Sweet Roasted Carrots

The carrot is an often uncelebrated vegetable that’s a staple of crudite platters and cream cheese frosting-covered cakes, but I don’t see them enough as sides at home or in restaurants.  With countless varieties there are flavors you can develop lending them to taste like parsnips or sweet potatoes.  I like to let them speak for themselves though and add just a few ingredients to bring out their natural flavor.  A hint of sugar helps to enhance their sweetness and depth of flavor.

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SWEET ROASTED CARROTS

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Bunch Organic Carrots (About 2 Lbs.)
  • 2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. Sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Peel carrots, trim ends and cut them on a bias into 2-inch chunks.
  • Place carrots on a large baking sheet with plenty of room – they should not be touching each other.
  • Drizzle carrots with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.
  • Toss in pan until thoroughly coated with all ingredients.
  • Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until the carrots are slightly browned and fork-tender.

I think you’ll like how this recipe turns out because it’s simple, but has rich flavor.  I have substituted sugar in this recipe, roasted them with the other ingredients and then tossed the finished product with honey and grated fresh ginger.  There are tons of great fall flavors that you can also work into this recipe.  And don’t forget to try this roasting method with your other favorite veggies!  Dig in!

Cornbread For A Crowd

Summer and southern cooking always make me crave a warm piece of cornbread slathered in butter.  And when you’re like our extended family, you need a lot of it to satisfy a big group.  So while I love the small batch cooked in cast iron for crispy edges, I came up  with this recipe that feeds a crowd and can be made in a 13 x 9 cake pan.  You can achieve a pretty close crispy texture and moist middle this way too.  Give it a try for your next big Sunday supper or for your Labor Day picnic!

CORNBREAD FOR A CROWD

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbs Salted Butter
  • 2 Cups White Cornmeal
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbs Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 2 Eggs

Instructions

  • Place a 13 x 9 dark metal cake pan into oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Beat eggs in a small bowl and add buttermilk and oil.  Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until combined evenly.  Do not overmix!
  • When oven reaches temp, pull out shelf with pan on and drop in butter.  Swirl pan until completed melted.  This will only take a few seconds and pan should be completely greased with frothy melted butter – this will give you a crispy exterior!
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Edges will be brown and top will be a toasty golden color.
  • Serve hot or allow to cool and cover loosely with foil for serving later.
  • Cut into squares and have plenty of butter on hand!

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You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven on a southern plantation when you try this cornbread!  It keeps well for several days so leftovers are NOT a problem. (not that there will be any)  Care to spruce it up?  Try adding a cup of fresh corn to the batter.  Feeling southwestern?  Add a can of diced green chiles (drained) and 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese.  Now that’s a bowl of chili’s best friend!  Any way you like it, dig in and enjoy…

Twice-Cooked Herbed Potatoes

Looking for something different to do with your starchy friends?  There are a million ways to boil, roast, mash and fry them, but they can also get boring.  By cooking these twice you get the best of the creaminess along with a crispier outside all wrapped in the aroma of fresh herbs.  They couldn’t be easier, but you’ll impress with this twist on the plain ol’ spud.

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TWICE-COOKED HERBED POTATOES

Ingredients

  • 24 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes, Washed
  • 3-4 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Thyme, Chopped
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary, Chopped

Instructions

  • Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.
  • Place on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Cook for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Remove from heat and drain potatoes in a colander.
  • Place potatoes on a large baking sheet and smash each one with a fork until about half of its original thickness.  Surface should be uneven – this helps to hold all the goodies!
  • Drizzle smashed potatoes with olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper and herbs.
  • Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown and slightly crispy.  Serve immediately!

Want to amp up the flavor?  Try using truffle salt for an earthy addition you’ll love.  Again, there’s no rocket science here, but I think these are a welcome diversion from the norm.  They’re great hot out of the oven, but can also be eaten as a cold appetizer with dijon mayo (1 Tbs dijon mustard to 1/2 Cup mayo) or garlic aioli dipping sauce.  Either way, get them in your mouth and fast – they won’t last long!

