Side Dish Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

maple and harissa carrots 4


It’s an Autumn Saturday morning in Chicago. As I sit here and type this, I’ve already seen the weather go from dark and cold, to windy and pouring rain. Now, its slightly breezy and a lovely 70 degrees F and sunshine. Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, my fiance is a weather geek and it’s rubbed off on me. For another thing, I’m attempting to draw the correlation between this simple carrot recipe (three distinct flavor profiles), and the three stages of this mornings weather. For the last thing, I realize this is a lame analogy … I’ll do better next time.

Silly food – weather comparisons aside, this IS a delicious and lovely carrot recipe. A great combination of sweet and spicy with a slight smoky flavor from the cumin. So easy, even your significant other couldn’t screw it up.

I love buying carrots with the leafy tops still attached. Remove tops when you arrive home and store in an airtight plastic bag in your refrigerator. They will last much longer this way. You already know this, but it’s worth reiterating that grocery store pre bagged carrots have nothin’ on fresh farmers market carrots.

maple and harissa carrots 7maple and harissa carrots 1


Simple side dish is the name of the game here.  Cut carrots, toss with glaze, and roast away. Just make sure to bring an umbrella when you leave the house today.

maple and harissa carrots 2maple and harissa carrots 3maple and harissa carrots 6



  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 6-8 large) carrots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp harissa chili paste, more if you like spicy
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste


  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Peel and trim off the ends of the carrots.  Cut into quarters, first crosswise, then lengthwise.
  3. Make glaze by combining the remainder of the ingredients.
  4. Toss carrots in glaze.
  5. Arrange carrots onto baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes. Flip/turn carrots 2 times during the cooking process.
Crock Pot Recipes, Side Dish Recipes

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes


I realize it’s been been some time since my last post.  I apologize for all the grief and anxiety that you’ve no doubt been suffering from due to this absence.  So, accept my apology, dry your tears, and let’s get goin’ again.  Game on!

I’m reminded of a wise passage I once read on a small chalkboard outside a vendor at the farmers market (you know the chalk board signs I’m talking about).  At the top of the board was written in all caps “YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL HUMAN BEING”.  Below was drawn a large oval with about 5-6 small dots in it.  No colors, just a simple oval drawn with white chalk.

Below the oval was this:

“But I am not very good at drawing human beings, so I have drawn a potato instead.  But the potato is very beautiful too – in its own way.”

So, in the spirit of beautiful humans and spuds, I give you this recipe.

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed PotatoesCrock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes


The whole ‘mashed potatoes in a crock pot’ thing is obviously much more hands-off than cooking them the traditional way.  No big pot for boiling water needed here.

Why is this such a clever idea? Among others, here are 5 reasons:

  1. Frees up stove-top and oven space
  2. One dish to clean – you can even serve straight from the crock pot
  3. Potatoes are waiting and ready for dinner whenever you are
  4. Skinny … yes, skinny potatoes … no butter or heavy cream here (you won’t miss it)
  5. You will have plenty of time to devote to other dishes

Peel and quarter the potatoes, add to the crock pot with a little chicken broth and garlic, cover, and cook until they’re very tender.  Then mash them right in the pot with cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, chives and parsley.  Put the lid back on and turn the crock pot to warm. Voila! Your potatoes are ready whenever you are.  Serve as is or load them up with cheese, bacon, and sour cream.

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes


I’m loving this super simple, hands-off, healthier approach to mashed potatoes.  Simply beautiful.


  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, minces
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup warm milk, if needed


  1. Lightly grease the slow cooker insert with cooking spray.  Peel the potatoes and chop into quarters (or eighths if your potatoes are larger).  Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker.
  2. Add smashed garlic and chicken broth.  Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 5-6 hours.
  3. Once potatoes are tender, turn the setting to warm.
  4. Add cream cheese, sour cream, salt and freshly cracked black pepper directly to the slow cooker insert.  Mash ingredients by hand using a potato masher, or with a hand mixer.  You do not want to over mix your potatoes, this will turn them gummy.  Mix until potatoes are just combined. Make them as lumpy or as smooth as you like.
  5. Add fresh chives and taste and season with additional salt or pepper if desired.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  7. To keep the potatoes warm, leave in the covered slow cooker on the warm setting for up to 4 hours.  If potatoes thicken too much, add a small amount of warm milk to thin them just before serving.

