Tag Archives: side dish

Well hello Sun, nice to see you again!

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I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but it’s sure beginning to feel like Spring around here. I awoke this morning from my slumber to be greeted by something I hadn’t seen in quite a long time– sunshine! Oh glorious sunshine, how I’ve missed you. I was beginning to think we might never meet again, but alas, there you were. Peeking in through my curtains and shining your rays so intensely and bright. Growing up in the South, I pretty much took sunny days for granted because there were so many of them throughout the year and so few cold and rainy ones. Winter would come and go in the blink of an eye with my barely feeling the need to don one of my cute little sweaters. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, though, cold and rainy is used almost on a daily basis when describing the weather forecast. Definitely not ideal for a little guy from Mexico with very thin skin and a genetic-predisposition for shaking. News flash, it’s not because I’m scared. It’s because I’m f-f-f-f-f-reezing. My wardrobe has gone from being only for show and to increase my cute-factor, to being a total necessity and a matter of life or death. So sorry Papa, but I actually need to wear those clothes, so please stop trying to convince mi mama otherwise.

So back to the beautiful day that I found myself being able to enjoy this morning. I had originally planned to make some sort of soup or warm casserole for mis padres this afternoon for lunch, but given the blue skies and increase in outdoor temperature, I decided to switch it up a bit and save that idea for another rainy day (probably tomorrow, but oh well). Instead, I made a cold pasta salad which I kind of just threw together at the last minute using a bunch of ingredients I already had on hand, and it actually ended up being quite delicioso. Give it a try and you’ll probably agree.

Cold Vegetable Tortellini Salad

1 package Three Cheese Tortellini

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped

2 cups baby tomatoes, chopped in half

2 large red bell peppers, stems removed, seeded and cut into quarters*

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions. Add broccoli to water during the last minute of cooking. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Add cherry tomatoes to bowl.

2) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on baking sheet and coat with olive oil cooking spray. Roast in oven until peppers are blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

*You could probably use pre-made roasted bell peppers from a jar too and save yourself some time. I just happened to have fresh bell peppers in my fridge calling out to me to be used for this dressing (yes, my food talks to me sometimes).

3) Place peppers, olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, cheese, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.

4) Pour dressing over pasta and veggies. Toss to mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Top with more Parmesan just before serving.

So there you have it. Simple, tasty and perfect for a warm, Spring day when you don’t want to crank up the oven or spend hours over a hot stove. Plus it gives you more time to enjoy some of the outdoor activities you love but miss out on when it’s raining.

Like trying to balance yourself on only your front legs….

Grrr, almost there.

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Conquering my fears

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I have a confession to make. Potatoes kinda scare me. And I don’t mean in a, “ahhh the killer potato is after me” kind of way. I mean in a, “ahhh I just received six russet potatoes in my CSA box and I don’t know what the heck to do with them” kind of way. Of course I could always dress them up in clothes, a hat and a pipe and take silly pictures but even that gets kinda old after a while. It’s as though my mind’s creativity completely shuts down when it comes to potatoes and the only thing I can think to do with them, cooking-wise, is to either bake ’em or mash ’em. Booooring!

So imagine my surprise when last night I was standing in the kitchen, staring at my little brown nemesis, and mi mama made the genius suggestion of turning them into scalloped potatoes. Scalloped potatoes!!! Of course, why hadn’t I thought of that before. So after getting over the initial shock of it being mi mama who made this awesome suggestion, I got out my food processor and got to work scalloping my starchy little taters.

Easy Cheezy Scalloped Potatoes

4 Russett potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I used my food processor; much faster and less risk of chopping a paw off)

1/2 tbsp stick butter or Earth Balance

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp nutritional yeast, optional

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin

grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with Pam and set aside.

2) Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, milk, garlic, nutritional yeast (if using), cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and stir until sauce is thickened.

3) Add onions to sauce and stir well to coat onions with sauce.

4) Layer half of sliced potatoes on bottom of casserole dish. Pour half of the sauce over potatoes. Repeat with remaining potatoes and sauce. Top with Parmesan, if desired.

5) Bake in oven 50-60 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and muy caliente and potatoes are cooked through.

6) Serve and enjoy!

Hip hip hooray! I no longer fear the Russet and gone are the days of boring old baked potatoes. Now if I could just figure out what to do with those five pounds of beets also in the box…. anyone, anyone?

In the meantime, I better be going. I’m completely out of clothes and mi mama hasn’t figured out how to use the washing machine yet. Ugh, a teeny guy’s work is never done.

Pilafs Gone Wild

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Buenos dias mis amigos y amigas! I’m finally back home and ready to get my groove on in the kitchen once again. Please forgive me for my long absence. Mi mama, papa and I were in my homeland of Mexico for mi mama’s best friend’s wedding. She was asked to be one of the bridesmaids and I was there to perform the wedding ceremony. Yes yes, in addition to all my other talents and professions, I am also an ordained minister and wedding officiator. Doesn’t pay very well but it still allows me to be the center of attention even on days when it should be the bride’s. Not to mention a good excuse for me to wear my tuxedo, top hat and tails. I’m fancy.

So now we’re home, all my bags and suitcases are unpacked (thanks Papa) and I’m running around like a Chihuahua with his eyes popped out trying to figure out my menu for Christmas dinner. Hard to believe that day is almost here and even harder to believe that I don’t have everything already planned out given the fact that I’ve already made all the preparations for my 8th birthday party in Vegas and that’s not even until March. Is it wrong that I find my day of birth more important than Baby Jesus’s?

Well even though I don’t have the whole menu planned out, I do know one thing for sure. And that is I will definitely be serving this incredibly tasty Wild Rice pilaf as an accompaniment to whatever main dish I decide to prepare. Trust me when I tell you, this stuff is maravilloso. Mi familia had the pleasure of enjoying it this past Thanksgiving and have requested I make it again for our upcoming Christmas feast. Absolutamente!

Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Chestnuts

2 cups Wild Rice blend, uncooked

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups cooked chestnuts, bottled or from a package

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 tbsp olive oil

3 large carrots, thinly sliced

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

2 tbsp fresh sage, minced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Combine rice, broth and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and allow to cook 40 minutes or until rice is tender. Do not drain. Place rice in a large bowl and cover.

2) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

3) Place cranberries in a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to sit 20 minutes until softened. Drain cranberries and add to the rice.

4) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add carrots, onions and celery and cook 15 minutes or until softened. Stir in herbs and remove from heat. Add to rice mixture along with chestnuts and salt and pepper.

5) Spoon rice mixture into a 13×9″ casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and bake 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

6) Enjoy!

The great thing about this dish is if your main course ends up tasting like a burro’s caca, no one will even notice because this pilaf will be the star of the show.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few phone calls I need to make to some of my canine lady friends. Apparently this funny looking necklace I caught around my head at the wedding reception means I am the next gentleman to be wed in holy matrimony.

I can’t wait til the bachelor party.

Reader Request Recipe

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Hola mi amigos! I hope you’re all having wonderful weekends so far. I started my morning off with a hearty breakfast, an intense Pilates session and a little cooking action in the kitchen. The other day a lovely blog reader (hi Allison!) contacted me with a request for a yummy and healthy cranberry sauce recipe that contains little to no real or fake sugars. As it happens, I have an awesome recipe for one that I have been making for mi familia for the past seven years. I’ve been meaning to post this since November, back even before Thanksgiving but realized I had never taken a picture of the final dish. Apparently everyone loved it so much that it was gone before it could be properly documented… or I was just too busy licking the floor and begging politely asking for carrots, that I completely forgot about a picture. So since I was asked so kindly and the fact that Christmas is just around the corner, I got down to business this morning and made my cranberry sauce. It’s oh so delicioso, low in sugar and pretty much the best accompaniment to any main meat or non-meat dish you could find. I hope you enjoy!

Teeny’s Cranberry Apple/Pear Relish

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

2 very ripe Bartlett pears, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup white grape juice or apple juice

1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (white sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, Stevia etc)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.

