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Category Archives: Sides

Pan-Fried Asparagus

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I have always turned my nose up at asparagus, that is until recently. My sister and I found this recipe for Pan-Fried Asparagus online at Allrecipes.com. It is so delicious, so quick and easy to tweak to make it your own. These days, asparagus is on my grocery list every week and is a great go-to veggie side for anything I’m cooking. Honestly, though, I can decide what I love best about asparagus… the taste or how beautiful it looks on the plate! Let me know what you think of this one.

Pan-Fried Asparagus

1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook garlic in butter for a minute, but do not brown. Add asparagus and cook for 10 minutes, turning asparagus to ensure even cookng.

Four servings. One serving has 119 calories, 18.5 g total fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 695 mg sodium, 6 g total carbs, 2.9 g protein. My tips: I use less butter, which cuts down on the calories.

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Easy Crostini

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I have a confession. As much as I enjoy cooking and sharing recipes, and even as confident as I’ve become in my cooking ability during the past few years, I still panic when I have to take food to someone’s home.

Recently, my Sunday school class provided three days worth of dinners to a couple with a new baby. When I signed up, the only open spot was for a side item on a day when the main meal was going to be potato soup. Ahhhhhhh!!! Of course that would happen to me. What was I going to send to go with soup other than a big, boring salad? (Side note… I can’t stand making salad. It just doesn’t peak my culinary interest.)

So, as often happens in these situations, Kenley stepped in with a great suggestion. Little toasts was her answer to my dilemma, otherwise known as crostini.  As it turns out, crostini, according to Wisegeek, actually means “little toasts.” They are made by thinly slicing bread and toasting or grilling the slices so they become crispy. As often as I’ve enjoyed crostini on the side of an order of soup at Jason’s Deli or The Loop, I never thought about making them myself.  But, at Kenley’s urging, I did and they were yummy. I even slipped a few out of the container when I was on the way to drop them off. (I just couldn’t resist!) Here’s how to make them:

Easy Crostini
Loaf of French Bread (I used Pepperidge Farm because it was small in diameter, so toasts were the size you see in restaurants)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
Shredded cheese (I used Cheddar, but Parmesan would be great too)

Thinly slice your bread so that it will become crispy when cooked. Combine olive oil, salt and pepper to taste in a ramekin or bowl. Lightly brush the oil on each piece. Using too much could make the bread soggy. Bake the bread according the the package directions. Mine said to bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. That was perfect for these pieces. Remove the bread from the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on each one and put them back in the oven on broil, only long enough to melt the cheese. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container. They’re good for several days.

My tips: I’m sure there are a million different ways to make these, but this is what worked for me. Also, you could leave off the cheese and serve them with a delicious goat cheese spread. I’ll round up a good goat cheese spread recipe and share it with you soon. If you’ve got one I need to try, send it to me and I’ll post it for everyone to enjoy.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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If you’re not roasting sweet potatoes as a side to almost any meal, then you’re missing out on one of the easiest and tasty low-calorie dishes out there. My sister Kenley recently made the ones I’ve pictured here. She’s one of those people with great cooking instincts. You know the kind… never a recipe in sight and the ability to whip up a palate-satisfying meal with anything out of the pantry. But I’m going to take credit for adding this side to our family’s list of favorites. My husband asked me to start roasting vegetables about a year ago. I didn’t realize how easy and delicious it is with almost any veggie off the produce aisle.

For sweet potatoes, I usually cook one potato per person at the table. Wash and slice them any way you like. Whether you leave the skin on or off is also up to you. Toss the cut-up pieces in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Then sprinkle on a little coarse Kosher salt. From here, have some fun with your favorite spices. Sometimes I simply add ground black pepper or a little red pepper (“a little” being the key phrase here… red pepper goes a long way).  I’ve also used a recipe that combines garlic powder, cumin and chili powder. My friend Jill Prince, another great cook, simply combines Mrs. Dash and oregano. They are all delicious! Spread them evenly on a baking sheet  and put them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Depending on the amount that you’re cooking, they usually take between 20 to 30 minutes, or until they’re soft. Give this a try and let me know what great spice combinations you come up with.

To give you an  idea of the calorie count, one medium sweet potato has 103 calories, according to Calorie King. One tablespoon of olive oil has 119 calories, but that would be spread out over several potatoes.