Tag Archives: side-dish

Creamed Fresh Spinach – Great Side-Dish And A Delcicous And Easy Way to Sneak Greens Into You Diet!

I love spinach but lots of people turn up their nose in disgust when they see it on their plate: my daughter for example. She is fine when it is in a brothy soup or disguised in a pie, but a big pile of slightly wilted spinach on the side of her plate can send her into a squirmy fit. You would swear I was trying to punish or poison her!

Eat your spinach!

Eat your spinach!

Over the years I have seen lots of recipes with “creamed spinach”, and it always appears on American diner menus as one of the sides. I did not grow up eating it and so never found it appealing. I had a huge bunch of spinach that needed to be cooked the other night, and the only way to get rid of it in a hurry was to cook it down. When it was cooked I felt it needed something so I cooked an onion and added cream. I must have been thinking of creamed spinach because this is what it turned out to be.

And it was delicious: my daughter’s words, not mine. Get the picture: even the worst of skeptics succumb to a bowl of creamy greeny spinach!

_____________________________________

You will need:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs fresh spinach, washed and left wet

1 medium sweet onion, small dice

1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter

1 tsp sea-salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)

Method:

1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add the wet spinach. Cover with lid and cook until spinach is soft and wilted, stirring occasionally. You may need to do this in two batches (if your pan is small). Transfer to a big colander and let it cool. When it has cooled, squeeze as much of the moisture out as possible. Do this by squeezing with your hands and pressing the spinach into the sides of the colander with a big spoon. Remove from colander and chop. Set aside.

cook spinach

Cook spinach

2 – While spinach is cooling, melt butter under medium heat in same pan used to cook spinach. When it has melted, add the onions and cook until soft (about 6 or 7 minutes).

saute onions

Saute onions

3 – Add the salt, pepper, pepper flakes (if using), and cream and stir. When cream is hot, turn pan down and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.

add cream

Add cream

4 – Add the spinach and mix everything together. When it has completely warmed through it is ready to serve.

Creamed Fresh Spinach

Creamed Fresh Spinach

I like to garnish each serving with a thin wedge of lemon. A little lemon juice squeezed over the spinach gives it a fresh zing.

a squeeze of lemon is a lovely addition

A squeeze of lemon is a lovely addition

Another Take On My Mother’s Stuffing (8 -10 as side-dish)

 My mother has appeared many times in my blog over the past 2 years, and here again I find it impossible to think about Christmas without thinking about her. She would laugh and disagree if I told her she was a great cook and that the main reason I love food and love to cook is because of her, but it is all true.

She was of the generation in Ireland where all women knew how to cook. Granted some cooks were better than others but dinners in Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s were most definitely eaten at home. People only went to restaurants for very special occasions, and in fact there were no real restaurants. It was either a cafeteria style coffee shop for lunch and if you wanted dinner, you had to go to a hotel. All in all the food scene was non-existent, and where it did exist the majority of the food was anything but delicious or exciting.

This stuffing is great sliced and fried

This stuffing is great sliced and fried

That is not to say that there was no good food to be had in the country, quite the opposite. I remember nothing but wonderful food, but it all came from the kitchen at our house, as did all great food in Ireland at that time. Despite the general ignorance about what healthy food was, we were eating it unknowingly every single day: local meat, organic dairy products and vegetables. Nothing came from far away. Talk about the slow Food Movement  – it was thriving!

Sake & sake cups chilling in ice - yum

Sake & sake cups chilling in ice – this is nice to sip on while holed up in the kitchen at this time of year – hint, hint

I could get really side-tracked right now and talk about all the great food changes in Ireland since then, as well as make mention of another fact: the introduction of FAST FOOD, leading to a rant about the rise of obesity etc, but that’s a whole other topic.

Right now I am remembering the Ireland of my childhood and my mother’s wonderful bread stuffing. She only made this a couple of times a year (Christmas & Easter) but it was the highlight of the meal and a recipe I have tried in vain to perfect.

My mother would instruct me over the phone each Christmas to get me through her recipe, and I followed her directions so trustingly, and so blindly, that I never really paid attention to what I was actually doing. Since her death, each year I strain and grapple to remember what to do, but it is never the same, not really even close, save for the aroma of cooking onions mixed with the scent of allspice after I have everything mixed together.

