Maple Glazed Ribs

Maple Glazed RibsI barely had time to snap a picture of these beautifully sticky, sweet, smokey ribs before they were devoured.  My guests tucked into them like a pride of lions on a gazelle.  Like bears in a river of salmon.  Like kindergartners with popsicles on a 90 degree day. You get the picture.

Please do not hesitate when it comes to making this sauce for ribs this summer.  It is so wonderfully good you will be kicking yourself if you wait!  There is no chopping or complicated ingredients involved so you can make it in a matter of minutes!  Just dump all the ingredients together, simmer till thick and voila!  Rib sauce!

The maple flavor in here is noticeable but not so prominent that it overpowers the flavor of the pork.  I am a huge fan of St. Louis style ribs and implore you to choose them over baby back.  They have much more meat and over all flavor to them, perfect when you are trying to feed a crowd.  Or hungry lions.
Maple Glazed RibsOne Year Ago: Plum Crunch

Maple Rib Sauce
This would be stellar on grilled chicken.

2-3 racks cooked, St.Louis style pork ribs-see note below
3/4 c pure maple syrup
1/4 c chili sauce
1 T vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves minced garlic
black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced and slightly thicker-about 15 minutes.  Brush over cooked ribs.  Mmmmm.

Note: I use this basic cooking method and rub recipe as the base for all my ribs.  Just use this sauce instead of the bbq sauce!

Far Eastern Salad

Far Eastern SaladIn the last post, I mentioned that this salad was requested by my sister as a ‘must eat’ when she was here with me.  The funny thing was that even though I used to eat this about once a month myself, the past few years, I kinda forgot about it.  When she brought it up, I nearly fell off my chair!  Oh yeah!  This used to be one of my favorites so I immediately pulled out the recipe for the dressing-the only actual ‘recipe’ part of it-and then proceeded to drool over the scribbled card of ingredients until we had it at dinner.

I get excited about recipes like this because this is a prime example of why I started this blog in the first place.  This is a simple recipe that with a little prep, can be thrown together in a matter of minutes.  It tastes fantastic and is just different enough that it keeps dinner menus, and entertaining your friends and family, interesting.  And that is what we are all looking for, right?  I recipe that we know is a proven winner that we can add to our regular recipe rotation?  Absolutely.

I must say that it is the dressing that makes this salad.  It is great on any kind of lettuce with any combination of things, but these particular ingredients are quite spectacular.  The recipe is from my days working in the 4-H building at the MN State Fair and to my knowledge, they still serve it in the cafeteria there today.  Their version will have bean sprouts in it, an ingredient that I have eliminated but will help you understand its name a bit better: Far Eastern Salad.  I still call it that, even though it bears little or no resemblance to anything of eastern origin.  That’s OK, though.  One bite and you won’t care what it is called, only that you will want to eat it again and again.  You can bet I won’t be forgetting about it any time soon!
Far Eastern SaladOne Year AgoStrawberry Sauce-This is great on pound cake, angel food cake, ice cream, or waffles!

Far Eastern Salad
This recipe makes enough dressing for several salads, but it lasts for a few weeks in the fridge.  If you like, add a handful of bean sprouts.

Spring Mix, 50/50 (spring mix/spinach), or all baby spinach
cooked, crumbled bacon
hard boiled eggs, diced
diced green onions
bean sprouts, optional

1/2 c oil (I use half extra virgin and half canola)
1/3 c sugar
3 T ketchup
2 T red wine vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a sealed jar.  Toss salad just before serving.

Flank Steak W/Tangy Sauce“I think this is my favorite meal,” said my sister, Hannah, as she inhaled the plate you see above.

I mentioned earlier that my youngest sister was here to run a half-marathon, but she also came back through here on her way to the east coast for work.  She stayed a few days, helped celebrate Evelyn’s 6th birthday, ran around with Eli, smooched on baby Lane, and I fed her.  That is usually my main goal with people who come to visit us: food.  It is how I show my love, people!  Some shower others with gifts.  I make them creme brulee.  A friend waters our plants while we are away on vacation?  Chinese chicken salad.  Last day of Kindergarten?  Congrats to you!  How about Honey Waffles with Strawberry Sauce and whipped cream, bacon, and fresh Hot Chocolate for breakfast?!  So when Hannah came for a visit, I of course asked her the same question I ask all my guests:  “What can I make you?”

