Tag Archives: easy side dishes

Doctoring Store-Bought Food: Tailgating Recipes Edition

Gentle Readers, sometimes one has all the time in the world to create a culinary masterpiece, and sometimes one must PUNT! In the spirit of football season and tailgating parties, here are two recipes devised to save time and save face.

Speaking of saving face, looks like the crowd approves the side dishes. Or you took selfies with my phone.

Speaking of saving face, looks like the crowd approves the side dishes. Or you took selfies with my phone.

If you have to feed a crowd in a hurry, what better choices than baked beans and potato salad? But on a busy weekend during the school year, however much I may like to start from scratch, I will compromise and doctor store-bought. I even signed my name to one of them.

Mildly doctored blondies: wasn't blown away by this mix, better from scratch. But they are pretty.

Mildly doctored blondies: wasn’t blown away by this mix, better from scratch. But they are pretty.

Doctored Potato Salad Recipe

I bought this beauty from SuperTarget, selected for quantity, price, and not being overly mayo-filled or celery seed laced. I have evolved in my acceptance of celery over the years, but I am unyielding on those celery seeds. They are not delicious to me. I digress.

Specially doctored by The Practical Cook: SuperTarget Potato Salad!

Specially doctored by The Practical Cook: SuperTarget Potato Salad!

1 container of potato salad that meets your personal needs (size and flavor profile)
yellow mustard
sweet or dill relish, or  a combination
chopped parsley (optional)
dash of hot sauce
sliced cherry tomatoes

Now you have a decision to make–is the container large enough to stir in your add-ins, or do you need to mix in a separate bowl? I’ll wait while you sort this out. Now you also must decide whether you own the doctoring or go full out and pass it as your own in a nice bowl.

Regardless, stir in the yellow mustard (a healthy dose if you want to offset mayo), relish, parsley (will make it taste fresh, don’t overdo it), and a dash of hot sauce (like Tabasco, and I mean just a dash) until fully blended. Top with sliced cherry tomatoes. Serve with a smile on your face.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Recipe

I adapted this recipe from Beer-Can Chicken, an amazing little cookbook that I worked on promoting many years ago. It calls for ribs and a grill, but bacon and an over work just fine, too.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans before the oven!

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans before the oven!

1 large can of pork-n-beans (yes, the ones with the fatback and tomato sauce that are crazy cheap and taste bad by themselves)
1 can each: black beans, pinto beans, dark red kidney beans–rinsed thoroughly
smoky meat: can be leftover ribs, a bit of ham, or my favorite, cooked bacon
1 small onion, diced
1/2 – 3/4 cup diced mixed peppers (the sweet kind, I use the frozen mixed ones)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (doesn’t have to be fancy, I use Kraft because it’s cheap)
2 healthy teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 of a beer, the rest is for the cook
Ground black pepper to taste
a shot of your favorite hot sauce, to taste

Mix it all up in a 9 by 13 glass dish (or aluminum one if you’re wanting to toss it later), heat in a grill or in a 375-400 degree oven until bubbling and reduced. Thank me later, but feel free to invite me to your tailgate party now.

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Completed!

Beer and Bacon Baked Beans Completed!

What are your favorite things to buy and make better? Post a comment here or Tweet my way! Special thanks to #vGingerBeard and family for the invitation and the unsolicited thumbs up.

Send your good ideas, lucrative offers, and free chocolate samples to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Simply Squash: Summer Meets Winter

Gentle Readers, simple is so often the best way forward with vegetables. The thing about cooking in the summer, it’s hot. There are days where I would like to subsist on nothing but watermelon and dreams of fall, but alas, one must eat. And sometimes, amazing vegetables fall into your lap from your family. Okay, that’s just my good luck being from a farming family.

Sweet Dumpling Squash: Winter Visits the Summer Table

Sweet Dumpling Squash: Winter Visits the Summer Table

We identified these as Sweet Dumpling Squash, and proceeded to cook them for lunch. The Practical Cooks Junior assisted and ate the whole thing in one sitting. It was a much-needed break from typical summer fare. Winter squash, not just for winter.

Simply Squash: Sweet Dumpling Squash Recipe

Wash and dry your squash. Jab it a few times with a sharp knife. Avoid your fingers. Put it on a plate, and microwave for 5 minutes. Turn it over, microwave for another 5 minutes. See if the squash feels soft. If yes, let it sit for a few, then slice in half, scoop out and toss the seeds and the membranes. Then scoop out the flesh (like a squash zombie), add some butter (I don’t judge), and a pinch or two of salt and nutmeg. Mash. Eat. Thank me later.

Beautiful Sweet Dumpling Squash Pre-Scooping

Beautiful Sweet Dumpling Squash Pre-Scooping

What are you craving this summer? Confess all by posting a comment below. Or Tweet in my direction.

If you are actually reading this fine print, feel free to email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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Roasted Spring Vegetables Recipe

Gentle readers, having just returned from a week in Las Vegas, The Practical Cook is very ready to consume some simple roasted veggies. Though I’ve hear there is great food to be found in Vegas, I am never given the opportunity to actually eat any of it, as I am there for work. So frequently it’s a standing dinner consisting of hastily gathered apps or something like this:

This was lunch AND breakfast.

This was lunch AND breakfast.

