Archive for Starchy Sides

Black Rice with Cilantro

You all have heard about my friend Kayla by now. She’s my taste-tester friend (and an amazing local jazz singer) who I also work out with. On occasion, we will go for a run and then treat ourselves to the most incredible lunch in Atlanta at Breadwinner Cafe. Any time we eat there, Kayla orders their black rice salad. I had never seen or heard of black rice before Breadwinner.  Eventually, she convinced me to try the black rice salad and I have to say that it was AH-MAZING!!! Since I’m always looking a cooking challenge, I decided to try and make black rice with cilantro. It is by no means a substitute to Breadwinner’s black rice salad, but it’s an amazing dish you can make at home!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 10 min; Cook Time –  30 min. 


1 c. black rice

3 roma tomatoes, diced 

2 fresh jalapeños, diced

1 avocado, cut into cubes

1 bunch fresh cilantro

4 limes

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

Preparing Black Rice with Cilantro:

Cook the rice according to directions. While the rice is cooking, dice your tomatoes, jalapeños, and cut your avocado. Put them in a bowl. Add fresh cilantro (no set quantity on this, it’s all about taste), the juice of 4 limes. Add the cooked rice, cumin and salt. Mix well. Chill. 

Spicy Black Rice


Sauteed Corn

Sauteed corn is a great alternative to corn on the cob or canned corn (I think Melissa’s heart just skipped a beat on the thought of that one). It really is not hard to make and is a great compliment to any nice piece of protein!

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 25 minutes


4 ears of corn (or one ear per person)

2 Tbsp. butter

1  tsp. sugar

salt and pepper to taste

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Cast Iron Skillet (or other skillet)

Preparing Sauteed Corn:

Cut the kernels off of the cob into a bowl. Make sure you go back and scrape the milky liquid into the bowl as well. Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and sauté for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is thickened. Stir in sugar, salt and pepper. 

Skillet Corn

Important Tips:

You have to be patient and get the milky liquid from the corn. 

Got Leftovers?:

Leftover sauteed corn is great on a salad or in vegetable soup!

Skillet Potatoes

Skillet Potatoes

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day from Cast Iron Cooking that showed delicious looking skillet potatoes. I don’t make potatoes often, but I had some leftover from making Low Fat Potato Soup that I wanted to use. I followed the same process as the one on Facebook, but added a few ingredients and had to come up with my own amounts. I must say, these were pretty amazing. 

Level of Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Prep Time – 15 min; Cook Time – 1 hour 20 minutes


Olive Oil

6 Baking Potatoes

6 Garlic Cloves, crushed

 1 tsp. Oregano

1 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

2 T. Butter

2 T Flat Leaf Parsley

1/2 c. Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Mandolin or Very Sharp Knife

Cast Iron Skillet

Preparing Skillet Potatoes:

Brush bottom and sides of a baking dish or cast iron skillet with olive oil.

Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice potatoes crosswise into desired thickness. Arrange potato slices vertically and loosely in prepared dish or skillet.

Preheat oven to 375. Sprinkle garlic and oregano on top of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Put small pats of butter over the potatoes.

 Skillet Potatoes

Cover skillet with foil and bake for about 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Remove foil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Skillet Potatoes

Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp.

Skillet Potatoes

Important Tips:

In order for these potatoes to look as good as they taste, they really do need to be cut evenly!

Meal Ideas:

I served these skillet potatoes with baked chicken and sautéed sugar snap peas! My family was in heaven!


Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon

Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon

I made these hasselback potatoes with bacon as part of a “back to school” dinner celebration. Little did I know how absolutely amazing they would be. Normally I would prepare one per person. However, depending on the size of the potato, you might want to make two per person. They really are JUST that good!! 

Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Time Required: Prep Time – 30min; Cook Time – 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients for 4 people (2 each):

6 pieces of thick cut bacon, cut into pieces about an inch thick

8 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

1 stick butter, divided

Kosher salt and ground pepper

2 T. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Pastry Brush

Preparing Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon:

1. Put the bacon pieces on a baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes. 

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees while also bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

3. Using a sharp knife, make horizontal slits in each potato, about 1/8 inch apart and making sure you do not cut all the way through the potato. 

