Baked Potato

Baked potatoes are a cheap and easy side dish or main meal. However, I especially like a baked potato with the skin slightly crunchy. It was only about five years ago that I figured out how to get the skin crunchy instead of steamed and soggy.

First, clean your baking potato with a vegetable brush. Place the baking potato directly on the oven rack. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

Baking potato–cleaned and oven ready

It is not necessary to preheat the oven before placing the potato in the oven. I happen to have a husband who indulges me with the best kitchen equipment I’ll use. I refer to my oven as a “magic oven” because I can set the baking temperature, cooking time, and delay the start time. Usually, I will place the potatoes in the oven before I leave for work in the morning. I set the oven to start baking about an hour before I anticipate dinner time.

If I’m home around 30 minutes into the baking time, I turn the potatoes over. If not, I don’t worry about it. Remove your potatoes from the oven after about an hour. They will be be soft if you squeeze them. Load them up with your favorite toppings. I usually top mine with steamed broccoli or asparagus and cheese.

Baked potato with broccoli and queso

My husband likes LOTS of bacon and butter. In reality, the choice of toppings are endless–pulled pork, taco meat, cubed chicken, chili…

Baked potato

3-Ingredient Roasted Parmesan Pesto Potatoes

The only thing I love more than potatoes is pasta. Pasta and potatoes are so versatile, how you you not love them? Lately, I stumbled on a new food blog that I love–twopeasandtheirpod.com. I recommend you explore their website. Since I had recently acquired some fresh basil from the teacher next door, I was looking for ideas for how to use pesto. This recipe is almost too easy.

INGREDIENTS

  • red potatoes
  • pesto
  • grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Cube the potatoes.

cubed red potatoes
cubed red potatoes

Place the potatoes in a bowl and coat with pesto. Place in a casserole dish.

red potatoes coated in pesto
red potatoes coated in pesto

Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes in oven
After 20 minutes in oven

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Sprinkled with grated Parmesan
Sprinkled with grated Parmesan

Bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown.

Pesto Parmesan Potatoes--Ready to eat
Pesto Parmesan Potatoes–Ready to eat

Breakfast Potatoes

INGREDIENTS

  • red potatoes
  • cooking oil
  • cajun seasoning

DIRECTIONS

Wash the potatoes and place in the microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Cube the potatoes.

red potatoes--microwaved and cubed
red potatoes–microwaved and cubed

Heat the oil in a skillet. Place the cubed potatoes in the skillet.

potatoes in skillet
potatoes in skillet

Fry for about 5 minutes. Season the potatoes.

potatoes with Cajun seasoning
potatoes with Cajun seasoning

Turn them and allow them to brown on all sides. Remove from skillet and serve hot.

breakfast potatoes--ready to eat
breakfast potatoes–ready to eat

Raw Vegetable Salad

I’m always looking for another salad recipe in the summer. This is partly because I don’t get a lunch break while teaching summer school. Therefore, my lunch is often consumed in 10 minute increments while the students are on break. However, the best reason for finding good salad recipes in the summer is the abundance of fresh vegetables! The salad dressing is the best part of this salad, so be flexible and use it for any sort of fresh vegetable salad you wish. You’ll be pleased with this even if you just pour the dressing over your favorite lettuce.

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 8 cups of chopped fresh vegetables
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

For this post I used what I had in the refrigerator at the time…

red cabbage, carrots, celery, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini squash, bell pepper

Use whatever you have on hand, or go buy your favorite veggies

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons grated onion
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

Toppings

  • sunflower kernels
  • six slices of bacon, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Chop the vegetables.

Chopped vegetables and cranberries
Chopped vegetables and cranberries

Mix the dressing ingredients.

Salad Dressing for Raw Vegetable Salad
Salad Dressing for Raw Vegetable Salad

Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Stir in the dressing and desired toppings.

Raw Vegetable Salad
Raw Vegetable Salad

 

Fried Rice

It’s often hard to correctly estimate how much rice to cook. I find that cooked rice freezes fine. You can defrost the left over rice or use whatever left over rice you have in the refrigerator to make fried rice. Feel free to add some cooked chicken or pork if you would like.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
  •  2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Chop the vegetables.

Chopped celery, carrot , and onion
Chopped celery, carrot , and onion

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sautee the vegetables in the oil for a couple of minutes.

Sautee the vegetables.
Sautee the vegetables.

