Brilliant Sauteed Broccoli

As I sit to write this, I’m looking outside at perhaps the most beautiful day we’ve had since moving to Duluth.  It’s above 50 degrees (yay!), the sky is blue and I saw a robin this morning.  And the robin was fat, which I’m taking to mean he’s found some nice worms, which means the ground it thawing.  This I am VERY excited about as I plan to plant a garden this year.  I’ve come to realize however, in the far north, you must first start your seeds inside and then transplant them outdoors once the chance of freeze has past for good.  So last week I went and bought me a seed tray, dirt and seeds.  SO EXCITED!!! I plan on doing my planting this weekend.  Choosing what to plant proved to be  a bit more difficult than I first anticipated.  I only have a small space and wanted to utilize it to the max!

I’ve bought all my seeds, but may need to go back for more.  One veggie I didn’t buy seeds for was broccoli.  I think it’s because I KNOW i’ll be battling rabbits and broccoli seems like prime rabbit attracting bait.  Anyway, this weeks recipe utilizes the broccoli and while making it I thought it would be extra fun to just walk outside, cut me a couple stocks and on we go with the recipe.  This week I made Brilliant Sauteed Broccoli

  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl or pot with half ice and half water. When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli florets using a strainer with a handle if possible. Allow the broccoli to cook for 1 to 2 minutes until just tender. Immediately remove from the boiling water, using the strainer or draining, and transfer to bowl of ice to stop the cooking process. Immerse the broccoli completely in the ice water for a minute or two. Remove and place in a dish that has been lined with paper towels. This part can be done up to two days in advance.
  2. In a cup or small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese and brown sugar; set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Throw in the broccoli and season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the broccoli, then cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and dust with the Parmesan cheese mixture.

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. Biggest tip I learned was while the steaming and shocking with cold water did retain the brilliance of the broccoli, I think it was an unnecessary step.  Several reviews that I read said you didn’t need to steam then saute, but I decided to do it anyway.  Next time I won’t.  I think it made the broccoli a little mushy (maybe I steamed too long) and really, just made more dishes for me to wash!
  2. I found the sugar to be unnecessary.  I didn’t notice any benefit to it nor did I notice an added sweetness.  Just empty calories.  Boo.
  3. After recently discovering the deliciousness that Parmesan cheese adds to brussels sprouts, I was pretty sure it would be the star ingredient of this recipe.  And it was.

The Result

I think this would turn out much better with just sauteing the broccoli and adding the cheese, salt and pepper.  Pretty simple.  It was a pretty green though.

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Stuffed Zucchini

My actual Zucchinis prior to baking!!!

So I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love of cookbooks before.  If not, I LOVE them!  I get so excited flipping through a new cookbook, dreaming about the deliciousness that is hidden within it’s pages.  I’ve found one of the very best places to find cookbooks is Sam’s Club.  I know, kind of redneck of me, but it’s true.  Cookbooks at Sam’s Club are basically half price and I’ve never paid more than $10 for a cookbook there.  That’s a DEAL!  A month after moving to Duluth, I was parousing the cookbook selection at the local Sam’s Club.  NOTE:  the cookbook selection was significantly different from that of it’s southern counterpart.  Interesting.  Anyway, I came across a book called “You Are What You Eat” by Gillian McKeith.  She’s British.  As the title suggests, the entire book consists of healthy, good for you recipes (I mean, really, is someone going to call their cookbook “You Are What You Eat” and then fill it with crap?  Who wants to, in essence, eat and thus become crap??) I bought it with high hopes.  Gillian, however is not a big fan of meat, which I’ve found makes it difficult for me to get excited about a lot of her recipes as I’m mostly looking for main dishes for dinner.  Flipping through the book the other day I did find a veggie recipe that sounded easy and exciting.  So today I bring that to you.  Here it is, Stuffed Zucchini

  • 2 large zucchinis, halved lenthwise
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 12 black pitted olives
  • 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Remove center flesh of the zucchini halves with a tea spoon
  3. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and place the zucchini boats on the foil.  Arrange the cherry tomatoes, olives, and goat cheese alternately on the zucchini.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle over half the basil leaves.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes and serve immediately.  Garnish with the remaining basil leaves.

