Archive for the ‘Side Dish’ Category

I’m sure you’ve played the game before …..if stranded on a desert island where you could only bring three foods with you…what would they be?  Hands down for me it would be a great aged cheddar cheese, warm, crusty french bread, crisp granny smith apples, lots of chocolate and of course a perfectly paired wine.  What?  A couple too many foods you say?  Come on now, you didn’t really expect me to stop at three, did you?

So let’s talk about this decadent macaroni and cheese.  Today’s recipe has three ingredients and this time I really mean just three.  A chuck of great aged cheddar, whipping cream and your pasta of choice.  Reminiscent of the rich mac-n-cheese served as a side dish at high end steak houses, this is the real deal.  I don’t eat carbs often so when I do, it better be worth it.  This is worth it.

The cheese sauce whips up while the pasta cooks and this dish is on the table in 10-15 minutes.  Can’t beat that.

I spent all last week gallivanting around Catalonia and the Costa Brava region in Spain on my bike with a great group of friends.  Do I eat so I can ride or ride so I can eat….that is the question.  Neither is the answer.  I love them both!  I am a bit snowed under though and trying to catch up, so my post today will be as simple as this recipe.  Enjoy!!

Absolutely Decadent Macaroni and Cheese


2 cups whipping cream

7 oz aged sharp cheddar cheese, hand grated

1 pound short pasta (macaroni or fusilli corkscrews work great).  Cook al dente, according to package directions.  Drain the pasta but do not rinse.


While the pasta is cooking pour the whipping cream into a large saute pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes stirring occasionally , allowing the cream to reduce.

Add the grated cheddar cheese.  Pick a really good chunk of cheddar.  Hand grate the cheese.  Do not choose a package of pre-shredded cheese.  Besides tasting inferior, the pre-shredded cheese contains stabilizers that don’t work well with this technique.

Stir well over medium heat until the cheese melts into the cream and the sauce thickens, about another 1-2 more minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked pasta.  I drain but never rinse my pasta after it cooks.  The starch left on the pasta from the cooking water helps thicken the sauce, if you rinse the pasta you lose this.

Stir over medium heat until combined, about another minute.

Serve immediately and Enjoy!


Read Full Post »

Quinoa has a hot ticket in the culinary world as of late.  It’s a gluten free, versatile and nutty tasting grain touted as one of the best complete sources of protein out there.  Plus it tastes delicious.  It’s quick and easy to prepare.  It’s great in soup and salads or by itself as a side dish.  Now be honest – how many of you out there know how to pronounce:


If you said “KEEN-Wah”, you are correct.

Second only to cooking I love to read.  A lot.  While deeply engrossed in a book, I rarely take the time to stop and look up the pronunciation and definition of any unfamiliar word I stumble across.  Just sound it out and contextualize it, then I’m good to go.  Over the years this has bitten me in the behind a few times.

Here’s how it works when I am with my sister (she communicates for a living and is much more adept at correct pronunciations):

1.  I confidently interject my new found vocab word into our conversation, very impressed with myself.

2.  In reply, my sister coyly uses the same word in her answer – except pronounced correctly.

3.  I get the hint.

Some of the recent culprits: segue, potpourri, omnipotent.  You get the picture.

That’s why my friend JoEll and I were cracking each other up a few weeks back because we both thought the way you pronounced  Quinoa was:


so it rhymes with Winona (as in Ryder or Minnesota).

We had seen the ingredient written in recipes about 100 times and didn’t know it was the same ingredient we had heard pronounced “KEEN-Wah” about 100 times.  What a revelation when we realized it was the same thing!  Silly us. So today you get a recipe…..and a vocab lesson all in one.

Quinoa Salad

inspired by my friend JoEll


1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup grape tomatoes

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh chives

2-3 TBSP chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


You can find Quinoa at most supermarkets now in the rice and grains section

This is what it looks like right out of the box.

This is what it looks like once it is cooked.  To cook it bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil.  Add 1 cup quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer until all liquid is gone, about 10-15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and cool.

Make a quick dressing by whisking together 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup olive oil until it emulsifies.  Add the dressing to the cooked and cooled Quinoa.

Today I tossed bell pepper, grape tomatoes, basil, chives, garlic and feta cheese into the Quinoa salad.  But really….use your imagination.  Anything fresh and tasty will do.