Unfortunately, she is one of those easy to please people-sheesh-and her answer, accompanied by a half shrug, was, “Whatever.”  *sigh*  I hate that answer.  I really like to make people something that they maybe haven’t had for awhile or have just really been craving.  I am not a short order cook and I always plan menus based on my freezer, my pantry, my workable time frame, my budget, and my energy level-all those previously mentioned are subject to change.  But wouldn’t it be more fun if you ate something a little bit different?  And since my sister has a really crazy schedule and a rather unconventional job (it is too hard explain, but she is like a Title Nine or Athleta kind of woman) her meals aren’t always regular or all that balanced.  She did request the salad we had that night and I will include it in the next post, but “any kind of meat” was at the top of her list.  Perfect.  I had this dinner menu already planned and since it is extremely easy, quick, and the essence of summer, it totally hit the spot.  And in case you are wondering, the potatoes I made that night are Good Lookin’ Man Potatoes and they are darn near the best side dish you can make for grilled food.

I know what you are thinking.  Yes, that steak above has a sauce with it and I have confessed before that I am kind of a purest when it comes to beef.  Salt and pepper on a steak-that’s it!  I was taught well, and my sister said the same thing.  But sometimes, a certain cut of meat needs a little something. Flank steak, also called a skirt steak, looks kind of like licorice.  It is very ropey and kind of needs to be cut perpendicular to the grain in order to eat it.  What does this mean?  It means that sliced thin, it makes for great fajitas.  It also happens to be an inexpensive way to grill in the summer. The meat responds well to marinades and a quick grill is all it needs.  In this case, you don’t even need to marinate it!  Just whip up a sauce on the side.  Such a simple thing, but it is so flavorful it will easily become your favorite weeknight summer supper or an easy dish for you to entertain with.  It took a few tries, but I got the sauce just right; not too spicy, just enough tang, and so wonderfully refreshing.  I implore you to give it a try!  Eat it with your sister, your brother, a neighbor, or anyone else that you want to show a little love.
Flank Steak W/Tangy SauceOne Year AgoHow To: Freeze Berries & Cheeze-It Chicken

Flank Steak W/Tangy Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light
This sauce can easily be doubled if you are feeding more people.  And don’t let the horseradish scare you, even if you aren’t a fan.  It gives it a subtle heat and just a bit of a bite.  Nothing overpowering.  Promise.

1 flank steak, about 1-1 1/2 pounds

Drizzle the steak with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over direct medium-high heat, searing one side for about 5 minutes, then flipping for a total of 8-10 minutes.  You just want to sear each side, leaving the middle nice and rare.  Remove steak to a cutting board to rest.  Meanwhile, make the sauce.

In a small bowl, combine:
1/4 c sour cream
2 tsp prepared horseradish
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T mayo
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
2 T snipped chives
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well.  Slice the steak thinly across the grain.  Serve with the sauce.  Leftovers make a stellar sandwich or panini!

Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette Have you ever made a minor change in something in your life and then thought, why didn’t I do this before?  Like switching from vegetable oil to canola oil.  Or growing a garden.  Or ditching the use of lip liner.

That is what this recipe was for me.  I had cut out this recipe for sweet potato salad from an old issue if Gourmet magazine and it was years before I decided to make it.  I really have no idea why, because it is one of the most simple recipes for potato salad ever!  Very few ingredients and what I think is the best part-you don’t have to wait for it to chill!  That is always the most torturous part for me.  Waiting.  Patience is really not one of my virtues.  But I digress…I made it once and then was like, “Why didn’t I think of this?  It seems so obvious!”  No mayo to mess with the already outrageous flavor of the sweet potatoes and just enough vinegar to give it some kick and a hint of personality.  It is a lot like the beginning process I use for this potato salad.

With one of the biggest BBQ weekends of the year just a few days away, here is a recipe that could not be more perfect for a backyard get together.  It is great served at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about it being left out in the elements.  Need to bring a dish to pass?  Here it is.  It uses familiar ingredients but with just enough variation to keep it from being boring.  The fact that it is very good for you is a bonus when faced with a sea of potentially un-healthy foods at a holiday get-together.  I make this quite often when I want something healthy, but that still fits the summer barbecue bill.

So just to recap, it is fast to put together, super easy, convenient, and good for you.  And you can make it without the lingering regret of having set it aside all those years ago.  Win win.
Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette One Year Ago: Shrimp Cobb Salad

Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette
Adapted from Gourmet
Feel free to use diced scallions in place of the chives.

