Sides Trio: Creamed Spinach, Sticky Carrots and Tater Tot Gratin

We have all most likely used a portion of this pandemic/work from home/isolation time to explore some new hobbies or interests. Maybe you have picked up cross stitch, put together a puzzle or know the entire Netflix library by heart? I’ll admit: my biggest new hobby has been birding, a somewhat common one to people spending more time in their backyards. We’ve also been working on our back porch, and that new outdoor ceiling fan makes bird watching in the backyard all the more enjoyable and relaxing. I mean, aren’t birds just the cutest?! (Aside from my loyal silver lab, Sadie, obviously)

By the same token, many people seem to have ignited or revived an interest in cooking. I love this! Will and I rarely go more than a couple days without working in the kitchen together and this extended time at home has given us opportunity to fine-tune some of our recipes. Lately, I have turned a good deal of my focus on to a subset that sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves: the side dish.

Sure, we can enjoy that can of green beans, a nice side salad, boiled or grilled corn on the cob, or make potatoes mashed, baked or french-fried. But every now and then you gotta add some variety to that plate. Today I want to share with you a few of my newfound favorites – a creamed spinach that will get everyone asking for more greens, sticky carrots that are so simple and flavorful (if you think you don’t like carrots please give this a try!), and a super fun tater tot gratin that is just as super easy to throw together.

What are your go-to sides and your favorite new all-stars?

Creamed Spinach

  • 1 pound fresh leaf spinach (or one pound frozen, defrosted)
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes – to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3( ½ )cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

If you are using fresh spinach, cut or tear the leaves into strips. Don’t be too technical here – sometimes I just leave the leaves whole. They are going to massively cook down as you.  If using frozen spinach, work in bunches to squeeze all the excess water out of the spinach using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.  Set the spinach aside.

Pressing the liquid out of frozen spinach

In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the garlic and onions, cooking on medium high for 4-5 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and black pepper. 

Add the prepared spinach to the skillet.  If you are using frozen spinach, separate any clumps of spinach as you add the whole pound in.  If you are using fresh spinach, add the leaves by handfuls, letting the spinach cook down a bit before you add more. 

Once the spinach is incorporated, add the nutmeg into the skillet and season again with salt and black pepper.

Add the flour and stir it into the spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the aroma is a bit nutty – this helps ensure you won’t have any raw flour flavor.

Toss the flour around so it cooks just a bit

Add the half and half and cook until just below boiling, stirring often. Reduce the heat and stir in the mozzarella, cream cheese and blue cheese. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened, stirring occasionally.

Stir in Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Grated or shaved parmesan works great!

For an added touch, broil 3-5 minutes in an oven-safe dish.

Sticky Carrots

  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds medium-sized carrots, peeled
  • 1-2 T butter, diced
  • a few bay leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper black pepper

Chop the carrots into about 2-inch lengths – this is where big, thick carrots work better than smaller ones – you can use the smaller, but you may have more difficulty getting them to “stand at attention” for the remainder of the recipe. Stand the carrots up in a medium saucepan so that they are standing snug next together. You can see I didn’t completely fill my saucepan here – just make sure all the carrots stand up and are fairly sturdy.

Once your carrots are packed in, tuck the bay leaves between them – just slide/wiggle them in between several different places. Place small pats of butter on top of the carrots and season the whole saucepan well with salt and pepper. If a couple pats of butter fall down into the pan, no worries! You’ll still get the benefits of the butter as the carrots cook.  Carefully add enough water to come halfway up the carrots and put them on the heat. 

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Take the lid off and let the liquid reduce until there isn’t any left, about 20-30 minutes. 

A couple of my little soldiers fell down – all good!

Let the carrots sizzle gently in the remaining butter for about 5 minutes until the bottom of the carrots are sticky-brown. 

The bottom is sizzling and getting brown & delicious!

Carefully turn them out onto a plate and serve.

Tater Tot Gratin

  • Half of a 28-ounce bag of frozen tater tots
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp thyme, chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • Green onions or chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray. Pour the tater tots into the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until combined. Whisk in the milk and grate the garlic into the saucepan. Not sure how to grate the garlic? A microplane is going to be your best friend here. Simply take a peeled garlic clove and rub it back and forth across the small grooves of the microplane. The garlic will be a little juicy and release a ton of flavor, really blending well into the cream sauce.

Add the thyme, salt and cayenne. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the parmesan.

