Grilled corn and tomatoes with a honey lime dressing

Roasted corn

Come Saturday morning, you’d be hard-pressed to find me somewhere other than the farmers’ market.

Given we have a stroller and adorably demanding human in tow these days, those trips have to be a bit more planned out . . . but since Oliver has been cleared for public strolls, we try to pack the little guy up and head out.

We were housebound for a while there — and the last time I made it to our local market, we had a choice of zucchini, squash and a few paltry peppers. This past weekend? Well, friends, it was a veritable smorgasbord . . . and I went hog wild.

Cherry tomatoes.
Watermelon.
Cantaloupe.
Blueberries.
Tomatoes so fat, you want to bite right in.

And after picking up half a dozen ears of corn for our little Fourth of July barbeque at home, I remembered a simple corn and tomato side dish I whipped up a few times last year. Like this cucumber and onion salad, this dish is light and fresh and comes together in no time flat.

Especially valuable when the little person inside the aforementioned stroller has a meltdown.

The original recipe calls for the addition of avocado, but I didn’t have any on hand — so I skipped it. It’s delicious without, so I’m imagining it’s even better with!


Grilled Corn and Tomatoes
with a Honey Lime Dressing

Ingredients:
1 pint grape tomatoes
4 ears of fresh sweet corn
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, or 1 tbsp dried cilantro

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Remove husks from corn and grill over medium heat for 10 minutes. (The corn should have some brown spots and be tender, but not mushy.) Cut the corn off the cob and remove silks. Set aside to cool. Slice tomatoes in half.

To make the dressing, add all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Combine the sliced tomatoes, cilantro and grilled corn with the honey lime dressing and mix gently until evenly coasted. Chill the dish for at least 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Epicurious


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Italian pasta salad. Like, half a recipe.

Pasta salad

I haven’t made much that’s recipe-share-worthy in ages, friends.

Lest you be ridiculously disappointed with me, in my own defense? Our kitchen is still only half unpacked, which means Spencer and I are looking at each other with befuddled expressions searching for spoons or meat thermometers or butter at least once a night. I mean, we have the basics covered; the fridge is stocked with diet soda, I have plenty of chips and salsa, and Spence and I haven’t resorted to arm-wrestling for the last of my grandmother’s homemade peanut butter cups from a recent birthday party.

Yet.

But dinners around here? A little sparse. Simple. Full of fresh vegetables, which is certainly not a bad thing — but I do miss having more at my disposal. Much like before the move, we’re all about streamlined eating around here . . . and though I’m optimistic that we’ll repair our battered pantry before too long, allowing me to un-box about half of our former kitchen, we’re still trying to get organized and find all the things we’ve lost.

Luckily, you don’t need much for pasta salad.

A few years back, Spencer and I went to New York City for a long weekend (and the Book Blogger Convention of yore!) and met up with some of his college buddies in Queens. We had a picnic out in Corona Park, very close to the Unisphere (cool!), and a friend had a big bowl of this pasta salad there for the taking.

We were hooked.

The thing is? It’s really rather simple. Simple enough that I feel a little weird sharing it like I’m a side dish aficionado, but . . . it’s a Thursday, pasta is delicious, and we’re friends, so I know you won’t judge me.

We’ll call this Katie’s Italian Pasta Salad, because Katie is super-nice — and she didn’t get mad when I, a suburban girl with apparent balance issues, fell on her on the subway that day. So. Thanks, Katie! Your kindness has not been forgotten.

And shall be rewarded, someday, with more pasta.

Please note that measurements are, um, suggestions; you can modify as desired to transform this into the side dish of your dreams. Double the tomatoes, double the salami, make it meat-less — whatever floats your boat. This is how we made ours, but I’m pretty sure you can’t mess this up.

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Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 box orzo pasta, cooked
1 bottle Italian salad dressing
2 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1/2 lb. salami, thickly sliced, diced
1/2 lb. provolone cheese, thickly sliced, diced
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp black pepper

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions; strain and rinse under cool water, then pour into a large bowl. Add half the bottle of Italian dressing, cherry tomatoes, salami, cheese, Italian seasoning and black pepper, then stir well to combine. Add additional dressing and stir again. Chill before serving. Make and refrigerate for 24 hours for extra flavor and awesomeness.

