Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category

Homemade Refried Beans

Continuing on this week’s Mexican food theme, I am going to urge and implore you to make these homemade refried beans.   Such a dish had previously resided on my “How Nice That You Have the Time to Make This From Scratch, But I Will Be Sticking to Store-Bought” list.  This list includes things like pie crust (no, Lil Sis, it is not “so easy”), pizza crust, tortilla chips, and bread (I clearly have a fear of homemade bread products, thank you very much).  But the list doesn’t include refried beans…not anymore.

These beans don’t really take much extra time.  In isolation, maybe, but I always make them as a side dish, meaning they can be prepared simultaneously with other items.  Also, they are really, really good.   Why?  Well, because of the bacon drippings.  It gives the beans this creamy taste that I recognize from my favorite soup that also has bacon drippings in it (nicknamed “Crack Soup” by BK because I cannot stay away from the leftovers) .  Just go with it…while bacon drippings are not healthy, neither are all the preservatives in canned refried beans.  The tradeoff is easily justified.

If you don’t have any bacon drippings sitting around, go ahead and cut up a couple slices of bacon and cook them for the first step below.  Then saute the onion with the drippings and bacon and proceed along!

Make it a meal with some chicken fajitas and margaritas!


2 teaspoons bacon drippings
½ medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
⅔ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon cumin
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 green onion, thinly sliced


Heat bacon drippings in a medium skillet set over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add the broth, cumin and beans and bring to a light boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Use a fork or potato masher to mash beans to desired consistency, adding more chicken broth as needed and salt and pepper to taste.  Once plated, top with cheese and green onion and serve.

Makes 1½ cups.

Adapted from Elly Says Opa via Cook Like a Champion.

Tomato, Corn, and Pepper Salad

This dish always seems sort of ridiculous to me.  That’s because I remember the first time I made it and how BK reacted.  We were out of lettuce and so I sort of shrugged to myself and went ahead and threw together the remaining salad add-ins with dressing anyway.  Now, BK has no problem with vegetables, but he certainly never asks for seconds.  He did with this dish though.  Then, after he finished his seconds, he asked if I minded if he took the entire bowl of leftovers for lunch the next day.  The entire, large bowl.  He loved it.  L-O-V-E-D it!  It’s such a simple dish that I always fee slightly silly when he goes crazy over it…like such praise should have required more effort on my part.  Oh well 🙂

The salad keeps pretty well for a couple days and is an especially great way to highlight produce you grow yourself.  We often eat it with some tuna cakes and it makes for a super healthy, light meal.  With Labor Day coming up, you could certainly bring this as a side dish to that BBQ you have!


12 ounces corn kernels, frozen (thawed) or fresh
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
coarse salt and pepper to taste


Stir ingredients together in large bowl.  Serve to happy family.  Receive many thanks.

Source: the little kimchi pierogi.

Cherry Tomato Salad

My spider mite battle has been going fairly well…I haven’t yet sent them into extinction like I want to, but I seem to be holding them in check, at least.  This is terrific news because I hate them it’s allowed my cherry tomato plants to really flourish.  I’ve been picking about four pounds of tomatoes from the two plants every week.  It’s glorious.  Have you ever had a Sungold cherry tomato?  They are small and bright orange and the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.

For BK and myself to eat four pounds of tomatoes a week, it requires some creativity.  This recipe is great because it uses a lot of tomatoes, plus it really lets  their taste shine through.   And although it’s a bit more involved than one would think it would be for a simple salad, it’s worth it!  Very simple ingredients highlight the tomatoes’ sweetness for a great side dish to any meal.   And I totally agree with Annie that, although I love love love kalamata olives, they would over-power the tomatoes in this recipe, so I left them out as well.


2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch chunks
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced


Combine the tomatoes, salt and sugar in a medium bowl; toss to combine.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a salad spinner and spin until the seeds and excess liquid have been removed, about 1 minute.  Stir to redistribute the tomatoes during spinning as needed.  Return the tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. (If you don’t have a salad spinner, put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake the bowl to remove the excess seeds and liquid.) Strain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible.

Combine ½ cup of the tomato liquid with the garlic, oregano, shallot and vinegar in a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Simmer until the mixture is reduced, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Whisk in the oil, and season with pepper to taste.

Add the cucumber, feta, dressing and parsley to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Toss gently and serve.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Annie’s Eats.

Tomato, Basil, and White-Bean Salad

Another summer side-dish fave of ours is tomato, basil, and white-bean salad.   BK actually eats everything in this dish, plus it is protein-based!  Bonus!  It really highlights the summer tomatoes and basil, and you will especially appreciate that if you grew them yourselves.  The dish takes no time to make, but is best if it gets to sit for at least half an hour for the flavors to meld. It’s very easy to cut in half for just two people, which I tend to do, since on summer weekends I always have so many recipes to try that I end up cooking 4 different dishes for one meal and it’s too much food 🙂 You can also double/triple/etc. the recipe for a party…it’s always been a hit when I’ve brought it!


2 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
⅔ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced


Combine beans, tomatoes, basil, and salt in a bowl, and season with pepper.  Heat oil in a skillet over low. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, 2-3 minutes. Pour over bean mixture, and gently toss. Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.  Salad can be covered and kept at room temperature up to 4 hours.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2007.

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo

I traveled to Chicago for work the other month and had dinner with one of my dear friends, The Parakeet.   We both support the idea of buying locally grown food and she recommended the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.  Its the story of a family that eats only local produce and meat for an entire year — quite the challenge!

The book was great, and the chapter on zucchini cracked me up.  It describes how zucchinis are so prolific during the summer months in the author’s farming community that people are desperate to get rid of them.  The author’s family would routinely come home to find a gift bag full of zucchini anonymously left hanging from their mailbox.  And instead of being mad, they’d think, “that is a *great* idea!”

In the spirit of being over-zucchinified (yes, that is a word), they came up with the recipe below, which I have adapted slightly, to help their zucchini disappear.  It uses a ton of the vegetable, and I was nervous I would be asking myself the question “would you like some orzo with your zucchini?”  But the final product definitely does not taste over-zucchinified…its fresh and delicious.  Perfect for me, since even the one plant’s worth of zucchini I have is a lot for just one person to eat!  I even got to put the onions in it since the zucchini had already disqualified it from BK consumption!


¾ pound orzo pasta
1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic
3 large zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
½ cup grated parmesan or any hard yellow cheese
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring 6 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and add pasta.  Cook al dente.

Use a cheese grater or mandoline to shred zucchini, sauté briefly with chopped onion and garlic until lightly golden.  Add spices to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and then remove mixture from heat.

Combine with cheese and cooked orzo, salt to taste, serve warm or at room temperature.

Slightly adapted from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” by Barbara Kingsolver.

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