Grilled Sweet Potatoes

I was grilling some Boston butt country style ribs and decided to use the long cook time to grill a sweet potato, too. It is sort of a misnomer as they aren’t really ribs but they take a fairly long cook to melt the collagen so I had about 2 hours of grilling time to play with.

If you’re concerned about the fat, toss the potatoes in olive oil instead of butter.

This method adds delicious flavor to the potatoes plus the addition of smoke, raises things up a level. In fact, I baked an extra sweet potato to completion on the grill (a little over an hour) and then removed it from the skin and mashed it up to put in a later recipe (like mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato biscuits or sweet potato pancakes). Freeze in 1 cup amounts in a zip top bags so you’re ready to go when the urge for sweet potato hits.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (1 tablespoon if using fresh)
½ teaspoon salt

Wash the sweet potatoes. Set up the grill for indirect grilling by placing a chimney full of white hot coals along one side. While the fire is at its hottest, place the sweet potatoes between the meat and the hot coals. Grill for 30 minutes.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the fire.

Cut into rounds and peel. Place in a bowl with the butter. Once it has melted, stir to coat the sweet potato rounds. Sprinkle on the brown sugar, rosemary and salt and stir again.

When there are 30 minutes left on the meat cooking, return the sweet potato rounds to the grill. I placed them on a grill pan, in two rows with the thickest rounds in the first row and the smaller in the next. If your grill grates are close enough together, you can place them directly on the grill.

Set the sweet potatoes almost but not over the coals and grill for 30 minutes more.

They are done when tender. Serve warm.

Lemon and Caper Lentils

We are having salmon for dinner tonight and I decided we’d have lentils with the filets. My recipe for salmon is HERE – don’t worry if you don’t grill, the recipe works just as well when baked for 15 – 20 minutes in a 375 degree F oven instead.

This side dish is easy to make while you prepare the rest of the meal and, since lentils pack a punch of protein, fiber and minerals like iron and folate, you’re getting a terrific health benefit from adding them to your diet. Perfect for when you’re feeling tired and run down from a busy Mardi Gras season or the latest political news!

The lentils are full of earthy goodness with a fresh taste from the lemon and capers and offer a lovely bed for the fish.

I hope you make some for dinner soon!

Lemon and Caper Lentils

2 ½  cups water
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In 2-quart saucepan, combine water, lentils, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain lentils and return to pan; cover to keep warm.

In a skillet, add onion and the rest of the salt and cook 10 minutes or until golden. Add broth and capers; heat to boiling. Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add lentils to skillet and heat through. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.

Mushrooms with Lemon and Garlic

I love sautéed mushrooms and this recipe simmers them in a dark rich sauce that goes really well with the roasted chicken I served with them (the recipe for the chicken can be found HERE).

Reduce the lemon juice, if you don’t want them too tangy but all my guests loved them as is. Aleppo style pepper has less heat than red pepper but adds a lovely flavor to the dish.

Mushrooms with Lemon and Garlic

4 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound button or other mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sherry
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Aleppo style pepper or red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

 

Updated Cornbread Sticks Recipe Plus Cornbread Dressing

After a long day of prepping my house for termite fumigation, I was craving cornbread. We had a gallon bag of corn on cobs from the freezer that Michelle needed to cut off, so I got her to give me about a cup of the kernels. I then pulled down the cast iron cornbread stick pans and started making cornbread.

Soften some unsalted butter as the cornbread cooks, to make slathering it on super easy.

We ate our fill and plan to use the leftovers in a batch of cornbread dressing – that recipe follows the one for cornbread sticks.

Cornbread Sticks

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup corn kernels (from frozen is fine)
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup Crisco shortening

Pinch off pieces of the shortening and place dollops in each slot on the cast iron cornbread stick pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with the pans in the oven, melting the shortening.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Beat the egg into the cup of milk. Stir together the corn kernels and milk mixture, then add the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry streaks are gone. Pour the melted shortening into the batter. Stir to combine

Use a spoon to divided the batter into each of the corn sticks slots in the pans and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Tops will be golden brown. Immediately remove from pans to cool.

Cornbread dressing is the second best way to eat leftover cornbread. The first way is to crumble it in a glass of cold milk and eat it with a spoon!

I usually put any leftover cornbread in the freezer as it takes a few pans before I have enough for a recipe for dressing.

Very flavorful and colorful.

Cornbread Dressing

2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pecans, toasted and chopped fine
6-8 cornbread sticks or 4 cornbread pieces, crumbled
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like thyme or sage, 4 to 5 sprigs

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil shimmers, add the celery, onions, peppers, garlic and pecans. Cook 5 minutes then crumble cornbread into the skillet and combine with vegetables. Dampen the dressing with stock, you may not need the full cup. Season with fresh herbs, we used thyme. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

I like crunchy dressing, so after the meal I take any leftovers and form patties. Freeze them and then thaw them for a bit on the counter before warming them in a 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes.

Yummy! A quick side dish for most any protein.

Rosemary Fondant Potatoes

Fondant style potatoes traditionally means cutting potatoes into cylinders and then cooking them in broth to make them meltingly tender. I find trimming them to be a bit wasteful so I just slice off the barest ends of a bunch of Yukon gold potatoes and nestle them in a skillet with broth and butter and oil and cook them low and slow.

So good!

2 lbs smallish Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth

Trim the potatoes of any eyes or damaged areas and, for those you don’t trim, cut off the ends. Wash well in cold water and drain.

Stir together the softened butter, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Toss the potatoes with the mixture. Arrange the potatoes in one layer in a 10-inch skillet. Pour in enough stock or broth to come up halfway of the potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan but leave the lid a tad ajar, and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20-30 minutes. The liquid should still halfway surround the potatoes; if it doesn’t, keep adding more broth or water until it does.

