Green Pepper and Sausage Hash Browns

FullSizeRender-2Sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. Like doctoring up a package of Simply Potatoes plain shredded hash browns with a couple vegetables, and some meat, and calling it a done! My friend Marylee put me onto this brunch or brinner (breakfast for dinner…) side dish, and we love it for a quick after-church-on-Sunday meal with some cheesy scrambled eggs and fruit. You can use half a Kielbasa sausage ring, or a couple links of Andouille—anything will do, as long as it’s meaty and chock full of flavor. Just make sure you grab your biggest skillet or griddle to give the potatoes a chance to brown up nice and crispy. The more surface area, the better!

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (20-ounce) package Simply Potatoes shredded hash browns
½ of a Kielbasa sausage ring, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Heat oil on high in large skillet or griddle. Add onion, and cook until translucent. Add green peppers, and sauté and stir for a minute. Add hash browns, let sit to brown for a bit, then use large spatula to flip sections of browned potatoes over, and stir until most of potatoes are golden. Add in sausage, and continue to cook and stir until potatoes are desired crispiness. Serve.

Roasted Beets, Shallots, and Feta Winter Salad

FullSizeRenderThere’s something autumnal about this salad with roasted beets, shallots, and leeks that makes it perfect cold weather fare. I made this one up for my friends Marylee and Marcella, to serve the day after Thanksgiving when I did NOT want to do turkey soup or a mashed potatoes and gravy repeat. Tired of multiple treks to the grocery store prior to Thanksgiving, I wanted to work with what was in my frig. Since I had the shallots and leeks on hand, I thought I’d see how they paired with cooked beets. The nuttiness of the shallots and mildness of the leeks worked really well as compliments to the beets, and the crunch of walnuts and tang of feta rounded out the flavors really well. I whisked up a dressing of balsamic vinegar with a touch of Dijon, and we all dubbed this delicious salad a wintertime winner. 

Follow the directions below to roast and peel the beets with minimal mess. I served the salad pictured here as a side to leftover sweet potatoes and turkey. I put the warm, cooked beets right on the salad, drizzled the dressing, and we gobbled it up (Thanksgiving pun intended!). But I had a leftover beet that I refrigerated, and the next day I made this salad for lunch with the cold beet. It was just as good cold as warm, so do whatever is easiest for you!

Makes 4-6 salads

4-5 beets—cut off stems and tips of root
1 cup walnuts
3-4 shallots, chopped
2 leeks, with slices of white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups spring greens mix
½-1 cup feta cheese *

For Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used creamy, not coarse ground)
Dash each salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Scatter walnuts on baking sheet and pop in oven for 5-10 minutes or until they start to toast. Remove and let cool. Wrap each beat in a square of aluminum foil to cover, and place on a baking sheet. (May also want to cover baking sheet with foil to help with clean up, as beets will leek juice as they cook.) Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, put on rubber gloves and peel off foil, then rub skins off of each beet with your thumbs, and discard skin. Place peeled beets in a bowl and keep handy for salad.

To make dressing, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, Dijon, salt and pepper in container with a lid and shake until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

In frying pan set on medium-high heat, add shallots, leeks, and olive oil. Sauté and stir until golden brown. Set aside. Add a handful of mixed greens to individual plates (about 2 cups), and top each mound of greens with the cooked shallot mixture, dividing between salads. Chop each roasted beet into bite-sized cubes, and place 3/4 to 1 whole beet on top of each salad. Add toasted walnuts, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

*NOTE: You could also try this with blue cheese, but that might be a little too sharp for this salad. I was going to use the blue, but when I pulled my container from the frig, it was bluer—and fuzzier—than I think it was supposed to be. So we went with the feta instead. I’m pretty sure your cheese shouldn’t be fuzzy…

Smoky Chipotle Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderSince it’s soup season, you’ll want to tag this smoky potato and corn chowder for a quick, light meal. Aside from the chipotle chili peppers, most of the ingredients may be kitchen staples for you, as they were for me. My friend Terri shared this with me a couple years ago, and I just got around to trying it for the first time. As I’ve gotten a lot of my soup recipes from restaurants (when I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was requesting recipes for readers), they tend to yield mammoth portions, and you gotta be committed to eating said soup for an eternity! This one is a smaller scale recipe, perfect for about 6 tasty bowls.