Deana’s Green Beans

Like a lot of people, I grew up eating frozen and canned green beans and never knew the unbelievable deliciousness that is fresh green beans cooked with fatty salt pork.  Fortunately, a distant cousin in the family introduced me to them almost 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back!  There’s a few key things to note.  First, only half-runners will do versus any other type of green bean.  The family has grown their own for more than 50 years and this is the tried-and-true variety for the best flavor and tenderness.  Next, there is a very methodical process to harvesting, stringing, breaking and canning.  It’s hard work, time-consuming, therapeutic and TOTALLY worth it!  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go through all of it this past weekend and am sharing the super-simple, but the best way to prepare these emerald gems.

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DEANA’S GREEN BEANS

Ingredients

  • 12 Cups Fresh Green Beans
  • 12 Oz Salt Pork, Cubed
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tsp Pepper
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water

Instructions

  • In a colander, wash green beans thoroughly.  Drain well.
  • Place washed beans in a large pot or dutch oven.  Porcelain-coated cast iron works great here.
  • Add salt pork, salt, pepper and water and stir together.
  • Cook on medium-low, covered, for 6 hours stirring every 30 minutes.
  • Green beans will darken in color and soften completely.  Serve and enjoy!  (HINT:  if you don’t have fried chicken and cornbread, you’re probably eating them wrong!)

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Yeah, it’s just that easy.  The key is to put very little water in the pot and allow the pork fat to coat the beans.  I was told by Deana herself that “you should never need a slotted spoon to serve your green beans”.  If these aren’t some of the best beans you’ve ever tasted, tell me how you like them.  I love a fresh bean just sautéed and eaten crisp, but it doesn’t remind me of the hard work done to grow, harvest, prep and can these.  Try these and taste the love!!

Crispy Onion Rings

I have an undeniable love of french fries of any sort, but a crispy sweet onion ring takes fried sides to a whole new level!  Aside from the mess of frying and the oil cleanup, these onion rings are super-easy to make and turn out perfect every time.  A short bath in buttermilk takes the bite away from the onions and creates a great base for the crispy coating.  Give them a try for your Fourth of July weekend picnic or the next time you’re grilling burgers or steaks!

CRISPY ONION RINGS

Ingredients

  • 2 Large Sweet Onions
  • 1 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 2 Tsp Hot Sauce
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Ground Cornmeal
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 6 Cups Canola Oil

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Instructions

  • Peel onions and cut into 1/2 inch slices.  Separate rings and place into a large bowl.
  • Pour buttermilk and hot sauce over the onions and toss to coat evenly.  Place in refrigerator for 1-3 hours.
  • In a bowl or cake pan, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Mix well to distribute spices.
  • Remove onions from buttermilk, about 5 at a time, and dredge in flour mixture.  Shake excess off and place onions on a wire rack.  Continue until all onions are floured and placed on rack.  You can stack these, they won’t stick together.  Allow floured onions to sit for 30 minutes – this will ensure that they stay breaded during frying.
  • Fry onions in 350 degree canola oil for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.  Turn if necessary and don’t over-crowd your frying oil!
  • Drain fried onions on paper towels and lightly salt.  You can keep them warm on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven while you cook them in batches.

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You’ll be a hero when you fix these for your family and friends at your next gathering!  Try alternatives to the spices in the flour mixture or share your best dipping sauce with me.  I’m a ketchup guy with my rings, but I’m open to new ideas!  Either way, I’ve never met a ring I didn’t like…

Mediterranean Couscous

Couscous is a great option for a side dish or main dish because it takes on flavor really well.  Surprised that an Italian loves small pasta balls??  Seriously though, this Mediterranean version is a great side dish or main dish with the addition of a protein like chicken or fish.  It’s easy to make, versatile and delicious!

MEDITERRANEAN COUSCOUS

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Couscous
  • 1 1/4 Cup Water
  • 4 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided in half
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Zest
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 2 Small Tomatoes, Seeded and Diced
  • 1/2 Cucumber, Seeded and Diced
  • 1/4 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste

Directions

  • Place water and 2 Tbs olive oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in couscous, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a bowl.  Allow to cool.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Refrigerate and serve.

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