Category: sides

Indian Spiced Spinach

On the night before Christmas Eve, after our big gingerbread project, my family sat down to some Indian food.  I made Chicken Tikka Masala (replacing eggplant with chicken), homemade naan, and a spinach dish inspired by this Saag recipe.  It certainly wasn’t a traditional meal for us, but it turned out to be a great way to kick off over 48 hours of non-stop Christmas activity!

Since the chicken was a bit spicy, I kept the spinach dish fairly mild.  The ginger provided a lot of the flavor here, and the yogurt made it creamy without any additional fat.  Using frozen chopped spinach saved a lot of time.  The original recipe provides a lot of variations for this dish and it could easily be a main course with the addition of tofu or legumes.  I usually have chopped spinach on hand, so I’ll try one of those variations soon and let you know how it goes!


Indian Spiced Spinach

1 T canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 T minced fresh ginger
2 t minced garlic
2 t coriander
1/2 t turmeric
1 (20 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 c. water
Dash salt
1 c. nonfat plain yogurt

Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Add onion, and saute for 15-20 minutes, until browned.  Add ginger and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add spices, and saute for 1 minute.  Add spinach, water, and salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes, until spinach is cooked.  Add more water if necessary.  Add yogurt and stir to mix well.  Reduce heat, and cook just until heated through.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Vegetables

I feel like I’ve been eating a lot of soup lately, and getting a little bored.  I am not really craving salads either.  But I have to bring more vegetables into my diet somehow to balance holiday indulgences.

I decided to roast a big batch of vegetables this week, and luckily found some good sales on produce.  I bought an onion, zucchini, carrots, baby bella mushrooms, trimmed green beans, and grape tomatoes.  Most of these aren’t seasonal or local, but some days you just do the best you can.



Sometimes I use a soup mix packet to season the vegetables prior to roasting.  But that seemed silly since I have a well-stocked spice cabinet.  I did some Internet research, found a few good recipes, compared the ingredients to the spices I had on hand, and ended up with the recipe below.  I was able to use at least one local ingredient; the honey is from a beekeeper that I know personally!

After being roasted for almost an hour, the vegetables had a very rich flavor, and the juice from the mushrooms and tomatoes created a sauce.  Although the recipe contains a touch of cinnamon and honey, the sweet taste is very faint, and just offsets the spiciness of the chili powder and cayenne.

You can serve the vegetables (with a slotted spoon!) alongside any meal, or you could mix them into a dish of whole wheat pasta.  I am sure they would also be good on top of whole wheat pizza dough, or perhaps a baked potato.  The possibilities are endless, and it feels good to have a dish of vegetables that I’ll be happy to dig into all week long.



Sweet and Spicy Roasted Vegetables

1 Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced
2 zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1 (8 oz.) package baby bella mushrooms, cleaned
2 pints grape tomatoes
8 oz. baby carrots
2 T olive oil
1 T honey
1 t chili powder
1/2 t coriander
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t cayenne pepper

Place vegetables in a large bowl.  Add oil and honey, and stir to coat.  In a small bowl, mix spices.  Toss spices with vegetables, and stir to coat.

Place in a large baking dish coated with cooking spray, and bake at 400F for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.   (The best way to roast vegetables is in a single layer; inevitably I always have too many vegetables for that though!)

Turkey Fried Rice

This was a spur of the moment recipe inspired by the last bit of leftover turkey in my refrigerator.  I also had a containter of leftover brown rice from the Thai food we ordered the night before Thanksgiving.  Rest assured, I made this several days ago, and am just getting around to posting it now!

This isn’t exactly a fool proof recipe, because a lot of the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan.  I was trying not to use too much oil, but that also meant I should have been watching the rice a bit more carefully.  The end result was still pretty good, considering I pulled this together within a half hour using just what was in the house.  The sesame oil added at the end contributes a lot of flavor, so try not to skip this ingredient.  Good things happen when you force yourself to use those leftovers in the refrigerator!



Turkey Fried Rice

1 T canola oil
1 t minced garlic
1 c. chopped turkey
1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice
1 c. frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, green beans, and peas)
1 egg, beaten
1 T low sodium soy sauce
1/2 t sesame oil

Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute.  Add turkey, and cook for 3-5 minuntes.  Add brown rice and mixed vegetables, and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The goal is for the rice to brown, without burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Make a well in the center of the pan.  Coat well with cooking spray.  Add egg, and stir to scramble.  Incorporate cooked egg into mixture.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil, and stir well.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until heated through.

Yellow Jasmine Rice

Were you expecting a Thanksgiving themed recipe today?  Yes, I know it’s just a few short days away.  And I’ll be enjoying our traditional favorites including an Italian sausage stuffing, turnip, and my Mom’s amazing apple pie.  With the turkey leftovers, we might try these enchiladas, or last year’s turkey soup.

But I couldn’t possibly spend a long weekend with my family without trying a few new things.  Specifically, we’re planning a chocolate cake with pink frosting for Wednesday, a new pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving, and another new pumpkin dessert for a large family gathering on Friday.  Looks like I also need to plan some workouts!