My only recipe suggestion would be to add more cheese, so I upped the amount to ½ cup below. And you would think the peppers in this would give it quite a burn, but even my mild-mannered palette was not offended by the heat. It was barely noticeable, in fact! I am curious to see if the heat cranks up a notch as the soup sits in the frig—sometimes that happens with chili peppers. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced
4 cups chopped red potatoes, with skin on
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups frozen corn (16 ounces) *
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or use ¼ cup fresh, but then add with milk and cheese towards end of process)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½-1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups milk
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar (or Monterey Jack cheese)
1/3 cup diced cooked ham **

Fresh chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions

Melt butter in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté scallions for 1-2 minutes, then add potatoes and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until green onions and potatoes begin to brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add corn, cilantro, smoked paprika, salt, and chipotle peppers. Stir well, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the milk and cheese, and turn off heat. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree about 2 cups of the soup in a blender, and return to the pot. Heat to medium-low, and stir in ham. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions as garnishes, if desired.

*NOTE: I used a bag of frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s, and I would highly recommend it! I’ve seen the same thing at Cub foods, too, so look for the pre-roasted corn at your grocery store.

** Skip the ham for a vegetarian option. It really didn’t enhance the soup that much, so I don’t think it’s a completely necessary ingredient.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

FullSizeRender-1Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom has NOTHING on this savory made-from-scratch soup by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), posted on in 2006. I’ve been making this soup for a few years, usually to serve to company in the fall or winter. The intense mushroom flavor comes from making a vegetable stock with the mushroom stems, and adding that to the mushroom cap roux. (There’s that word again, Tom! Roux just means adding flour to butter to make a paste, which thickens cream sauces and soups.) Everyone who’s slurped this soup has absolutely raved about it, including my new bosses we recently hosted. Hey, that’s one way to stay employed—dazzle ’em with butter and cream in dishes like this one!

Here’s a budget tip: I’ve found Trader Joe’s has the best price on all of the mushrooms needed for this recipe. Some of them were about $2 per 8-ounce package, a huge cost savings over Cub foods, where they are often $4-5 per 8-ounce package. TJ’s also consistently has all of these mushrooms on hand. I’ve been to other grocery stores that only carry the shiitake mushrooms seasonally, and they do add a nice nutty nuance so are worth the search. One disclaimer: Those not mushroom fans will find there’s no subtlety of flavor here, so best to avoid this recipe. But the rest of you will love this soup as a side or main dish, with a crusty slice of warm, buttered, baguette. Mmmmmmmmmm…

Serves 8-10

8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces fresh button mushrooms (these are the ones that are often just called “mushrooms” on the package…)
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms (aka: baby bella)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
1½ teaspoon dried thyme, divided
2½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks (about 2)*
¼ cup all-purpose flour, or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
¼ cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried.

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Do not rinse in water. Separate the stems, trim off bad parts, and coarsely chop them. Slice the mushroom caps, and cut larger caps in half so pieces are bite-sized. Set caps aside.

To make the mushroom stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in large pot or Dutch oven. Add chopped mushroom stems, onion, carrots, 1 teaspoons thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Add 5 cups water, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. There should be about 4 cups of stock. If not, add water to 4 cups.

Heat the remaining ½ cup butter in the pot and add leeks. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until leeks are soft and begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender and browned. Sprinkle the flour or Namaste gluten-free blend over the mushrooms, stir, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken broth and stir to remove bits from bottom of pot, and cook for an additional 1 minute. Add the mushroom stock and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat on low (do not boil) and serve.