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. I pretty much took this recipe as a guide and made tons of changes based on what I had on hand.  Instead of goat cheese, I used Feta (YUM!).  I didn’t want to buy cherry tomatoes just for this recipe so I diced up a roma tomato instead.  Worked great.  Finally, I don’t have any fresh basil growing at the moment and I can’t bring myself to spend $3.50 on the packages at the store so I used dried basil instead.
  2. I lined the bottom of the zucchini boat with the feta cheese and placed the tomato and olives on top.  After alternating the veggies, I realized that it probably wouldn’t be very filling so I just piled the tomatoes and olives on.  Not super pretty, but gets you the most bang for your buck!
  3. I also didn’t bother with the aluminum foil.
  4. Fresh Basil really would make this extra yummy.  I can’t wait to have some growing soon.

The Result

I will admit I didn’t really have high hopes for this dish.  It didn’t sound very flavorful to me and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.  After the first bite my response was “WOW!!!!”  Holy Smokes.  They were AMAZING!  Something about how the tomato and olive baked in the oven with the way the feta melted slightly was really, really good.  This dish was fresh and just made you feel down right good about eating it.  Alls I can say is we will be eating these again soon and zucchini just made it onto my garden planting list as I would love to have a supply to get me through the summer.  This would probably make a great grilling entree as well.  SO GOOD.  Five Stars all around!!!

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Sweet Potato Bake

This past week we had dinner with some new friends.  It was a wonderfully fun evening of getting to know new people, watching our little girls have a ton of fun together (Ava has a new friend for sure!) and eating a delicious dinner.  And by dinner, I mean we were served a FEAST!  It was absolutely delicious!  Kristen even made fresh baked BREAD!  Wow!  The entire thing was delicious.  I was especially won over by a sweet potato casserole that she served us.  It was warm, sweet and oh so good.  I just had to share it with you all.  I’m sure you will love it as much as I did.  And if you aren’t won over yet, here’s what Kristen said when she sent me the recipe…

“It is such a comfort food for me- I could eat the whole pan.  Super easy to make and super easy to aid in weight gain!”

Haha!  I laughed at the last part.  I know you are anxiously awaiting the recipe so here it is.  Thanks Kristen for sharing!!

  • 3 c. mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 well beaten eggs
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs vanillaTopping:
  • 1/3 c. melted butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. chopped pecans
  1. Mix the all the ingredients together and pour into a 9×13 pan
  2. Crumble topping ingredients on top
  3. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. It was delicious, everyone loved it and it can’t get much simpler to make!

The Result

I can’t wait to try this recipe myself as Ava is a lover of sweet potatoes and I’m a lover of all things delicious!

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Faux Mashed Potatoes

Ever been asked that somewhat overused icebreaker question “If you could only choose one food for the rest of your life what would it be?”  Well I have an answer.  The potato.  And cheese.   Potatoes with cheese.  That’s my answer.

In my opinion, the potato is the most wonderful food this good, green earth gives us.  You can do so much with it!  Baked, fried, mashed… hello?? the french fry?   All things delicious come from the potato in my opinion.  My dear husband,however, finds potatoes to be starchy.  I’m not sure what the deal with starch is, but I know Jeff doesn’t like to have a whole lot of it, which really puts a crimp in my potato side dish options.

