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Easy side dish – Inside Out Pierogis

16 Jul

I am mostly Slovenian. My great grandparents came to America on a boat full of other immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves. When my gram married and had my mom, she didn’t dilute the gene pool too much. Same thing with my mom when she married my dad. I am German, Dutch, Indian and Slovak – but the Slovak dominates. I blame that for my unnatural love of pierogis. And I’m a bit of a snob about them. I’ll eat non church pierogis, but there is one local church that makes them twice a year around Easter and Christmas and they are AMAZING. The best ever. My gram buys dozens of them and shares them with the rest of us. I freeze a bunch to have later, but immediately fry up a dozen with butter and some onions and eat half of them. Yep. No shame.

Now, it’s summertime so that means my stockpile of church pierogis are pretty much depleted. <insert sad face here> So when I recently had a hankering for pierogis, the Inside Out was born. You’ve got the dough aspect covered by the gnocchi – and they are traditionally made with potatoes so there is the potato aspect. Add in the ricotta for cheese and the chives for the onion and voila! And amazingly, they do taste a whole lot like pierogis. I loved it! I will most certainly be making these again. And I actually ate this as lunch, not as a side. I accompanied it with a salad and it was a delicious and filling meal.

Inside Out Pierogis

serves 2-3 as a side dish

1lb gnocchi – store bought of fresh made

½ cup whole milk ricotta

2 tbsp chives

½ tsp garlic salt

1tbsp olive oil

1tbsp butter

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot the gnocchi were boiled in, add your oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted and the olive oil is hot. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat. Let the gnocchi cook for a few minutes so that they get crispy and brown on one side. While they are browning, add the ricotta, chives and garlic salt. Stir to combine and cook until ricotta cheese it hot.

Serve and enjoy!

Mashed Potato Alternative – Garlic Cauliflower Mash

21 May

I have a confession to make – I love mashed potatoes. I have, on occasion, eaten a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. No lie. Just a big ‘ol cereal bowl of them. And I scraped that bowl clean. Not my best nutritional choice, but it was delicious, and I loved every single heaping bite on my fork. That being said, I am always up for trying new things and substituting one food item for another option. On Sunday, I cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot – it keeps the house from getting hot from the oven being on for 3 hours, minimum. It’s low energy use. And, it’s freaking EASY. And not to mention delicious. But we’ll talk about crock pot roast chicken another time…

Anyway, Sunday was a whole chicken for dinner kind of day. We were working out in the yard. And when you are working out in the yard, you don’t really have the time (or energy) to put into peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing potatoes. That is too much time, and too many steps. Enter in the Garlic Cauliflower Mash. This was AMAZING. Seriously. I could have devoured the whole bowl of this stuff, but decided I should probably eat some chicken, because it’s pretty amazing. When these are done being blended, they look just like mashed potatoes. Hubs even liked them. He said you could tell it wasn’t actual potatoes because they were not dense like mashed potatoes, but good, with lots of flavor. Fluffy, tasty, and one could be tricked into thinking they were potatoes whenever they are topped with gravy. I will be making these many  more times to come over the summer because these came together quickly. As in, like 15 minutes start to finish quick. They taste great the next day too. I almost didn’t share the leftovers with the hubs. Almost.

If you don’t have boursin cheese, you can sub in cream cheese. Just add in some extra chives, and a bit more garlic powder for the extra flavor. Don’t have an immersion blender? You can put the recipe into a food processor or blender, whatever you have on had. I would say that a potato masher will work too, but you won’t get the smooth texture that you get from blending them up. Don’t like cauliflower? Well then why in the hell are you reading this recipe???


garlic cauliflower mash

Garlic Cauliflower Mash

serves 4 as a side dish

1 medium head cauliflower
3 tablespoons garlic & herb boursin cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch of salt & pepper
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to boil.

Wash and chop your head of cauliflower into chunks. Add to boiling water and cook for until fork tender, 6-10 minutes depending on the size of your chunks.