For which I’m grateful, calorically speaking, but I have eaten this before. It’s not breaking new ground for me. But I digress, let’s talk about the candy of the vegetable world, shall we?

The first meal I was able to sit and eat, possible the greatest club sandwich ever. And yes, there is bacon.

The first meal I was able to sit and eat, possible the greatest club sandwich ever. And yes, there is bacon.

Roasted Spring Vegetable Recipe

mixture of any of the following: carrots, spring onions, baby turnips, potatoes, parsnips
healthy dollop of olive oil
generous sprinkling of salt

Toss the bite-sized veggies with olive oil, and then salt. Don't hold back on either.

Toss the bite-sized veggies with olive oil, and then salt. Don’t hold back on either.

1. Preheat the oven to between 375 and 400 degrees, depending on how much time you have.

2. Prep the veggies: clean, peel, cut into bite-sized pieces, etc.

3. Place the dollop of oil (healthy!) into a glass baking dish. Toss in the veggies, stir to coat.

4. Sprinkle with salt (generously!). Salt makes the dish.

5. Roast, stirring occasionally, until veggies reach a state of desired awesome. More roasting equals more sweetness, do not be afraid. Remove and serve with a starch and a main, or use as a burrito filling, etc. The onions are sweet and wonderful, so don’t skip this if you can.

Healthy, happy lunch. Salmon, couscous, and roasted spring veggies.

Healthy, happy lunch. Salmon, couscous, and roasted spring veggies.

Bring on the vegetables of spring! What’s your fave spring vegetable to roast? Post a comment below!

Ideas, questions, wisecracks? Email them all to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus, Memorial Day Edition!

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The Accidental Butternut Bulgar Recipe

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook has been a wee bit sleep deprived. When this happens, simple kitchen tasks can become more challenging. For instance, I had every intent to make my life easy and do a simple couscous dish the other night to go with salmon and asparagus. Then I grabbed the bulgar by mistake.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

A new recipe was born. Secretly, I was thinking about a grain salad I had eaten recently at Foster’s Market. The balance of salt/sweet/chew was perfect. How to replicate? Apparently by Punting!

The Accidental Butternut Bulgar Recipe

1 average size butternut squash, peeled, scooped, and diced small
1 shallot, diced
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons brown sugar
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 cup bulgar
1 cup chicken stock (sub veggie stock if you’d like, or more orange juice, or water)
1 cup orange juice (fresh or commercial, I won’t tell)
balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup pecans
a handful of parsley, chopped

1. Heat olive oil in a medium size skillet with a lid (though it shouldn’t be on right this second) over a strong medium heat until almost smoking. Add cumin seeds and sizzle for a few seconds until you can smell them. Immediately add butternut squash and shallots. Stir. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, until shallots and squash are softened.

Add the squash and shallots to the pan immediately so the cumin seeds don't burn.

Add the squash and shallots to the pan immediately so the cumin seeds don't burn.

2. Add brown sugar and the juice from the orange to the pan. Stir and cover, reducing heat to a simmer. Cook for another 7 minutes until squash is done. Season with salt as needed, and take off heat to splash a little balsamic on the mixture. Keep covered, set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring 1 1/4 cup water, stock and OJ to a boil. Add bulgar, stir, cover, reduce heat to lowest of the lows. Congratulate yourself that you did this as a single step and not as a big fat accident like I did, scrambling to add more liquid to the “expletive, that’s not couscous.” Cook the bulgar until the liquid is pretty much absorbed, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the bulgar is done, chewy but not crunchy, take off the heat and stir in the reserved orange zest.

Toss the Accidental Butternut Bulgar with parsley and pecans to finish the dish.

Toss the Accidental Butternut Bulgar with parsley and pecans to finish the dish.

4. Now take the bulgar mixture, add it to the squash mixture, and toss in the pecans and parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, or additional balsamic as needed. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.

First, I will say that I’m a fan of all the ingredients involved. After all, I did make the dish, even if it was an accident. That said, it freaking rocks!! I’m not usually that enthusiastic about my own food, but this time, I loved it. I really couldn’t stop eating it. My kids picked out parts of it, the texture variety may have been too challenging, but I consumed bowl after bowl. My name is The Practical Cook, and I have a bulgar problem.

Are you a fan of grain salads? What do you do when you grab the wrong ingredient? Tell me your story below in the comments section!

Send accolades, review requests, and food nonsense to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Forgiving Yourself in the Kitchen.

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Improving the Canned Crescent

The Practical Cook thinks chili requires a bread on the side. But sometimes, when time is tight, and buttermilk is MIA, one must punt. These crescent rolls, which were originally destined for blanketing pigs, were going to expire soon. They seemed so plain. Here’s my solution.

Cresent Rolls Get Cheesy

Cresent Rolls Get Cheesy

I took some of the cheese that was grated to rest atop the chili, and put it inside the crescent rolls pre-rolling. On a few select ones, I added diced pickled jalepeños. Olé.

Crescents Rolled Up

Crescents Rolled Up

Bake according to directions. Claim victory.

Spicy Crescent Rolls on the End!

Spicy Crescent Rolls on the End!

So I spent 40 minutes making homemade chili, and 5 making refrigerator crescent rolls. Guess which one was eaten first?

Do you have a can of dough in your fridge? Confess here, or Tweet.

Send queries and blog requests to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Restaurant Review: Saffron (times two).

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