to drive an hour to go to the closest mall or to go find some entertainment outside of town. On our way back home we frequently passed this wonderful little Italian deli. They had the BEST sandwiches and side salads. One of the side salads, which my husband absolutely loved, was their Italian pasta salad. I did my best to recreate this salad just for him. This makes a party sized batch, so if you are just making it for the family I recommend halving it. This is a perfect salad for a bbq or potluck and is sure to be a hit with all partygoers.

Note: This pasta salad will last approximately 4 days in the fridge. It gets better each and every day as the Italian dressing soaks into the pasta and veggies.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb rotini noodles
2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 c Newman’s Family Recipe Italian dressing
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 c red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c red onion, chopped
1/2 c celery, sliced
2-6 oz jars artichoke hearts. drained
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 c mozzarella cheese, cut into squares
2.25 oz can black olives, sliced
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Bring a large pot of water and the 2 tbsp of salt to a boil.
  • Add noodles and cook per package instructions.
  • Drain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water.
  • Transfer the cooked pasta to a large bow.
  • Add the Italian dressing, garlic, red bell pepper, red onion, celery, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Refrigerate the pasta for 3 or more hours.  The longer the better.
  • Stir well before serving.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Crunchy Pea Salad

Crunchy Pea Salad

Whenever you go to a BBQ there is typically the classic macaroni and potato salad. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE both of those dishes but with back-to-back BBQs throughout the summer I sometimes am looking for a way to mix things up a bit. This pea salad was a welcome addition to a BBQ I went to last weekend. It was very refreshing and light. There is a nice sweet flavor to this salad similar to a coleslaw. If you are looking for a tasty summer salad for lunch or dinner give this a try. You can have the whole thing thrown together in 5 minutes. You will find the hard part is just waiting for it to chill. The unique combination of flavors go together incredibly well. This is one of those salads that you may not quite be sure of, but once you give it a try you and your guests will keep going back for more of it.

Note: I made this a day ahead of time and it was awesome! Feel free to make it a day in advance if you need to.

INGREDIENTS
12 oz bag frozen sweet peas, thawed
1 c peanuts
1/4 c green onions, chopped
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c craisins
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • In a large mixing bowl combine sweet peas, peanuts, green onions, bacon pieces, and craisins.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Recipe adapted from Sugar n’ Spice Gals.

Side Dishes

Recipe—Cracked Corn and Cheese Cornbread Muffins

Cracked Corn and Cheese Cornbread Muffins

I am not one to just make something out of the box without tinkering with it. I’m sort of like a dog, I want to make my mark, make it my own. I love the convenience of those little boxes of the Jiffy corn muffin mix but it’s fun to add a little pizzazz. This recipe takes a plain old-fashioned corn muffin and gives it a little extra oomph. I add some corn kernels, pepper jack cheese, and a handful of green onions. This gives them a nice texture with the bits of corn, a nice little bite, and the cheese is like a gooey surprise in the middle. The kids will flip over these!

Note: If you are concerned about the spice of pepper jack cheese just use regular jack. 

INGREDIENTS
8.5 oz package of Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/2 c pepper jack cheese cut into 1/4” cubes
1/2 c corn (frozen or canned will work)
2 green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Prepare corn muffin mix per package instructions.
  • Stir in cheese, corn, and green onions.
  • Prepare muffin pan with liner cups and evenly distribute the muffin mix in each cup filling up about 2/3 of the way.
  • Bake for 18–20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

Love this idea for corn muffins? Then perhaps you will like these!

Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread Muffins

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Orzo Pesto Pasta

In my office we all have a habit of bringing in various treats to share with each other throughout the year. (I know rough environment to be working in right?) Several years back we had an awesome (student assistant named Sarah. One day Sarah brought in this incredible orzo pesto pasta salad. I was in love! (With both Sarah and her pasta. Sarah was awesome.) She made her own pesto from scratch and I will not lie, I was impressed. This is the perfect summer salad. You have the seasonally fresh tomatoes and zucchini mixed with tangy vinegar and pesto giving it a wonderfully light and refreshing flavor. I make it several times of year and whenever I am generous enough to share with my friends I am asked for the recipe. It is definitely a favorite in our household. My son was even eating it by the bowlful when he was 1 1/2 years old. If you are looking for a tasty recipe for any summer cookouts or BBQs then search no further. This is perfect. While that little box of orzo may not look like much, it expands a great deal so this makes a very decent sized bowl of the tasty pasta salad.