*NOTE: Leeks often are full of sand and grit, so it’s best to chop them, then soak them in a bowl of cold water. The sand will sink to the bottom, and the leeks will float on top. Scoop them out of the water, and drain in colander.


Baked Northern Beans with Rosemary and Mustard

FullSizeRenderTake a break from basic baked beans with this bacon-laced white bean side dish. I’d clipped the recipe from the May 2007 edition of Better Homes & Garden magazine, and had yet to try it out. Since it called for rosemary, and I’m trying to find ways to use up my fresh herbs before the first frost, I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I liked it, but it isn’t a “star” dish. Not everything on the table has to take center stage though, does it? It’s also not terribly gorgeous to look at, as you can see from my sad photo attempt. (I’m really selling you on this one, aren’t I!) It would work for summer barbecue with brats or burgers, and it would also pair well with a winter meal of roast pork, beef, or whatever meat you choose. It’s got that homey, comfort-food vibe going on, so tag this one to make this winter.

The original recipe called for four 16-ounce cans of butter beans or Great Northern beans, but I wanted to use a bag of dry Great Northern beans I had on hand. I’ve also heard that the canned beans are rather high in sodium, so thought it might be a healthier dish if I used the dry beans instead. Directions below include overnight soaking of a bag of beans—which required pre-planning, but wasn’t a ton of prep otherwise. My husband didn’t think the dish was zippy enough, but he’s burned out his taste buds by constantly dousing his food with cayenne pepper. Consider the source. My taste-tester Emily and I thought they were tasty, so I’ll be making these again some time—when my husband’s not home for dinner.

Serves 6-8

1 bag dry Great Northern beans
1 teaspoon salt
8 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container dairy sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or Namaste® gluten-free perfect blend
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used 1, but I think it could have used 2)

Rinse dry bean in cold water, and then put in Dutch oven. Cover with cold water, and let soak overnight. Drain off water and add water to 1-inch above beans. Add 1 teaspoon salt, cover, and bring beans to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until beans are tender. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a skillet, fry bacon over medium heat until crisp. Line plate with paper towels, and place bacon on towels to drain. Let cool. Drain skillet of all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rosemary, parsley, and black pepper and sauté until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl. Crumble cooked bacon and add to beans.

In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, chicken broth, flour or gluten-free flour blend, and Dijon mustard. Add to beans and stir until all ingredients are combined. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish and bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Serve.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Can make bean dish and not bake, and then store covered in frig for a day or two. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.

Pesto Chips

IMG_1718Bunches of fresh basil and some other kitchen staples are all you need to make these incredibly fragrant and savory appetizers. These are pretty easy to whip up, yet your kitchen will smell like you’re a seasoned gourmet who’s been slaving at the stove all day. I’ve been making these for years to serve either as appetizers, or as a side to a meal of grilled meat, veggies, and some fruit. When tomatoes aren’t in season, these are great with just the tortillas, pesto, and grated cheese. I often made these sans tomatoes for an after-school snack for my boys. (Hmmmmm. Maybe that’s why they developed rather sophisticated food palettes. They did occasionally get Rice Krispy bars or other more kid-friendly fare…occasionally.)

Farmer’s markets are teaming with fresh basil, parsley, and tomatoes this time of year. I got the most delicious Roma tomatoes this weekend from a little Saturday morning Farmer’s market in West St. Paul (Icy Cup parking lot, 63 George Street, corner of George and Stryker. For more info, visit My friend Sue’s daughter, Nellie (and her new husband Stephen), have a booth there selling organic produce from their farm, Whistling Thistle. The Roma’s I got from them were perfect for these, as they were meaty and had a lower moisture content than standard grocery store ‘maters. That’s essential to keep the chips crispy once baked.

