Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Something different tonight.  The first part of the week was a fabulous food week!  It is best to end it the same way!  I picked up some sea scallops, which are one of my favorite sea foods!  Asparagus is fresh at the market this week.  Here we go for one of the best gourmet meals at home.  Please note, I live in a rural area so this is a real treat for us!

  • 10 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 10 slice smoked bacon, cooked halfway
  • 1 c fresh asparagus spears, 1 inch chunks
  • 1 c fresh tomato, diced, seeds removed
  • 1/4 c Kalamata olives, diced
  • 1 c high fiber pasta
  • 1/4 c fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

Wrap each scallop in a partially cooked bacon slice, secured with a toothpick. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring 5 c water to a boil, seasoned with salt.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Add asparagus 2 minutes before the pasta is done, Drain and reserve.

Heat a heavy skillet or grill pan to medium heat. Season the pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Sear the scallops 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through,  By drying the scallops, you should get a nice sear on them.

Drain the pasta. Add the pesto, tomato, diced olives  and drained pasta/asparagus to the pot  Toss and top with Parmesan  cheese.

I kind of live in a rural area where most dining places offer some kind of beef with an iceberg salad and corn (nothing green).  So, this is really something special  Seafood and greens!  Simple, fast and so so good!  The best part is that the pesto pasta works just as good for a cold salad lunch the next day!  


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Eggplant Something

I found myself a lovely eggplant at the grocer the other day.  As I was reaching for it, hon asks “Are having eggplant this week?
YES!   I think that eggplant is such a lovely fruit.  The creamy, buttery flavor makes my heart melt.  Plus, it is so easy to add into other dishes (such as spaghetti sauce) and no one is the wiser.  This pretty little fruit is full of vitamins like B6, K, Folate, potassium, fiber and a multitude of minerals.  It really is good for you if you don’t fry it in a kettle of fat!

I still had some brown tomatoes so I thought a nice light Italian “salsa’ might be a nice addition. So what we end up with is crunchy (not fried) eggplant discs topped with a dollop of Italian “salsa.  This would be nice as a side dish or an appetizer.

Italian “Salsa”

  • 1/2 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 TB fresh basil, julienned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Eggplant Discs

  • 1 eggplant, sliced in 1/2 inch slices (you can peel if you want)
  • 1/2 c flour mixed with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 egg mixed with 2 TB skim milk
  • Fresh bread crumbs mixed with 1/4 c grated Parmesan and 2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
  • Cooking spray

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Dip the discs in flour, then egg mixture then roll in bread crumb mixture.  Place on baking sheet and spritz with cooking spray.  Bake until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the eggplant is tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Top with provolone or mozzarella cheese during the last 5 minutes if you like.


Place a disc on a plate.  Top with the Italian “salsa”.  Enjoy!

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Caprese Salad

Wandering through the grocery store the other day, I spied a tomato that I had not yet tried ~ brown tomato.  Ah, I am craving one of my favorite salads ~ tomato & mozzarella salad.  It is hard to find delicious tomatoes this time of the year where I live.  This brown tomato was absolutely delicious ~ sweet, juicy and of course, very pretty!

This is not a new salad and definitely not my own!  But I so love it, especially in the summer when tomatoes are at their peak.  It is so simple and the flavors of the fruit come through so delectably!

  • Fresh tomatoes (use a variety for an attractive dish – I used a brown and a red tomato), sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced about a 1/4 inch thich
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves, juilienned

Arrange the tomato slices and mozzarella slices on a plate to your liking.  Drizzle with 1-2 TB olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle fresh basil shreds over top.  Enjoy and dream about summer!

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I was making some pork tonight with Greek style flavors – olive oil, garlic, oregano and lemon.  It is really delicious.  I got the idea many years ago when  I had Greek ribs at this little restaurant ran by a Greek heritage family.  It was my 5th wedding anniversary and the ribs were tender and so yummy!  They needed no sauce at all!  The flavors had absorbed into the pork and the only thing I wished was that there were more of them!

So, tonight, to go with my pork with Greek style flavors, I decided upon some orzo pasta scented with a little garlic, warmed, with tomatoes, goat cheese, spinach (wilted from the heat of the pasta) and Kalamata olives.  If it was summer, I would add a little fresh chopped oregano leaves at the end.  Oh!  It sounds so good!  Well, really, it is so good!

  • 2 oz feta or goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 oz pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1 big handful fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 5 oz orzo pasta
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1 c water
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

Heat chicken stock, water and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add orzo and cook according to package instructions.  Drain and reserve pasta liquid.

Return orzo to the pot, stir in tomatoes, spinach, goat cheese, olives and 1/4 c of the pasta liquid you reserved.  Stir and serve!

This is so simple, and yet, so good.  The creaminess of the goat cheese with the freshness of the spinach and tomatoes, the saltiness of the Kalamata olives –  it is almost heaven!

On a side note, one of my favorite salads of all time is simply fresh spinach, diced tomatoes and feta or goat cheese.  Toss well.  The juice from the tomatoes and cheese actually make the dressing!  All you really need is a little fresh ground pepper!

Gotta go!  Dinner is ready and I am so hungry!