3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T white wine vinegar or other light vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper
2 T chives

Steam the potatoes until just tender all the way through.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the next four ingredients.  When potatoes and done, toss them immediately with the vinaigrette.  Let cool to room temp or serve slightly warm.  Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

Hobo Dinners

Hobo Dinners are a great mess free change from the normal routine! {Brittany's Pantry}I am going to try to explain how happy this post makes me.  This meal, a Hobo Dinner, is the kind of thing that will make your wallet happy (you can easily feed four people for less than 5 bucks), will keep your house cool when the temperature rises, and will break the monotony of ‘normal’ dinner, thus making your kids think you are awesome.  It will feed one person or ten.  There is almost no clean-up.  It satisfies picky-eaters or vegetarians.  Gluten free?  Sure.  No dairy?  No problem.  About the only crowd this is not suitable for is a dinner party.  Oh, and did I mention that it tastes crazy good?

If you have made something like this before but usually only when camping, I implore you to expand it to a weeknight dinner.  I mean, really.  It is kinda fun, you know?  And super speedy!  Perfect for…well…Wednesday.  And I know, because we ate it Wednesday.  I vaguely remember making something like this when I was a kid (I think…) and when I went camping with my husband’s family for the first time, this was on the menu.  Incidentally, it is great camping food, in that you can make everything ahead of time and keep it in the cooler.  Car camping of course.  No hobo dinners while backpacking…oy.

OK.  So.  Details.  This can be streamlined in several different ways to make it easier/faster/possible.  Instead of dividing up a one pound block of ground beef, you can use pre-formed hamburger patties.  You could also use baby carrots in place of the carrot sticks, just know that they might not cook all the way through if they are the big ones.  I like to use 93% lean beef for health reasons and you could go even further and drizzle the whole she-bang with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter.  Not a carrot fan?  Use bell peppers cut into strips instead.  Not everything cooks well with the flavors of beef, but feel free to use what you like and give it a try.  The variety is half the fun.  Due to the dryness of ground turkey, I wouldn’t use it in place of the beef unless it was the variety that has dark meat mixed in.  The pure white meat, nearly fat free ground turkey just doesn’t have enough fat to work here.  But again, this recipe is just the basic-and we think, the best-version.  So go crazy.  Far be it for me to stop you from doing something wild on your Wednesday.Hobo Dinners are a great mess free change from the normal routine! {Brittany's Pantry}Hobo Dinners are a great mess free change from the normal routine! {Brittany's Pantry}Hobo Dinners are a great mess free change from the normal routine! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Cornbread

Hobo Dinners

1 lb ground beef-I use 93% lean-anything too fatty and your food just sits in a pile of grease
1 large potato, scrubbed clean and peeled or not peeled, and sliced thin
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
1 small onion, cut anyway you want
season salt
garlic powder

Divide the ground beef into four equal portions, or in our case two a little bigger and two a bit smaller for the kids.  Place them each onto their own sheet of aluminum foil.  Shake a bit of season salt over the meat and add some sliced or diced onion.  Lay on some slices of potato.  Sprinkle with a bit of season salt and some garlic powder.  Add carrot sticks and place a knob or two of butter on top.  Carefully bring up two of the sides of foil and fold-over to seal, leaving a pocket of air if possible.  Seal the ends and place on the grill over low or medium low heat or coals.  Close the grill and let cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.  Alternatively, bake the meal packets in a 350 degree oven.

Note:  The butter helps everything get nice and brown.  If the grill heat is too high it might burn, so adjust the heat if you need to.

Freezer Fajitas

Freezer FajitasYes, this picture is just a pile of meat.  Mmm….it makes my heart beat a little faster.  Yum!

A few posts back I mentioned a brief list of some of the meals I had stashed in the freezer.  Steak fajitas was one of them and since we made them this week, I thought I would share the recipe with you.  I am also finalizing a recipe for carne asada, but that one will have to wait.  As for this though, I like to call them my Freezer Fajitas because I only use this recipe when I am making the meat ahead of time.  If I am just going to eat them the same day or the next I use a different marinade, but to put in the freezer I like this one.  It is super fast and not a lot of ingredients.  I can just dump the meat straight from the store into a zip top bag, add a few things, and then toss it in the freezer.  Boom.  Done.  Dinner is waiting for me at a moments notice anytime in the next 3 or 4 months.  Just defrost and grill.

Now, this is by no means the ultimate steak fajita recipe or the one with the best flavor or the fajita recipe to end all fajita recipes.  Those I save for when I have a little more time to raid my spice cabinet and cut up jalapenos and juice limes.  Nope, as I mentioned above, this is the I-am-in-a-hurry-and-want-to-whip-this-out-and-get-it-in-the-freezer-kind of recipe.  Still scrumptious and much appreciated at a time when you aren’t in the mood to cook.  These fajitas, or any kind of Latin based meal, happen to go great with Mexican Rice W/Black Beans.  The fact that both are crazy good for you, use healthy, fresh ingredients, and won’t heat up your house when it is 90 degrees, are all very good things.  Actually, the leftover meat and rice are absolutely stellar when wrapped in a tortilla and eaten cold the next day.  Perfect to wrap up in parchment or wax paper and bring to work.  That is how I make it for my husband.  But I like the leftover meat in a quesadilla with extra cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and sour cream.  Maybe some sauteed mushrooms if I have them.  Outstanding.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies (I really need to come up with a more suitable name for these…), Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Mexican Rice W/Black Beans, and Pasta W/ Zesty Bolognese

Freezer Fajitas
Flank steak, also called skirt steak, is a fairly cheap cut of meat that is actually quite tough.  The trick is to use a marinade, don’t over-cook it, and to cut it against the grain.  This will be obvious when you see it.  It looks like long pieces of rope.  When cut across into thin slices, it ends up tender and fabulous.  It also feeds way more than you might think.  If you have never used it before, it just may become your new favorite cut of meat.

1 lb flank steak or top sirloin
2 T lime juice-this is one of the only times I use the bottled stuff
2 T olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients in a zip top freezer bag, pressing out all the air you can.  Smush around to mix and freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost and grill over medium high heat.  You want it pink in the middle so depending on your grill and the thickness of your meat, this may only be 3 or 4 minutes per side.  Let it rest and slice it thinly across the grain.

Root Beer Baked BeansThe above picture is a little bowl of hearty goodness.  Even if you are not a baked beans fan, this recipe is a standout dish that you will want to make frequently.  It has already been added to my list of summer menus, and I have plans to bring it as a side for at least one pot-luck supper this summer.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is something familiar without being too new.  Anyone can open a can of baked beans and add it to a meal.  I do this myself on occasion.  I just doctor them up with a bit of mustard, maybe some onions, a hint of barbecue sauce, and presto chango!  You have wonderful…well…modified canned beans.  But these!  The only shortcut is using plain canned beans as the base instead of soaking them overnight and cooking them yourself.  Otherwise they are a from scratch recipe that you can be proud to make, proud to serve, and proud to eat since they taste like it took you hours to prepare them, but of course you didn’t.

These are not super spicy so they can easily be served with just about anything you can think of!  Even an Easter ham dinner!  Although please do NOT bring them to your grandmothers Sunday brunch.  Bring these instead and save the beans for another day.
Root Beer Baked BeansOne Year Ago: Lemon Spaghetti & Glazed Salmon

Root Beer Baked Beans
Adapted from Bon Appetit
These beans are truly ‘baked’ giving them wonderful texture.  This recipe can easily be made a day ahead.  Just reheat them gently in the microwave when needed.

1/2 lb bacon, diced
2 large onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bottle or can of good quality root beer (preferably made with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup)
3 T apple cider vinegar
3 T molasses
2 T tomato paste
2 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper

In a dutch oven, large cast iron skillet, or other oven proof pan, saute the bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel.  If there is a lot of grease in the pan, pour off all but a few tablespoons.  Add the onions and saute over medium low heat until they start to soften.  Add garlic and saute just until fragrant.  Add all the rest of the ingredients including the cooked bacon and stir to incorporate.  Carefully place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Stir the beans and taste for seasoning.

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken TetrazziniIf you follow me on Facebook you may have noticed that I have been freezing meals and food for busy days that are post new baby.  I plan on doing a more detailed post of hints, tips, and all the freezer recipes that are quickly maxing out my chest freezer.  But for now, I wanted to share this one in its own post.  It is so scrumptious it deserves its own space.

I want to start by assuring you that the old stand by freezer recipes-i.e. lasagna, spaghetti casserole, mostaccoli, and all the other baked, marinara sauce based Italian pasta dishes-that we all seem to gravitate toward when planning ahead, are well represented in my freezer.  But it is a bit limited.  While we eat dishes like that every once in awhile, there are just too many good things to eat out there to limit oneself.  So now, if it is freezer friendly, I like to make a little note next to the title of a recipe before it gets electronically filed in my computer.  That way, at a glance, I know if something is particularly easy to make a double batch of for later, make-ahead if company is coming, or share with a friend in need.  Pre-done pasta dishes are great, but I also freeze marinated fajita meat, whole chickens in spices that are ready to roast, enchiladas, meatballs, bread dough, pancakes and waffles, quick breads, granola, chili, and a plethora of different foods to add variety to my meal planning.  Leftovers are a good thing.  But I will never be one of those people who can eat the same thing over and over.  Just the thought of it makes me cringe!

So the recipe for today?  Classic.  Straight forward.  Wonderfully comforting.  I had not made it in a long time and was kind of excited for the excuse to put it in my freezer.  This recipe makes a big, 9×13 casserole so it is perfect to split into two smaller containers.  You know.  For those days when you are NOT feeding 8 people for dinner.  I froze half of it and then put the other half in my fridge to bake for dinner last night.  Soooo gooood.  A big green salad or, in our case, a pile of steamed green beans, and dinner is served.  Freezer food never tasted so good!
Chicken TetrazziniOne Year Ago: Crock-Pot Chocolate Mess

Chicken Tetrazzini
Adapted from Giada
Don’t let the ingredient list scare you.  Yes, there are a lot of steps, but none of them are difficult.  This is not a weeknight kind of meal.  But it IS the kind of meal you can make ahead on the weekend and then pop in the oven a few days later.  You can easily omit the wine in this recipe, but it really adds a great depth of flavor.

1 lb mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
1 large onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c dry white wine
1 stick of butter, divided
1/3 c flour
4 c whole milk
1 c chicken broth
1 c cream
salt and pepper
1 lb linguine, cooked just a few minutes shy of al dente
3-4 c cooked chicken, shredded or chunked
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c Italian-style dry bread crumbs

In a large saute pan (like, the biggest on you have), add 2 T of the butter over medium heat and saute the mushrooms until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add another tablespoon of butter and the onions, garlic, and fresh thyme.  Saute until the onion is translucent, but do not let them brown or burn.  Add the white wine and simmer until the alcohol evaporates, 2-3 minutes.  Dump this mixture into a large bowl with the cooked chicken.

In the same large pan, melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour.  Keep whisking to let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Whisk in the milk, broth, cream, and some salt and pepper.  Turn up the heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken a bit, but don’t let the bottom scorch.  Pour the sauce into the large bowl with the chicken and mushroom mixture (or mix it all in your saute pan if it is big enough) and add the fresh parsley and the cooked pasta.  Gently toss everything together.  Pour into a large buttered casserole dish-about 9×13- or two smaller 8×8 or 9×9 pans.  Spread evenly.  Toss the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together and evenly sprinkle over the casserole(s).  *At this point, the tetrazzini can be cooled, covered in foil, labeled, and frozen.  Or if you prefer, cooled, covered and refrigerated for a day or two.  Otherwise, pop it into a 400 degree oven for about a half hour, or until slightly bubbly with a nice crust on top!  If baking it from frozen, adjust oven time accordingly.

Sticky ChickenThere are certain times when I wish you could smell a picture.  Now is one of those times.

And please note that part of the above picture is fuzzy because the steam was pouring off this baby like a volcano and filling my screen porch (where I take 99% of my pictures) with the aroma of perfectly roasted chicken.  *sigh*  Great for the nose and great for dinner-terrible when you are trying to take a clear picture before your light vanishes…

This recipe is based on the bazillions of Sticky Chicken recipes that are out there.  This is my version, created on the spur of the moment almost exactly 6 years ago when I was expecting my first child and trying to fill my freezer with food for the busy months ahead.  Little did I know that it would become such a fantastic meal for our family!  It could NOT be any simpler.  So if you are looking for some make ahead meals or dinner for tomorrow night, this fits the bill.

The elements of this dish are simple.  Dry rub + chicken = scrumptious dinner.  What makes this even yummier is the fact that the combo of certain herbs and spices make this fantastic crust on the outside that guarantees a scrumptious, juicy chicken.  Just throw it in the oven and roast it.  Done!  Lip smackin good.  However, I do recommend that you wait until it cools just a bit.  Snitching chicken that is steaming hot like a volcano makes for burnt fingers that are hard to type with the following day…
Sticky ChickenMmm.  Dusted with dry rub and ready for the oven!  This week, two more that look just like this will be added to my freezer!
Sticky ChickenCrusted, crispy, and perfect!

Sticky Chicken

Dry Rub:
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika (not smoked)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle and rub the inside and outside of one roasting chicken that has been rinsed and patted dry with paper towels.

*If desired, freeze the chicken at this point.  Just place the seasoned chicken in a freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal.  Freeze for several months.  Defrost overnight in the fridge and proceed with the recipe.

