Easy Roasted Ranch Carrots

 

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, which is full of recipes that are ridiculous to prepare.  They either have a bunch of steps that you’re trying to take in order while making 10 other recipes at the same time or they take up oven space for hours on end.  But this recipe is so easy that you can whip it up while the turkey rests after cooking.  Or, as long as you keep an eye on them, the carrots can be roasted at a slightly different temperature so that you can have them in the oven with another side.  Another option is to steam or boil the carrots, but I personally don’t like the taste and texture as much as roasting.  Whatever works for you works for me.  The flexibility is what’s so nice about this recipe.  Of course, with butter, brown sugar, and dry ranch mix, they’re not as healthy as plain roasted carrots, but they’re still vegetables.  And it’s a holiday, after all, so let’s all cut ourselves some slack.

In reality, after having Thanksgiving with my family last weekend (and the leftovers that all ended up at our house), I can’t imagine another round of the same food in less than two more days with my in-laws.  We didn’t have these carrots, so maybe I’ll make them for a slight change in scenery.  Plus, it’s more about the company than the food anyway, right?  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Easy Roasted Ranch Carrots

1 pound baby carrots
drizzle of olive oil
5 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 package dry ranch mix  (like Hidden Valley)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the carrots in an even layer on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast until the carrots are softened, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan and mix in the sugar and ranch mix until combined.  Add the carrots and stir until they are completely coated.  Serve warm.

Source: adapted from Hidden Valley

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad was born when I clipped a coupon for Marzetti dressing in the Sunday circular and didn’t know what to buy.  Summer was here and we had been itching to eat outside on our never-used screened-in porch, so a pasta salad seemed to fit the occasion.  We also had a huge (Costco-sized.  HUGE.) block of feta in the fridge to use up, so a Greek pasta salad it became!  This recipe is obviously adaptable depending on what ingredients you like.   I think it would be great with the tomato halves roasted, but Jake doesn’t like roasted tomatoes so I left them fresh.  If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out.

So, after two years of living in our house and never using the porch for anything other than storing leaf bags, we ended up using it twice in one day! And I think we actually had this pasta salad as a side for both meals.  The porch is inconveniently placed because the only access to it is through the basement (every house in Pittsburgh is on a hill), but the grill is right there, so we happily had a couple of picnics.  It’s so peaceful on the porch without the tv or any of our other distractions that we determined it’s well worth dragging everything downstairs.

Dinner was followed up with a fire in our also-underused fire pit where Lily learned that she loves s’mores as long as there aren’t any marshmallows.  Too messy.  Can you still call it a s’more if you’re just eating cold chocolate on graham crackers? I wasn’t too surprised by her aversion because she hates the way cotton candy sticks to her fingers.  Yet, somehow this distaste for messiness doesn’t translate to her playroom.  Or jumping in muddy puddles.  Or hating baths.  Can’t win ’em all.

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

1 pound short-cut pasta
1 – 1.5 cups creamy Greek/feta salad dressing (I like Marzetti and Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup  English cucumbers, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh mint and/or oregano, diced, to taste

Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and immediately combine with 1/2 cup of the salad dressing (this is so that the pasta absorbs the dressing).  Set aside until cool.

Add in all of the other ingredients, including half a cup of dressing, and stir to combine.  Add additional dressing as needed.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.  Enjoy!  Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.

Source: L+K Original (I just threw it together, but there are many Greek pasta salads out there to explore)

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Aioli

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This asparagus with lemon aioli was our whole dinner the other night.  Even for Lily.  She had frozen yogurt and snacks with my dad before her music class, so she wasn’t too hungry.  In fact, once she saw the asparagus she decided that she wasn’t hungry AT ALL.  But I bribed her to try it and she actually liked it!  She didn’t eat a lot, but I still count it as a serving of vegetables.  Jake loved it and said that it was “restaurant quality” (haha – I guess that’s a good thing, depending on the restaurant he want comparing it to).  So, we polished off the plate and called it a night.

The nice thing about this aioli is that it would be good on a lot of vegetables.  I would eat it on green beans, broccoli, or even roasted carrots or cauliflower.  And it was a snap to throw together.  Plus, I cooked the asparagus at 350, but it can go up or down a little from there as long as you keep a close eye on it, so if you have other food you need to cook, you can throw them in together.