Time for Christmas

Time for Christmas

This year instead of getting sad about this I decided to make a stuffing with her recipe in mind, but not try to replicate it. I came up with this one a few weeks ago and think I will stick to it for this year. It was very good, and the addition of mushrooms was one I know she would approve of.

_________________________________________

You will need:

5 medium potatoes, peel and cubed

2 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 cup milk (any %) – (for potatoes)

1/2 tsp salt

several grinds black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium sweet onions, small dice

2  very large white mushrooms, diced

3 inner celery ribs including leaves – diced

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 tsp allspice

7 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs (can be made in food processor – use slices of ordinary white bread)

1 cup milk (for stuffing mix)

1 tbs unsalted butter (firm)

Method

Preheat oven 375* (do this 10 minutes before it is ready for the oven)

1 – Prep all veggies as instructed above. Some pictures below to help with any chopping confusion!

peel, then dice potatoes

Peel, then cut potatoes into chunks

diced mushrooms

Diced mushrooms

dicing celery 101

dicing celery 101

2 – Cover potatoes in cold water and boil until soft. Mash and cream with the 2 tbs butter, 1/2 cup milk, salt, and pepper. Cover with a cloth and set aside.

cream potatoes

Cream potatoes

3 – While potatoes are cooking put large saute pan on medium heat and add oil. Add the onions and celery and cook for about 10 minutes.

saute onions and celery

saute onions and celery

4 – Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until everything is very soft (another 10 minutes or so). Add the herbs and stir. Cook for another minute.

add mushrooms, then herbs

add mushrooms, then herbs

5 – Add the milk and allspice and let the whole mixture warm up. Turn off heat and set aside.

6 – Put the breads crumbs and potatoes into a big bowl and add the milk mixture from the pan. Mix everything together until it is one solid ball (I use my hands for the job).

7 – Butter a loaf pan and add the stuffing. Dot with the last tablespoon of butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, removing the foil 15 minutes before the end of cooking (helps the top to brown).

This can be turned out onto a board and sliced, giving each person a piece, or sliced and placed on the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. I like it sliced, then fried in the pan with butter until it is crispy on both sides. It’s also great with a fried egg in the morning or on a sandwich with turkey and sweet relish.

It can also be cooked and then reheated in the oven before serving or even eaten cold.

So many possibilities!

Day 3: Amazing Sand Sculptures On The Beach. (Also, promised Green Bean Side-Dish (serves 4-6)

Evening on the beach

The most memorable thing about Day 3 at the beach were the beautiful sand sculptures made by my kids, their friend, and my friend Celine – wow!

Celine’s buddha

We walked down to the beach before sunset because I needed to take pictures of these masterpieces, as well as to of course watch the sun setting on the watery horizon.

Part of an Etruscan City wall

We were a little scared that they might have been vandalized by rowdy kids (or adults!), but they were still thankfully still very much in tact, and the kids began working on them again.

Figure with snake

I was amazed at how much work they put into things that would be washed away overnight by the relentless rolling of the waves. They excavating, and dug with intensity, all the while discussing the ultimate story of the piece. 

Building an ancient sand city

One part was an Etruscan City, with tombs, buildings, and the essential wall that protected everything. The wall then extended to protect the buddha guarding the city, while the figure outside the wall battled with a snake.

Extending the city walls

I hung out watching the sand building, sipping my wine and chatting with my friends. Then, we all got to enjoy the great red ball that was the sun slowing dip out of sight and move to the other side of the world. And to think that this happens every single day.

Beach sunset

_______________________________________________

Here is the recipe for the green bean side-dish I served with my meatloaf the other night (type meatloaf in search box to the right of the blog).

*This is a Blood Type A Diet Recipe*

This is a great way to cook green beans, and it seems to be a green that pleases even the most vegetable-phobic person!

Green Bean Side-Dish

You will need:

1 lb green beans, washed, and string-end snapped off

1 large sweet or yellow onion, large dice or sliced into medium/thin half rounds

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional & omit for Blood Type A Diet)

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

1 tsp sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes)

several grinds black pepper (omit for Blood type A diet)

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

1 – Put 1 1/2 cups water in big pot and place on high heat. When it boils, add the beans and cover with lid. Boil for 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to colander and cool down beans with cold water. Set aside.

2 – Put large saute pan (big enough for the beans) on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne flakes or cumin (if you are using).