Carefully pour over the tater tots.

Cooking the tater tots well before adding the cream sauce allows them to hold up a little better and provides a bit of texture

Broil the dish until browned, 3-4 minutes.

Topped with green onions or chives.

Just the recipes:

Creamed Spinach:

  • 1 pound fresh leaf spinach (or one pound frozen, defrosted)
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes – to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3( ½ )cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

If you are using fresh spinach, cut or tear the leaves into strips.  If using frozen spinach, work in bunches to squeeze all the excess water out of the spinach using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.  Set the spinach aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the garlic and onions, cooking on medium high for 4-5 minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and black pepper. 

Add the prepared spinach to the skillet.  If you are using frozen spinach, separate any clumps of spinach as you add the whole pound in.  If you are using fresh spinach, add the leaves by handfuls, letting the spinach cook down a bit before you add more. 

Once the spinach is incorporated, add the nutmeg into the skillet and season again with salt and black pepper.

Add the flour and stir it into the spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the aroma is a bit nutty.

Add the half and half and cook until just below boiling, stirring often.

Reduce the heat and stir in the mozzarella, cream cheese and blue cheese. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

For an added touch, broil 3-5 minutes in an oven-safe dish.

Sticky Carrots:

  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds medium-sized carrots, peeled
  • 1-2 T butter, diced
  • a few bay leaves
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper black pepper

Chop the carrots into about 2-inch lengths. Stand the carrots up in a medium saucepan so that they are standing snug next together.

Once your carrots are packed in, tuck the bay leaves between them. Place small pats of butter on top of the carrots and season well with salt and pepper.  Carefully add enough water to come halfway up the carrots and put them on the heat. 

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Take the lid off and let the liquid reduce until there isn’t any left, about 20-30 minutes. 

Let the carrots sizzle gently in the remaining butter for about 5 minutes until the bottom of the carrots are sticky-brown. 

Carefully turn them out onto a plate and serve.

Tater Tot Gratin:

  • Half of a 28-ounce bag of frozen tater tots
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ tsp thyme, chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • Green onions or chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray.

Pour the tater tots into the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk in the flour until combined. Whisk in the milk and grate the garlic into the saucepan. Add the thyme, salt and cayenne. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the parmesan.

Carefully pour over the tater tots.

Broil the dish until browned, 3-4 minutes.

Topped with green onions or chives.

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

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This dish has quickly become one of my favorite easy summer dinners.  Who doesn’t love a one-pan-wonder?!  As a bonus, this dish can easily be a vegetarian option or a side dish by omitting the chicken and using veggie stock in place of the chicken broth.

What are some of your favorite summer dinners?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts!


Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

  • 1 pound chicken, cubed (omit for vegetarian, side dish)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans , rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 T lime juice , freshly squeezed

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saucepan, saute the chicken in EVOO over medium heat until browned.

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Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

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If you are going for the vegetarian or side dish options, start here!  It helps if you have a couple serious sous chefs to prep for you 😉

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In the same pan, add more EVOO if necessary and add the garlic. Saute the garlic for a couple minutes, just so it starts to toast a bit. Add the rice and do the same, stirring it around and toasting it a bit.  Look at the grains, when the outside “coat” starts to become more transparent and you can see the inner germ a bit, you are good to go!  I use this same method when making Spanish rice, it just preps the rice a bit and gives it just a bit more of a nutty flavor.

Stir in the chicken/veggie broth and bring to a boil.

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Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.

Remove the skillet from heat and toss in the chicken (if using), black beans, cilantro and lime juice.

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Taste, adding more salt/lime juice as needed, and serve!

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Try this one out this summer – I promise it will make your menu rotation!


Full Recipe

Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

  • 1 pound chicken, cubed (omit for vegetarian, side dish)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans , rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 T lime juice , freshly squeezed

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan, saute the chicken in EVOO over medium heat until browned.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add more EVOO if necessary and add the garlic.

Saute 1-2 minutes.

Add the rice and toast for a couple minutes.

Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.

Remove the skillet from heat.

Toss in the chicken, black beans, cilantro and lime juice.

Taste, adding more salt/lime juice as needed, and serve!

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

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I’m a sucker for pasta.

In my opinion, a pasta dish doesn’t have to have a ton of ingredients, mix-ins or additional items across the top to be amazing.  Give me a great noodle, a simple sauce and some cheese and I’m in.