2) Lower heat and allow to thicken 15-20 minutes.

3) Cool completely before serving. I think it tastes best the next day after all the flavors have been able to meld together.

4) Serve with a turkey, spiral ham, on a sandwich, on top of yogurt, in a bowl of oatmeal, straight out of the pot with a spoon etc.

So there you have it. And gracias Allison for lighting the fire under my tooshie to finally post this recipe. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I had a very busy morning and I’m ready for a little snooze.

Hmm, I think there’s a pea underneath the blue blanket. It’s making it rather uncomfortable to sleep.

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while now (which if you haven’t, you really should start because I’m seriously quite adorable) you may have noticed that mi papa is the only one in this house that consumes the meals I whip up containing red meat, chicken or turkey. Why? Well, it’s not because he is too much of pig and won’t share these dishes with mi mama… although I have seen him do that when around a pan of brownies. No, it’s simply because mi mama is a vegetarian. Well actually, if you want to get more technical, she’s a vegetarian who once every two or three months will partake in a piece or two (or twelve) of salmon sashimi when out on a sushi date with mi papa. Overall, though, she does not eat any red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, dog, cat, antelope, kangaroo, etc. Many assume her refusal to eat animals is due to some sort of passion against animal cruelty or even for health reasons. No no, the main reason she stopped consuming meat many many years ago was simply because she no longer liked the taste of it. Over the years, her drive to maintain her vegetarianism has definitely been encouraged by those other factors and she enjoys knowing that both her body and those of farm animals benefit from her abstaining from meat.

One of the main questions mi mama gets asked the most when opening up about her vegetarianism (besides the inane “So do you just eat a bunch of lettuce) is, “But where do you get your protein?” I always love when she gets asked this question because it allows me the opportunity to step in and spout off a bunch of nutritional information I have studied and learned over the past 7 years. After all, I am not only a culinary genius but also a highly educated scholar in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Ever heard of Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food?” Yeah, I was his ghost writer. Not that I like to brag about it or anything… and Michael, I am still expecting my paycheck in the mail any day now… hmmm

So back to where mi mama gets her protein from. The majority comes from plant sources such as beans and legumes as well as some dairy sources like eggs, cheese and yogurt. Did you know that just one cup of cooked chickpeas or kidney beans contains almost 15 grams of protein? Or that one cup of nonfat Greek yogurt provides a whopping 25 grams? That’s almost the same as a 3 oz chicken breast or piece of steak. And no poultry or cow had to be harmed in the process. Something to think about, people. So basically, mi mama is not lacking in the protein department by maintaining a vegetarian diet. In fact, I think one of my next posts will be a more in-depth assessment of exactly what she eats over the course of a day and the nutritional breakdown of each meal and snack. This way one can see just how easy it really is to maintain optimal health while skipping the meat.

And I have a simple side dish recipe for you today that is not only tasty, but completely vegetarian and provides nearly 16 grams of protein per serving… and that’s just in a side dish! Hot dog!

Protein-Packed Four Bean Salad

15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen edamame, thawed

2 medium-sized carrots, diced

1/2 large red onion, diced

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey or agave nectar

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) In a large bowl, mix the beans, parsley and rosemary.

2) In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Add dressing to the large bowl and toss to coat.

3) Chill in the refrigerator (the beans, not you) for several hours or overnight before serving.

Incredibly simple and oh so tasty. Bring this to your next potluck or picnic and it will surely be a crowd favorite. Trust me.

Well I truly must be going now. I need to go wait by the front door. I think mi papa is coming home soon.