Drain well. While still hot, pat dry with paper towels, pressing down to squeeze out any excess moisture.

Add to a bowl with the boursin, garlic powder, salt & pepper, chives and butter if using. Add in the hot cauliflower, and using an immersion blender, mix until smooth. Serve immediately.



Healthy Meal Idea – Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

22 Apr

I’ve been on a blog hiatus recently. Not because I’ve been overly busy or anything. More like I’ve been trying to enjoy the lovely weather when it comes about. Catching up on some spring cleaning chores like cleaning out the chicken coop and run. Trying out new recipes, and revisiting old ones. I am always on a mission for easy, healthy, simple and QUICK meal ideas. Have you ever noticed that most of the easy meals tend to be unhealthy because you are either eating a premade meal made who knows when, preckaged stuff that has so many preservatives you feel almost pickled after, or it’s laden with fat to compensate for flavor? Blech. Enter in the Spinach & Bacon with White Beans. It’s fast. It’s tasty. It’s healthy. It’s LOW FAT. Even with the butter and bacon. Ya, that’s right. But it’s REAL butter. Not margarine. Not anything that’s 1 step away from being plastic. If you are going to ingest a fat, make it a natural one. BUTTER people. BUTTER. Say it with me….BUTTER. End rant.

Anyways, back to this meal. It’s filling. Because of the beans. That’s a lot of fiber. Good for you, keep you full fiber. It was delicious. No added salt or pepper was needed. I used precooked bacon because it’s quick, and it’s lower in fat and calories, and we always have some on hand. Don’t feel like you HAVE to. Don’t feel like you have to use bacon either – you could use some chopped country ham, prosciutto, salami. Whatever. And you can mix up the greens too – collard greens, mustard greens, kale. I just had a big ass container of spinach, which I happen to love, and wanted to use it up. Boy, I’m glad I whipped this up. I think hubs wished I made a double batch. He wanted more. So, I guess I should say this would serve 2 as a lunch sized portion. Double the recipe if you’ve got a big meal eating man in your life. Next time I make it I think I’ll cook up an egg over easy and top the greens & beans with that. And a little parmesan. Wow. I want that right now.

Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal


1 pound fresh organic baby spinach

6 garlic cloves, minced

8 pieces pre cooked bacon, chopped

2 cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon REAL butter

shaved parmesan

Add butter to a large skillet, letting melt. Add in your garlic and bacon, cooking until bacon is crisp and garlic is starting to get a little crispy looking – about 3 minutes. Add your beans, tossing to coat with the bacon garlic butter mix. Keep tossing until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add your spinach, in batches if necessary, stirring the mixture around to let the spinach wilt and cook through.

Serve immediately, and sprinkle with some shaved parmesan cheese for an extra hit of flavor!

Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Bacon & Onion

11 Feb

Hello my sarcastic followers! I’m not sure why, but I’ve been on a cabbage kick recently. Maybe it’s because of my Slovak background and I’m getting hungry for halushki. Maybe it’s because it’s cold out and since the chickens have limited access to greens, we always have a few heads of cabbage around so they can have a treat. Maybe it’s because I just spent a week in Las Vegas and ate and drank so much not so good for me stuff that I need a bodily reset back to healthy eating habits!!! Who knows. But I was wanting to come up with a way to eat cabbage that was healthier than good old-fashioned butter laden halushki, and tastier than steamed or no butter added sautéed cabbage. And the roasted cabbage wedge was born! It’s a very easy side dish to make. It’s relatively healthy (2 tablespoons of butter divided by 6 servings!). And even the leftovers are great. We ate this alongside a marinated pork tenderloin that cooked in the oven on the same baking sheet as the cabbage. Dinner was ready to eat in under an hour, including prep work and cook time. I would actually be perfectly content to eat these cabbage wedges on some egg noodles and have that as a meal. A lower fat sub for halushki!

Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Bacon & Onion

1 small head cabbage, cleaned and trimmed of any wilted leaves

2 tablespoons melted butter (do not use margarine!)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices precooked bacon, chopped

1 small Vidalia onion, sliced into half moons

kosher salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut cabbage into single serving wedges, coring out the hard stem section. You should have about 6 wedges. Place them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt your butter. To that bowl, add the olive oil and stir to combine. Using a pastry brush, brush each wedge of cabbage, focusing on the top parts since the butter/oil mixture will pool underneath the cabbage wedges.

Distribute chopped bacon and onion moons over each cabbage wedge, then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Place in preheated oven and let cook for 35-40 minutes, until cabbage is cooked and getting nice and roasted. Onions will be brown/charred. Serve and enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

27 Aug

Too much of anything for me ends with me getting sick of said thing. With certain exceptions: bread, eggs, and salad. We have salad with every meal. On those rare occasions when I am out of salad stuff, it feels like there is this huge void because there is no salad. Dinner is a downer, no matter how wonderful when salad is missing. Ok, not REALLY a downer, but still. A critical piece of the meal is missing.

With the summer days having been so very hot and the hubs on a mission to lose weight, he had started requesting just a big salad for dinner. Well, sweet. I can lose weight too AND save oodles of time on dinner prep by tossing together a salad! Woo hoo!!!

So, one day I found myself with some beefy romaine lettuce heads. Hmmm…seeing as how this is not my most favorite type of lettuce, I decided to help make it more palatable to me, I’d get wild and grill it. Grilling salad is no new thing, but I think we tend to forget about this option when prepping our meals. We put everything else on the grill, why not our salad too? Now, the thought of eating a grilled iceberg lettuce or grilled field green salad sounds rather gross to me. But romaine is nice and sturdy. It can handle the heat. That char that some of the leafy tops get just adds a lovely depth of flavor.

Now, since this is a grilled salad, meaning it will be warm when served, I wanted any additional ingredients to also be grilled and warm. So I grilled up the green onions. I even cut a couple of tomatoes in half and grilled them too. And the bread, oh the bread. Grilled to perfection with a lovely hint of garlic. I could eat a whole baguette of this stuff by myself. As it stands, I ate 1/4 of a baguette and forced myself from going back.

This recipe can easily be double, tripled, quadrupled to serve multiple dinner guests. The recipe below is enough to serve 2 as a side salad, or 1 as a dinner salad. I have already asked hubs to keep a path cleared to the grill when it starts to snow because this has rather quickly become my new favorite salad. I use my Creamy Italian Dressing with it, but you can use whatever you like. I wouldn’t go for any soft cheeses though as they will get melted and stuck together from the warmth of the salad. Harder cheeses are key. As is simplicity, which is why there are so few ingredients. Sometimes it’s nice to have a dinner that you don’t have to think too hard about or do tons of prep work. Enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

Serves 2 as a side, 1 as a main

1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed dried and sliced in half lengthwise

6 green onions, roots and green tops trimmed

1 clove garlic, cut in half

1/2 loaf baguette bread, cut in half lengthwise

shaved parmesan cheese for sprinkling


olive oil

kosher salt

Preheat your grill so the grill plates are nice and hot. While the grill is heating up, drizzle olive oil over your green onions and romaine lettuce halves. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Take the garlic clove halves and rub them all over both pieces of the baguette, tops and bottoms. Smear a little butter on the tops of each baguette half and sprinkle with some kosher salt.

Place your lettuce and bread halves cut side down on the hot grill along with your green onions. Let cook about 5 minutes or until the lettuce starts to get nice and browned and flip both the lettuce and the bread. Check your onions, once grill marks appear and onions start to get soft, flip them. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove everything from the grill.

Transfer the lettuce and green onions to a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, roughly chop everything into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl, sprinkling top of salad with shaved parmesan. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Serve with the grilled baguette and enjoy!