I was reading through my most recent Readers Digest and saw a mention for faux mashed potatoes.  “This could be my ticket!” I thought.  I was intrigued so I did a google search to find out what this was all about.  Below is the recipe I came up with from about.com for Faux Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (discard core and large stems)
  • 1 (14 ounces) can chicken or vegetable broth (or homemade – about 1-3/4 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Place cauliflower florets in a large saucepan. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until very tender, about 12 minutes.
  2. Drain thoroughly through a fine sieve and return to the pot over low heat. Cook about 2 more minutes to dry out excess moisture, stirring constantly. (It’s okay that they break apart.)
  3. Pour cauliflower into food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add butter, cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onion, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pulse to combine. Reheat before serving, if necessary.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. I didn’t use the chicken stock to boil the cauliflower.  I steamed the cauliflower instead.  I possibly should have tried to dry out the cauliflower a bit like the recipe recommends as I found my mixture to be somewhat loose.
  2. I only added sour cream and cheddar cheese as I had guests that could not eat all the ingredients listed.  I do think the green onion would be a delicious addition!
  3. You can make this a chuncky or creamy as you desire.  I made mine creamy but think leaving it a little more chuncky could have been good.

The Result

I thought these turned out pretty good!  They tasted almost exactly like mashed potatoes, however the consistency for me was a little off.  I think they turned out a bit more like instant mashed potatoes, but my guests for the night didn’t think so.  My Faux Mashed Potatoes will be making a reappearnce in the future!

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Artichoke

Sunday.  So we tried an artichoke tonight.  Fail.

I’d been at the grocery store this week perusing the produce isle, trying to decide what to try as my next vegetable.  Everything looked so plain, so boring, so… last week (I kept seeing lots of brussels sprouts apparently).  And then my eyes befell the artichoke.  Brilliant!  Something new and enticing.  Have you ever seen one of those things?!?!  How the heck do you eat it???  I was set to find out.  I bought one (for an astounding $2.98!!) and headed home with my find.

Come Sunday and it’s time to figure this puppy out.  I found several helpful websites that basically said the same thing.  Here is the recipe/ instructions I followed from simplyrecipes.com
I basically just cut and paste the entire thing, pictures and all.  I REALLY hope that’s not illegal!

  • 1-2 artichokes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • lemon, sliced
  1. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.
  2. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.
  3. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can cut off the stems and peel the outside layers which is more fibrous and bitter and cook the stems along with the artichokes.
  4. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.
  5. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

How to Eat an Artichoke

(still from simplyrecipes.com)

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, but I think they are much better hot. They are served with a dip, either melted butter or mayonaise. My favorite dip is mayo with a little bit of balsamic vinegar mixed in.

1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.

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2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.

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Continue until all of the petals are removed.

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3. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.

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I also found a handy article about steaming artichokes, found HERE

And finally, if words are too much, here’s a handy YouTube video

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. You don’t have to snip the ends off like the video says.  It’s just for astetics.  The simplyrecipes instructions also said to do that, but noted that the pricklies soften during steaming.
  2. I steamed mine for about 20 minutes.  I had read that if you can insert a knife with the ease of that with a baked potato, you are done!
  3. Jeff and I made the mayo and balsamic vinegar sauce.  That was delicious!

The Result

Well, there’s not much to an artichoke.  You basically get a little tiny bit of flesh with each leaf.  The mayo sauce we made was delicious and probably the reason we kept eating the thing, but for a side dish for dinner, not so great.  This would be good if you were having a fancy smancy dinner party and wanted an uppity appetizer, but for a regular meal, it was too much effort for little return.  Plus, I didn’t think the flavor was out of this world or anything.  So, in conclusion, we won’t be making artichokes again anytime in the future…unless we are invited to a fancy smancy dinner party!  It was, however, an interesting experiment and I now know more about the artichoke.

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Brussels Sprouts… Take 2!!

My actual Sprouts! they are so pretty... and delicious!!

Take 2 at cooking brussels sprouts.  And I will start right out by saying this weeks recipe trumped my attempt last week.  It could be that I actually tried to find a recipe this week rather than going by memory.  I’m so glad I did because the results were DELICIOUS!  AND, I found an awesome little website that lists out several brussels sprouts recipes!  Here’s the link…

I LOVE Brussels Sprouts

The great thing about this page is that it actually lists the recipe I was trying to replicate last week, so if you were fearful of my attempts at recipe writing, no fear, the original can be found here.