Makes: 6 cups of mashed potatoes


Side Dish Recipes, Snacks, Vegetarian Recipes

Crispy Asian Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Asian Brussels Sprouts


I get it.

Telling you “Asian roasted Brussels sprouts are the perfect bar food snack” makes me sound like a food snob.  But if you’re reading this, you’re either already a food snob, or you’re on the road to becoming one.  So let’s embrace both our inner food snobbery, and this fantastically delicious and easy to make bar snack.

Like clockwork, 4pm rolls around and I begin craving a cold beer and a salty treat.  I look in the fridge to find something to curb my hunger.  My eyes keep going back to a bag of Brussels sprouts.  Conventional wisdom tells me my snack attack cannot be cured by Brussels sprouts.  Conventional wisdom be damned!

I crank the oven to high heat to get the Brussels sprouts charred and crispy, then toss them in a sticky Asian glaze.   Slightly sweet, a bit tangy, and nicely balanced by the heat from the Sriracha.

Kiss the mozzarella sticks goodbye.  You’ve evolved into a more sophisticated form of bar food.  Don’t forget the cold beer.

Crispy Asian Brussels SproutsCrispy Asian Brussels SproutsCrispy Asian Brussels Sprouts



  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • A pinch of freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and set a rack on the very top level. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and reserve.
  2. Prepare the Brussels sprouts by cutting off the base of each sprout and slicing them in half.  Discard any loose outer leaves.
  3. Rinse Brussels sprouts under cold water and drain removing as much excess water as possible.
  4. In a bowl, toss Brussels sprouts with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir with your hands to ensure they are well-oiled and salted, and spread out evenly on baking a sheet.
  5. Place in the oven on the top rack for 45-50 minutes. After both 20 and 40 minute mark, stir the Brussels sprouts to ensure all sides get crispy.
  6. When Brussles sprouts are close to being done, prepare the sauce. In a small saute pan, combine garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, lime juice, Sriracha, and black pepper. Reduce sauce over medium-high heat until sauce is thickened (about 5 minutes).  Make sure to stir frequently to avoid burning.
  7.  When fully cooked and crisped on all sides, remove Brussels sprouts from the oven. Place them in a bowl and toss with some of the reduced sauce.  Add sauce the sauce a little bit at a time, as you don’t want the Brussels sprouts to be overly soaked. You want them to retain their crispy texture. You should have a little sauce leftover.
Salads, Side Dish Recipes

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino


I’ve eaten this salad three days in a row.  Here’s why.

Unique texture, delicious taste, and high levels of vitamins and nutrients.  You know I love versatility in dish, especially in a salad.

I am, indeed, a salad girl.  It’s easy to be when cheese and bacon are involved, right?   Well, it’s just as easy to categorize yourself  a salad “person” when kale and Brussels sprouts are involved.  Not only do both these veggies taste great, but they’re good for you and they stand up to many added toppings, ingredients, and variations (seeing a theme here?).  Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium.  Brussels sprouts contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin K.

This salad works well as a main dish for 2, serves 4-6 as a side, or can easily be doubled to serve a crowd.  I may be eating it again tomorrow!

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and PecorinoKale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and PecorinoKale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and PecorinoKale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino



  • 2 tbsp minced shallot
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large bunch (approx 3 cups) Lacinato kale, finely shredded
  • 1 lb (approx 4 cups) Brussels sprouts, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled into bite sized pieces


  1. First, make the dressing by combining minced shallot, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, olive oil, salt and a freshly cracked black pepper.  I like to place the ingredients in a mason jar, secure the lid, and shake.  Reserve dressing.
  2. In a large bowl, combine shredded kale and Brussels sprouts.  Note: I shred my veg in a food processor, but you could also finely chop by hand.
  3. Toss the kale and Brussles sprouts with the reserved dressing.  Use only as much dressing as you need to coat the kale and Brussles sprouts.  Note: I used about 3/4 of the dressing.
  4. Add almonds, Pecorino Romano cheese, and crumbled bacon.  Toss again, adjust seasoning to taste, adding more dressing if needed.