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Puree`d Parsnips

If you have never had parsnips, I so encourage you to try them!  They are kinda like carrots, but white… and sweeter and kinda peppery!  All I can say is YUM!  I absolutely love them with Brussels sprouts, tossed and roasted in olive oil with grill seasoning.  But tonight, they are puree`d and delicious all the same.

I have tried to grow parsnips for years!  Last summer, I was finally successful!  Beautiful! Most are still in the garden because they actually taste better in the spring after they were frozen in the ground all winter!  However, the winter has been a little mild, not much snow and ice.  So, I went out and dug some up and they are just as tasty!  You can purchase parsnips at your local grocer, but they will not taste as sweet!  No shame though, I have done that and I love parsnips just that much!

1 lb parsnips, peeled and diced abput 1/2 cubes

1 1/2 c chicken stock

Simmer the parsnips is chicken stock until they are “fork” tender.

Drain the parsnips, reserving the cooking liquid.

To a blender, add the parsnips, 1/2 c reserved cooking liquid, 1-2 TB butter, a pinch of fresh ground nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper. Puree` until smooth.  Add additional liquid a TB at a time until it is puree`d smoothly in the blender.

Stir in the chopped fresh parsley.

Oh my goodness! This is seriously one of the best comfort foods ever!

If you so desire, stir in a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese!

So simple! So good! So delicious!  I’m hungry…

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I can’t even recall where I first saw this.  I know I was intrigued as most squash recipes are sickly sweet ~ covered with brown sugar, marshmallows.  I am not much of a “sweets” person, I prefer the savory.  This is a different take and I love it!  I am going to serve it up with a ribeye steak seared in a cast iron skillet until the crust on the outside is deliciously perfect.

On a side note, I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to a good beef steak! Just give me a little kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Medium rare.  Horseradish sauce.  Occasionally, I like some good blue cheese melted on top.  Yum!

Anyway, I have a baby Hubbard squash sitting on my kitchen counter, just begging for goat cheese!  If you have every cooked Hubbard squash, you know that getting it open is like breaking into Fort Knox!  I was telling the hubby to get out the power tools ~ my first thought was a sawzall.  Cut this baby open!  However, I did a little research and it is recommended that you boil the whole Hubbard squash in water for a few minutes and that does make it easier to cut.  The first time I tried it, I stuck the iron clad squash in my canning pot, added water and set the flame on high.  I got distracted and was doing something else.  All of a sudden ~ KABOOM!  The lid exploded off the pot as the squash exploded in the pot!  So, if you are going to try this method for cutting into the Hubbard squash, PLEASE ~ grab a power tool and drill a hole in the squash first!  You can also take a hammer and nail to it if you do not own a drill.

I did use a Hubbard squash here, but this recipe works equally well with butternut or other winter squash. By the way, the method worked perfectly.  I heated the squash in the water until the skin was tender enough to dent with a fingernail.  Super easy to cut!

  • 1 baby Hubbard squash
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 c pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 oz Chevre` (fresh goat cheese)
  • 1/4 c half & half cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a baking dish.

Once you get the Hubbard squash open, cut it into cubes – about 1 inch size.

If you did not simmer the entire squash in water as noted above, you will want to pre-cook the squash cubes as follows: Place the cubed squash in a microwave safe bowl, add a 1/4 chicken broth and microwave on high for 3 minutes.  Stir and microwave for additional 2 minutes.  If you used the above method for cutting into a Hubbard squash, just skip the microwave step.

Pour squash and broth into the baking dish.

Season with thyme, salt and pepper.  Crumble Chevre` over top and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Drizzle half & half over and bake until the top browns lightly and the squash is fork tender.  Don’t burn the pecans!  Total baking time should be about 30 minutes or so.  Most of the liquid will have evaporated.

I absolutely love, love, love Chevre` fresh goat cheese ~ so creamy and delicious, perfect with squash!

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Barley and Mushroom Risotto

This is my healthy version of risotto.  It is creamy, cheesy and chewy, not to mention fiber rich!  It is a definite comfort food!  Delicious with venison, steaks or just with a salad…


6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or beef – I used chicken here).  You will want the stock heated (I keep mine at a low simmer).

1 cup medium pearl barley

2 TB butter, divided

1 TB olive oil

1/4 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced fresh mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated


  1. Heat olive oil and 1 TB butter over medium heat in a large sauce pan
  2. Saute’ mushrooms and onions for 3-4 minutes
  3. Add garlic and barley, saute’ another 2 minutes
  4. Add 1 cup stock.  Try not to stir, just shake the pan a little.
  5. Simmer until the stock is mostly absorbed.  You can tell when this happens by taking a rubber scraper through the mixture – if you can see dry bottom of the pan for more than a few seconds, you are there. (see second picture below).
  6. Add another 1/2 cup and repeat step 5.
  7. Continue with step 6 until the stock is gone and the barley is tender.
  8. Add the parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 TB butter
  9. Optional – stir in fresh chopped parsley if you have it on hand.   I did not have any so I omitted it.

FYI… the second picture ti the right represents step 5.  This is really one of my favorites! Enjoy!

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