Note: I save a couple of tablespoons of the feta and pine nuts to garnish the top of the salad with.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb box of orzo pasta, uncooked
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium zucchini, cut into quarters lengthwise and then sliced
salt and pepper
4 oz feta cheese crumbles (see above note)
2 c pesto (make your own or get some from the market to save time)
3/4 c white vinegar
2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 c pine nuts

STEPS

  • Cook orzo pasta per package instructions.
  • While the orzo is cooking, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add zucchini and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the zucchini for 3–4 minutes just slightly cooking it and then remove from heat.
  • Drain the orzo and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the feta and pesto stirring to combine.
  • Drizzle the vinegar while stirring.
  • Stir in the cooked zucchini, tomatoes, and pine nuts.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with extra feta and pine nuts if you saved any.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours before serving.
Side Dishes, Snacks

Recipe—Roasted Fennel Fries

Awhile back I posted a recipe for kale chips. Kale chips are a delicious and healthy snack that my son absolutely loved. I was eager to find more recipes that were just as simple, tasty, and nutritious. I recently used the same seasoning and cooking technique with roasted fennel and had fabulous results. These roasted fennel fries were absolutely addicting. My son and I could not stop eating them! We didn’t even waste time getting out a plate. I kid you not, we were eating the pieces straight off the baking sheet. They were that good! Think french fries, but without the calories and even more flavorful. Roasted fennel fries are not only a great snack but they also make a great side dish for any dinner. Just be sure you make enough because these fries will go fast!

INGREDIENTS

2 large fennel bulbs, fronds removed and sliced into 1/3” thick pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place the fennel slices in a single layer.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 30–45 minutes flipping once halfway through.
  • Bake until the fennel is fork tender and a golden brown.
Side Dishes

Recipe—Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

Out of all of the seasons, I love the summer most. Not just because of my lazy poolside days, baseball games, refreshing beverages, or little summer dresses, but because of the abundance and variety of incredible produce. It is something that people in California take for granted. Every year we grow a couple of cherry tomatoes plants in out backyard. My son can hardly wait for them to ripen and as soon as they do he eats them right off of the plant. Sweet, warm, vine ripened tomatoes. Yummmmmm…there is nothing like them. We seem to have a bowl full on our counter all summer long. The other veggie we seem to never get enough of during the summer is zucchini. Zucchini and tomatoes are a wonderful pair, and when you add in some quality parmesan cheese and fresh basil, delish! When I first tried this recipe for zucchini and tomato gratin I knew it was a recipe I would be making all summer long. Serve it up on it’s own with some pasta or as a side with your favorite protein, either way it is a perfect summertime dish.

INGREDIENTS
sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 leek, sliced and thoroughly washed
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 c parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c Italian bread crumbs
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of large cast iron skillet.
  • Separate the onions rings, place them in the bottom of the skillet, and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Add half of the sliced zucchini, half of the leeks, and all of the garlic to the pan.
  • Sprinkle with a 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and a 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs.
  • Drizzle with additional olive oil.
  • Add the remaining zucchini, remaining leeks, and all of the cherry tomatoes to the pan and drizzle with more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and a 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs.
  • Drizzle with a tad more olive oil.
  • Bake entire pan in the oven for 25–30 minutes.
  • Turn on the broiler and finish the dish off under the broiler for 2–3 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
  • Garnish with fresh basil.

Recipe adapted from Proud Italian Cook.

Side Dishes

Recipe—Cauliflower and White Cheddar Gratin

I was never much of a cauliflower fan growing up and now as an adult I just can’t get enough of the stuff. Sorry mom, but I think you were making it all wrong! The trick is to smoother it in cheese and all sorts of other wonderful flavors. I made this dish the other night and I’m embarrassed to admit that my husband, son, and I finished off the entire dish. All of it! Okay, so my son probably only ate it because I told him it was mac n’ cheese. Is that bad? Apparently we just couldn’t get enough of the creamy cheese sauce and crispy panko topping. We enjoyed this with some cooked greens and a juicy steak. It was delish! If you are having a hard time getting your kids (or even your spouses) to eat their cauliflower, give this recipe a try.  Maybe you’ve just been making it wrong. 😉

INGREDIENTS
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter, divided
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c panko

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss cauliflower to coat.
  • Roast the cauliflower until lightly browned, about 20–25 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.
  • In a large saucepan melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and let it cook until it starts to turn a light golden color.
  • Whisk in the milk, nutmeg, cheese, and some salt and pepper.
  • Cook until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce thickens.
  • Add the roasted cauliflower to the cheese sauce and transfer to a square-baking dish (9” x 9” or 8” x 8” works great).
  • In a small microwave safe bowl melt the remaining tablespoon of butter.
  • Add the panko crumbs to the melted butter and stir to combine.
  • Sprinkle the buttered panko over the cheesy cauliflower.
  • Bake the gratin in the oven until it is bubbling and the panko is golden brown, about 15–20 minutes.