Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead Side Dish Recipes'



Seven-Layer Salad

Does anyone else have a Costco cookbook problem?  I should just avoid the book section altogether, really, but the pull is always there.  I’ve gotten better at checking cookbooks out from the library to give them a spin, but it always seems like cookbooks at Costco are such a good deal.  (Sigh.)  Inevitably, my cookbook collection grows.

Anyway, my most recent Costco cookbook acquisition is the Cooking Light‘s Cook Smart Eat Well cookbook.  I usually don’t buy cookbooks that are collections of recipes that were already published in a magazine, but my Cooking Light subscription is pretty new still.  I’ve missed a lot.  And I know I could find most of the recipes online, but I just really like having a book in my hands instead of piles of printed recipes.

As I was flipping through the pages of my new book, I spotted the Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese recipe.  It looked really yummy and much healthier than most homemade mac and cheese, so I decided to give it a go.  One thing that I really like about Cooking Light is that they often give suggestions for rounding out your menu; one of the suggested accompaniments for the pasta was Seven-Layer Salad, which looked ridiculously easy and chock-full of tasty ingredients.

Long story short: We loved the salad and the macaroni and cheese was just OK.  I didn’t really care for the Dijon and Worcestershire flavors in the sauce (I wanted to taste cheese), and the pasta congealed way too quickly.  As a mac and cheese connoisseur, I suppose I should realize that it’s a rare “healthy” version that can stand up to gourmet versions, but you never know until you try, right?

Back to the salad: It tastes great, it’s colorful, there’s plenty of dressing (thanks to a great sour cream trick!), and I think kids would like it.  Plus, it only takes 10 minutes to put together, although you can assemble it up to a day ahead, cover it, and stash it in the refrigerator if you want.  Here’s how I made it.

In a large bowl, I layered 6 cups of torn iceberg lettuce, 1 (15-ounce) can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed), 2 cups of diced tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes), 1 cup of diced cucumbers, and 1 cup of julienne-cut carrots.  In a separate small bowl, I combined 1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream with 1/2 cup of light ranch dressing.  I spread the sour cream mixture over the carrot layer and then topped it with 1/2 cup (2 ounces) of shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese.

That’s it!

Seven-Layer Salad

This certainly isn’t a gourmet salad with a complex flavor profile, but it was really good.  You get some crunch from the romaine, cucumbers, and carrots, and I love the addition of beans for protein.  Mixing the sour cream and ranch together really stretches the dressing without adding a ton of calories; for someone who is normally a “fork dipper” when it comes to dressing, being able to enjoy a bit more was a nice change.  Plus, since this isn’t a tossed salad, you really can make it ahead (or enjoy leftovers the next day) without worrying about things getting soggy.  This was especially nice for Dr. O and me because the full recipe salad is HUGE; next time I’ll cut things in half if it’s just the two of us.

TIPS:  The recipe actually called for fat-free sour cream, but I refuse to use fat-free versions of ingredients that really should have some fat in them.  I find that the texture and flavor are usually off with the fat-free options, so it’s not worth it in my book.

Recipe link: Seven-Layer Salad

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

I’m a bit disappointed that I missed posting yesterday in accordance with my anniversary commitment, but I’ve been completely consumed by The Sickness.  I felt like I got hit by a truck yesterday, and I think I spent approximately 30 minutes of the entire day upright with my eyes open.  Yuck.

I was actually supposed to have a dinner party tonight, but I had to cancel it because of my illness.  (I know I wouldn’t want someone with flu-like symptoms preparing my food, never mind that I couldn’t work up the energy to go to the grocery store.  I’m also not talking at this point because my throat hurts so bad.  Wah, wah.)  I did spend the earlier part of my week experimenting with a few recipes I intended to use for the dinner party, though, including Martha Stewart’s No-Knead Dinner Rolls.

Back in 2006, there was all this hullabaloo about “no-knead bread.”  (Mark Bittman then created some residual hullabaloo in 2008 with his Faster No-Knead Bread recipe.)  Apparently, some people hate kneading bread so much that it’s the one thing stopping them from making it.  I actually love kneading bread; I think it’s therapeutic (and a good mini workout).  When I was looking for dinner roll recipes (kneading allowed) earlier this week, though, most had a yield much greater than what I needed and they weren’t easily halved.  (While it is possible to reduce recipes that call for only one egg, I can’t say that I enjoy weighing and dividing one; I never feel like I get a good white-to-yolk ratio.)  The No-Knead Dinner Roll recipe, though, had quantities that were easily reduced.  The half-yield was still a bit too much (9 rolls), but I couldn’t deal with the waste that making two or three dozen rolls would create.  Plus, they’re super easy, which is always a plus.