Makes 8 ounces pesto

For pesto:
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves (washed and rinsed)
½ cup fresh parsley springs (without stems), or ¼ cup dried parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup slivered almonds (or pine nuts)
1 large clove garlic, quartered
¼ teaspoon salt

For chips:
Corn or flour tortillas
Shredded aged mozzarella, or cubed fresh mozzarella
Roma tomatoes, diced

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, almonds, garlic, and salt. Cover and blend or process with several on-off turns until paste forms. Stop machine to scrape down sides as needed.

Spread a few tablespoons of pesto over one of the tortillas, and put it on a baking sheet. (Flour tortillas are tastier, but I’ve used corn tortillas to make these gluten free.) Sprinkle cheese of choice on top, then repeat process for desired number of tortillas. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until edges are crispy and slightly browned. Cut into wedges and serve as is, or sprinkle with the diced tomatoes, then cut and serve.

NOTE: If not using the pesto immediately, store in airtight container and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for 6-12 months.

For another tasty way to use your basil pesto, Check out a previous post with directions for a basil pasta that’s a fabulous meal on it’s own.

Curry Cauliflower Rice

IMG_1613Don’t be fooled by the name—no rice was actually harmed in the making of this dish. The Whole30 book has a basic cauliflower rice recipe side dish that’s quite good. But with only onions and carrots for extra flavor, I wanted more. So I created this hybrid of the Whole30 recipe and the Cranberry Pecan Curry Rice previously posted, a recipe I’ve heard that you really, really liked. Cauliflower is being used as a stand-in for a variety of ingredients lately, and it often still tastes like…well, cauliflower. Because it is. But this one really does taste like rice or couscous! I’ve served it to several guests lately, and they’ve all said, “This is cauliflower? Really? It’s so good! Have you blogged it yet?” 

And here’s a budget-saving tip. My local grocery store (Cub Foods) prices their cauliflower heads at $4, which makes for a kinda pricey dish. But Trader Joe’s sells cauliflower heads for $2.49, or you can get a bag of fresh riced (meaning minced) cauliflower for the exact same price! (Both are in the fresh produce aisle.) So if you don’t have a food processor to rice your own, it doesn’t cost you more to have them do the work for you. I’ve made this recipe with processing a whole head, and using the Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower, and there’s zero difference in taste. So go ahead and save yourself a step in prep!

Serves 6

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets, OR 1 bag of riced cauliflower
3 tablespoons ghee
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
½ cup craisins*
½ cup chicken broth

If using whole head of cauliflower, pulse half of florets in food processor until rice-like consistency. Do not over-pulse, or you will have cauliflower mush. Remove from bowl of processor and process other half of florets. Save riced cauliflower for later.

In a large frying pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add onion, and cook and stir until translucent. Add carrots and celery, stirring to combine, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add curry, salt, pepper, and chopped nuts, and stir until nuts are coated with spices. Toast for 1-2 minutes. Add riced cauliflower and craisins and stir until all ingredients are coated with curry. Add chicken broth, and cover pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until cauliflower is a rice-like consistency.

*NOTE: Whole30 only allows dried cranberries that have been sweetened in apple juice, not sugar. I wasn’t able to find dried cranberries sweetened in juice, so I just used the Ocean Spray ones I had on hand. I say, if you’re doing Whole30, go ahead and use them! I won’t tell if you won’t. Or use raisins instead, which aren’t sweetened and are Whole30 approved.

Sausage, Apple, and Acorn Squash Casserole with Egg

IMG_1507Are you a serial cereal eater? Is it hard to imagine starting your day without your oatmeal or O’s? I didn’t think I could have energy for the day without my morning oatmeal, and that was the scary part of going Whole30 for me. But then I was paging through the Whole30 book and found this gem under “Fancypants Meals,” intended for part of a holiday dinner. It had a list of ingredients I love: portabella mushrooms, apple, acorn squash, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), so I made it for supper one night to go with our grilled meat and roasted veggies. The next morning, I pulled out the leftovers for breakfast, heated a small plate of it in the microwave, and topped it with an over-easy egg. It’s become my new favorite breakfast! How did I exist on gruel all these years, like some middle-class, middle-aged Oliver Twist?