 

Lemon Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Roasted Asparagus

1-2 pounds of fresh asparagus
Drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Rinse the asparagus under water and snap the bottoms off (hold both ends and bend – it will naturally snap off).  Spread the spears out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Roll around so that the spears are fully coated and arrange them in a single layer on the pan.

Roast the asparagus, rolling around/flipping over about halfway through, for 10-15 minutes.  The thicker the asparagus, the longer it will need, so keep an eye on it.  You definitely don’t want to overcook it!

Drizzle on the lemon aioli and serve warm.

Source: Aioli adapted from Food Network

Broccoli Salad with Raisins and Sunflower Seeds

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Jake prepared this recipe, but since he doesn’t like to write anything but equations, I’ll contribute the blog post.  I have to note that it is pretty hilarious watching someone who is more accustomed to doing dishes than cooking trying to make a recipe.  “How do you steam things?” is one of many questions that he shouted out to the family room.  Luckily, he is impecible at following directions and ended up with the perfect broccoli salad.  The steaming and ice bathing of the broccoli makes the color bright and the broccoli crunchy-but-not-raw.  He didn’t overcook it at all.  He’s a keeper.

We will be needing more recipes like this soon because in a few weeks our first CSA package will show up.  We will receive a mixture of fruits and vegetables, whatever happens to be harvested at the moment, without any warning about which produce will arrive.  It’s like being on Chopped!  I’m pretty much going to be best friends with Alex Guarnaschelli by the time October rolls around and brings with it the last shipment.  Really, I’m just hoping I’ll be able to identify all of the contents of the wicker basket cardboard box.  That’s the first step to success.  Isn’t it funny how on Chopped, the chefs open the container of secret ingredients and they’re like, “Oh thank god!  Servuga caviar!  I would have just DIED if it had been Oscietre caviar.”  (Yes, I had to look that up.)  So if I come back here and ask for help identifying obscure vegetables, please don’t make fun of me.  Or do, but give me a recipe to try as well.  For now, I’ll give you one.  Fair trade.

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Broccoli Salad with Raisins and Sunflower Seeds

2 small heads broccoli (12 oz.)
⅓ cup mayonnaise (or vegannaise)
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
¾ tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped red onion (we used pickled because it was all we had – tasted great!)
¼ cup raisins
2 Tbs. roasted, salted sunflower seeds, plus more for serving

Cut the broccoli into small florets.  Steam the florets for 1 to 2 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Transfer the broccoli to an ice bath to stop the cooking and then drain well. Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and mustard in bowl. Combine the broccoli, onion, and raisins in large bowl; toss with mayonnaise mixture. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.  Let sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.  Top with additional sunflower seed when served.

Source: Adapted slightly from Vegetarian Times

Braised Potatoes with Lemon and Scallions

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The recipe for these potatoes was in the latest Issue of Cook’s Illustrated and upon seeing the picture and reading Dan Souza’s narrative about why it’s awesome, I knew I had to make it immediately.  For one thing, lemon and potato isn’t a combination that you see often, but I’ve never met a lemon I didn’t like (or a potato for that matter).  Also, Jake is currently avoiding carbs, so I knew I wouldn’t have to share the final product.  I’m a really amazing and thoughtful wife.  But thank goodness for my devious plans because the potatoes were delicious!  I happily ate all of them in just a couple of sittings.  I can’t wait for the next holiday to come because I’m breaking this recipe out as a side dish to share.  What is the next holiday?  Earth Day?  That works.  I’ll plant a garden with Lily and then come inside to cook some of Earth’s bounty.

Speaking of gardens, Jake is making me a raised bed this year (despite my lack of willingness to share my food with him) and I can’t wait to fill it up with plants.  The only problem is that our yard is a deer super highway between a big farm and woods.  Suggestions for keeping deer away from gardens would be much appreciated!

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Braised Potatoes with Lemon and Scallions

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, washed and halved
2 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh scallions

Arrange the potatoes in a single layer, cut side down, in a large non-stick skillet.  Add the water, butter, garlic, thyme, and salt and bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and carefully remove (and save) the garlic.  Discard the thyme.  Increase the heat to high and simmer until the water evaporates, swirling the pan often to keep the potatoes from sticking.  This takes about 15 minutes.

Mince the garlic until it is a paste and stir together with the lemon juice and pepper.

Continue cooking the potatoes until the butter browns and the cut side of the potatoes have brown spots (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and toss in the garlic mixture and the scallions.  Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2013

 

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