Creamed Spinach

img_5467img_5470Creamed Spinach
courtesy of Food.com

Ingredients

White Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Spinach

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sweet onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 20 ounces frozen spinach, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

In a saucepan melt butter over medium low heat until sizzling. Add garlic, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg; saute for about 1 minute, but do not brown the garlic. Whisk in the flour and salt until creamed together and smooth. Stir in the half and half a little at a time. Increase heat to medium and constantly whisk until the mixture becomes thick and smooth. Remove from heat; set aside.

Place 2 tbsp butter in saucepan over medium heat; add the minced onion, and cook until transparent. Add spinach and water to pan, lower the heat, and saute for another few minutes, stirring until the spinach is cooked.

When the spinach is almost done, add the pepper, prepared white sauce, sour cream and parmesan cheese. Stir well, and simmer until completely blended. Season with more salt and pepper, as needed.

NOTES

This was the best creamed spinach in the history of creamed spinach. It really does taste just like the Boston Market stuff, which is what made me fall in love with creamed spinach in the first place. So so so good, I could almost eat a big bowl for dinner on its own.

Pro tip: can easily be doubled without changing any ratios. Comes out just the same.

Spanish Rice

img_3461Spanish Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

Method

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the rice and saute until golden brown. Add the onion, garlic, and seasonings and continue to saute for a couple more minutes. Add the water/broth and the tomato sauce. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until rice is cooked.

Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes, still covered, then fluff rice with a fork. Serve.

NOTES

For some reason, since moving back to Texas in 2011, I have had major Spanish rice problems. I made it fine for years in California but could not get it to work here. Most of the time, it came out undercooked and on the rare occasions when I didn’t, it was a big pan of soft mush.

But recently, through a lot of trial and error, weighing my ingredients, deleting another ingredient, and paying close attention to the browning process, I finally – FINALLY – have a Spanish rice recipe that works consistently again. I seriously cannot express how happy this makes me. A years-long kitchen fail and I conquered it. Yeah baby.

Corn and Zucchini Sauté


Corn and Zucchini Sauté
barely adapted from Belly Full

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 4 ears yellow or white corn, husks and silks removed, kernels cut off cob
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method

Sauté bacon in a large skillet until some of the fat has rendered, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the butter and onion; sauté for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Add in corn kernels, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

NOTES

Buttery, bacony, summer vegetable goodness. Not often a side dish blows us away like this. And zucchini is even one of Steve – and MY – least favorite vegetables. But we both said we could eat the whole pan ourselves; it’s that good. Go make it. Immediately.

Scalloped Potatoes

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Scalloped Potatoes 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds by hand or with a mandoline slicer
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (plus more for topping)
  • Smoked paprika

Method

In a small sauce pan, melt butter and blend in flour. Let sit for a minute. Add all of cold milk, stirring with a whisk. Season with salt and cayenne. Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Reduce heat and stir in cheese. (Note: if the mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you reach desired consistency.)

Place a layer of sliced potatoes in a lightly greased quart casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes. Repeat with second and third layer of potatoes and cheese sauce.

Sprinkle additional cheese on top as desired. Top with smoked paprika for color.

Bake uncovered for about 1 hour at 350°F. Serve immediately.

NOTES

Note to self: need much less ugly lead photo. Make again when there is natural light to be had. Ahem.

Anyway! These aren’t the prettiest of things, but hot damn, they sure are good. I have never been a fan of scalloped potatoes, having never had them homemade. But it seemed like such an obvious choice of side for our multiple Smoked Wild Pig Ham dinners this year that I figured I would give them a go. I never knew what I was missing! Cheesy, savory, potato-y goodness. What’s not to love?

Balela

Balela

Ingredients

2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh parsley
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or 4 roma tomatoes, chopped)

Dressing:
1 large jalapeno, minced
2 large cloves garlic, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a large salad bowl, lightly mix together the chickpeas, black beans, mint, parsley, onion, and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the jalapeno pepper, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Pour over the salad and toss to combine.

Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to serve.

NOTES

I am always on the lookout for new, easy, delicious ways to satisfy the afternoon hungries. First, there was tabbouleh. Then, there was cumin-lime chickpea salad. Now, there is balela. My goodness is this ever fantastic. Tangy, spicy, zingy, but also creamy from the combination of the two types of beans. This is definitely my new obsession.

Portion size note: The recipe as is would probably serve 8 people as a lunch or dinner side dish. For afternoon snacks, I cut this recipe right in half and split it into five portions and thought it was perfect.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Beans

Slow Cooker Barbecue Beans
adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian

Ingredients

32 ounce package dried pinto beans
1 pound thick cut bacon, diced, cooked until crisp
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon New Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I use my homemade sauce)

Method

Pour beans into a large sieve or colander and rinse well. Pour rinsed beans into 6 quart slow cooker and cover with water by 2 inches. Place cover on and leave slow cooker OFF. Allow beans to soak overnight (no more than 12 hours).

Drain the soaked beans and rinse the slow cooker. Place the beans back into the slow cooker along with the onions, garlic, bacon, water, molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, chili powders, cumin, oregano, and pepper.

Cook on high for 10-12 hours until beans are tender. Add salt and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce; stir to incorporate.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 3 months.

NOTES

I made this recipe for Christmas lunch and knew immediately it was going down in the archives. First attempt at great barbecue beans and I hit the jackpot. Tangy, meaty, sweet, smoky, delicious – and easy to boot, since most of the cooking is hands off. What could be better?

Cumin-Lime Chickpea Salad

Cumin-Lime Chickpea Salad

Ingredients

4 large cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons lime juice, depending on how zingy you want it
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 large red onion, very finely diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped*

(*Feel free to substitute parsley if you have an aversion to cilantro; I’ve tried it both ways and it’s awesome either way!)

Method

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, lime juice, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Add to the chickpeas, cilantro and onion; stir gently to combine. Serve right away or refrigerate for a while. The flavors get stronger the longer they have to meld.

NOTES

DELICIOUS and fantastic for a party side dish. I am kicking myself for waiting far, far too long to make it. I upped the spices just a touch from the original, as I like things a bit punchier.

This dish, along with my tabbouleh, have become my go-to late afternoon snacks, and will probably serve in that role for years and years to come.