Simple Meal Idea – Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

9 Jul

I love dumplings – and these ones are fantastically simple and delicious. Spinach, ricotta, parmesan – wow. They are quick and easy to make. You can make them on a weeknight. Yes, homemade pasta for a weeknight dinner. So many people feel that from scratch cooking has to be fussy and time-consuming. It really doesn’t. This meal from start to finish was at 30 minutes or less. While the dumplings were boiling, I was pan frying some strips of thin steak that I seasoned with nothing more than roasted garlic seasoning and some A-1. Hubs LOVED this meal. Thought it was amazing. Simple ingredients + minimal time in the kitchen means I get to have extra time to relax and enjoy the hubsters company. It’s lovely.

Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

adapted from The Daily Meal

¾ cup frozen spinach – thawed and drained

¾ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

½ cup shaved parmesan cheese

2 large egg yolks

small pinch of nutmeg

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups pasta sauce of your choice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add all of your ingredients but the flour to a medium bowl. Using a fork or your hands, stir to combine everything together. Add the flour. Stir until just combined. Using a small cookie scoop or 2 spoons, shape the dumplings into ovals and place on a plate or cookie sheet.

Heat your pasta sauce until piping hot.

Drop dumplings 1 at a time into the salted boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until dumplings float to the top. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, gently remove the dumplings from the water. Place a layer of sauce on a plate or in a bowl and top with dumplings. Serve as a main dish with some crusty bread and a salad or as a side with some pan seared steak or chicken and salad.

Easy Side Dish – Roasted Asparagus

20 Jun

In the fight to eat healthier and more nutritious foods, asparagus is a super hero and should be sporting a cape. It’s packed full of nutrients, helps break down carcinogens and free radicals, it’s full of antioxidants, and can also help fight our brains cognitive decline. See? Totally a super food. It’s great raw in salads, sautéed in noodles with chicken, grilled up for a side dish. But roasted asparagus is one of my all time favorite ways to eat this super veggie. It’s such a simple process with little prep work and additional flavor additions, letting the true flavor of the asparagus shine. So simple in fact, that I feel ridiculous for posting it. Not ridiculous enough though. Some of us are so busy in our daily lives that we think eating healthier has to be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. It really doesn’t have to be any of those things. While roasting this, you can be grilling up some chicken breasts and making a salad to go along with it all. 30 minutes tops to a healthy dinner option.

When choosing asparagus, go for bright green stalks and not too dry tops. If the tops are too dry then the asparagus spears are most likely starting to get rubbery from sitting around too long. If you buy it fresh from say, a farmers market and don’t plan on eating it right away, trim the ends off when you get home and stick it in a shallow glass of water. That will keep the asparagus fresh longer.

Roasted Asparagus

serves 2

1lb fresh asparagus spears, rinsed, dried & with woody ends trimmed

olive oil

kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 420 degrees. Take a rimmed baking sheet and arrange your asparagus in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil over the tops and sprinkle with kosher salt. Using your hands, rolls the spears around to coat in olive oil and salt.

Place spears in oven and roast for 20 minutes. Season with more salt & pepper to taste. Serve alongside your normal dinner, or add to a salad. Got leftovers? Chop them up and put them in a omlet!

Oven Roasted Potatoes

30 May

Nothing beats a baked potato. You can make them as involved with your toppings or as simple as you like. I love them with butter, sour cream, chives and pepper. For a meal they are great with broccoli and cheese, maybe some shredded chicken thrown in for protein. They are so versatile! Most people put their potatoes in the microwave and cook until soft. This is ok, but it’s not my favorite method. Putting them in the microwave makes the potato flesh a little gooey. It leaves me feeling a little, well, meh. But baking a potato in the oven? It makes the potato flesh so fluffy and yummy. Roasting a potato? Now that is taking it to the next level! This method is different because you aren’t wrapping the potatoes in foil. Instead, you rub them in olive oil and kosher salt. This keeps the potato from burning, but it makes the skin crispy, like a potato skin minus the deep frying!

Eat these all by themselves, or try them with my Crock Pot Roast! Make as many as you like. Since roasting them takes longer than the old microwave method, I make a batch of 8 and we eat them throughout the week.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

8 russet or idaho potatoes, washed and dried

olive oil

kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Pick up each potato and rub in the olive oil and salt. Place back on baking sheet and prick each potato with a fork a couple times.