Serves 4-6

For sausage:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
½ of 1 yellow or white onion, minced
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

For casserole:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 (10-ounce) container of baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon ground rosemary
¼ cup pepitas or chopped pecans
Salt and coarse ground black pepper

For breakfast:
1-2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add ghee. Add ground pork and seasonings from sage to garlic powder, and stir and cook until pork is no longer pink. Add another tablespoon of ghee, and squash, mushrooms, and apple. Cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings* and pepitas or nuts and transfer to a 9″x12″ glass baking or 2-quart casserole dish. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as side dish for dinner, or cool, then transfer to a airtight container and refrigerate.

For breakfast, ladle a generous cup of casserole onto microwave-safe plate. Heat on high for 1 minute. While casserole is heating, fry up 1-2 eggs in a teaspoon of ghee, sunny side up, or over easy. Place egg on top of sausage casserole and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

NOTE: The Whole30 recipe used poultry seasoning, which I did not have on hand, so I used sage, rosemary, and thyme. (I didn’t add parsley, as I wasn’t in the mood for a Simon & Garfunkel song. Wait for it…wait for it…got it?) The book also suggested using ground turkey or chicken as well as the pork, but I felt the pork paired best with the mushrooms in this dish. They also made their sausage into patties, and then broke them up into bits for this dish. I’ve changed that process to cook the pork, and then continue on with the rest of the recipe in the same pan.

Corn Pudding

IMG_1324A couple cans of corn and some kitchen staples are all that are needed to make this easy corn pudding side dish. We love this with our turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, or with a weeknight meal any time the menu needs a little rounding out. It’s so popular that I made it several times over the last couple months, and there was never anything left to photograph and post! Finally snagged a picture of a bowl, so here it is. I got this gluten-free recipe from a Better Home & Gardens magazine in an article titled “To Grandmother’s House We Go,” with other holiday favorites, before “gluten-free” was a concern. We first tried it some time in the 90’s, and it’s been a guest at our dinner table more often than my goofy Uncle Norman ever since. The only trick is to make sure it’s fully cooked before serving. It’s set when it doesn’t jiggle in the middle when jostled in the oven. I mean the corn pudding, not you. I’m not commenting on whether your middle jiggles when jostled or not.

Serves 8-10

1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14.75 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
½ cup cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, creamed corn, milk, eggs, butter, and pepper. Add corn meal and stir until moistened. Pour mixture into a 2-quart casserole or 9″x13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until lightly browned and set in the center. Serve.

Cranberry Pecan Curried Rice

FullSizeRender-4The combo of sweet craisins and savory ingredients like curry and garlic give this recipe a blend of flavors that really please the palate. It has the versatility to be a main dish if you want to stir in some chopped rotisserie chicken, a suggestion from others who’ve tried this recipe found on I’ve not had the fresh parsley on hand (the three times I’ve made this dish already!), so I’ve used dried herbs instead, which worked fine. We’ve had this gluten-free treat on weeknights with ham, and with turkey, and it would go perfectly with pork chops or roast beef as well. Even though it goes together quick enough to make it an after-work-wonder, it’s going to make an appearance at some holiday dinners in the weeks to come. (Extended family, consider yourself warned!) I’m sure it’ll be gobbled up at those gatherings with gusto as well.

Serves 6-8

3½ cups chicken broth
2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
¾ cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup craisins (dried cranberries)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
¼ cup water

In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add rice and butter and return to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion, and sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic and pecans, and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add curry, ginger, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat all ingredients with spices. Cook another minute or two to toast spices. Add fluffed, cooked rice, craisins, parsley, and water. Stir to combine, until all rice is yellowed from curry. Transfer to serving bowl, and serve immediately, or place in airtight container and refrigerate. Reheat in microwave or in frying pan to serve.