Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing

I love Ranch dressing, but I am not talking about those things in the bottle they call Ranch dressing.  I like the real thing.  Dressings are so easy to mix together and will keep in your fridge for a while, so I really don’t understand why people do not make their own dressing.  This is my standard recipe.  I make it up usually once a week and usually run out before the week is up.  Everyone in my family loves ranch dressing, so it’s hard to keep it around.

 

1 cup mayo

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp. chopped chives, fresh is better but if not using fresh you can use 1 tsp dried

1 tsp chopped parsley, same as chives if not using fresh use 1/2 tsp. dried

1 tsp dill, same as above

1 tsp. grated garlic, if not using fresh you can sub 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. grated onion, same as above

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp ground pepper

1/2 cup buttermilk

 

Mix all ingredients together and pour into container of choice.  Chill at least 2-4 hours before using.  Even better if you let it sit overnight.  Stores in fridge for up to 2 weeks, if you can keep it that long.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

Roasted brussel sprouts

I grew up hating Brussels sprouts.  They were slimy.  They tasted bitter.  They were soft and squishy.  I would feed them to the dog under the table whenever I had to eat them.  I carried that distaste for Brussels sprouts into my adulthood, never thinking that it might have been the way they were prepared that caused my dislike.  But Tommy loves Brussels sprouts, so I decided I had to find a recipe that I could make and eat without gagging. I had seen them roasted on the cooking shows, but I wanted some additional flavor to cover up the horrible taste of these vegetables.  What better flavor than bacon.  So I found a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts and followed it.  It was a complete disaster.  It told me to cut the bacon in lardons and sprinkle over the top of the sprouts and roast at 400 degrees until the sprouts were roasted and the bacon crispy.  Well, the bacon was crispy but the sprouts were seriously overcooked.  It tasted okay, but it was not acceptable to me to serve my family something that looked so overcooked.  So of course, I had to play with the recipe.  Here is what I came up with.

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoon butter

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Salt and pepper

4 slices of bacon, diced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim the sprouts, removing the outer leaves and trimming the bottoms.  Slice in half.  In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the garlic in the butter till tender.  Remove garlic slices and pour garlic butter over the sprouts.  Pour sprouts onto a baking sheet.  In the skillet fry the bacon until almost crispy, the bacon will finish cooking in the oven so you do not want to completely cook it.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon and sprinkle over the sprouts.  Sprinkle the shallot slices over the top of the bacon and sprouts.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to turn.  This serves about 4 people.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

I am not a big fan of that stuff in a can that they call cranberry sauce.  I admit it, I’m a food snob.    I prefer the cranberry sauce with the whole berries, but my kids love it smooth.  So had to make my own version.  This can be canned and brought out whenever you need it.  If you are like my family, we don’t just eat cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.  If you do can it, make sure your use the straight, wide-mouthed jar so you can slide it out and slice it if that is what you are used to.  It is very easy to make your own sauce.  There are not a lot of ingredients and it is well worth doing yourself.

4 bags of fresh cranberries (12 ounce bags)

4 cups sugar

1 cup orange juice

3 cups water

2 tsp. orange zest (optional – but it really makes it pop)

Combine the sugar, juice and water in a big stockpot over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Add the washed cranberries and return to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and boil gently for about 10 minutes.  The cranberries will start to pop open.  Pour into a food mill and process or if you do not have a food mill, pour into a fine mesh sieve and press with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the sieve as you go.  You will end up with a paste like mixture.  The sieve strains out all the seeds and skins of the cranberries.  Pour into sterile canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space.  Wipe the rims and place hot lids on the top and screw the rings onto the jars.  Place in water bath canner and process for about 15 minutes.  Remove the lid, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the canner for 5 minutes.  Transfer jars to a rack and allow to cool overnight.  Wipe off the jars and label.  Stores for up to 1 year.  Or if you don’t want to can it, just pour into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.  This makes about 4 1/2 cups of cranberry sauce.  For those who do want to can and store, I have doubled this recipe and it does fine.

Sinful Potatoes

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It’s hard to come up with sides for your main dishes.  This one is pretty quick and easy and so tasty that it borders on being sinful.

2 pounds of shredded potatoes (you can buy the frozen if you wish, just thaw them before using them)  I just shred mine in the food processor – quick and easy

1/2 cup melted butter

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I have a recipe on how to make your own if you don’t like to use the processed stuff)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like to use the sharp cheddar)

1/2 cup chopped green onion

2 cups sour cream

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

 

Told you it was easy.