Bake in oven uncovered for 25-45 minutes. The baking time will vary depending upon the size of your potatoes. Check them at 25 minutes and if a fork slides easily into the potato, they are done. Increase the time by 10 minute increments until done. My potatoes took 40 minutes total – the smaller ones were done at about 30 minutes.

Lazy side dish: Baked Potato Bake

16 Apr

Yes you read that right. A Baked Potato BAKE. I love potatoes, in all their forms. Mashed, baked, french fries….yum. But this past weekend? I was feeling lazy and didn’t really want to dirty the mixer making mashed potatoes. And I didn’t want to chop the potatoes small enough to expedite their boiling. So I cut them into 4’s and boiled them. I was originally going to do a butter/parsely/chive type of thing but after the potatoes were boiled, it didn’t really appeal to me. So I rooted around the fridge and found that I could, essentially, make a baked potato like concoction. Now THAT sounded yummy to me. And I didn’t have to lug my Kitchen Aid out to whip up mashed potatoes. woot woot!

This recipe is a basic guideline. Add whatever you want! Love adding bacon and green onions when you eat a baked potato? Do that here! You could even top this with some chili and make it a whole meal – chili cheese baked potato bake. YES PLEASE!

Baked Potato Bake


8-10 large idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 4’s

kosher salt (for potato water)

1 – 1 1/2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded

1cup sour cream

5 tablespoons butter

garlic salt


3 tablespoons chives

1 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until fork tender. Drain and rinse.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour hot rinsed potatoes into an 8×8 baking dish. Add in the sour cream, butter, spinach, and chives. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the potatoes. (Lumps are ok, this is a baked potato bake after all. You do NOT want mashed potatoes!) Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine all the ingredients.

mashed and mixed up, prior to cheesing

^^^mashed and mixed up prior to cheesing!

When it tastes seasoned to your liking, sprinkle the top with the shredded colby jack cheese and put the baking dish uncovered into your preheated oven for 30 minutes.

After 3o minutes, try to refrain from gobbling up the entire pan. This is a filling, easy side dish! Alternately, you can freeze this BEFORE baking for the 3o minutes and have a readily available side dish. Just add another 10 minutes to the baking time! (and if you have it in a ceramic dish, put the dish in the oven WHILE it preheats to avoid cracking the ceramic.)

mmm.... MMMM….

Slovenian Tradition: Hrutka aka Easter Cheese

2 Apr

My great grandparents came to the US on a boat as immigrants with many others seeking a better life in America. With them, they also brought their Slovenian traditions that they passed along to their children. My gram passed the tradition of Hrutka on to me. Essentially, you cook eggs in milk over a double boiler until “curds” are formed. Then you transfer it to cheese cloth to drain off the liquid and form a solid ball.

It is delicious. You can make it sweet or savory, but I lean toward the savory. I eat it on crackers. Or a big slice all by itself  with some hot sauce. Traditionally it is eaten with ham on easter bread. I always make a double batch because we love it, so timewise from start to finish (where the cheesecloth balls are hanging to drain) is about 1 1/2hrs. Making the recipe below, it will take you about an hour.

Hrutka (Easter Cheese)

1 dozen large eggs, whisked to combine yolks with whites

1 quart whole milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Add all the ingredients to a double boiler. I used a large pyrex mixing bowl set over a pot of water. (Be sure to add enough water that you will not run out in the middle of making this.)

The first 20 minutes, let the water come up to a boil and heat the mixture. Using a wisk, scrape the sides of the bowl periodically.

Once the mixture looks like the photo below, line a colander with cheesecloth and ladle the egg mixture in to drain off the liquid. Twist the top of the cheesecloth together and hang to drain excess liquid.

Unwrap the hrutka and slice the bottom off to let it sit flat. Cover with saran wrap and chill overnight.

To serve, slice into pieces to be topped on a piece of ham, or on a cracker. Enjoy!