4. Gently place the potatoes in the boiling water and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and place on a baking sheet. Pat the potatoes dry. Insert 3-4 pieces of bacon in the cuts of each potato, trying to space the bacon evenly (the bacon will poke out of the top of the slits). Melt half of the butter and brush generously over the potatoes. Reserve any extra butter for basting. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

5. Place the potatoes in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the outside of the potatoes start to brown. Make sure you baste with the reserved melted butter halfway through cooking. 

6. Right before you take the potatoes out of the oven, melt the other half of the butter. Mix in the parsley and garlic. After the potatoes are done and on a serving tray, spoon the butter mixture over the potatoes. Serve hot!! 



Grilled Eggplant Pasta

roasted eggplant pasta

Ok, so I know Denise will never try this with her family but I’m just saying that my 5 year old, who had no idea what she was eating, loved it! It’s simple and tasty and beautiful. It could be a main dish or a side dish, your choice.

Level of Difficulty:Easy
Time Required:Prep Time – 10min; Cook Time – 20 min


1 lb spaghetti rigati (I like the grooves)

2 medium sized eggplants

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Fresh thyme

1 t garlic powder (if I wasn’t cooking on the grill, I’d just roast some garlic cloves with the eggplant in the oven)

Zest of 1 lemon


Feta Cheese

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:


Preparing grilled eggplant pasta:

Get your grill ready for direct heat. If you don’t want to use the grill, you can roast it in the oven too.

Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Grill flesh side down for about 15-20 minutes.

 grilled eggplant

While it is cooking, cook your pasta. If you need to know the best way to make the best pasta, check out this article.

When the eggplant is done, use a spoon to scrape out the cooked flesh from the skin. Place in a bowl. Add the thyme, lemon zest and parsley. Stir together and mash up the eggplant as you go.

When the pasta is done, drain and add to the bowl with the eggplant but leave a little bit of pasta water too (maybe 1/4 cup). Stir together. Add salt, pepper and olive oil as needed. At the last minute add the feta and serve.

roasted eggplant pasta

 Cut me some slack. Eggplant is probably the one vegetable I am not a huge fan of. If I won’t eat it, my family surely won’t. It’s a texture thing…like seafood! ~Denise

How to make a basic risotto

Risotto is so good. It can be an appetizer, a side dish or a main course. You’ve got to love the versatility of it. Risotto is an Italian preparation of a short grain rice, usually Arborio.

It takes on flavor wonderfully and is rich and creamy and delicious.

When I first saw someone make it on a cooking show a long time ago, I was SO very intimidated. It became a special treat when I ate out and only then. Well, then somewhere along the line, I decided to make one. Just a basic one and realized it’s not hard at all. It just takes your attention and patience.

Shoot, I’ve got two kids! I know a lot about attention and patience. So, now it is something I cook on a bit more frequent basis and I love changing it up to match the rest of my meal.

For Greek Week, I needed a starch to sit under my Shrimp Saganaki so I decided on a basic risotto with no cheese and no veggies. Just simple yet a perfect match for the shrimp.

In this post, you’ll see how to make your basic risotto that will be your starting point/preparation for any risotto. At the end of the post, you’ll get some ideas on how to make your risotto the star of your plate!!

Level of Difficulty:Moderate
Time Required:  Prep Time – 10min; Cook Time – 20 – 30min

Ingredients for 4 side dish servings or 2 main course servings:

1 cup Arborio rice

~ 3 cups broth (for this recipe I used chicken broth)

2 shallots, diced

1/2 cup wine/alcohol

2T Olive oil

1T Butter

How to make a basic risotto:

First, get your stock/broth in a sauce pan and warm it up.

Next, in a wide pot, add the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onions or shallots and cook until translucent and soft.

Add the rice and stir to coat in the butter and oil. Let it cook a bit and get warm and start to toast. Probably 2-3 minutes.

risotto base

Add your wine/alcohol(off the flame so you don’t cause a fire) and let it cook. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. (you don’t have to do this but it does add a lot of flavor)

Once the wine/alcohol has been absorbed, add a ladle full of broth (about 1 cup). While stirring to incorporate. It should bubble up pretty quickly. If not, your pot is not wide enough or your heat is not high enough.

risotto preparation

Stir frequently but not constantly. Just don’t go check facebook in the middle of making risotto. Stay close by and keep an eye on it.

In fact, what I like to do is get this far early in my dinner preparation and then turn it off. Then when everything else is ready, come back and finish the risotto. Now, I don’t mean hours in advance. More like 20-40 minutes.

Otherwise, make sure everything else is essentially ready before you start the risotto because it is going to take your time.