So here’s what I tried this week; similar to last weeks’ recipe, but just different enough to suit my tastes a bit better… it could be because they turned out better this week.  Here’s the recipe from simplyrecipes.com:

  • 1 lb fresh brussels sprouts
  • 4-6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • Parmesan cheese (my addition!)
  1. Remove any ragged or old-looking outer leaves on the brussels sprouts and discard. Parboil the brussels sprouts (or steam them) for 3 minutes or until just tender. They should be almost cooked all the way through (split one in half to test). Strain the hot water and place the sprouts in a bowl of ice water, this will keep their color bright green. Cut the sprouts into halves.
  2. Heat 2-3 Tbsp of butter in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add 2-3 Tbsp more of butter and the brussels sprouts halves. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for several more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, while the brussels sprouts are cooking. Do not overcook! Overcooked brussels sprouts are bitter and are the main reason why some people don’t like them.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and half of the toasted almonds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving dish and garnish with the rest of the toasted almonds.  Serves 6-8.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. I substituted olive oil for butter to save myself some calories.
  2. It really didn’t take very long to saute the sprouts once I got them in the pan.  I was really nervous about overcooking them since is said they would get bitter, but didn’t want to under-cook them either… so stressful!  Jeff had been in charge of steaming them and cutting in half and was the one to say they were probably done after three or four minutes in the pan.  They turned out beautiful!
  3. I didn’t have toasted almonds, only regular almonds I chopped up.  I didn’t have time to toast them, but it didn’t seem to matter much, they were a great addition!
  4. In looking over the other recipes from the I LOVE Brussels Sprouts website, one of the recipes called for you to toss cheese onto your sprouts.  Since I’m a cheese nut, this sounded like the best advice in the world to me.  And it was.  I added grated parmesan cheese (just the kind out of the shaker!) and it was DE-LIC-IOUS!!!!  A definite must!

The Results

These were GREAT brussels sprouts!  I can’t rave enough about them!  I loved them.  Jeff thought they were delicious as well.  We will so be having these again in the near future.  I hope you give them a try.  They really were wonderful!

Hooray for Brussels sprouts!  This under-appreciated veggie may soon be taking on a new place at our dinner tables once again!

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The Brussels Sprout

Brussels Sprouts… they’ve gotten a bad rap, eh?  Images of small children running screaming from the dinner table… Opie Taylor saying “Ahhh, gee” to Aunt Bea when he finds out what’s for dinner.  Brussels sprouts.  What’s the deal?  I don’t know.  I’ve never in my whole life eaten a brussels sprout.  Not until last week that is.

We spent the weekend in Minneapolis visiting Jeff’s family.  His sister and brother-in-law treated us to a homemade Valentines Day dinner, complete with brussels sprouts.  I thought they were pretty good!  And so cute too.  It’s like a little mini cabbage, bite size!  I had watched Julie make them and decided I should give it a try at home.  It didn’t seem too hard.

Here’s what I did:

  • 6-8 brussels sprouts, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1-2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  1. Cut the ends off the brussels sprouts and cut in half length wise.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Once oil is hot, place sprout halves face down.  Add garlic.
  3. Let the sprouts cook for several minutes, until bottoms are browned.  Remove from heat and toss in Balsamic vinegar.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. I may have done well to get the exact recipe/ instructions from Julie because mine didn’t turn out exactly like hers.  There may be a couple reasons for this.  One, I don’t think she used olive oil (maybe grape seed oil?)Two, I may have had my heat up too high.
  2. Let the sprouts sit for a few minutes after cooking.  I had tried one right out of the pan and it was a bit too crunchy (disappointing), but after sitting for a few minutes while we ate our meal, they softened up a bit.
  3. Salt was a good addition.

The Result

I’m going to give this one another try.  I didn’t totally bomb it and they turned out ok in the end.  I may need a few tips from Julie next time.  AND since I still have half a package of brussels sprouts left over, who knows, you may be getting another sprout recipe next week!  Stay tuned for more from this under appreciated veggie!

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