Once tender, press gently on each potato until they crack open. Return the pan to medium-high heat and boil, uncovered, until all the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes have browned on one side, about 10 minutes. Gently turn the potatoes and brown the other side, another 5 minutes or so.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the potatoes rest for 5 minutes before transferring them to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

 

Mississippi Style Potato Logs

One of the best things about getting off the highway is finding great food on the road less travelled. In fact, some of the tastiest boudin, barbecued brisket and fried chicken I’ve eaten has come from gas stations across the South.

One of things I’ve found in Mississippi gas stations (and some local fairs like the Okatoma Festival), are potato logs. These are large wedges of baked potato, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried. You basically get the creamy interior of a baked potato plus the crunchy skin and coating of the best French fry. All in all, they make a really awesome appetizer or side dish.

I tried several versions at home and found I like best Creole Seasoning in the flour (1 teaspoon seasoning per 1/4 cup flour – each large potato cut into 5 wedges used about 1/2 cup flour). I also found that you only need a double dip of flour (toss in flour, dredge in an egg beaten with some oil, and then dredge through the flour again). I found using breadcrumbs was unnecessary and actually a little heavy.

I used peanut oil as that is my go-to deep fry oil but you can use your choice. I fried them after I brought the oil to 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Fry for about 3 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. After removal from the heat, drain on a brown paper bag. Salt generously.

These are delicious as they are but, if you like them with a dipping sauce, I enjoyed them with ranch dressing with a little sriracha mixed in. They had a lovely kick.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Michelle has some frozen corn in the freezer that we wanted to use up before this year’s crop is harvested. We made up a huge batch of Cuban Style Black Beans and used three cups of the beans and a half a bell pepper along with the corn for this light and healthy summery salad.

If you have fresh cilantro, add a tablespoon of chopped leaves to the corn and beans and omit the dried.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

juice of 1 lime, about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
2 cups corn cut off the cob (1 10 ounce package frozen corn kernels)
3 cups black beans (2 15 ounce cans)
1 bell pepper, diced

optional, 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Whisk together the lime juice, oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cilantro in a large bowl. Add in the corn, black beans and bell pepper. Gently stir together to mix. Add the jalapeño pepper, if using. Taste for seasonings and then refrigerate for at least one hour for the flavors to come together.

 

Speedy Apple Sauce in the Multi-Cooker

Michelle has a Crock Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker (like an Instant Pot). It is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and also steams, browns, sautés and tutors high school students in calculus. We used it most recently to speed up the process of making applesauce.

As anyone knows who has stood over a skillet, stirring and mashing apples, this handy little device saved a lot of time and effort and we had great tasting applesauce to show for it. Use any combination of apples – I prefer the tartness of Granny Smith but adding red apples to the mix means less added sugar later.

Speedy Apple Sauce

4 Granny Smith apples or tart green apples
2 Gala/Honeycrisp or other sweet, crisp red apples
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Peel, core and cut the apples into 8-12 slices. Place in the electric pressure cooker. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and toss to coat. Mix together the water and lemon juice and pour over the apples. Stir to combine.

Put on the lid and cook on high for 8 minutes. Release the pressure safely. Mash the mixture together and, if it is too watery, use the browning function to cook a bit of the liquid off. Add seasoning and taste. Depending on the tartness of the apples, you may need to add more cinnamon in addition to the brown sugar and pinch of salt. Stir well to combine.

Serve hot or cold. Store any uneaten portion in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

I know, I know, another post on vegetables. You think I had turned 50 years old and finally realized I needed to eat (a little) better.

I don’t know about you but I grew up eating limp and soggy boiled broccoli, tossed with butter mask the funky flavor. I graduated to steaming it but would still sometimes overcook it to a sulfuric tasting mess if I got distracted putting the rest of the meal together.

These days, I’ve found that roasting in the oven gives me more leeway before overcooking as it browns before overcooking, so your nose knows. Additionally, the roasting gives it a sweeter, almost nutty flavor.

Tossed with a little garlic and lemon and you have a very tasty side dish!

Lemon Garlic Roasted Broccoli

2 medium heads of broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of half a lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut broccoli into florets and pile onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper. Use your fingers to toss, then spread out over tray in a single layer.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the tips of the florets are slightly browned. The broccoli should be tender crisp and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle over the lemon juice and butter. Toss to combine. Scatter lemon zest over and serve.

Easy Cowboy Beans

I was grilling up some St. Louis style ribs and needed a side dish. I first considered baked beans but no joy in my pantry. I then thought of another style of beans I could make instead – Cowboy Beans.

I didn’t have any dried pinto beans in the house, so I modified my recipe for Frijoles Charros (AKA Cowboy Beans) to use what I had in the pantry – canned pinto beans and tomatoes, dried herbs and some leftover ham. This is a terrific change to the usual baked beans – a little spicy with the onion, tomato and ham giving the broth depth. They go really well with ribs or carne asada.

Easy Cowboy Beans

2 slices of ham, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on preferred heat level
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (don’t throw out the can)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry up the ham. Once cooked, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the saucepan and sauté the onions for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened and golden. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and cook until they start to break down, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the seasonings and stir until combined and fragrant. Add in the beans and fill the bean can with water and stir that in, too.

Transfer to an oven safe casserole. Cook uncovered in a 350 degree F oven for an hour or until some of the liquid has been absorbed. I like mine to be a bit soupy but, if you want less liquid, stir and cook 15 minutes more.

Taste for seasonings and serve.

I take any leftovers and put them in the blender to make a bean puree that I then use as a replacement for refried beans with quesadillas or fajitas (or sometimes just eat with tortillas or chips as a dip).

 

Yummy!