Ok, so back to it. We had just put in one ladle full of broth into your rice. Once it is absorbed, add another ladle full of broth and stir. For one cup of Arborio rice, you generally need 3 cups of broth. I generally heat 4 cups because it is a finicky thing and you won’t know how much you need until you cook it. So, just watch for plumpness and taste after you’ve added about 2 1/2 cups of liquid. It should have a little bit of firmness but certainly not crunchy and definitely not like oatmeal!! So, just keep adding a little bit of broth at a time, let it absorb/evaporate, repeat until done.

Sauteed Shrimp with tomato, ouzo, feta and parsley

Shrimp Saganaki over Arborio rice

If you are adding veggies, have them already lightly steamed or sautéed (see notes below) and add them at the same time you add the last of the broth.

If you are adding a cheese, add it at the very end when all the last broth is absorbed. Be sure to taste, salt and pepper as needed.

Important Tips:

Add broth slowly and let it absorb before you add more.

Use a pan that has a lot of surface area (aka a large base, at least an 8″ pot) to help evaporation.


This is where it gets exciting. Anything (within reason) will work.

First variation on a basic risotto: change the broth! Choose between beef, vegetable, chicken, lamb, mushroom, or seafood stock (just one of them).

Second variation on a basic risotto: Vegetables!! Add any lightly steamed vegetables or sautéed veggies. This includes starchy vegetables like corn. For something like spinach that will cook in just a few seconds, add it raw at the very end and it will cook with the heat of the risotto.

Third variation on a basic risotto: Try different liquors/wines in the deglaze step. White wine, red wine, certain liqueurs too. Maybe even a hoppy ale or a rich stout. Experiment! Remember, the worst thing that can happen is that it will not taste good. So what!!

Fourth variation on a basic risotto: Cheese! Traditionally you add parmigiano reggiano. In the basic one I made I did not add any cheese because feta was in the main dish and a side dish and that was enough. But, you can try other hard cheeses like that or cheeses like feta or even a bit of goat cheese. I’d probably not do something like cheddar or American or provolone, but mozzarella, fontina, aged gouda would all work well.

I’m sure there are so many other ways to change up a risotto. It’s soooooo gooooood!

Blue Cheese and Roasted Rutabaga Puree

Blue cheese and roasted rutabaga puree

Regardless of what Denise says about me, I have not cooked everything in the world. A rutabaga is one of those things I’ve never touched. But, there is a first time for everything and this was a delightful surprise at what a great root vegetable this really is. I hope you enjoy the blue cheese and roasted rutabaga puree as a great side dish to your next meal!

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Time Required:Prep Time – 10min; Cook Time – 45 minutes


1 large rutabaga

2T blue cheese (Point Reyes cheese is what we used!)

6oz half-and-half cream

1 – 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper

Special Equipment and Other Items Needed:

Food processor

How to make blue cheese and roasted rutabaga puree:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and peel the rutabaga with a knife and then dice into a large dice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender (stirring a couple of times). This will probably take about 40 minutes.

(I forgot to take a picture but it looked a lot like this minus the Brussels sprouts)

Roasted Rutabaga and Brussels Sprouts

Meanwhile, crumble as much blue cheese as you like. I’m still ‘acquiring’ the taste for blue cheese so I only put a couple of ounces in, but if you like it, put a bit more.

Place the blue cheese in a small pan with the half and half cream until the blue cheese melts.

When the rutabaga is tender, place in a food processor (aka Cuisinart for Denise!) with the chopping blade. Add the cream and blue cheese. Puree until mostly smooth. Begin to add chicken broth and puree until your desired consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. I topped this with some of the reduced sauce from the braised short rib pie but they would have been fine on their own too.


Blue cheese and roasted rutabaga puree


Use a different cheese if you are not a blue cheese fan. I think any soft, creamy cheese would do wonderfully, especially a nice goat cheese.

Meal Ideas:

I served this as a side to the blackberry and red wine braised short rib pie and it was AMAZING!!

Got Leftovers?:

These tasted just as good reheated!

Yes…I think we all know by now that a food processor is a Cuisinart in my world. Do we REALLY need to keep pointing that out?? Oh..and now that you have cooked a rutabaga, I think you HAVE cooked everything in the world! ~ Denise

Still lots of things I’ve never eaten or cooked but I’m not saying what because I’d rather not be surprised with them in our next Mystery Basket!! ~Melissa