Place chicken on a lined sheet pan, small roaster, or large baking dish.  Roast at 350 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temp of the chicken reaches 175-180 degrees or the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced.  Cool slightly before carving.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Roasted Sweet Potato FriesAh.  Sweet potatoes.  That vitamin packed veggie that can be sweet or savory and seems to be the favorite of babies everywhere.  They also happen to be a major player at our house.  I have mentioned these before, but thought I would give them their own post.  These ‘fries’ are simple and go with just about everything.  Although, I guess I do tend to serve them with things like fried fish with remoulade and brats and hot dogs fresh off the grill.  They go awesome with pork chops too.  Sometime I will share the lime mayo that I like to eat them with but for now, here are just the basics.

These are done just like everything else I roast.  Olive oil, salt and pepper, and a high heat.  The beauty of these is that they practically beg to be experimented with.  Cut into a handy shape for snacking makes them perfect for kids.  Actually, my kids eat the leftovers with their fingers-straight from the fridge.  Yum.  If you want to jazz things up (Go on!  Live dangerously!) feel free to sprinkle them with the tiniest dusting of chile powder, onion powder, and/or brown sugar.  Don’t get too overzealous with the sugar.  They will burn long before they cook so go sparingly.  Chinese five spice powder is or purchased grill seasoning is good too.  More often than not, I like them plain.
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries Roasted Sweet Potato Fries Sweet Potato Fries
Yes these are called fries, but don’t actually expect them to be crunchy.  That comes from deep frying in oil; a much less healthy option.  Instead, enjoy how the sweetness, how incredibly good for you they are, and how quickly they cook!

2 large sweet potatoes (or however many you want) peeled and cut into ‘fry’ shapes
olive oil
salt and pepper
additional seasoning if desired

On a sheet pan toss the potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Roast at 450 until tender.  Length of roasting time depends on how big you make your fries, but it won’t take long!  Don’t forget to check on them.

Note: Using half russet potatoes and half sweet potatoes is quite scrumptious.

Strawberry & Avocado SaladI had this recipe in mind to share with you from the beginning of this blogs creation and for reasons I don’t quite understand, I just have never gotten around to it.  My bad.

Please don’t judge the recipe by the simple picture above.  The lettuce combo I happened to have in my fridge tasted fine, but didn’t quite photograph the way I wanted it to.  A little too…random.  Also, I was on the phone when I made this and was trying to take pictures before my last little bit of light disappeared, reposition the avocados and strawberries to be more visible (they like to stay on the bottom of the salad), and not drop the phone I had wedged in between my shoulder and my ear.  The end result was that I wished I had picked different lettuce and my camera and my phone both got covered with vinaigrette.

But enough excuses!  The reason I simply must post this here is quite obvious.  It is outrageously good.  I cannot stress this enough!  It is refreshing and tangy and creamy and sweet and…*sigh* I dream about this salad when strawberries are an elusive treat during the winter.  The only reason I have them now is because after frowning in disappointment at the plethora of fruit imported from Chile that seemed to have taken over the produce department of my local supermarket (Ugh!) I came across a huge display of strawberries just in from Florida.  Not exactly local, but at least from this country.  So I gave in and bought them.  Grrr-they are so good!  And with the chicken I grilled and a huge pile of potato salad, it was like summer on a plate.

The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity.  I keep thinking I need to add something more, but then I make it again and convince myself it is perfect the way it is.  The simple vinaigrette is tangy and the strawberries are sweet and the avocado is creamy and buttery-gaaaah!  So good!  So when you make this and fall in love with it, I apologize in advance for taking so long to get it out to you.  I’ll make it up to you by posting a super cute, super easy breakfast treat next.  Deal?  Deal.
Strawberry & Avocado SaladStrawberry & Avocado Salad W/ Honey Lime Vinaigrette
I usually serve this salad as a side to…well…just about everything.  But with plain grilled chicken sliced over top it becomes a great lunch or light supper.  With a wedge of whole grain bread on the side you have a meal that is healthy and just about perfect.

1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut into quarters
2 avocados, cubed
1 bag of romaine lettuce (or spinach or iceberg or spring mix-whatever you like!)
1 T honey
1 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1/3 c olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl you are going to serve the salad in.  This saves you from having to dirty another bowl but of course, you can whisk it in whatever you want!  Just before serving add in the lettuce, fruit, and avocado.  Gently toss together and serve immediately.

