Category Archives: Side Dishes

How to reuse olive brine, oil from sundried tomatoes and more (and transform it into fabulous fare)

The next time you eat the last olive out of the jar and go to wash the brine down the sink, stop! You are about to pour flavor down the drain.

My kitchen motto is “think before I toss.” I can’t stand wasting food so I am constantly looking for ways to reuse ingredients and save items people normally throw away- like brine or the oil in sundried tomatoes. Those ingredients are incredibly flavorful.

Olive brine is great in marinades (just use it instead of vinegar in your recipe); mix a tablespoon into mayonnaise when making potato salad; mix brine, olive oil and Italian seasoning and use it to marinate vegetables; add a dash to a dirty martini or Bloody Mary; or make my Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes.

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I don’t eat potatoes very often because once you add all the flavorings like butter or cream, they are so fattening. This is a fat free recipe that uses olive brine, rosemary and chives to flavor the potatoes. I came up with it this week and considering it is fat free, I think it’s great.

As for the oil in a jar of sundried tomatoes- that’s my favorite leftover ingredient. You can mix it with balsamic vinegar for an instant salad dressing; use it to dress orzo or other pasta; use it as the oil when you make goat cheese omelets;  use it instead of olive oil when you make croutons or crostini; or make my Warm Bruschetta. This is my favorite recipe and it’s ready in less than 5 minutes. I simply slice grape or cherry tomatoes, warm some of the oil in a pan, toss the tomatoes in with basil and cook for 1 minute. Salt to taste and serve.

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You can also save the oil from artichokes and use that in marinades or salad dressings.

Pickle brine is another item you can reuse. It’s good in marinades, but I often refill the jar with other items like cucumbers or carrots and reuse the brine. I have a recipe below for Spicy Dill Carrots which is simply carrots, onions and jalapenos in dill pickle brine.

Brine from hot peppers is good in marinades, barbecue sauces, or add a touch to deviled eggs (but use sparingly).

Beer is another item I can’t stand to waste. A couple of days ago, I tried a new beer and I hated it. There was no way I could drink it, so I put it in the fridge to use in the future. The next day I made Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken.  You can also make beer bread, beer cheese dip, or use leftover beer to boil brats (add onions to the beer and finish the brats on the grill).

There are so many items we throw away every day that we can reuse. I hope this inspires you to think before you toss. Enjoy.

Fat Free Olive Brine Smashed Rosemary Potatoes

1 pound microwave in a bag red potatoes

¼ cup olive brine

¼ cup chopped chives

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes according to package directions. While the potatoes cook, chop the chives and rosemary.

When the potatoes are ready, empty the bag into a serving bowl and smash them down.

Pour the brine over potatoes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then top with chives and rosemary. Toss and serve.

You can also substitute basil in this recipe if you don’t like rosemary.

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Warm Bruschetta

2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, assorted colors

1 ½ tablespoons oil left from the sundried tomato jar

10 basil leaves

Salt to taste

Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with basil and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

This dish is delicious over couscous or with French bread, but I also like it alone as a side dish.

 

Leftover Beer BBQ Chicken

6 chicken thighs, legs, or breasts

1 tablespoon barbecue rub

1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon jerk seasoning

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Half an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 almost full bottle of beer

1 bottle of KC style barbecue sauce

White rice for serving

Lay chicken in a 13 by 11 inch pan. Sprinkle with all the seasoning. Slice the onion and garlic and sprinkle both over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Pour beer in the side of the pan being careful not to wash off the seasonings. Pour half the bottle of barbecue sauce over the chicken and then stir about a fourth of the bottle into the beer. You will use about ¾ a bottle.

Bake for 1 hour (check it after 50 minutes because cooking times vary depending on the size of the piece of meat and what you cook. Breasts cook faster than thighs).

Serve over rice and spoon the sauce over rice before serving.

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Spicy Dill Carrots

2 cups leftover juice from dill pickles

1 ¼ cups carrot slices (I buy the precut carrot chips)

2 jalapenos (or to taste), sliced in half

Half a red onion, thinly sliced.

When the jar of dill pickles is gone, simply fill it with carrots, jalapeno and onion. Refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Consume within 10 days.

If you add the jalapeno seeds, it will be significantly spicier.

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Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

This recipe was inspired by a trip to Alaska where I stopped in a brewery and ordered salmon over garlic mashed sweet potatoes. I came home and started perfecting that concept. The caramelized onions add another layer of flavor.