This is great as a side dish or throw in some grilled chicken or fish for a complete meal.  Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

I originally got this Mozzarella Basil Tart recipe from my wonderful friend Michele years and years ago.  I love how it uses all the ingredients that are so fresh and tasty this time of the year.  It’s relatively simple to make, very versatile and tastes so fresh and wholesome.  I serve it either as an appetizer or side dish and often make it for breakfast (kinda like an egg-less quiche).  I couldn’t wait until the right opportunity came along to compose a post about one of my favorite recipes.

Some blog posts just burst out of me.  Some meander, lily-pad, noodle and wiggle their way out.  This one definitely would be the latter.  I’ve always said food is so much better with the stories, so here we go.

So…..my hubbie had business meetings in London on the Fourth of July this year.  Ughhh.  Yes dear, I do understand the Fourth of July is obviously not celebrated in England and it’s business as usual across the pond.  I did a great job keeping busy and occupied all weekend but had zippo plans on the 4th.  In lieu of a major pity party, I decided retail therapy was the answer.

I came across these great lime green place mats with a graphic print.  I’ve been completely obsessed with lime green and graphic prints lately so I had to snatch them up!  I knew the tart would look perfect with the place mats for a blog post – bright, crisp and clean.  I whipped up the tart, took my pictures and …..sigh, thought about the lonesome evening ahead.  No one to share my tart with.  I was completely delighted when an invitation to an impromptu neighborhood back yard cook-out came along.   (Thanks S&R!!)  I whisked my tart over and it was enjoyed by all.

Mozzarella Basil Tart


1 refrigerated pie crust

4-6 fresh Roma tomatoes

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup loosely packed basil, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/8 tsp white pepper


I really think the key to the success of this dish is extracting some of the liquid from the Roma tomatoes before you start.  I just slice them thin, spread them out on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt (this helps draw out the moisture).  In about ten or fifteen minutes they are ready to go.  I’ve tried to skip this step and the moisture from the tomatoes makes the tart kind of soggy, so it’s definitely worth it to take the time to drain the tomatoes if you can.

I’ve made this tart many, many times with a thawed out, frozen pie crust shell still in it’s flimsy, tin foil pan and it tastes great.  I’ve also made this tart many, many times with my Mom’s made-from-scratch pie dough recipe and it tastes really great.  Today I am using a refrigerated pie dough sheet (the rolled up kind) and my adorable tart pan from Williams & Sonoma.  I rolled out the refrigerated pie dough sheet, draped it over the tart pan and then rolled the pin across the top of the pan to cut and remove the excess dough.

       Mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and white pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.

Layer the remaining cup of grated mozzarella cheese in the pie crust.

Top with the tomato slices.

Top with the fresh chopped basil and crushed garlic.

Dollop the mayonnaise-cheese mixture on top.

Gently spread it out over the tart.

Bake the tart for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cut into pie slices and serve – hot or at room temperature.  Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

We’ve all got them.  Those tried and true, always getting accolades, could make them in your sleep recipes.  Where you can say to your friends – I’m bringing the orzo and they know what you mean.

The really cool thing about this recipe is you can serve it hot or cold.  If you toss the orzo while it is still hot with the fresh spinach, the spinach will cook, wilt and melt into the dish.  Or if you wait until the orzo cools down to toss it in, the dish tastes more like a pasta spinach salad – fresh and crisp.

Last week we attended a concert at The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on the Chicago lakefront.  A beautiful night with awesome friends.  We had a great picnic on the lawn while listening to Ray LaMontagne.  And no…..we absolutely did not sneak any lemon drop martinis into the pavilion.  (Here’s a picture of Ruth and Fred at the concert.  Ruth is doing a really good job hiding the lemon drop martini)

My very talented friend Kerri brought lemony orzo and spinach for the picnic and it was scrumptious!  I can’t wait to share it this recipe with you.

Lemony Orzo and Spinach


1 box orzo (rice shaped pasta), cooked and drained according to directions

6 oz fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1 cup crumbled feta

1 pint sweet grape tomatoes

Dressing Ingredients

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup really good olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon mustard

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

3/4 tsp coarse salt


Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and whisk all the dressing ingredients together until emulsified

I wash the spinach in the sink.  Be sure to pull the spinach out before you drain the water, then the grime and dirt from the spinach stays in the water.

If you do not have a salad spinner run, don’t walk to the store and get one as soon as possible.  I love my OXO salad spinner and use it just about everyday.  I have a little one to spin fresh herbs in too.

Toss the orzo (hot or cold), spinach, grape tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano, feta and dressing all together.  Enjoy!!

