Side Dishes

Side Dish Recipes

Dinner Rush: Shrimp with Mango Sauce and Quinoa Salad

The school year is about to begin!  My first day of teacher prep began today, so my casual lifestyle with tons of free time is about to come to an abrupt and unpleasant end.  Taking 8 months off from work to take a couple of part time jobs was pretty great.  It enabled me to move in to our new house and spend time getting things organized and just like I wanted them, running errands as needed, going to the gym whenever I wanted to, playing with the dog, baking and cooking without time restraints, perusing the Internet at my leisure and blogging whenever I pleased!  These days are sadly over.  I will miss you, my lazy life.

I must somehow move on to my new life with a positive attitude and a determination to somehow manage a full time job and the rest of the things I need and want to do.  Hold on, there are women who have more demanding jobs than I do, AND they have children, AND they’re members of groups and clubs, AND they take care of their house, AND they cook dinner, AND do laundry, AND blog!  If they can do it, then measly little me can do it!

I will not allow my new Monday thru Friday, 8-5 (or 6 some days) job keep me from making dinner on the weeknights.  I will also not stoop to macaroni and cheese from a box or putting a frozen pizza in the oven.  I WILL make real dinner!  So, every week I will make, review and blog about quick and easy dinner recipes that can be accomplished by a full time working woman…like I will be as of August 24.


These recipes come from Epicurious Dinner Rush from issues of Gourmet and SELF.  They are both quite delicious.  The most time consuming thing about them is the chopping and prep.  I modified the quinoa recipe quite a bit after speaking with my wiser and younger sister, Sarah, who told me that the preparation of the quinoa in the actual recipe was a bit ridiculous.  I hadn’t ever used quinoa before, so I thought the process of washing it 5 times in cold water, cooking for 10 minutes in boiling water and then steaming it in a sieve for 10 minutes above the boiling water was normal!  Turns out, all you have to do is cook the quinoa as you would rice.  Hooray!  That little change made this dish much faster.

There is a recipe for lime and cumin dressing that goes with the salad, but I didn’t use it.  Instead of the olive oil based dressing, I simply tossed the salad with lime juice, cumin and some kosher salt.  I found the salad to be incredibly light and refreshing.  I thought about adding chopped tomatoes, but opted not to this time.  It would be delicious, though, so I may try it next time.  Here is the original recipe.

Shrimp is always a good choice for a quick meal.  Shrimp cooks quickly, just 2-3 per side, in a hot skillet.  The mango sauce has a great combination of flavors.  Sweet, spicy and perfect with the shrimp.  I served the sauce warm, but it would be good chilled also.  Here is the recipe from epicurious.

I served this meal with a few warmed corn tortillas, so Ben made shrimp tacos.  I liked it better without the tortillas, Ben liked his taco version better.  I think he likes when all the components of a meal come together in a nice little package.  He likes burritos, sandwiches, pizza, stromboli, lasagna, enchiladas, chimichangas and always seems to mix the food on his plate into a new casserole type dish.

This is a fairly quick recipe, and definitely a good choice for a weeknight dinner.


4th of July Feast

It was a lovely 4th for us here in Amarillo!  It was cool enough last night to be outside for dinner and not be sweating like a pig.  After dinner we went to a park a few blocks from the house and played bocce ball.  My glowing friend Jackie (9 months pregnant, due any day now) beat everyone.  I miss a lot of things about central Texas, but I love the weather up here.

Originally my thought was to have burgers, potato salad, etc., your typical American 4th of July meal.  We weren’t sure how many people were going to show up to our little shindig, and I didn’t want to have a bunch of leftover hamburgers.  So, I decided to make pulled pork sandwiches.  We also had potato salad, cole slaw, fruit salad and patriotic sugar cookies.



Garlic and Herb Roasted Mushrooms

Ben and I grill steaks a few times a month and I usually make a potato or creamy rice dish as a side along with a salad or steamed veggie.  I was in the mood to try something a little different to have with our incredible New York strips this past Saturday.  I found this recipe for roasted mushrooms in a Food Network cookbook called Making it Easy.  


I changed the recipe in the cookbook just a bit.  I used less oil than called for (with great results) and added a few tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley.  I used half button and half shiitake mushrooms.  We loved these mushrooms.  They were a nice accompaniment to the steak and also a very tasty snack later that night cold from the fridge when I had a craving for these yummy salty, garlicky fungi.

I recently planted some rosemary in the back yard, so I was excited to use some of it for this recipe.  It is so nice to open up the back door, walk into the yard and just cut off a few sprigs of rosemary.  Let’s just hope I can keep the plant alive!


Garlic and Herb Roasted Mushrooms


  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used half cremini and half shiitake)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 5 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons water


Preheat oven to 450°.

  1. Clean and prepare mushrooms.  Be sure to remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms, they are too tough to eat.  I halved some of the larger cremini mushrooms and left some whole.  They should all be about the same size.
  2. Toss mushrooms, olive oil, rosemary and parsley on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


  1. Roast mushrooms for about 25 minutes until golden.  Once or twice during baking, move mushrooms around on the sheet.
  2. Remove from the oven and pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of water on the baking sheet and scrape up brown bits from the pan and toss the mushrooms.
  3. Season with more salt if desired.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Brown Rice and Mushroom Casserole

My sister told me about this site, 101cookbooks.  All the recipes are vegetarian and pretty healthy.  She has a recipe for black bean brownies that I am planning to try soon.  There are so many yummy things that I’ve put on my list of “to-make” recipes.  I may not ever find the time to make them all!  Anyway, this sounded so delicious and would pair well with the garlic and herb pork tenderloin I planned to make for dinner.  


This casserole came together really quickly.  I cooked the rice earlier in the day and kept it in the fridge until that evening.  I also prepped my onion and mushrooms in the afternoon.  I like cooking a dish like they do on food shows.  Bowls of pre-cut ingredients ready to go.  I almost felt like giving verbal instructions to my dog as I cooked this…but I decided against it.

The only hard part about this casserole is waiting the hour it takes to bake.  It smells so lovely that you’ll want to dig in as soon as the aroma starts to take over your kitchen.  Remember, patience is a virtue.  This is delicious.

I used brown rice, low fat cottage cheese, low fat sour cream, added 2 teaspoons of fresh chopped tarragon with the garlic to punch up the tarragon flavor.  Maybe I would add a bit more salt, or cook my rice with salt, next time.

Mushroom and Brown Rice Casserole

  • 1/2 pound (8 ounces) brown mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, well chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (low fat)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (low fat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons plus a bit more fresh tarragon, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.  Spray a baking dish (I used a 9×9) with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms in olive oil and sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt. Stir every minute or so until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned a bit. Add the onions and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until they are translucent.


Stir in the garlic and 2 teaspoons tarragon, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.


In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt.

Combine the rice mixture and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl, stir until well combined.


Turn out into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese.

mushroom4 Cover with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 or 30 minutes more or hot throughout and golden along the edges. Sprinkle with more of the chopped tarragon, and the remaining Parmesan and enjoy.


Serves about 8.

Orzo and Fontina Casserole

I saw Giada de Laurentis making this side dish, and I thought it looked delicious.  It is part of her steak house dinner menu, and since I had a plan to have people over for a steak dinner, this seemed pretty appropriate.  The list of ingredients is one that makes one swoon regardless of what is done with them; butter, onion, mushrooms, fontina cheese, green peas, mozzarella, and orzo pasta. Do I need to continue?  I thought not.

I changed a few things in this recipe.  I used whole wheat orzo, only 1 tablespoon of butter, added extra mushrooms (10 oz.) and extra peas (about 1 1/2 cups) and used 1/2 2% milk and 1/2 cream to make the full 1/2 cup required.  I also was unable to purchase Marsala wine on a Sunday in Texas, so I used a white wine instead.  Texas, our Texas!  All hail the mighty State!

I really do like that Texas doesn’t sell hard liquor on Sundays, even though it was an inconvenience.  

I am sure the flavor is quite good with the marsala wine, but it was really quite good without it as well, so no worries my fellow Texas foodies.  No need to spend $12.99 0n a bottle of marsala when an $8.99 bottle of white wine will do.  Cheap?  Yes, I am cheap.

I don’t have any good pics of this dish, but it’s image does not do it justice.  It is a casserole, and who can think of a casserole who photographs well?  Nobody!  So, it tastes good and it looks like mush…so what?

Here is the food network pic and the recipe I used.  Try it!  



4 cups chicken broth

1 pound whole wheat orzo pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

10 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 cup white wine

1/4 cup 2% milk and 1/2 cup cream

4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)

4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)

1 amd 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon dried thyme


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter or Pam.


Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.


Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until the Marsala has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.


In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and dried thyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.


Everyone liked this dish.  This recipe works well with a simple main dish like grilled steak.  I am not a fan of battling flavors.  Keep your menu simple.  If you have a dish that is complex, don’t make your guests choose which part of the meal is the best.  It is hard to compare good simple dishes with good complex dishes, so don’t make your guests tastebuds go crazy.  Make the meal enjoyable.

Dijon Chicken Breasts and Braised Leeks

I hadn’t made an out of the ordinary dinner in a while, so I began my search for something special on Wednesday morning for a special Friday night dinner.  I really enjoy Smitten Kitchen, and that is where I found this recipe.  She calls them Devil’s Chicken Thighs, and they looked so incredibly wonderful on her post that I could not resist.  Not including marinating time on the chicken, this recipe took me about 4 hours to complete.  It is a time commitment, but well worth it.  I made the leeks in the afternoon and chilled them until that night when I made the chicken.  I started cooking again at 6:30 that night…we didn’t eat until 8:45!  So, make sure you have time.  

Another time consuming aspect of this dish is the prep.  It takes a while to pluck those little thyme leaves from the stems to have a total of 4 tablespoons.  Peeling a dozen shallots, slicing and chopping them…put on some good cooking music and get to work.


I made scallopped potatoes and steamed asparagus to go with the chicken.  The scallopped potatoes recipe is at the bottom of the post.



Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Dijon Mustard
Adapted from 
Sunday Suppers at Lucques

4-6 chicken breasts, trimmed of excess skin and fat ( 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the diagonal (I used serranos and removed the seeds from one of them)
3/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 extra-large egg
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
Braised leeks (recipe below)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl with the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons thyme, chiles, and 1/4 cup vermouth. Using your hands, toss to coat the chicken well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.


Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Heat large saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and cook until it’s brown and smells nutty. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the brown butter over the breadcrumbs. Wait 1 minute, and then toss well with the parsley and 1 tablespoon thyme.


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Return the saute pan to medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Saute about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.


Add the remaining 1/2 cup vermouth and reduce by half. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, egg, chopped tarragon, and a pinch of black pepper.


Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature. Discard the seasonings, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. After 15 minutes, season the thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Return the same saute pan to high heat for about 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden brown.


Turn the breasts over and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Place the chicken on the braised leeks. Turn off the heat and discard the fat. Add the chicken stock to the pan, and scrape with a wooden spoon to release the crispy bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the chicken stock over the braised leeks.

Toss the chicken thighs in the bowl with the mustard mixture, slathering them completely, and then rearrange them over the braised leeks. Spoon any remaining mustard mixture over the chicken thighs.


Top each thigh with breadcrumbs, patting with your hands to make sure they get nicely coated. (You want lots of mustard mixture and lots of breadcrumbs.) Bake about 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. To check for doneness, piece the meat near the bone with a paring knife; when ready, the juices from the chicken will run clear.

Turn the oven up to 475°F and cook the chicken thighs another 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.


Serve in the baking dish, or transfer to a large warm platter.

Braised Leeks
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

I made these 5 hours in advance.  I halved the recipe since it was just the 2 of us.  Use the same amount of wine and about 1 cup of chicken broth.

6 large leeks
About 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (though I always skimp and use less)
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove any bruised outer layers from the leeks. Trim off to the roots, leaving the root end intact. Trim the tops of the leeks on the diagonal, leaving 2 inches of the green part attached. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise.  Submerge in a large bowl of cold water to clean them. Shake the leeks well to dislodge the dirt stuck inside. Let them sit a few minutes, to allow any grit inside the layers to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clean. Place the leeks, cut side down, on a towel and pat dry completely.


Turn the leeks over so their cut sides are facing up, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, being careful not to crowd them.  You will probably need to saute them in batches or in two pans.


Add more olive oil to the pan as needed, for each batch.) Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Season the backs of the leeks with salt and pepper, and turn them over to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a large gratin dish, lining them up, cut sides facing up. (Choose a baking dish or gratin dish that can go from oven to table and that will accommodate all the leeks and chick thighs, or use two smaller dishes.)


Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to color. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Pour the liquid over the leeks. The stock should not quite cover them; add more stock if necessary.


Braise in the oven 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender when pierced. 

Simple Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots


  •          1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
  •          2 shallots, sliced thin
  •          Salt
  •          Pepper
  •          All purpose flour
  •          1 ½ cups 2% milk, heated until just warm
  •          2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  •          ½ to 1 cup shredded cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)

1.       Preheat oven to 375.

2.       Layer potatoes in bottom of 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, flour and shallots.  Continue layering in this order until all the potatoes have been used. 

3.       Top final layer with salt, pepper and dots of butter, then pour warm milk over potatoes.

4.       Sprinkle with cheese.

5.       At this point you can bake the potatoes for 1 hour, or refrigerate them to bake later. 

6.       If you choose to bake the potatoes at a later time, bake at the same temperature.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for the remaining time.

Hike, Eat, Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!   What better way to celebrate than with big pink plastic lollipop lips?


Valentine’s weekend was great.  Our good friends from law school made the trip to Amarillo to spend the weekend.  We began Saturday with pastries from The Village Bakery.  After breakfast we headed out to Palo Duro Canyon for a hike.  We made good use of our new Texas State Parks pass by getting all 9 of us in for “Free!” instead of $4 per person.