Note: The ingredient quantities mentioned below are for a half recipe; click on the recipe link at the end of the post for the original amounts.

First, I put 1 cup of warm (105F to 115F) water in a large bowl.  I sprinkled it with 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of active dry yeast and let the mixture stand until it was foamy (about 5 minutes).

Next, I added 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), and 3/4 teaspoon of table salt to the yeast-water mixture, whisking to combine.  I added 3 cups of all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), stirring with a wooden spoon until everything was incorporated and a sticky dough had formed.  Using a pastry brush, I brushed the top of the dough with more melted butter, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside until the dough had doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

After the hour had passed, I turned the dough out onto my well-floured kitchen counter.  With floured hands, I rolled the dough into a thick log and cut it into 9 equal pieces.  (I cut the log into thirds, and then cut each third into thirds.)

To prepare for baking, I brushed an 8 x 8-inch pan with melted butter.  I used my hands to flatten each piece of dough individually, then folded the edges towards the center, pressing to secure, until a smooth ball formed.  I put the dough balls in the prepared baking pan (smooth side up), covered the pan loosely with plastic wrap, and let them rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 30 minutes).

Unbaked No-Knead Dinner Rolls

After the rolls had risen adequately, I removed the plastic wrap from the pan and baked them at 400F for 35 minutes.  The recipe said to tent the rolls if they were browning too quickly.  I tented them when I checked them at the 20-minute mark, but I probably would have tented them at the 15-minute mark if I had checked them sooner.  (The ended up a bit more brown that I would have liked.)  I pulled the rolls apart and served them warm.

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

Considering that this was just about the easiest bread recipe ever, the rolls were pretty good.  The “shell” was a bit firmer than I like and I already mentioned that they were a bit too brown, but the bread really was delicious.  Plus, I could take the credit for making them from scratch (with hardly any work, seriously) and the house smelled heavenly.  I think this recipe would be absolutely perfect for “beginner” bread makers; it’s pretty straightforward and hard to screw up, but the results are worthwhile.

TIP:  The recipe says you can skip the second rise and refrigerate the rolls for 4 hours or up to 1 day instead.  That way, you could make the dough and form the rolls the night before or the morning of, and then just move them directly from the refrigerator to the oven when you’re ready to bake them.

Recipe link: No-Knead Dinner Rolls

Pita Bread

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted an actual recipe!  The twelve days I spent away from home last month (in addition to the four I spent this past weekend) have cramped my cooking style a bit, but I’m ready to get back into my routine.

It was my turn to host the Gourmet Club meeting in September, and I chose a Greek theme.  Dr. O and I absolutely adore Greek food, but we haven’t really eaten it on a regular basis since our time in Lincoln.  (Parthenon, we miss you!)  After a half-failed moussaka attempt (the flavor was fantastic, but the bechamel layer couldn’t have possibly looked less appetizing; I just can’t bring myself to serve ugly, especially when it takes three hours to produce it), I decided on a menu of Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mint-Feta Sauce, Greek Garden Salad, Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette (coming soon!), and Pita Bread (today’s recipe).  I was particularly excited about the pita bread because (1) I’ve never made it before, and (2) I’ve had such a great time making bread and pastry dough from scratch during these past couple of weeks.

I got the recipe from The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman, which is a book I picked up at the Highlands Ranch library.  I couldn’t find a link to the recipe online, so here it is:

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the dough

Method:

Stir together 1 cup of the water and the sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside until bubbly, 15 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the 1/3 cup oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 1 cup water.  Stir with a wooden spoon until crumbly, then knead in the bowl until the dough can be scooped into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.  Lightly coat the dough with oil, return it to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 portions.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion to make an 8- to 9-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Set the dough rounds aside (without stacking them), and cover them with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.  Let them rest for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 500F.

When you are ready to bake them, place as many dough rounds as will fit on an ungreased baking sheet without overlapping.  Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the pitas are puffed up, 3 minutes.  Check the oven, and rotate the baking sheets if the pitas are baking unevenly.  Continue baking until the pitas are beginning to turn golden on the bottom but are not at all crisp, 2 minutes.  Carefully remove the pitas, being watchful to avoid the escaping steam.  Stack the pitas and wrap them in a towel.  Repeat until all the pitas are cooked.

Serve right away, or let the pitas cool completely, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 2 months).  Reheat before serving.
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Everything went as planned for me until I got to the point where I was supposed to transfer the individual rounds to the baking sheet.  Despite the fact that I floured my surface well before I let them rest, they stuck.  And when I say they stuck, I mean they STUCK.  Each one completely lost its shape as I pulled it from the counter, which was especially awesome since Gourmet Club was set to begin in a matter of hours.  I decided to just wad up the dough and re-roll each round as it was time to put them in the oven.  I didn’t think the pitas would turn out because I was agitating the dough, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Lo and behold, they turned out anyway!  I was able to get two dough rounds on each baking sheet, and after 5 minutes in the oven, they were puffed up, browned, and perfect.  I used a thin spatula to remove them from the baking sheets and then stacked them and wrapped them in a clean kitchen towel as the recipe instructed.  Before serving, I divided them into two batches, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them in the oven at 300F for 10 minutes.

Pita Bread

The pita bread was seriously delicious and definitely worth the trouble.   This recipe doesn’t produce the dry, pocket-style pita bread you might be used to buying in the grocery store.  This was moist, chewy flatbread, which was perfect for dipping in the mint-feta sauce that accompanied the chicken and for sopping up the potato vinaigrette.  Mmmm.  I think store-bought pita is forever ruined for me.

TIPS:  I tried the recipe using baking sheets and a pizza stone; both worked equally well.  Also, you can make the dough several hours (and up to three days) in advance if you want.  Just bring it to room temperature before using it and resume the recipe by dividing the dough into individual rounds.

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Dill Dressing

I figured I had better post one of my favorite summer sides before cookout season slips away – Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Dill Dressing from the June 2007 issue of Everyday Food.  It’s a perfect compliment to burgers and brats, the ingredient list is short and simple, and it can be made a few hours before company arrives.

To prep my ingredients, I halved 1 pound of Kirby cucumbers lengthwise and then thinly sliced them crosswise.  I also chopped a handful of fresh dill to produce 2 tablespoons and squeezed 1 lemon to produce 2 tablespoons of fresh juice.

In a medium bowl, I combined 1/2 cup of reduced-fat sour cream, the 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and the 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill.  I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper to taste and whisked it well to combine.  To finish the dish (already!), I added the sliced cucumbers and tossed everything to coat.  The salad can be served immediately, or you can refrigerate it up to four hours.  Garnish it with a bit more dill for better presentation before serving.

Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Dill Dressing

This salad is just so light, fresh, and delicious – it’s perfect for summer.  Plus, it’s so easy that you can make it any night of the week.  We love it!

TIPS:  If you can’t find Kirby cucumbers, hothouse or English cukes will work fine as well.

Recipe link: Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Dill Dressing

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Look a Lot Like Dessert…

When you make them with purple potatoes.  (Especially when they’re only once-baked at this point.  Throw the plate on a pink napkin and the effect doubles!)

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Made with Purple Potatoes

I didn’t do this deliberately…  For some reason, Sunflower Market only had 2-pound bags of creamer potatoes last week, and each one had a assortment of red, white, and purple potatoes.  A couple of my guests (particularly the one who won’t eat onions unless they’re well disguised) approached the purple potatoes with caution, but in the end, they went oven better than the red and white.  (Perhaps because they were more exotic?)

Anyway, they were delicious.  Perhaps I’ll use purple potatoes on purpose next time…

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Potato Bites
Original post: Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

I’ve been a bit of a blog slacker this past week, but I’m hoping to pick things up a bit after tomorrow’s dinner party.  Today’s recipe – Twice-Baked Potato Bites from the June 2008 issue of Everyday Food – is actually a side dish that I’m making for the party.  For the main course, I’m making a stuffed pork loin that cooks at 450F, and I wanted to find something that could cook at the same temperature during the pork’s resting time.  Just to make sure they actually came out of the oven hot after 15 minutes (even after a day in the refrigerator), I made them as a side dish with dinner on Thursday night.

The original recipe serves eight people, and I actually did make the full recipe just to make sure everything would go as planned for the party.  Just cut it in half if you’re cooking for four.

These twice-baked potatoes are “bites” because they’re made with red new potatoes.  I started off by scrubbing and halving 2 pounds of potatoes (about 14 potatoes).  Next, I cut a thin slice off the bottom of each potato so the potatoes would sit flat.  I lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil, placed the potatoes on the baking sheet, and tossed them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  I seasoned with salt and pepper, rearranged the potatoes to sit bottom side down, and baked them at 450F until they were tender and lightly browned (35 minutes).

After the initial baking time, I let the potatoes cool on the baking sheet until I could safely handle them.  Using a measuring spoon, I scooped about 1 teaspoon of flesh from the center of each potato and transferred it to a large bowl.  I added 3/4 cup of reduced-fat sour cream and 1/4 cup of snipped fresh chives, mashed the mixture together, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I stuffed the filling back into the potatoes, arranged them on the baking sheet, covered them with plastic wrap, and stuck them in the refrigerator.

The real test of the recipe was to see if the potato bites would indeed come out hot using the original baking time of 15 minutes, despite spending the night in the refrigerator.  I removed the plastic wrap, baked them (uncovered) for 15 minutes at 450F, and – voila! – they came out piping hot and ready to go.

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

I forgot to add extra scallions as a garnish this time around (I’ll get it right tomorrow!), but I still think they looked and tasted great.  I loved the creaminess and tanginess the sour cream added to the potato mash, and I’m so excited about how easy these were to finish after I had done the initial preparation and stashed them in the refrigerator.  They’re going to be perfect for my party.

TIPS:  Chives can be a bit hard to come by in the grocery store, depending on where you shop.  If they’re available, they’re usually by the fresh herbs in the produce area.  Sunflower Market here in Denver seems to have them pretty consistently.  If you can’t find them, scallion (green onion) tops offer a similar flavor; they’re just much bigger in diameter.

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Wild Rice Salad

I’m going to put some more “Thanksgiving potential” out there for the diligent menu planners.  (I’m one of those, except “diligent” might not be the right word.  “Obsessive,” maybe?)

I’m certainly not obsessed with Martha Stewart the person, but I really do enjoy the special holiday issues of some of her magazines.  There are always plenty of fun, crafty ideas, and I’d hate to miss out on the holiday recipe collection.  Today’s recipe – Wild Rice Salad – is from the 2008 Season’s Eatings issue.  I was drawn to this one for two main reasons.  One, the magazine said this dish is actually better when it’s made a day ahead, which makes it perfect for company.  Two, it’s gluten-free, and I’ll be having a dinner guest in a few weeks who doesn’t eat wheat.

Yet again, I made a half recipe (4 servings) since I was just cooking for two.  Double the ingredients to follow the original recipe, which serves eight.

First, I cooked 1 cup of wild rice according to package directions.  I completely forgot that wild rice is like brown rice (it takes *forever* (50 – 60 minutes) to cook), so be sure to plan accordingly.  One positive aspect of the eternal rice cooking time is that I had plenty of time to prep the other salad ingredients.  I cut half of a small red onion, half of a celery stalk, and half of a small carrot into 1/4-inch dice.  Next, I toasted 1/4 cup of slivered almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350F oven.  (Toasting took about 7 – 8 minutes; just watch them carefully.  When they’re fragrant, they’re pretty much done.)  I waited until the last minute to core half of a red apple and cut it into 1/4-inch dice since I didn’t want it to turn brown.  (Toss the diced apple with a bit of lemon juice to prevent discoloration if you really want to prep it early.)

When the rice was ready, I drained it and rinsed it under cold water and then placed it in a medium bowl.  In a medium skillet, I melted 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter over medium heat.  I sauteed the diced apple with a pinch of ground cloves, stirring, until the pieces were slightly golden (4 minutes).  I added the apple mixture to the cooked rice.

In the same skillet, I heated 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  I added the diced red onion, celery, and carrot, along with 1 minced garlic clove.  I sauteed the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the onion was translucent and just beginning to brown (6 minutes).  I transferred the veggies to the bowl with the rice-apple mixture, added 2 tablespoons of dried currants, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, I added 1 tablespoon of apple-cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of water to the hot skillet, still over medium heat.  (I pre-mixed the liquids in a small bowl and dumped everything in at once to make things easier.)  I cooked the mixture, whisking, until it was reduced by half (1 – 2 minutes).  I whisked in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, drizzled it over the salad, and tossed it to combine.  I let the salad sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, and then I served it garnished with the toasted almonds.

Wild Rice Salad

This salad is so, SO good.  I did taste it immediately after I finished it, and I was concerned that it was going to be a bit too vinegar-y.  Those 30 minutes of resting time were like magic, though.  I absolutely loved the texture – slightly chewy wild rice and currants, tender-crisp fruit and vegetables – and the toasted almonds really put things over the top.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Definitely make this one ahead, even if you only let it sit for 30 – 60 minutes.  If you’re going to serve it the next day, cover it, refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature and add the toasted almonds just before serving.  I enjoyed some of our leftovers the next day for lunch, and the flavor and texture were still amazing.

TIP: Grocery stores like Whole Foods (and even some of the nicer locations of standard chains) have foods like wild rice, slivered almonds, and dried currants available in the bulk foods section of the grocery store.  Save pantry space and money by just buying what you need.

Recipe link: Wild Rice Salad




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