Servings: 2 as a main, 4-6 as a side

Side Dish Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)

Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)


Zucchini noodles (aka “zoodles”) are healthy, light, and delicious.  Another plus, the gorgeous presentation these luscious strands of goodness make.

I use a vegetable spiral slicer or julienne peeler to make zoodles.  If you don’t have one of these “fancy” kitchen tools, use a box grater or cut zucchini by hand into small strips, discarding the core.

This simple recipe requires frying up some onions and garlic, tossing in the zucchini noodles, and seasoning with salt, pepper, basil, and parm.   Couldn’t get any easier or tastier.  My new favorite side dish!

Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles)



  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 zucchini, spiraled (use a vegetable spiral slicer or a julienne peeler)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • A small bunch of fresh basil, torn into small pieces (roughly 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup (or more) freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional: A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes


In a large saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high, add zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes until zucchini is tender.  Toss with freshly torn basil and parmesan cheese.

Recipe easily doubled to serve a crowd.

Servings: 4



Salads, Side Dish Recipes

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing


The classic wedge salad is making a comeback.  The revolution is happening in your kitchen.  Not a steakhouse. Believe it.

A hunk of super crisp iceberg lettuce soaked in creamy homemade ranch dressing and topped with crispy bacon, scallions, tomatoes, crumbly blue cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper.  It may not be the healthiest salad, but it is damn delicious.  It’s also damn handsome, if I do say so myself … (and I do).  Serve as a main course with a chunk of crusty bread, or along side a grilled porterhouse.  Perfection.

Say goodbye to spending $15 on an “upscale” steakhouse wedge salad.  Say hello to this simple, homemade, ultimate, knock-your-socks-off version.  Homemade is always better. Viva la revolution!

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch DressingWedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing



  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cleaned, cored, and cut into 4 wedges (or 8 wedges, sometimes I like to serve 2 smaller wedges per serving in lieu of one large wedge)
  • Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing
  • 2 plum tomatoes, cut into pieces
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 8 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled (splurge on a chunk of firm goat milk blue, locally sourced if possible)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


Divide the lettuce between 4 plates.  Top each wedge with buttermilk herb ranch dressing, tomatoes, scallions, bacon pieces, blue cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Servings: 4 (Serving size: 1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, 1/4 cup buttermilk herb ranch dressing, 1/2 plum tomato, 1/2 scallion, 2 strips of bacon, 1/8 cup blue cheese, freshly cracked black pepper to taste)


Side Dish Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta


I enjoy Spring cleaning.

Yup. I’m one of those people. If you cringe at that thought … well, I declare you unorganized!  But, you’re still allowed to enjoy this spring dish. I know a “less than 20 minute meal” has become a cliche/semi-marketing term, but it applies here. So, take a break from the joy of spring cleaning (or the teeth grinding of watching your significant other compulsively organize), and make this.

Fresh, vibrant, healthy, seasonal, and ready in under 20 minutes.

I prefer to roast asparagus.  Roasting brings out the flavor by concentrating the natural sugar.  Couldn’t be easier.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then pop in the oven.  When purchasing asparagus, look for spears thin in diameter with compact heads and firm unwrinkled stalks.  Asparagus is highly nutritional, low in calories, and extremely low in sodium.  It’s good for you!

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and FetaRoasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and FetaRoasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and FetaRoasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta


Toss your roasted asparagus with balsamic tomatoes and feta cheese.  Serve as a side dish, or as a main course with a chunk of crusty bread. 20 minutes and 5 ingredients. It’s all you need.

Now … back to strangely enjoying the act of putting my wool sweaters and winter coats on the top shelf of my closet.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes and Feta



  • 1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (note: look for the good stuff … I prefer a block of feta packed in brine)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 12-15 minutes until cooked through and slightly charred.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add cherry tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic and cook 2 additional minutes until fragrant.  Stir in balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently until balsamic thickens and tomatoes are nicely coated.

Arrange asparagus on a platter. Top with balsamic tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese.

Serves: 4 as a side dish (Serving size: roughly 7 stalked per person)  *Make sure to double the recipe if you’re serving asparagus lovers.