3 – Turn heat up and add the green beans. Cook for 5 minutes on high heat, stirring often. Add more oil if necessary. Turn off pan and serve.

*You can cook everything up to the last step (# 3), and finish right before serving*

Green Bean Side-Dish

Divide between plates with a main dish of your choice.

Let’s do this again tomorrow

Green Bean & Spinach Vegetable Side-Dish (serves 4-6)

 Sometimes making sure we eat something green with every meal, can be a hassle or very hum-drum (like a salad!). Here is a great green side-dish to add to your repertoire.

Green Bean & Spinach Vegetable Side-Dish

It is green, healthy and delicious!

_______________________________

You will need: 3 cups green beans, 8 scallions, sliced, 4 sage leaves, finely chopped, 10 oz spinach leaves, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup chicken or veggie broth, sea-salt and black pepper to taste.

1 – Put pot of water on to boil. When it boils, add the green beans and blanch for about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the beans into 1 inch pieces (or a little smaller).

2 – Put large saute pan on medium/low heat and add oil. When it has warmed up, add the scallions and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the green beans and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chopped sage and stir.

saute scallions,, then blanched green beans

3 – Turn the heat up and add the broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, turn off head and add the spinach. Stir until it wilts (about 1 or so minutes). Do not add the spinach until right before serving.

* You can cook this ahead up to adding the broth, and turn of pan until ready to add the spinach. Then simply turn heat on again, bring to a boil and add the spinach*

add spinach

Creamy Squash and Pepper Side-Dish (serves 6)

I wanted to revisit this great recipe. Sometimes when I make a side-dish to go along with my main meal, the accompaniment can get lost in the shadows.

I wanted to give this little gem it’s very own spotlight, and get you excited about using squash to go with some of your hearty, robust winter dinners. Besides adding a lovely flash of color to your plate, it is also so good for you, and delicious beyond  belief!

Consider cooking this the next time you have an unwieldly squash sitting in your kitchen, and you don’t want to make soup!

_____________________________

You will need: 1 winter squash, peeled , scooped & diced, 2 tbs oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 small yellow onion, small dice, 2 long skinny red peppers (Anaheim), OR, 1 green pepper, diced, 1/2 tsp of curry powder, (if your curry is very mild, use 1 tsp), 1 sprig thyme, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, (I use Maldon Salt), several grinds cracked black pepper.

blanch squash

1 –  Put a pot of water on and when it boils, add the diced squash and cook covered for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

saute peppers & onions

2 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and butter. When it has warmed, add the onions and peppers and cook for 12 or so minutes, until vegetables are soft.

3 – Add the squash and thyme sprig, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and stir into vegetables. Add cream and turn heat down to low. Keep warm until ready to serve (you may want to thin it out more, and you can do so by adding a tbs of cream or broth  until you are satisfied with the consistency).

Roasted Eggplant with Fresh Herbs (Side-Dish – serves 4-6)

Eggplant is bountiful at this time of year, so, if you have never experimented with it; now’s the time my friend! I was so scared of this vegetable when I first encountered it. Where I come from it is called an aubergine, and I had my first taste in France. It was such a strange big purple thing, I had to try it. I remember it being served cold with some sort of tomato sauce? I was so used to eating everything warm (I thought only green salad was served cold!), the temperature took me by surprise and I almost spit it out! I felt very naive when I began travelling to other places, and made the discovery that everyone did not eat “meat and potatoes” for their dinner?

Italian Eggplant (locally grown)

I was very willing to try anything and everything when I got going, and knew that for the rest of my life, food would be a constant curiosity to me. Food is like all the other languages in the world I don’t know, but want to learn. By the time I have reached the end of my life I hope to have knowledge enough to say a few words in all of them!

Eggplant still freaks me out a little but I am getting better at cooking it. My theory is that any vegetable roasted can only be a good thing. Roasting brings out sweetness and allows the favors to shine. Eggplant is no different, and cooking it like I did below, makes me want to cook it more often.

This was supposed to be a side-dish, served with some chicken, but myself and my son ate it in its entirity right from the roasting pan!

_________________________________

You will need: 1 Italian eggplant (the big fat kind), cut lengthways into 1/2 ” slices, , 2 tsp coarse salt, 1 tbs fresh thyme leaves, 1 tbs chopped rosemary leaves, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Sprinkle salt over the eggplant slices. Put eggplant slices on a big plate and tilt it forward slightly (use a dish towel at one end). Put a dish towel, or paper towels, on your counter at the low-end to catch the draining water coming from the eggplant. Leave for about a 1/2 hour.

cubed eggplant.