So back to today’s recipe.  This was called the best rice ever on the Budget Bytes blog, which is a pretty bold statement.  I made just a few changes, swapping the butter for olive oil, using a vegetarian broth, and increasing the cinnamon.  I found jasmine rice in the ethnic section of my conventional grocery store, and they also have it in the bulk bins at Whole Foods.

I am not sure I could call this the best rice ever, but it is delicious and slightly addictive.  It’s colorful, fragrant, and tender.  The spices are more subtle than you might expect.  Although this might look like an Asian or Middle Eastern recipe, the flavor is really light and would complement any meal.  After you’re done with your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, you might want to give this one a try.




Yellow Jasmine Rice

2 T olive oil
1 t turmeric
2 t minced garlic
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cinnamon
2 c. jasmine rice
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water

Heat oil in a medium pot.  Add turmeric, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon.  Stir to mix well, and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add rice, and stir to coat.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, to brown rice.  Add broth and water, and cover.  Simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow rice to rest for 5-10 minutes.  Fluff and serve.

-Lightly adapted from Budget Bytes

Grilled Butternut Squash

While I was in Rhode Island this weekend, I went to a local farm to pick up some vegetables to go with dinner.  They had the usual corn, zucchini, and tomatoes which you’d expect at the end of summer.  But I also spotted a wagon full of butternut squash and it hit me like a ton of bricks that fall is truly right around the corner.



Luckily, this recipe for Garlic-Balsamic Grilled Butternut Squash helped to ease the transition between seasons.  The butternut squash is peeled and sliced, and then marinated in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and thyme.  The slices are thrown on the grill just like any other vegetable, although they do take a bit more time to get tender.



Although butternut squash is a symbol of fall, the grill marks make this a summer time recipe, or at least one you can enjoy while you sit outside and try to forget that the days are getting shorter.



Toasted Orzo

My Mom made Toasted Orzo earlier this summer, back when we had the Kale with Grilled Sausage and White Beans.  It reminded me of years ago when we used to make Rice-a-Roni, though she might kill me for saying that.  While I do like rice, I actually like orzo even more.

I found this recipe which is incredibly simple, and makes a perfect batch.  You brown the orzo in a saucepan with a bit of olive oil, and then simmer it covered for 10-15 minutes with the broth of your choice.  I generally use Knorr’s Vegetable Broth, but you can use chicken bouillon if you’d prefer.  If you’d like to reduce the amount of sodium, you can use half broth and half water.  If a bottle of white wine is already open, you could add a splash of that too.



This side dish complements almost any meal, and is so much better than any San Francisco treat.

Crockpot Baked Beans with Bacon

My favorite recipe for Baked Beans is a vegetarian one, but we were at a family party a few weeks ago and had an amazing version with bacon.  My Mom tracked down the details, and it turns out to be an old family recipe.  I hate to tinker with tradition but the original recipe used a pound of real bacon and I was convinced that you could get the same smoky flavor with much less.  I also wanted to convert it to a crockpot recipe since oven space is a precious commodity when you are cooking for a crowd.

This recipe was easy to put together, and makes a lot of baked beans.  Good thing we had that much, because they turned out to be quite a hit at the party.  In fact, there was only a large spoonful left at the end of the night.  I like using a mix of beans, but you can use whatever you happen to have on hand.  I am not ready for summer to be over, but if you must have an ‘end of summer’ BBQ, you might want to give these a try.




Crockpot Baked Beans with Bacon

12 oz. turkey bacon, such as Oscar Mayer
2 (15 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 oz.) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (26 oz.) jar pasta sauce
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy.  Cool slightly and crumble.  Add crumbled bacon, beans, and sauce to the crockpot and stir well.  Cook on High for 3-4 hours, then turn to Low until ready to serve.

Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Bake

These sweet potatoes are deliciously addictive – we just had to keep going back for one more spoonful!  This Paula Deen recipe also uses basic ingredients: sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, cream, and spices, plus a topping with more butter, sugar, and walnuts.  There was talk of this being a good Thanksgiving side dish, and while I agree, I would almost rather have these when they can be the star of the show.  The dish is rich and decadent, and deserves it’s own holiday!






Roasted Cabbage Wedges

My nod to St. Patricks’s Day this year doesn’t include corned beef, or turnip, or the amazing mint brownies that my Mom used to make.  I did make Irish bread a couple of weeks ago, but never got around to baking another loaf.  This year I picked up a head of cabbage and tried something completely different, using this Martha Stewart recipe as a guide.

I cut the head of cabbage into 1″ slices, and then brushed them with olive oil, Garlic Gold, salt, and pepper.  I put them in the oven at 375F for about 30 minutes, and they were done.  In fact, a few slices got very crispy at the edges.  This cabbage recipe has a lot more ‘life’ than the traditional method of boiling it all day.  If you’ve been turned off by the pale boiled leaves, you might give cabbage another try with this recipe.  It may not be authentically Irish, but it’s very good.