Lemon Potatoes

Healthy Lemon Potatoes | Brittany's PantryI just realized that this is the second potato recipe I have posted in a week.  But hey!  Its all good!  Everyone loves a potato, right?  Besides.  St Patty’s Day is coming up and I wanted to post lots of potato recipes for you and-oh who am I kidding??!!  Not really.  I just love potatoes and make them a lot…

And these are definitely a good potato.  Small baby reds, simmered in chicken broth and lemon juice and pepper.  It makes for a very easy, velvety-almost buttery, even though there is no butter-side dish that goes with just about everything.  This dish is best made when baby reds are just coming out of the garden, but since citrus is in full season right now I like to make them whenever I can.  Since they are healthy too, I often pair them with rich dishes to help balance out the meal.  No matter how you look at it, they are handy to have up your sleeve; either for a crowd or just a weeknight!Healthy Lemon Potatoes | Brittany's PantryHealthy Lemon Potatoes | Brittany's Pantry Lemon Potatoes
Adapted loosely from Giada
This recipe generally calls for the use of baby red potatoes because they hold up so well when boiled.  If you absolutely must, you can use plain old russets cut into smaller chunks, but they kind of fall apart.  A good boiling potato is best.

8 red potatoes, rinsed and cut in half (or quarters if they are big)
1 can chicken broth
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Place all ingredients-minus the lemon zest-in a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.  Drain and dump into a serving bowl.  Give the potatoes an extra drizzle of olive oil and add the lemon zest.  Toss together.  Taste for seasoning.

Party Potatoes

Party PotatoesPhew!  What a long couple of weeks!  But alas, I am back with a recipe for you.  Actually, I had three recipes previously that I was very excited to share, but none of them were quite worthy.  I can’t quite bring myself to post a recipe that could still be improved or tweaked to make it better.  The point of this blog is not to just post a recipe that I randomly tried or created and it just happened to work out.  Will it be the same next time?  Will the onion flavor in that dip become overpowering if made a day ahead?  Do those brownies get crumbly if you bake them too long?  These are the kinds of questions I like to have answers to before I post a recipe here.  I won’t pass it on unless I think it is the best version it could be.  I want you to be able to trust this blog in that it will work for you and be good.  Every time.

That said, this recipe is definitely reliable.  I have been eating it for years and years.  My Aunt Mary, a fabulous cook herself, passed this on to me when I was in my early twenties and although it has kind of evolved over the years, I still make it for a crowd.  Who doesn’t love creamy, baked mashed potatoes?  It goes with everything and is absolutely perfect when you need to bring a dish to pass.  And since they can be made ahead of time-an option I always love-it is a comfy side dish that is ready when you are.  Truly a Party Potato!

Please excuse the extra toasty cheese in these pictures.  I was getting ready for a party (and yes, I brought these ‘party potatoes’) and the dish got left in the oven a minute or two too long!  But still yummy!  Yours will be more melty and gooey on top.
Party PotatoesOne Year Ago: Enchilada Pie & Honey Bran Muffins

Party Potatoes
Adapted from Mary Zeug
There are a lot of different versions of this dish, but I really like the flavor of this one.

3 pounds potatoes, peeled, steamed and mashed or 4 c mashed potatoes
1-8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 c sour cream
1 T snipped chives
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 clove finely minced garlic

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread into a greased baking dish.  (These can be made up to this point a day in advance.  Just cover and chill and then bake.)  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until very hot.  If baking from the fridge, it will take a bit longer.  Sprinkle the top with extra grated cheese and melt in the oven for the last few minutes.  Garnish with fresh chives if desired.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps are low carb, gluten green, and so good it will blow your mind! {Brittany's Pantry}So here I am sitting at the computer, ready to fill this blank page with what I hope you all see as witty and inspiring words to encourage all of you to get in your kitchens and cook.  Well…maybe not witty, but hopefully inspiring…

Yup!  My kids are occupied watching a movie-The Emperor’s New Groove, in case you were wondering-dinner is done and I have some uninterrupted time to post this blog.  But other than the few preceding lines, I have been staring at this blank page for quite awhile.  And for a really stupid reason too.  I can’t decide which recipe I want to blog about: Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps or Chocolate Pudding Cake.  Both are outrageously good but for different reasons.  Both have been made in my home countless times and make us all drool with anticipation.  Again, for different reasons.  It is this same kind of ridiculous indecision that plagues me when ordering food or picking out just one flavor of ice cream at a diner.  Too many choices!  So I did what anyone would do.  Eeny meeny miny mo.