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Darn good fresh cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce copy


Look, I have no beef — or turkey? (heh.) — with canned cranberry sauce.

There’s something sweetly nostalgic about the kind still bearing telltale ridges from the can. I’m sure my foodie friends would disagree, but I actually look forward to seeing it plop on one of my grandmother’s silver dishes.

But this stuff? Fresh cranberry sauce? Well, it’s a revelation. And it’s totally going on our table from now on.

We had our Thanksgiving potluck last week at work, y’all, and people really brought it. Turkey and gravy, Spanish rice and beans, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, pecan pie . . . a feast. When I saw the sign-up sheet, I noticed the humble cranberry sauce was missing from our line-up — but felt a little silly bringing that (and only that) next to my boss, who cooked an actual turkey. That morning. For us.

I’m happy to say my cranberry sauce totally stood up, though, and turned into a beautiful accompaniment for the many dishes I squirreled away on a single plate. Thanksgiving is such a great holiday — all the joy of Christmas, none of the pressure of presents — and it was fun to celebrate early.


Thanksgiving lunch


To make this fresh cranberry sauce, Spencer and I waited until 10 p.m. the night before — the only time I had to whip this up — and promptly threw everything into a pot, which simmered for 30 minutes to perfection. It was simple, quick, easy, uncomplicated.

And fresh. So fresh.

What makes it different? The fresh fruit. Adding diced apple and pear, as well as the zest and juice of an orange, elevates it from so-so to fabulous. With a classic tang but a sweetness that matches every tart layer with added pecans for crunch, this flew off the table at work — and off our plates at home. Less than 24 hours after I made a pot, not a speck remained.

The mark of a great recipe.


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Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire

Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 orange, just the zest and squeezed juice
1 apple — peeled, cored and diced
1 pear — peeled, cored and diced
1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in cranberries, orange zest and juice, apple, pear, dried fruit, pecans, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.


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The first dish I ever cooked: Spanish-style green beans


At the end of my first year of Spanish classes, Señora Volland instructed each of her pimply-faced students to choose a recipe from a massive book and bring it in to share. Being all of 13 years old with zero kitchen experience, I scanned the pages until I found instructions for Spanish-style green beans. Being a big veggie lover, they sounded delicious — and relatively simple. I had my mission.

Since first whipping up this dish fourteen years ago, I’ve brought it to countless parties, family gatherings and other get-togethers. It’s relatively easy, delicious, fresh — and a different way to prepare green beans! I don’t know about you, but I’ve consumed lots of judías verdes in my day. Usually just boiled and lightly buttered. So sprucing up a well-known vegetable is something I can get behind, and this is a favorite of mine.

I’ve prepared this dish using both fresh and canned vegetables — and the fresh ones taste best, of course. But if you’re in a pinch, go ahead and use the canned varieties. You’ll still have a happy dinner crew, promise.

Having copied this recipe down so long ago, I have no clue where it might have originated — though I found similar ones here and here. I’m super partial to my own, though. And I can smell the intoxicating aroma of garlic already . . .


Green beans in tomato sauce
(Judías verdes en salsa de tomate)

1 teaspoon salt
1 lb. fresh green string beans, trimmed and cut into 2 in. lengths
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 med. tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. sugar
Black pepper

In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, bring the salt and 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans, a handful at a time. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat to moderate and boil uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender. Drain and set beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet until a light haze forms above. Add onions, garlic and stir frequently, cook over moderate heat 5 minutes, until onions are soft and transparent but NOT brown. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, sugar and a few grindings of pepper, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape lightly in a spoon.

Stir in the beans and simmer for a minute or two until they are heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from a heated bowl. Serves 4.



I’m linking up with Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking! Check it out for more great recipes to get you cookin’ and bakin’ before Monday.


Healthier green bean casserole

Of all the side dishes I crave during the holidays, nothing tickles my fancy quite like green bean casserole. If I had to guess, I’d chalk it up to the delicious French fried onions — a food I couldn’t tolerate on anything else, but can’t live without on this holiday treat.

