Wednesday, December 29, 2010

sweet, salty and crunchy winter salad

The Perfect Winter Salad!

Salty stuff. Sweet stuff. Crunchy stuff. Chewy stuff. It doesn't get much better than that - and there's bacon!

This salad is as delicious as it is beautiful, with rich greens, jewel-toned fruit and contrasting sliced almonds. The delicately sweet dressing is incredibly simple and complements the other flavors to perfection.

You can prepare this with mixed greens (particularly pretty and tasty with radicchio tossed in) or use only spinach, or a combination of all. You can substitute pine nuts for the sliced almonds if you like, but I do really feel that the dried cranberries (not raisins) provide the best flavor in this salad. Be sure to try this with Mandarin orange segments also. *swoon*

This is a terrific side salad to serve with a simple meat-and-potatoes type dinner and it's a surprisingly tasty accompaniment to many curried dishes. And it will make a spectacular salad to ring in 2011, whether as part of a cozy dinner for two, or as a start to a healthy new year.

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like to use safflower oil because its mild flavor doesn't compete with the other ingredients)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons wine vinegar (try using a raspberry blush balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar or a simple white wine vinegar)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk ingredients together thoroughly and set aside.

For the salad, toss together:

  • 5 to 6 cups mixed salad greens, including spinach if you like
  • 6 slices cooked lean bacon, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 green onions, white only, thinly sliced
Lightly toss salad ingredients with the dressing and serve immediately, or wait until ready to serve before adding the dressing.

Also, if you're preparing the salad in advance, add the almonds at the last moment so they will stay crunchy.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

now for something a little different - meatball kofta

Tired of turkey?
Had enough ham?
Yes, holiday leftovers are wonderful... everything tastes so good the next day, you can cram almost all of it between a couple of slices of bread for an impromptu Dagwood sandwich, and you don't need to cook for a few nights. But... sometimes I'm the victim of holiday "leftoverload" and I get a craving for more exotic flavors.
Meatball Kofta is truly one of my top 10 (well, at least top 20) favorite dishes. Hm, "top 20 favorite dishes" sounds like a good blog topic, by the way. *gets out notebook*
Depending on the recipe, Meatball Kofta is either Asian or Middle Eastern, and is traditionally prepared in a tagine. The beautiful part is that, although it would be rad to actually have the tagine, you don't really need it; a large skillet will do. The simple meatballs are simmered in a tomato mixture, then served over rice or couscous (or try it with spaghetti or fettuccine).
Meatball Kofta makes a quick and inexpensive change from the repetition of the usual rotation of weeknight suppers and just might become a new favorite of yours as well!
For the meatballs:
  • 1.25 pounds ground beef, lamb, chicken or turkey (or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Use your hands to combine all of the meatball ingredients together thoroughly, then form into small meatballs no larger than one inch in diameter.
For the sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Coarsely chop and remove seeds from whole peeled tomatoes.
Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a tagine or large skillet. Cover and let simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to incorporate oil. If too thick, add a small amount of water.
Place meatballs in the sauce. Lower heat slightly, cover and cook until meatballs are thoroughly done (I like to allow them to cook for at least 30 minutes). Near the end of cooking time, uncover if sauce needs to thicken a bit.
This recipe does not make an extremely "saucy" dish - if you think you would like more of the tasty tomato mixture, double up! Serve with rice, couscous or pasta, and don't forget the crusty bread for dipping in those delicious juices.
Makes about 3 servings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

take time to smell... the potatoes!

Love cooking but hate being stuck in the kitchen while all the fun is going on elsewhere? Eliminate some of those last-minute details by preparing dishes ahead of time.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole
is the perfect accompaniment to nearly any "roast beast," from beef tenderloin to ham to turkey or whatever else rocks your holiday table!
The potatoes can be prepared a day in advance and reheated, eliminating the frenzy of draining, mashing and presenting mashed potatoes at the last minute. Let come to room temperature before placing in the oven, cover and allow about 15 to 20 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for thorough heating.
And yes... you can add cheese to the mashed potato mixture, and even sprinkle some atop the casserole itself. Oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaahh! For something a little different, try this recipe with Yukon Gold potatoes. You'll love the flavor, texture and color. Or use plain salt and substitute half of the cream cheese with a flavored variety, like chive and onion.
Have your holiday your way, and make time to enjoy it!
  • 12 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt (or use a bit more plain salt to taste if you prefer)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk or more as needed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Butter a 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large saucepan boil potato cubes until tender, about 15 minutes (but check to be sure). Drain and mash potatoes then add onion salt, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and salt and pepper. Beat together with a spoon or use a hand-held mixer. Add enough milk for a smooth consistency.
Spread mixture in the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with a bit of paprika if you like, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes if re-heating the next day; if serving the same day, bake for 1 hour.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last-minute Christmas gifts, fast and cheap!

Everybody Loves Beer Bread!
Need a quick, last-minute gift idea but you've already spent way too much money this Christmas? Need a couple of quick stocking stuffers but your pockets are stuffed with bills and receipts? Or do you just want to create something homemade and thoughtful but you're running out of time?
Well, here is a solution that just might be the answer to all of the questions above: whip up a batch of beer bread mix with only four simple ingredients (and your grateful recipient will only need two!).
The following recipe will make one delicious loaf of beer bread and can be customized as you like. On the Lonesome Road we like to add some rosemary or crushed fennel seeds; a bit of dill would be a good addition, or possibly a light touch of lemon zest and black pepper. Personalize the recipe to your recipient's tastes or make a few suggestions for them.
The basic beer bread recipe is:
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
That's it! Simply combine and package in resealable plastic bags, then place the plastic bag in something more decorative: a hand-stamped paper bag, a vintage canning jar, or an old tin; maybe a antique bread loaf pan. Trim with homespun, raffia, ribbons - and a tag with directions (see below).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix contents of package with one 12 oz. bottle or can or beer. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Pour 4 tablespoons melted butter over batter in pan and bake one hour.
So simple! This bread is terrific with cozy winter soups and casseroles, slathered with softened real butter. The person(s) who receive this beer bread mix will love the homemade thoughtfulness and simplicity of the gift. And isn't that what giving is all about?

Friday, December 3, 2010

sunday dinner redux, side dishes edition - sweet potatoes!

Gooey... Sweet... Caramel-y...
Butterscotch-y Sweet Potatoes!
Sweeten up your Sunday dinner with these rich and decadent sweet potatoes. This is a simple (and overall, healthy) side dish that will not have you scrambling to the store for exotic ingredients, and it's a great dish to bring for gatherings since everyone loves it!
A tiny touch of cinnamon makes this dish perfect for all winter and autumn festivities, or can make a simple dinner pretty special as well. Pair these sweet potatoes with a pork roast, roast turkey or chicken or Cornish hen, or even a tender slow-cooked beef brisket.
And, it really doesn't take that much extra time to start from scratch instead of using canned sweet potatoes; just be sure to use a sharp peeler and knife for cutting. Also, do yourself a favor and don't buy the funny-shaped ones that look like obscene body parts or garden gnomes, etc.; you'll hate yourself later when you're trying to peel them.
  • 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into large cubes and boiled for about 10 minutes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place cooked, drained sweet potato cubes in an ungreased 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish; set aside.
Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, half and half, cinnamon and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.
Pour sauce over the sweet potatoes, cover and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more, basting sweet potatoes with that delectable sauce.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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