Garlic and Rosemary Potato Pancakes

Garlic and Rosemary potato pancakes

Ever get tired of the same side dishes?  You can only change-up potatoes so many ways.  What do you do when you have a meat and potatoes person in the family?  You have to get creative.  This recipe mixes several of my favorites, garlic, rosemary and potato pancakes.  These are so easy to make and the addition of the garlic and rosemary makes it a dish that gets you out of the potato rut.  Be sure to squeeze as much liquid out of the mixture as you can, it just makes the pancakes much crisper.  If you like soft, creamier potato pancakes, don’t get rid of as much of the liquid.  Roast your own garlic.  It’s easy, you can do a whole head of garlic and save the extra, or just put the 5 large cloves in a piece of foil and stick it in the oven when you have something else in the oven cooking.  Let it cool and wrap the cloves in plastic wrap and store in the fridge till you need it.  Another tip – use fresh rosemary, it just makes them so much better than using dried.

4-5 large cloves roasted garlic, mashed

3/4 cup grated onion (I just run mine through the food processor till pretty small)

2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (can use 1/2 tsp. ground rosemary, but fresh is better)

1 large egg

1 1/2 lbs. baking potatoes

Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the garlic, onion, salt and rosemary until well combined.  Grate the potatoes (again, I just use the grating disk on my food processor, so much easier) and add to bowl.  Stir everything well and then put into a strainer over a bowl and press down with the back of a spoon, squeezing out all the liquid you can.  Let sit for a few minutes to allow any extra liquid drip off.  Return mixture to the bowl and add the egg.  Mix well.  Place a heavy frying pan (I like to use cast iron) over medium heat and add oil.  When the oil ripples on the surface of the pan, it is hot enough.  Put a quarter cup of the mixture in the pan and pat it down with your spatula, into a 4 inch pancake shape.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown and then turn and cook the other side.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Hold in a 250 degree oven while you cook all the others.  This will give you about 8 pancakes.  Serve alone or with a small dollop of sour cream.

Streusel Topped Sweet Potatoes

Streusel topped sweet potatoes

Thanksgiving is coming up fast.  I have to sit down today and make up my menu for Thanksgiving dinner.  Already have various requests from the family, both immediate and extended, on what they want.  Of course we have the standards, Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, two types of stuffing – both regular and cornbread, cranberry sauce (this is one of the recipes I always get to play with), green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potatoes (another recipe I get to play with (will get back to this in a minute) and the traditional pies, pumpkin and pecan (this year, have to add a buttermilk pie) and one of our family traditions – Apple cranberry crisp.  When I was young, my mother always made the sweet potatoes with brown sugar glaze and topped with Marshmallows.  I am not a big lover of store bought marshmallows.  I went along with that recipe for some time, but eventually began to slip in different recipes for sweet potatoes.  Personally, I like my sweet potatoes baked with butter and nothing else.  This recipe gives the extra sweetness that everyone likes, but is not so overwhelmingly sweet (and makes me happy because I don’t have to scrape off the marshmallows). My apologies to those who love the marshmallow topping.  It is more of a casserole than just chunks of sweet potatoes. I think once you try it, you might never go back.

4 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, well beaten

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped pecans

3 tab. flour

Cover potatoes with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook till tender.  Drain and mash.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1/2 cup butter.  Combine potatoes, sugar and melted butter.  Stir in milk, egg and vanilla.  Spoon into a buttered casserole dish.  Combine brown sugar, pecans and flour.  Cut in the 2 tablespoon of butter, till crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.  Place in oven and bake until topping is browned, about 25 minutes.  Serves about 10-12.

Pecan Rice Pilaf

Pecan rice pilaf

We love rice in our house.  You can use it so many ways.  From simple cooked rice sprinkled with sugar for breakfast, one of my favorite breakfast dishes when I was a child, to broccoli cheese rice casserole, rice is always a winner.  Sometimes I just want to make a simple meat dish and have to look to my sides to make the dish special.  This is one of our favorites.  The toasted pecans just give it that step up.  Hope your family likes it as much as mine.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup each, diced – red and yellow bell peppers and onion

3 stalks celery, diced

1 medium carrot, diced into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup wild rice

2 cups regular long grained rice

6 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Add peppers, onion, celery, carrot and wild rice.  Saute until soft.  Stir in long grain rice and then stir in stock and butter. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered, until the rice is done.  This should take about 15 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Stir in pecans and garnish with sliced green onions if you want.  Makes about 8-10 servings.