Read Full Post »

This buttery sauteed medley of corn, lima beans, red onion and red pepper finished off the heat with sweet grape tomatoes, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and basil makes the perfect side dish for grilled chicken and fish.  I often substitute edamane for the lima beans if I want to pack a bigger protein punch. I love the flavors meddling together and the colors are bright and vibrant.

I don’t think it’s much fun to talk about food without a story to go with it, but I have a bit of writer’s block today.  Luckily I can still cook.  When my golf swing gets out of whack I try to simplify, simplify, simplify.  So here is my attempt to apply this wisdom to my blog post today:

Succotash.  Inherited from native American Indians!  Try this!  Fresh!  Yummy!  The dish is infinitely better if you use fresh corn just shucked off the cob!  Grape tomatoes are ingenious and add an unexpected flavor burst in your mouth!  The basil matches perfectly with the sweetness in the corn! Gets your kids to eat vegetables!  Quick, easy!  Love, love love this dish!

Spring Succotash

loosely inspired by Cooking Light


1 cup red onion, large dice

2 TBSP butter (I always end up using a bit more)

2 TBSP olive oil

3-4 ears fresh shucked sweet corn, cut off cob (yields about 2-3 cups)

2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed (can substitute edamane)

1 red pepper, seeded and large dice

1 cup sweet grape tomatoes, cut in halves

4-5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (click on link to my blog post explaining how to do this)

salt (generous) and pepper to taste

squirt of fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste


Dice the red onion

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a saute pan over medium-high  heat.  Add the diced red onion and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Lightly salt and pepper.

Cut the fresh shucked sweet corn off the cob with a serrated knife.

Add the corn to the onions and cook another three minutes.  Some of the corn will get charred, which adds flavor.

Add the thawed lima beans and cook another three minutes.  Lightly salt and pepper again.

Add the diced red pepper and cook another minute.  Take it off the heat.

Add the grape tomatoes and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste a final time.  Finish off by squeezing fresh lemon juice over the dish.  Serve immediately.


Read Full Post »

My favorite thing to make with Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce is a dish called Peanutty Noodles.  It is absolutely de-lish served warm as a side dish with any grilled protein.  Or I frequently add grilled shrimp or chicken and serve at room temperature as an entree salad.

Peanutty Noodles

inspired by CookingLight magazine


1 pound cooked linguine pasta

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

2 carrots peeled, cut into thin strips

2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 batch Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce (click on link for recipe)


Toss hot cooked pasta with cilantro, carrots, red bell peppers and Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce.  Serve immediately – Enjoy!




Read Full Post »

I subscribe to The Food Network magazine.  My favorite feature each month is a cute little pull-out book which gives recipes for 50 different spins on the same item.  Last month the pull-out book highlighted smoothie recipes.  (For those of you who know me well, quit worrying about how I am going to pull off this Lilly pad moment – we are not making scallop smoothies.)

So here’s my thought.  I would love to do a pull-out book featuring my favorite fresh and tasty dish – ceviche!  Ceviche is a popular Latin American dish typically made by marinating raw fish in citrus juice.  The acid in the citrus juice actually cooks the raw fish – how cool is that?  Other than raw fish (you can use scallops, shrimp or any other firm white fish such as tilapia or halibut) and acidic citrus juice, the sky is the limit for what ingredients you can incorporate into the ceviche.  Coming up with 50 different variations would not be hard at all.  It’s also so easy to make, basically a bunch of chopping.  Since the ingredients in this dish don’t have anything to hide behind, be sure to use the freshest, tastiest fish and produce possible.

Fresh Scallop Ceviche


1 pound fresh scallops

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

zest from one lime

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 jalapeño pepper seeded and diced

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 cup diced red onion

1 avocado, diced

1 cup fresh pineapple

3-4 TBSPS fresh chopped cilantro


Cut the scallop into quarters.  I am preparing my ceviche today as a side dish to eat with a fork.  I also use the ceviche often as a fresh dip and scoop it up with tortilla chips.   I cut up the scallops smaller into eighths when making a dip.

Juice the lemons and limes and zest the lime.  I zested the lime with my favorite kitchen tool, a micro plane grater.  Fresh citrus zest adds such a zip to this dish.  I got my my micro plane grater at Williams and Sonoma.

Add the juice and zest to the scallops.

tomatoes, jalapeno and bell pepper

pineapple, red onion, cilantro and avocado.  Stir and wait until the acid cooks the fish.  It will only take a few minutes depending on how big your fish chunks are.  This is best if eaten fresh, but cover tightly and refrigerate if you are making it in advance.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »