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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip @ My Pantry ShelfOnce you fall in love with Brussels sprouts, it is impossible to get enough.  We eat them like candy at our house, or most of us do.  One child has chosen to shun these green meatballs for now- more for us!  While we enjoy them shaved in salads and sauteed with garlic, the best preparation in my opinion is to simply toss them in oil, season them with salt and pepper and roast in the oven.

Brussels Srouts and dip

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese Dip can be served as either an unexpected appetizer or a gratifying side dish.  The Brussels sprouts caramelize a bit in the oven and match beautifully with the blue cheese and yogurt dip.  The dish hits all the notes of a warm, savory, dippable treat, but without the guilt of fat and carbohydrates that so many appetizers carry.

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Thanksgiving is never at our home.  Each year we alternate between my and my husband’s parents’ homes.  This holiday is decidedly my favorite.  I love the cool weather, the rustling of leaves, the family crammed into the kitchen to gossip, stir, and sip.   And of course the food.  Each of the homes we visit have special dishes that we love, but since each year we miss one of the homes, I like to make our favorites ahead of time so we do not miss out.

Stuffed Winter Squash with Rice and Sausage recipe is a take on my family’s traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  My parents have hosted Thanksgiving every year for my entire life (and longer). Each year they put on an impressive spread with many mouth-watering dishes, but my favorite is by far the rice stuffing.   Inspired by their once neighbors and long-time friends, my parents early on shunned the bread stuffings they were raised on and adopted a rice version of the dish.  Wild rice baked along with flavorful Italian sausage, fresh vegetables and herbs to make a tasty, toothsome (not to mention gluten-free) side dish.  This stuffing is delicious baked in the bird or baked in a greased casserole dish, but love the look and taste of baking it in delicata squash halves.  It also makes for very tidy serving.  The stuffing can be made ahead a day or two and kept covered in the refrigerator or a couple of weeks ahead and kept in the freezer.  Wait to stuff the squash halves until the day of baking.  One of the squash boats is a generous serving, perfect if it is your main side dish. If you are serving it with many side dishes, such as on Thanksgiving, they neatly cut in half.

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Our garden grew wild this year.  Between the overload of responsibilities and excursions that spring demanded, not to mention an uncooperative back, it is actually surprising we even found time to thrust some plants in the ground.  But somehow, despite our lackluster efforts, the garden is producing heartily.  The other afternoon on a saunter through our beds I was shocked to find piles of peppers.  We planted a variety of sweet and hot that we found at our favorite plant sale. Each plant boasts a different flavor, color and shape.  The other night their abundance begged to be honored with a starring role in this dish. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheesy Kale and Orzo

May 22, 2012

At nearly the age of four, our daughter sat in disbelief  in front of a bowl of mac and cheese served by a friend of ours.  “But it’s not green?”  She couldn’t fit the bowl of creamy goodness into her limited epicurean understanding of the world, mostly because her mother had apparently spent her ultra-formative years fooling her into thinking that all mac and cheese had pureed spinach or kale as an integral part.  But before you jump to conclusions and label me a crazy mom who withholds hard-earned icons of American childhood (probably no hot dogs or Oreos either!), consider that the addition of these rich greens actually makes the dish taste better (and triples the nutritional value of course)!  And not just to adults either, our kids prefer this as well.  Just look at the happy girl then and now! (But you are right about the Oreos, we have held back on those.  Perhaps you know of a fantastic recipe to make them at home and would like to share a link below!)

Cheesy Kale and Orzo is the next generation of mac and cheese at our dinner table.  It satisfies our kids’ desire for cheesy pasta, yet holds its own as a more sophisticated side for grilled salmon (our protein of choice these days).  The orzo cooks in the fashion of a risotto, so it has a chance to soak up the white wine and rich chicken broth.  Kale, steamed and blended fine, mixes in and colors the dish a deep green. Fresh cut chives and Parmesan add a bit more flavor and creaminess at the end.

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One trip to the Farmers’ Market is enough to know that spring is truly here.  Mounds of fava beans, pea shoots, and strawberries compete for space with kale, beets, and last season’s  potatoes.  My kids and I headed over last weekend to pick up some fresh foods and the obligatory honey sticks.  When we returned home, our house was unpleasantly warm thanks to unseasonably sultry weather.  It may have been too hot to cook, but it was the perfect temperature to put together some quick refrigerator pickles.

Pickled Spring Vegetables are an Asian-inspired quick pickle.   Quick pickles are a fantastic use for all sorts of vegetables and do not require time or canning equipment.   I used Easter egg radishes, fresh nantes carrots, and leeks from our trip to the market, though you could also use cucumbers, onions, daikon radishes, or just about any other vegetable you want to pickle.  The brine is based on rice wine vinegar and lime juice that tempers the sweetness.  These pickles have hints of flavor from slices of ginger, garlic and cilantro.  Slice up the veggies and pour over the brine.  The pickles will be ready to eat in under an hour.  Letting them sit overnight will intensify the flavor, if they last that long.

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Spring is officially here.  Time for fresh potatoes, crisp peas, and tender greens.  This dish celebrates them all.  With no resemblance to its more traditional mayo-based cousin, this potato salad is fresh and crisp with a delicate balance between marinated potatoes, plump peas, crunchy toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula.  The whole lot is tossed in a simple mustard vinaigrette to make an uncomplicated, appetizing side dish for any spring meal.

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Pickled Beets with Cumin

March 22, 2012

Pickled Beets with Cumin.  Who would have thought that such a short list of ingredients could produce a condiment with so much flavor, texture, and interest?  After making these for the first time, I have been determined to keep the refrigerator stocked with them ever since.  A huge thanks to Linda Ziedrich to introducing me to this recipe via The Joy of Pickling.

To prepare, roast the beets until just tender.  Peel and dice them into small chunks, then drown them in red wine vinegar infused with peppercorns, salt, and of course cumin.  Cap them off and keep them in the refrigerator.  Letting them sit at least a few days will allow the flavors to meld.  They will keep up to 3 weeks.

These tasty chunks of beet are fantastic on their own, but pair them with feta and you have a very tasty snack.  Toss a few in the salad along with the vinegar and finish up with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy salad dressing.  There are probably a million more ways to eat these, but the beets never stick around long enough for me to dream up new ideas.  How will you eat them?

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