2 – Wipe eggplant dry and cut into cubes. Put into a big bowl and add the oil and the herbs. Mix until everything is coated.

Add herbs and oil.

3 – Place on a baking tray and put in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Toss eggplant around with a spatula and taste one. It should be soft. If not, return to the oven for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Ready to serve.

This can be served as is with pasta, chicken or fish, or, can be served at room temperature along with greens and cold sliced chicken.

Bacon & Cabbage as a Side-Dish (serves 6)

I got a head of beautiful cabbage from my crop share this week (see side column for more info.) and I immediately thought about “Bacon & Cabbage” I couldn’t help myself, as it was the only thing we made with cabbage when I was growing up in rural Ireland. I actually never tasted cole slaw until I was in my mid-20’s, and living in North America. Bacon and cabbage for dinner was a natural thing to serve in Ireland during the time when countries ate what they grew or raised, which in turn became part of their food identity so to speak. When people were more isolated,  foods had very distinct characteristics. If you lived by the sea, your diet came from the ocean, if you lived in the woods, you probably ate a lot of game animals, and so on.

Lovely fresh cabbage from the local Good Work Farm

Irish farmers raised pigs and grew hardy vegetables like cabbage. Technically speaking the ham comes from the back leg and is cured using a brining process of one kind or another. This gives the meat “salty” qualities. It is then slowly boiled in water, and is great, cut into slices and served with boiled cabbage. Why is cabbage such a great accompaniment? Well, if you tasted boiled cabbage on its own, the first thing you would reach for is the salt-cellar; it begs for it! This salty bit of meat was a much tastier alternative.

This dish translates as “Corned Beef and Cabbage” in the United States. When people hear my accent, I get several reactions (one being an absolutely horrible reenactment of a commercial featuring a soap called Irish Spring. I have never been able to bring myself to ever buy it!), and another, is to tell me how they love Corned Beef and cabbage. For a long time I would smile politely and wonder what on earth they were talking about. I was Irish, why did I not know the dish that seemed to typify the food? In Ireland, Corned Beef (from a cow, not a pig, at that) is a cold processed sandwich meat which comes in a big rectangular block. My mother would buy it if she was stuck for something to take in a hamper to a football game, or when taking a long car ride.Why would anyone rave about it, let alone eat it with cabbage.

After living here for a while now, I have come to realize that cultures change a little to fit in, and foods bend, and maybe take on new flavors and qualities which suit the place better. I’m not saying it is a bad thing. In fact, it makes the people and the food they cook, more interesting and more unique.

For one reason or another the ham was replaced by beef. Corned beef is made from the brisket in North America which comes  from the breast section of the cow. It is salted with “corns” of salt, hence the name Corned Beef.

A different take on Bacon & Cabbage!

This cabbage reminded me of the comfort food of home. I know there are all sorts of things I could have done with this leafy green, but I wanted bacon and cabbage! I did not want to boil a ham however, and it struck me to substitude fried streaky bacon for my quick fix. It worked so perfectly. It was not something I could have eaten as a main dish, so I served it alongside the main meal of boiled potatoes and chicken breast. I now had a great new way of presented an old recipe. 

______________________________________

You will Need; 1 small head of cabbage (I used a head of Savoy Cabbage from the local, “Good Work Farm”), cut in half, sliced and slices roughly chopped,  1 lb streaky bacon, 2 tbs unsalted butter, sea salt (to taste), 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.

1 – Fry bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop. Set aside.

Fry bacon.

2 – Put cabbage into big pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and keep at a good simmer until cabbage is soft (about 15-20 minutes). Test by sticking a knife into a rib piece. If it goes in easily, but still having a little “give”, it is done. Drain water by sliding lid a little to the side and pouring the water carefully into sink.  If you are too nervous to do this, drain into a colander and put directly back into pot.

Chop cabbage and boil.

2 – Add butter, bacon bits and pepper and stir. Taste and add salt according to your taste (if the bacon is salty, it may not need more).

Bacon & Cabbage Side-Dish

It is now ready to serve with whatever you like. See below for a couple of suggestions.

You can serve this like I did, with a meat or fish, white sauce and simple boiled potatoes.