Add the rice and continue to cook another couple of minutes.

Add the rice to the vegetables.
Add the rice to the vegetables.

Add the egg.

slightly beaten egg
slightly beaten egg

Then, add the ginger garlic powder, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Stir together and serve.

Fried Rice
Fried Rice

 

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

This is a side dish that my husband’s mother makes for Thanksgiving. Although I have her recipe, I have found my version to be just as tasty. Don’t forget you can always make extra to stick in the freezer and bake later.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages of frozen broccoli
  • 4 cups of cooked rice
  • 16 oz. Velveeta
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 small cans of chopped green chilies
  • 1/2 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk

NIGHT BEFORE

Cook the rice according to the package instructions. You can also cook the rice in broth instead of water for extra flavor. 2 cups of uncooked rice should yield 4 cups of cooked rice.

cooked rice
cooked rice

Cook the broccoli in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Melt the Velveeta and cream cheese in the microwave until they blend smoothly.

Velveeta and cream cheese--melted and blended
Velveeta and cream cheese–melted and blended

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

mixing the ingredients in a large bowl
mixing the ingredients in a large bowl

Pour into a 9×13 casserole dish.

broccoli cheese casserole--oven ready
broccoli cheese casserole–oven ready

Cover an refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to bake

BEFORE SERVING

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 35-30 minutes until the casserole is bubbly and turning golden brown.

Bubbly and brown broccoli cheese casserole
Bubbly and brown broccoli cheese casserole

Asparagus Casserole

This is a recipe a stumbled upon when I had a couple of packages of frozen asparagus I wanted to use up. The result was stunningly delicious. However, since it is a little more expensive than most dishes I make, I tend to reserve this for special occasions.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 packages of frozen asparagus or 1 1/2 lbs.  fresh asparagus
  • 8 oz Velveeta
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 can tiny shrimp
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz can of French fried onions

NIGHT BEFORE

Chop the asparagus into 2 inch pieces.

asparagus
asparagus

Distribute the pieces in an 8×8 inch casserole dish. Melt the Velveeta and cream cheese.

Velveeta and cream cheese
Velveeta and cream cheese

Blend together until smooth.

Melted Velveeta and cream cheese with tiny shrimp
Melted Velveeta and cream cheese with tiny shrimp

Then, stir in the garlic powder, black pepper and tiny shrimp. Spread the cheese mixture over the asparagus.

Cheese mixture spread over the asparagus
Cheese mixture spread over the asparagus

Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.

asparagus casserole--ready for the oven
asparagus casserole–ready for the oven

Cover and refrigerate.

BEFORE SERVING

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the casserole covered for 35 minutes. Top with the French fried onions. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Asparagus Casserole
Asparagus Casserole

Serve hot.

Cheesy Potatoes

I know most people consider potatoes a side dish, but I love cheesy potatoes enough that I consider it a meal. I hope you will enjoy my version of cheesy potatoes.

INGREDIENTS

  • about 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 chicken flavored seasoning packet from Ramen Noodles
  • 1 pound of grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup carmelized onions
  • 6 slices of bacon (optional)

NIGHT BEFORE

Carmelize the onions if you don’t already have some stored in the freezer. This takes a LOT of time, so I do this whenever I have a big block of time to stay in the kitchen and then I throw them in a freezer bag and use them for soup or casserole. I use Alton Brown’s method of carmelizing onions.

Peel and slice the potatoes.

Sliced potatoes
Sliced potatoes

Cover them with water in a saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes until fork tender.

Sliced potatoes in water
Sliced potatoes in water

Be careful not to over cook them because you want them to hold together after they are boiled while you stir in the cheese sauce and other ingredients. Drain the potatoes and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Cook and chop the bacon if you plan to use bacon.

chopped bacon
chopped bacon

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter.

Melting Butter
Melting Butter

Then, add the flour.

Add the flour.
Add the flour.

Stir over low heat until it becomes a thick paste.

Flour and butter forms a thick paste.
Flour and butter forms a thick paste.

Add the milk and the chicken seasoning packet.

Chicken Flavor from a Ramen Noodle package
Chicken Flavor from a Ramen Noodle package

Whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens.

Add the milk.
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Add the cream cheese and all but about 4 ounces of the cheddar.   You want to save some to sprinkle on top of the potatoes. If the sauce becomes too thick, just add more milk.

