Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category


Isn’t it a pretty color?

I don’t remember when I first made this pretty side dish, but it became an instant hit. Sweet and tart, and it makes the kitchen smell so good while it is cooking. It wasn’t long before I was bringing it to Thanksgiving every year, and I make it occasionally in the off-season and have more than once made a huge batch and canned it.

It is a bit labor intensive; there’s lots of standing over the stove and stirring. I tried roasting it in the oven once (which is how I make my regular applesauce when I’m making a big batch for canning) and the results were not nearly as good.

I almost always double, and sometimes triple or quadruple this batch. Because fresh cranberries are often only available in October and/or November, I grab several bags and throw them in the freezer to have on hand all year.

Some people prefer this warm; I will eat it warm, but prefer it cold from the frig.

Cranberry Applesauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsps. water
  • 4 cups chopped apples
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel (I rarely have this, and often just dash in some lemon juice)

In a large saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Stir in apples, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring several times. Stir in cranberries; cook and stir for about 8 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop. Cover and cook 5 minutes more or until apples are tender, stirring several times.

Add cinnamon, ginger and lemon peel. Cook and stir about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; mash until texture reaches desired consistency.


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I never ate spinach as a kid. Never! When I got to college, I started eating it in fresh salads, as I didn’t mind it raw, and I’m sure I started getting it cooked in certain dishes once in a while.

This spinach casserole was my sister-in-law’s regular recipe that she brought to dinner. And surprisingly, I like it! Now that I have kids of my own, we eat it regularly. Why? Because my kids will eat it! They don’t care for it fresh from the oven, but cool it off a bit, and they will eat it as a dip on crackers. (It is admittedly very tasty on crackers.)

So feel free to dig in with your favorite party crackers, pretzels, celery/carrots, or just with your fork!

spinach casserole

Amy’s Spinach Casserole

  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream (or 1 cup sour cream)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 package of onion soup mix

Thaw the spinach. (I often follow the cooking directions and cook it in the microwave with a little water for about 5-8 minutes). Squeeze it dry. Squeezing it dry is essential to getting a good final product that isn’t runny. How to do this: Especially if it is hot out of the microwave, the spinach is a bit hot to handle. I line my colander with paper towels, dump the spinach in, and then take a clean drinking glass and press down on the spinach all around in the colander until very little liquid comes out.

In an oven-save bowl or casserole dish, mix spinach, sour cream, soup, and soup mix together until well blended. Level the top of the mixture in the bowl. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.


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Gazpacho Ingredients

Fresh strawberries, cucumbers, garlic, onion, pepper and tomatoes (not pictured) feature in this fantastic soup.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m always trying ways to get my family to eat more veggies. This cool soup is hit or miss with my kids. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don’t. But my husband and I both like it very much, and when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen, it’s a great side dish.

With fresh ingredients in season, this is perfect with grilled meats. The strawberries give the soup a lovely sweetness. And DO NOT skimp on the feta. The feta makes the soup. Buy good feta. 🙂


A cup of gazpacho with feta on top. Yum!

Chunky Summer Gazpacho

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (or one small shallot, chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsps. white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps. olive oil
  • 2 tsps. fresh thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • crumbled feta cheese

Place the water and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (except feta) and pulse to desired consistency.

Chill the gazpacho for two hours (recommended in the recipe. We tend to serve immediately.) Add water to thin, if desired. Sprinkle individual servings with feta as desired.

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When I was a kid, I hated mushrooms. They were slimy. I picked them out of my grandma’s lasagna, off of pizza, and out of pretty much anything that would allow me to separate them from the meal of the day.

Then my husband discovered sauteing them in butter. Oh. My. They come alive when sauteed in butter.

Mushrooms and carrots are sauteed to tasty perfection in this simple side dish. Personally, I feel the green beans are sort of just along for the ride. But hey, if mushrooms can get me to eat my green beans, all the better!


Mushrooms, Carrots and Green Beans, sauteed to perfection!

Vegetable Trio

  • 1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces. (I have used frozen, which works okay, too)
  • 4 large carrots, julienned (or you can just dump in a couple of handfuls of mini-cut carrots, though I usually still cut them in half.)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Cook and stir green beans, carrots, salt, thyme and butter over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms. Cook and stir for additional 10 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender.

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I’m a mom. Few children I know like to eat vegetables, at least in the quantities they are supposed to. (Heck, I don’t like to eat vegetables in the quantity I’m supposed to.)

So when I want comfort food, like Cheesy Hash Brown Bake, I find ways to be sneaky with veggies without sacrificing flavor.


Mmm…yummy. Can you tell there are carrots and broccoli hiding in this photo of my party potatoes?

The original recipe calls for 3 lbs. of frozen hash browns. My mom always used the cubed hash browns, but I found that I prefer the shredded hash browns from a texture standpoint. This offers easy opportunity for subbing in other veggies, like shredded carrots, and/or broccoli slaw.

Food processor

My food processor makes shredding easy.

I started by buying a bag of broccoli slaw and a bag of shredded carrots and substituting these for part of the hash browns. Then I tried using my food processor’s shredding disc to shred my own carrots and the stalks from broccoli, and we liked the texture better. I also recently subbed shredded cheddar for the shredded “process cheese food” and found no difference in flavor. So here is my recipe.

Makeover Party Potatoes

  • 4-5 cups shredded hash browns
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded carrots (or bag of shredded carrots)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded broccoli (or bag of broccoli slaw)
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup onion, grated, or 1/2 cup dried minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups chopped ham


  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Thaw potatoes. Mix all ingredients for casserole together. Put in 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with buttered corn flakes. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

*You can also split the casserole ingredients between two 8×8-inch baking dishes. Make only half the topping and top one with it. Bake this one. Cover the other with plastic wrap and/or foil and freeze. (A disposable foil or plastic pan works great for this.) Top with buttered cornflakes before baking at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until heated through.

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Sometimes, the kids just won’t eat what you want to eat. Annoying. This is a big part of why I hate Menu Planning Day. But I try to find ways to still make what I want and yet get them to eat SOME of it.

Rule in my house: you take one bite. One of my past daycare providers called it the “No- Thank-You Bite.” You don’t have to eat any more than that, but one bite is important. The other day, my daughter actually liked a salad I made her try. Like, with lettuce! Today, she helped me shake up the vinaigrette for this to go with our hamburgers off the grill.

Tortellini Salad (2)

This is a cool, crisp, tangy side for a picnic, or with any meat main dish. It is one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli. My youngest likes this – usually. My oldest turns her nose up at it – I think the vinaigrette is too strong for her – but she will eat raw broccoli and carrots with ranch dressing, so I just save some out for her. But she still has to taste it. Every. Time.

Tortellini Broccoli Salad

Recipe says it serves 4, but it goes farther than that in our house.

  • 1 pkg (7oz) cheese-filled tortellini (I like the dried ones in the pasta aisle rather than the frozen kind. They cook up better.)
  • Garlic Vinaigrette (below)
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 medium green onions, sliced (optional)

Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup cider or balsamic vinegar (I prefer balsamic)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. (If the package says to use salted water, DO IT. The salt makes a big difference.) Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again.
  2. Make garlic vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a large bowl with a tight lid. (I use the container I put the salad in. Make sure it will hold 7 cups, as any smaller will be too small.) Either close lid and shake to mix, or whisk gently.
  3. Add the carrot, broccoli, onions (if using) and pasta to the bowl. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour, up to 24 hours. (I find it keeps well for several days, though it is good to toss the salad again before serving in case the vinaigrette settles.)

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