As you may have deduced from the picture above, Lettuce Wraps it is!!  But don’t worry!  Totally indulgent chocolate dessert will be next.Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps are low carb, gluten green, and so good it will blow your mind! {Brittany's Pantry} To be honest, lettuce wraps were a concept I had to get used to.  Why wrap your meal in lettuce when you could wrap it in carb loaded bread or tortillas?!  No contest!  But for reasons I am still unsure of, I saw this recipe years ago in Everyday Food and felt like giving it a go.  And lettuce wraps have been in my repertoire ever since!  This dish is super fast to throw together and so scrumptious you won’t believe it.  The fact that it is quite good for you is a major plus, but it is so tasty you won’t even care.  I have streamlined it a bit from the original recipe to make it less expensive and a little easier, but the fantastic flavor is still there.  So give these beauties a try.  It is an easy dinner decision to make.  As for dessert, you are on you own.Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps are low carb, gluten green, and so good it will blow your mind! {Brittany's Pantry} Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

2 T soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce (an Asian sauce found right next to the soy sauce on the shelf in the super market)
2 tsp sugar
Combine ingredients in a small bowl set aside, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.

In a large sauté pan, drizzle a bit of canola or olive oil over medium heat.  Add:
1/4 onion, minced
1 T fresh, peeled ginger, minced fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
Saute for several minutes until onions are soft, being careful not to let the garlic burn.
Add 1 package of ground turkey (93% lean) and brown.

When meat is fully cooked and broken up into small pieces, add the reserved sauce and stir.  Let the whole thing heat together and serve!

To build your lettuce wraps:
a small leaf of green leaf lettuce
spoonful of turkey
grated or julienned carrot
squeeze of lime

The squeeze of lime can be optional, but it makes a HUGE difference!  I highly recommend it!  Enjoy!

Gringo Chicken Soup Sometimes, when you least expect it, a little gem of a recipe comes your way.  Something that makes your life easier (super quick to make) and tastes unbelievably good (like cheesy dip on a spoon).

A few years ago, not long after moving to Illinois, I was grocery shopping and came across one of those tasting tables.  You know the ones.  Store employees cook something with the ingredients at the store and then offer you little samples while handing over a coupon and directing you to the refrigerated case that holds the tofu sausage they are trying to convince you is a good buy.  I am wary of these situations and for good reason. They often are trying to push processed convenience food that I generally avoid.  On this day however, I rounded the corner of the produce department and was immediately assailed by something that really really smelled good.  When I realized it was soup I hesitated, not being the biggest fan, but my growling stomach wouldn’t let me pass it up.  I tried a small spoonful, and then did not pause while a drained my little sample cup.  Goodness, it was yummy.  The funny thing was, it was a promo for salsa.  My new found soup crush was called Gringo Chicken Soup and I walked away from the demo table happily clutching a neon yellow recipe card with the picture of a cowboy in the corner.

I only got about 20 feet though before an ingredient listed stopped me in my tracks.  Velveeta.  There was Velveeta in this soup (*gasp*)!  Just for the record, this ingredient is what has kept me from blogging about this to you before.  I don’t buy Velveeta, an ingredient which calls itself cheese, but is really sooooo not.  I also don’t consider this an arguable point, so don’t bother sending me messages about the value of a processed cheese which does not need to be refrigerated.  This fact totally freaked out my husband when he searched the fridge for quite sometime looking for the cheese for the soup and I pulled it from the pantry.  He was quite disturbed and woke up several times that night in a cold sweat because of it…But anyway, I won’t even make that Velveeta salsa dip stuff that is always at Super Bowl parties.  *shudder*  Uhg.  You have to draw the line somewhere people.
That said, I am going against my better judgement and posting this recipe anyway.  It is really good, super fast, and will warm you up after a day battling the sub-zero weather.  If I ever figure out how to make it just as good without Velveeta, I’ll let you know.
Gringo Chicken SoupOne Year Ago: Midnight Crunchies

Gringo Chicken Soup
Adapted from the people that make Gringo Black Bean & Corn Salsa
This soup is fantastic with cornbread.  We like it with Mini Corn Muffins or Whole Wheat Cornbread.  Crushed up tortilla chips stirred into individual bowls is yummy too.

1 jar of black bean and corn salsa, about 1 1/2 c, whatever heat you like
2 c cooked shredded chicken
2-15 oz cans chicken broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c frozen corn
1 lb Velveeta, cubed

In a large saucepan stir together the salsa, chicken broth, black beans and corn.  Bring to a simmer and add the Velveeta, keeping the heat at a low simmer and stirring occasionally until the cheese is all melted.  Add the shredded chicken, heat until the whole thing come up to temp and serve.

Note: I don’t like canned vegetables, but a drained can of corn can be substituted for the frozen corn in this recipe if you so desire.  I like to swing by the grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken to make this soup with.  I use the dark meat in the soup and the white meat I save and make a small batch of chicken salad with it.  But that is just me…