Cheese Sauce
Cheese Sauce

Stir the cheese sauce, carmelized onions, and bacon into the potatoes.

MIxing the ingredients
MIxing the ingredients

Place the potato mixture in a greased 9×13 casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheddar.

Topped with grated cheddar
Topped with grated cheddar

BEFORE SERVING

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes until the potatoes are bubbly and brown.

Lightly browned and yummy!
Lightly browned and yummy!

Baked Eggplant

I don’t remember how I discovered eggplant, but I really love it breaded and baked. So, even though this requires a little more time to prepare than I usually want to spend on a work night, I believe it is worth it because I don’t even mind eating this cold the next day for lunch.

INGREDIENTS

  • medium-large eggplant
  • salt
  • 2 or 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat graham flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like a Cajun seasoning mix fora little kick.)

NIGHT BEFORE

Wash the eggplant and cut off the ends.

Slice the eggplant VERY thin.  This required excellent knives or a mandolin slicer.  I am fortunate enough to have both.

Eggplant and Mandolin Slicer
Eggplant and Mandolin Slicer

Place the eggplant in a bowl and cover with water.  Add about a teaspoon of salt.

Eggplant Slices in salted water
Eggplant Slices in salted water

Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight or at least 30 minutes.

BEFORE SERVING

Drain and rinse the eggplant. If you forget to rinse your eggplant, it might taste too salty after you cook it.

You will need two containers for breading the eggplant–one for the egg and the other for the whole wheat flour.  Add your seasoning to the flour.

Preparing the Eggplant for Baking
Preparing the Eggplant for Baking

Dip the eggplant slices in the egg first and then in the seasoned flour. Place on a slightly greased baking sheet.

Eggplant--Before Baking
Eggplant–Before Baking

Bake in preheated oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes.  Flip the slices.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes until crispy and brown.

Baked Eggplant--Brown and Crispy
Baked Eggplant–Brown and Crispy

Breaded, but Not Fried Okra

Many you are already assuming I’m going to tell you about the health advantages of baking versus frying, but you are wrong.  I’m writing about time. Sure, the fried foods might be tastier, but they involve more time!  I don’t want to spend the time washing, cutting, breading, frying, and cleaning up the grease splatter.  Don’t forget you still have the used grease that you have to get rid of too.  So, time is the main reason I bake my breaded vegetables rather than fry them. Although this cornmeal breading can be used for many vegetables that you might like to eat in the summer, I’m going to tell you about okra.

First, let me tell you that until about 3 years ago, I had always been suspicious of that person long ago who first discovered okra. I can’t imagine what person saw this bizarre looking plant, picked the okra, found herself itchy from the nasty stuff, and still proceeded to cook it only to find that it is slimy. I wondered, “Why would anyone eat okra barring near starvation?”  (Yes, I had an unpleasant relationship with okra as a child.)

Well, I really love food, and I always feel obligated to give all food a chance.  So, when I saw okra at the farmers market, the couple selling the okra convinced me that I should give okra yet one more try.  The wife advised me how to cook it even though I’ve seen my mother cook it.  The husband insisted I would love it and he was right.  I now eat okra!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh okra
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper

NIGHT BEFORE

Wash about a pound of okra.

Fresh Okra
Fresh Okra

Next, cut off the ends and sliced them in half lengthwise. My mother always cuts the okra into circular pieces, but this is the method the lady at the farmer’s market told me.

Okra cut lengthwise
Okra cut lengthwise

After that, place them in a bowl and add about a 1/4 cup of flour to coat them.

Okra Dusted with Flour
Okra Dusted with Flour

OPTIONAL STOPPING POINT

Next, dip them in egg.

Okra dipped in egg
Okra dipped in egg

Then,  coat them in seasoned cornmeal.  I usually use cornmeal mix which means you want to be careful about adding salt.  Add garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, but you can use whatever season you like.

Okra in Seasoned Cornmeal
Okra in Seasoned Cornmeal

After you have the okra coated in the cornmeal mixture, transfer the okra to a lightly greased baking sheet.

Okra coated in cornmeal mixture
Okra coated in cornmeal mixture
Breaded Okra--Ready for the Oven
Breaded Okra–Ready for the Oven

 

BEFORE SERVING

Bake at about 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.  Then, turn them over and finish baking about 10-15 more minutes depending on how brown you like them.

Baked Breaded Okra
Baked Breaded Okra