I caramelize the onions while the potatoes boil.  Whenever I make caramelized onions, I try to make a double batch because they freeze well and are an incredible addition to meals. I love caramelized onions on pork chops, eggs, chicken tacos, salads, brie etc.

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

Serve 4-6

7 cups peeled and sliced sweet potatoes (3 big or 4 medium sweet potatoes)

1 Russet potato, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, divided

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup butter

½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon half and half

For the onions:

3 cups thinly sliced red onion (2-3 red onions)

2 tablespoons canola oil

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Start the caramelized onions before the potatoes.

Thinly slice red onion and use the largest frying pan you have. Heat it over medium heat with 2 tablespoons oil and when hot, add the onion. Cook and stir frequently for 25-30 minutes, until it caramelizes. Add a dash of salt while onions cook to enhance their flavor. When onions are almost done, add the brown sugar to finish off the caramelization process (don’t do this until the end or it will burn).

Once the onions begin to cook, make the potatoes.

Wash, peel and slice all the potatoes and make the Russet potatoes thinner than the sweet potato slices because the sweet potato cooks faster so this will help ensure even cooking.

Place all potatoes in a large pot, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 garlic clove only, and cover with water. Place a lid on and bring to a boil. Boil 20-25 minutes, until fork tender.

While that boils, mince the second garlic clove and set aside. When potatoes are almost done, saute the garlic in 2 tablespoons butter for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.

When potatoes are done, drain immediately and thoroughly. Return mixture to the pan and add the garlic in its butter, ¼ cup butter, half and half and salt and pepper to taste. Mash with a ricer or potato masher. Serve garnished with caramelized onions.

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Unfried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish VS Fried Green Tomatoes

I love fried green tomatoes. I only allow myself to eat one every couple years because it seems so wrong. But this summer, I came up with an unfried version that I actually like better than the fried. I am pretty much in LOVE with these unfried tomatoes.

Why?

First, I coat the tomato in horseradish sauce. Talk about delicious. Then, I encrust the tomato in Panko and French Fried Onions and bake at 450. Talk about delicious. You have to eat them right away to prevent them from getting soggy.

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Unfried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish

2 medium green tomatoes

1/3 cup Woeber’s horseradish sauce (or your favorite)

3 tablespoons light mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

½ cup regular panko breadcrumbs

¾ cup French Fried Onions

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450. Place a metal baking dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven when you turn it on.

Slice tomatoes, pat dry, and salt and pepper each piece. Set aside.

Stir together horseradish sauce and mayonnaise and set aside.

On a plate, combine breadcrumbs and onions and toss with your hands. Your fingers will get dirty making this dish, so keep a towel handy.

Dip tomatoes in mayonnaise mixture being sure to coat the tomato as much as possible. Then dip it into the panko breadcrumbs and onions and press the mixture into the tomato. You want it coated as well as possible. Do this with each tomato slice.

When oven is preheated, carefully remove the hot pan with oven mitts and spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the pan and spray the tops of the tomatoes.

Bake for 12 minutes and serve warm. Note: I don’t flip them in the cooking process because too much coating is lost. You will have a soft tomato and crunchy tops.

Now, there’s no comparison in terms of the photography. Fried green tomatoes look a lot better on camera. But in the mouth, I’ll take the unfried.

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Panko Encrusted Fried Green Tomatoes with Dill Sauce

2 large green tomatoes

Salt

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons half and half

1 ½ cups Italian panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce: stir together sour cream and dill. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.

For this recipe, you want to work close to the stove. Get your station set up before you heat the oil.

Slice tomatoes into 1/3 to ½ inch slices.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

On a medium plate, stir together flour, garlic salt and pepper.

Whisk together eggs and half and half and set in a shallow bowl.

Pour the breadcrumbs into another bowl and set aside. You want the lineup to be tomatoes, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to cover at least ½ an inch. Turn the heat on to medium.

When the oil is hot, dip a tomato into flour, then into the egg and be sure to thoroughly coat it and then press it into the breadcrumbs. You may need to press the crumbs onto the tomato.

Gently place it in the frying pan and cook it about 1 minute per side (as the oil gets hotter, you may cut cooking time down to 45 seconds a side).

When done, drain on paper towels and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Note: if you don’t like dill, you can use 1 -2 teaspoons of basil paste instead.

Southwest Quinoa Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing

This is now my favorite Go To Summer dish. I am so in love with this quinoa salad.  It’s healthy, refreshing, low fat, high in fiber, high in protein and loaded with vitamins. And did I mention it’s delicious!