But as I try to get more into shape (in theory, anyway), I’m looking for new and healthier ways to prepare the dishes I already like. In a recent edition of the health magazine I edit, I was looking for “healthy twists” on seasonal classics — and that’s how I came across this recipe for a lower-fat, lower-sodium version of my beloved casserole.

Spencer and I made it a few weeks back when I was taste-testing all the recipes included in our fall issue (a horrible, terrible job, I know), and I was very pleased with how it turned out! Though I missed the salty over-the-top cheesiness of the classic one my mom makes, this was a great alternative that I didn’t make me feel totally guilty after doing an hour of Zumba.

Because I’m as obsessed with mushrooms as I am with cheese, I added a can of sliced mushrooms to this baby, too. If you’re not a fan, just leave them out. No harm, no foul. And though the recipe decidedly does not call for any cheese, I added a little shredd parmesan beneath the french fried onions. But don’t tell anyone.

Though we cherish our beloved family recipes, this verison might be a good way to cut down on a few calories this season . . . though I know it’s a drop in a bucket. Still, every little bit(e) counts, right?


Healthier Green Bean Casserole

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk (2% fat or skim)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound cut fresh green beans, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons French’s French Fried Onions

Directions:
1. Mix the soup, milk, onion powder, black pepper, soy sauce and green beans in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until hot.
3. Stir the green bean mixture. Top with the onions. Bake for 5 minutes more or until the onions are golden brown.


Green bean casserole

Serving up a little Waldorf salad for the holidays

Growing up, I used to get really excited when someone would mention “Waldorf salad,” that creamy, delicious and fruity concoction that was a staple on the buffet where my family would often go for dinner. Growing up in Waldorf, Md., it was years before I realized that the side dish wasn’t named for my hometown but the Waldorf Hotel (later the Waldorf-Astoria) in New York City, where it originated.

Wednesday was my office’s Thanksgiving potluck, an annual tradition that serves as a warm-up for the main meal to come next week. All the staples were there: sweet potatoes with crunchy marshmallows; moist turkey; glazed ham; greens and potatoes and pumpkin pie. When I went to sign up, most of the foods we associate with Thanksgiving were already “claimed” by my coworkers — and I wasn’t sure what to bring.

“How about fruit?” Sandy, my friend and officemate, suggested.

Fruit. Fruit at Thanksgiving? I’m all about the rich, hot, creamy and fatty foods. Fruit seems like the unwanted distant relative who crashes the party and gets ridiculously drunk, you know? The one who then shares all the family secrets. “What is he doing here?” you think. “Who invited him?”

Well, I invited Waldorf salad — and let me tell you: it hit the spot. Awash in a sea of heavy foods, the Winter Fruit Waldorf Salad — courtesy of my main lady, Betty Crocker — was a highlight at our potluck, and I wound up giving the recipe to a few coworkers.

I’m actually embarrassed to call it a “recipe,” friends, because it’s nothing if not simple. The most challenging part of creating the salad was my having to get up at 6 a.m. to make it before work. It’s not something you want to let sit, so make it fresh — and have it ready to go. I cut all my fruit up first and let that sit until just before the main event, where I spooned my fruity dressing over top.

As we all gear up for family, friends and feasts next week in the U.S., consider adding a refreshing treat to your table. I had a tough time finding chopped dates at the grocery store, so I added way more walnuts than the recipe originally called for to compensate. It turned out delicious!


Winter Fruit Waldorf Salad

Recipe from BettyCrocker.com

Ingredients:
2 medium unpeeled red apples, diced
2 medium unpeeled pears, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 cup Yoplait Original 99% Fat Free orange crème yogurt (from 6-oz container)
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
8 cups shredded lettuce
Walnut halves, if desired

Directions:

1. In large bowl, mix apples, pears, celery, raisins and dates.

2. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt and juice concentrate until well blended. Add to fruit; toss to coat. (Salad can be refrigerated up to 1 hour.

3. Serve salad on lettuce. Garnish with walnut halves.