It was a beautiful day.  I had never hiked in Palo Duro before, only driven through.  We all agreed that being this close to Palo Duro makes living in the Panhandle worth it!  Our dog, Ginger, all 6 pounds and 7 weeks of her, kept up with us all 4 miles of the trip and still had energy left over afterwards.  We were pretty impressed with her stamina.  Our goal was to see Lighthouse rock.  After about 2 miles on the trail the little girls were tired and we thought that we wouldn’t have time to go all the way to the rock.  So, we headed back to the car.  We checked out the trail map when we got to the trailhead and found out that we were almost there when we’d turned around!  So, Ben was right and I was wrong.  Next time we’ll have to hike all the way to Lighthouse.  It seems like an incredible formation.  After the hike, we headed back home to prepare Valentine’s Day dinner.



I must say that this meal was one of the best we’ve put together.  The company was lovely, so maybe it was partly the people we ate with, but the food…it was wonderful.  The baked brie is courtesy of my Aunt Vivie.  She made a similar appetizer at Christmas.  She used almonds, cranberries and honey inside her puff pastry so the one we made was a bit different.  The thyme and cranberry with the brie was buttery and sweet.  I’m glad we served the brie with the water crackers.  Their clean flavor did not distract you from the rich flavors in the brie.  The salad dressing and spiced pecans is a recipe from Rather Sweet Bakery.  The recipe for the entree came from Fine Cooking.  I used flank steak instead of the skirt steak, and we grilled the steak.  The steak and relish were absolutely incredible.  The flavors really complemented each other as did the textures.  The steak was delicious and tender.  The slight crunch of the vegetables in the relish was a perfect match.  The potatoes were simple.  We all agreed that a meal can be overdone if everything is complex, so the simple roasted potato was a great side.  

Valentine’s Day


Baked Brie with Thyme and Cranberries


Salad with Spiced Pecans, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette


Smashed New Potatoes


Flank Steak with Radish, Red Onion and Carrot Relish



Baked Brie with Cranberries and Thyme

  • 8 oz wheel of brie with top rind removed
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 package plain water crackers
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. On a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, roll the pastry out to a 12-inch square and cut two 6-inch rounds from it. Put one of the rounds on a small rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with half of the dried cranberries and thyme, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge, and gently press them in.
  4. Set the Brie, rind side down, on top of the pastry, sprinkle with the remaining cranberries and thyme, and cover with the other pastry. 
  5. Crimp the edges together to seal in the cheese. 
  6. Bake until the pastry browns, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes and then serve.

The Lovebirds

Here are the dinner guests!  Jason and Carrie, Christian and Lisa, and me and Ben.  


Dinner Party

What I had envisioned as a quiet evening for two became a dinner party for 6 in about half an hour this past Sunday evening. When I am having people over for dinner I like to put quite a bit of planning and thought in to the meal. However, as of noon on Sunday I still had not decided what to make for dinner! I finally decided on steak and a bread and vegetable salad. Ben is the steak master, and I’d had the salad at a cooking class with Rebecca Rather at Central Market earlier this summer, so I felt like it would be a nice and fairly easy meal to put together. I decided to make prosciutto wrapped parmesan breadsticks from a Giada DeLaurentis cookbook. Ben suggested that we also have some port salut cheese and crackers. We went to the grocery store together which is a rare occasion. Having a grocery partner is much more fun than going alone! I’m including the salad recipe below. I would include the steak recipe as well, but it’s Ben’s secret and I am not even allowed within 5 feet of the kitchen when he makes it…ok, not really. I just don’t know exactly what he uses. The meal ended up being pretty delicious. I would recommend tossing the salad just an hour or so ahead and try not to have leftovers or overdress it. I found myself with an unsalvagavle bowl of lovely vegetables tossed with soggy, deteriorating bread cubes at the end of the night. I hate throwing food away, so next time I’ll either make half the recipe or just toss half the veggies with half the bread and save the rest for the next day.

Summer Vegetable Bread Salad
1 loaf sourdough cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted
4 ears of corn cooked and taken off the cob
3 large heirloom tomatoes cut in wedges (I used 8 campari tomatoes)
1 large cucumber sliced and seeded
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
2 bell peppers cubed (I used 1 yellow and 1 orange)
1 T each roughly chopped basil & parsley

2 t minced garlic
2 t dijon mustard
6 T red wine vinegar
2 t honey
1 t salt
1/2 cup good olive oil

Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil. Drizzle in oil while whisking dressing until combined.

Toss all vegetables except for herbs in a large bowl. 45 minutes before serving, toss vegetables, herbs, bread cubes and vinaigrette. Let sit at room temperature until serving.