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First, I cook the quinoa with chicken broth to give it more flavor. Then I chilled it and tossed it with chicken, cilantro, red bell peppers, corn, avocado and a lime-cumin vinaigrette. Sliced grape tomatoes are a nice addition and so are black beans. I actually thought I had black beans when I made this and when I realized I didn’t, was too busy to go to the store, so I made it without.

Anyway, this is perfect for lunch as a main course; as a side dish at a picnic; or as a light dinner.

Give it a try.

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Southwest Quinoa Salad with Cumin-Lime Dressing

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken (breast is preferred in this recipe)

Half a large red bell pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons red onion

½ cup of chopped cilantro

Half a can of corn, drained

½ cup black beans, drained (optional)

1 avocado

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon canola oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cumin

For the quinoa: Bring quinoa and chicken broth to a boil in a medium pot with a tight fitting lid. Let it boil 3 minutes, cover with lid and cook another 15 minutes. Quinoa is done when a hook is released from the grain. Chill for later.

To prepare: Chop chicken, red bell pepper, onion and cilantro and place in a medium to large bowl. Fluff the quinoa and add it to the mix.

Drain corn and black beans (if you’re using those) and toss with quinoa. Then pit your avocado and chop.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over quinoa. Toss to coat and serve.

If you are making this ahead of time, leave the avocado off until the last minute.

Note: This recipe is also good with about ½ cup halved grape tomatoes, too.

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Simple Potatoes Au Gratin with Sharp Cheddar

For as far back as I can remember, Easter was special in my family.

I grew up overseas in nine different countries, so our traditions had to be flexible and adapt to what was available locally. For example, one year, we lived in Sudan and we dyed Ostrich eggs and then my mom tied bows around the eggs and used them as centerpiece decorations for the Easter table. That’s one of my favorite Easter memories.

My mother would go all out each year and set a beautiful table; she’d carve grapefruits into baskets and fill them with fruit to start each Easter meal. It was a lot of work, but so beautiful to behold.

A pretty Easter table is a must, in my opinion. It’s spring and flowers are blooming and colors are vibrant, so it doesn’t take much to add some sparkle to your tables. If you need some ideas, here are a few:

Dye Easter eggs and once the eggs are dry, use a glitter pen to write the name of each guest or family member on the egg. Then go to a dollar store and buy candle holders to display the egg and use those as place settings. You can buy candle holders of varying heights for a more dramatic look.

A dollar store is a great place to buy festive ribbon and tie it around a napkin with cutlery. If you’re fortunate enough to have daffodils (or another flower) in your yard, tuck a flower under the ribbon.

Try mason jars filled with candy eggs or jelly beans and chocolate bunnies on top; or mason jars filled with jelly beans and daffodils.

If you have a big Easter celebration and use plastic cutlery, I saw an adorable idea on Pinterest: buy green plastic cutlery, use orange napkins to wrap around the cutlery, and tie it all together with green ribbon, so it looked like a carrot. This is an easy idea and a fun job for kids.

Now, on to the food.  In our house, the ham is the centerpiece, but here’s a wonderful side dish to accompany the ham.

My potatoes au gratin are simple to make, there’s no peeling the potatoes. I make them with extra sharp cheddar cheese. If you like cream, cheddar cheese and potatoes, I think you will enjoy these. This dish goes well with beef or lamb, too.

It’s simply layers of thinly sliced potatoes, cooked in heavy cream that is lightly infused with bay leaves and thyme and loaded with cheese. Does that sound heavenly or what?

I hope you enjoy them.

Simple Potatoes Au Gratin with Sharp Cheddar

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon thyme leaves

4 large Russet potatoes

2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a heavy bottom pot, add butter, heavy cream, bay leaves and thyme leaves. Heat over medium-low heat. Do not use high heat or your cream will curdle. Bring to a light simmer and stir. Reduce to low.

Wash potatoes and thinly slice them. You want potatoes to be as uniform as possible, so if you have a tool, like a mandolin or cheese grater that has a slicer on it, use those.

Grease a 9-inch deep dish pie pan or baking dish with butter.

Place the first layer of potatoes down and add salt and pepper to the tops. Then sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the cheese over potatoes.

Add the next layer or potatoes being sure to add salt and pepper directly on the potatoes. Add about 1/3 cup of cheese on that layer. Repeat this process until you have four layers. Then pour the cream mixture into the baking dish.

Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes more (test potatoes to be sure they are done. You can insert a toothpick to determine if they are cooked).

Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.

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