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.

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.

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.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

FullSizeRenderNeed a vegetable side dish for the holidays that doesn’t involve green beens and a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup? As previously promised, here’s another option for your holiday feast. If you can peel carrots and chop ’em with a knife, you can make this super simple recipe. I’ve posted roasted veggie dishes before, but it never hurts to be reminded how good vegetables can be when roasted in the oven! Roasting brings out the natural sugars (mmmmmm…sugar…) in the vegetables, and makes them oh so delicious. I like to chop these into skinny sticks, and you can almost convince yourself you’re eating fries due to the shape. Almost. Parsnips mix nicely with the carrots as they are less sweet, and they also make the dish visually more interesting. Just make sure your sticks are similar in size so they cook evenly. This is a little tricky with the poor pear-shaped parsnip. (If parsnips were your girlfriend, she’d be that one constantly complaining about her hips.)

heritage carrotsdownloadTo really make your roasted carrots comment-worthy, try using the heritage carrots found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores in the fall (also at farmer’s markets, if the one in your neighborhood is still open). Look for the bag of carrots in a variety of orange hues, sometimes cream, and purple. Yes, I said purple! It looks like Harold and his Purple Crayon helped with dinner. But the combination of colors brings a little fun into your simple veggie side dish.

Serves 4-6

Rating: easy

8-10 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 or 5-inch sticks
5-6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3 or 4-inch sticks
1-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dill weed
½-1 teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Toss carrot and parsnip sticks in a bowl with olive oil, dill weed, and garlic salt until vegetables are coated with oil. (I actually just sprinkle rather than measure, so I’m guessing at the amount of herb and seasoning here.) Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tips are slightly caramelized, and vegetables are tender. Serve.

NOTE: The beauty of this dish is that you can cook it at just about any temperature, so if your oven is set at 325° or 400° for the main dish, that works too. If using a 325° oven, they will need about 35-45 minutes. If using a 400° oven, they will be done in about 20 minutes. Another trick? I save old cookie sheets just for roasting vegetables, as the oil and sugars from the veggies darken (aka: ruins) the pans and make them no longer fit for baked goods.

Crunchy Cauliflower and Pea Salad

IMG_0963Trying to get kids—or picky adults—to eat their veggies? This crunchy salad loaded with fresh cauliflower, celery, and peas might just convert some veggie-haters into lovers. Ranch is the base of the dressing, and then there’s bacon…so I rest my case. I think I got this super easy recipe from a women’s magazine ad promoting Ranch dressing, from when Ranch was new player on the food scene (80’s or 90’s?). I will say that the cashews are delicious in the salad, but if you’re not going to consume the whole bowl in one sitting, they soften and take on the texture of mushrooms by the next day. So only add the cashews to the amount of salad you think will be eaten first time around. Otherwise, the salad is fine leftover the next day!

This is a nice year-round recipe, as the ingredients are available any time. It’s especially good with spring and summer menus, as a side to grilled meat, burgers, or brats, and even better if you’re bored with beans and slaw. And as excited as we Midwesterners are about summer when the first blades of green grass appear, we do get to that point. Am I right, people?

Serves 6-8

10 ounces fresh shelled peas, or frozen
2-3 cups fresh cauliflower florets, in bite-size pieces
1 cup diced celery
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced scallions
6-8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup cashew halves

For dressing

1 cup Ranch dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove fresh garlic, minced

If using frozen peas, rinse in cold water in strainer, and allow to drain. In large bowl, combine cauliflower, celery, red pepper, and scallions. Once peas are drained, add those as well.

In medium bowl, combine Ranch dressing, sour cream, Dijon, and garlic. Beat with wire whisk until dressing and sour cream are smooth. Pour over vegetables, and toss to combines. Add crumbled bacon and toss again. Add cashews just before serving.

NOTE: If using a gluten-free Ranch option, this recipe is gluten-free. Leave out nuts if you’ve got nut-allergy folks in your circles, and it tastes just fine without them. The bacon gives it enough flavor so you won’t really miss the cashews. The bacon also removes it from the vegetarian dish category…sorry.

Wild Rice Casserole

IMG_0647If you live in the Great Lakes region, you love wild rice, and you’re darn proud of it. It’s that food item you buy for friends visiting from other parts of the world, showing just how unique and versatile we are in the midwest. Hey, we are so much more than hotdish and hamburgers! But what can you make with it besides the old standby, wild rice soup? Here’s a side dish I came up with that goes great with summer’s grilled meats and fish, or winter’s roasted beef, pork, or poultry. You can make it with dried cranberries to give it a sweet twist, or mushrooms to make it savory. Either combination compliments this hearty grain, and gives everyone a much-needed break from potatoes or white rice. (The wild rice casserole pictured here is served with my husband’s Brined and Smoked Turkey.)

Serves 6-8

1 cup uncooked wild rice
4 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon, or 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
(or use 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries—aka: craisins—but not both mushrooms and craisins)
½ cup pecan halves
3 tablespoons butter, divided

Rinse wild rice in colander under cold water. Combine wild rice, water, and bouillon cube in large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until most of rice kernels are cracked open. Once rice is done, drain. Do a quick rinse of cold water to shock rice (halt cooking of grains). Drain again.

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. While rice is cooking, sauté onions in 1 tablespoon butter until translucent. Transfer cooked onions to 3 quart casserole dish. Add another tablespoon butter to pan and sauté mushrooms until cooked. Add to onions in dish. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan, again, and toast pecan halves in butter about 3-5 minutes, or until they appear to darken slightly. Toss onions, mushrooms, and pecans with cooked wild rice in casserole dish. Cook, covered, in oven for 20-30 minutes or until heated through. Serve as side dish.

NOTE: If you prefer a tangier side dish, skip the mushrooms, and toast the pecans in 2 tablespoons butter. Then toss in 1/3 craisins with cooked rice. Cook in oven as directed above. Also, if you use salt instead of the chicken bouillon, this dish is vegetarian. It’s also gluten-free. Lose the butter, and it’s dairy-free and fat-free, but that’s going just a little too far.