Comfort food at its best– and healthiest

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Well it’s officially Fall. The time of year for the leaves to start changing, department stores to start putting up their Christmas decorations and birds/retirees to begin heading down south in preparation for the Winter. In our casa, it’s the time for the crockpot to maintain a permanent position on the kitchen counter, and stews and casseroles to be on the menu for most nights of the week. There’s just something about the cool, brisk weather of fall that makes people crave things deemed as comfort food. Be it Chicken Pot Pie, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, whatever. Being the good southern boy that mi papa is, he answered quickly and with little hesitation that his idea of the perfect comfort foods are fried chicken, his mama’s green bean casserole and some ooey gooey macaroni and cheese. I’m sure most of Louisiana would probably list these same things (with a few fried alligator and a side of King Cake thrown in for good measure). And he made sure to note that when he says macaroni and cheese, he’s referring to the homemade kind with real cheese, whole milk and butter. Not the kind that mi mama grew up eating and considers delicious. Sadly, I’m sure there are others who would agree with her, but there’s just something about consuming a powdered cheese product that turns your pasta into a neon orange mess that just doesn’t seem right to me. Oh well, to each her own I guess. At least she’s getting in her calcium.

Anyway, back to the macaroni and cheese of mi papa’s youth. I could tell from the shine in his eyes after discussing his comfort foods that he was now seriously craving some of this stuff. And being the thoughtful and loving TeenyLittleSuperChef that I am, I decided to whip up a batch of this yummy goodness for him. But with a healthy twist, of course. I mean, I love the guy, but I also love having him around to give me cuddles and belly rubs, and I fear clogging up his arteries with a bunch of undesirable saturated fat might cause him to be unable to do those things anymore. Is that selfish? Possibly so, but I’m also trying to keep him around and healthy for mi mama’s sake too. Without him, who would open all those tricky jars or reach items way too high up on the pantry shelf? Who would laugh at all her lame jokes or have an impromptu dance party with her in the living room whenever an Air Supply song comes on the radio?  See, if anything, I do my acts of kindness and generosity out of love for her (and if you’re reading this now, Mama, I think I deserve an extra carrot or Greenie after dinner tonight… just putting it out there).

So as I mentioned, I wanted to healthify my macaroni and cheese casserole for mi papa and took to brainstorming different ways of doing so. I wanted to preserve all the flavor of a traditional mac n’ cheese without having to include all its heart attack inducing ingredients. Upon glancing around mi kitchen for inspiration, my eyes narrowed in on a funny and almost phallic looking item sitting on the counter. Ahh yes, the butternut squash! What  better way to replace some of the unhealthy elements of the casserole (i.e. the butter) than a delicious vegetable full of tons of wonderful vitamins and nutrients– the “butter”nut squash. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but who cares. It got my creative juices flowing and I was able to create an incredibly mouth-watering dish that not only took mi papa back to the comforts of his childhood down South, but also provided him with nearly 200% of his daily recommended value of Vitamin A and 50% of his daily calcium requirements. Cha-ching!

Healthy Buttery-nut Squash Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

2 cups cooked butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes *(see note at bottom of ingredient list)

12 oz package of regular or whole wheat macaroni, cooked

1 cup milk, any kind

1 tbsp butter, Earth Balance or non-hydrogenated margarine

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup lowfat Cottage cheese

1 cup shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cu shredded low-fat Colby Jack cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, optional but you should go for it anyway

*To cook the butternut squash, I steamed the cubes in my steamer basket for about 10 minutes. You could also use canned butternut squash puree. Whole Foods is the only place I’ve ever seen it sold, though. (aka: not cheap)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Puree butternut squash in a large pan with a potato masher or hand-held mixer until smooth but not watery.

3) Heat same pan containing butternut puree over medium-high heat. Add the milk, butter, yogurt and Cottage cheese and stir until well combined.

4) When mixture begins to simmer, slowly start adding the Cheddar and Colby Jack cheeses, mixing the entire time.

5) When all the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to thicken, season with salt and pepper to taste.

6) Begin adding in the cooked macaroni a little at a time, until all the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce.

7) Transfer mixture to an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan, if using. Bake 20 minutes.

8) Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes (if you can) before serving. Dig in and prepare to keep coming back for seconds.. and thirds.

I think I scored mucho belly rubbing points from mi papa over this dish which I’ll be cashing in on very soon. But first, it’s time for my daily walk to the park with mi padres. Looks like rain. I better dress appropriately.