Case in point – this amazingly tasty, easy to pull together fettuccine alfredo dish. By using roasted peppers and garlic you get such deep, bold flavors.  Alfredo sauces can be heavily loaded with butter, cream and cheese and while this one definitely has all those elements, it’s not overwhelming.  The peppers and garlic truly are the star of the dish. Using the blender or food processor makes it an attainable dish for any night of the week.  So attainable that I may be guilty of making this nearly every week.

Like I said… I’m a sucker for pasta 🙂


Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

  • 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted and mashed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 16 ounces Fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Let’s start by talking about roasting garlic and peppers.  Don’t let this intimidate you – it’s a simple process that greatly boosts the flavor in your recipe.

For the peppers: rub a little olive oil all over the outside of the peppers and place them on a parchment paper- or foil-lined baking sheet.  That will save you from scrubbing those sheet trays later!  Turn your broiler on high and place the tray of peppers directly below the coils.  Let the peppers char and get completely black on the top side, then turn them over allowing each side to blacken and blister. Once they are completely charred, place the peppers in a bowl and cover them up with some foil.  You want them to steam so that the skins start to loosen from the meat of the pepper.  After about 20-30 minutes, take the peppers and using either a paper towel or your fingers, rub the blistered skin off of the meat.  Pull the meat away from the stem and remove all the seeds inside.  You’ll be left with soft, delicious roasted peppers!

For the garlic: Take a head of garlic and carefully slice off the upper portion of the head  – you want to expose the tops of most of the garlic cloves.  Using a serrated knife works the best here. Make a little pouch out of foil and place the head of garlic in the middle.  Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Bunch the foil up over the top of the garlic, leaving it open to vent just a little.  It’s a good idea to set the pouch on a sheet tray just in case there are any leaks.  Roast the garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  The garlic will be a nutty brown color and so soft that it will easily press out of the pods after cooling a bit.

Alright!  Let’s make the pasta!

Cook the fettuccine in salted, boiling water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and set it aside.

While the pasta is cooking, grab a large pot or a skillet with sides to it and heat up the tablespoon of olive oil.  You’ll appreciate the sides to the pan you are using when we toss the pasta into the sauce at the end of this recipe.  Cook the onions in the olive oil until they are soft.

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Place the roasted red peppers, the roasted garlic and the cooked onions in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Isn’t it such a beautiful color?!

Go back to the pan you used for the onions and melt the butter over medium heat. Pour in the red pepper puree.

Add your choice of broth, the half-and-half and  a little salt and pepper.  This is a good time to check for seasoning – but keep in mind that you’ll be adding parmesan in a bit and cheese = salt.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan and fresh parsley.

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Add about half of the cooked fettuccine and toss the pasta until it is well-coated.  Add the rest of the pasta and toss again – doing this in two steps makes the tossing just a bit easier.

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You can easily bulk up this dinner by adding any protein to it, chicken or Italian sausage being our go-to options.  This dinner, we went for the Italian sausage option.  We browned the sausage with a little bell pepper and tossed it in with the cooked pasta here.  Grilled or sauteed chicken would also look lovely across the top of the dish!

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However you serve it up, garnish the dish with a little more grated parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.

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Try this one out sometime soon!  If you’d like an even quicker weeknight dinner option, you can find roasted pepper and roasted garlic prepared at your grocery store.  I typically find them both in the veggie/tomato aisle.

What’s your favorite pasta dish?


Full Recipe

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

  • 3 large red bell peppers, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted and mashed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 16 ounces Fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in heavily salted water to al dente.

Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or skillet with sides, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook onions until soft; about 5 minutes.

Place roasted red peppers, garlic and onions to a blender or food processor and puree.

Add butter to the pan the onions were cooked in and melt over medium heat.

Pour in the red pepper puree.

Add broth, half-and-half and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Stir to combine, taste and add a pinch of salt and pepper as desired.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Add half of the pasta and gently toss to coat. Add remaining pasta and toss.

Garnish with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.27 PM

A few years back, Will and I had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration hosted by my chef-BFF, Pati Jinich.  I love her simple, classic style of cooking and have enjoyed cooking many of her recipes. They are full of great techniques and easy to follow.  She may or may not know that she is my BFF… but that’s beside the point.

Chef Pati demonstrated an entire menu from her cookbook, Mexican Today, and we got a signed copy of the book at the end.  Will and I have been through this cookbook several times, finding our favorites throughout. The To Die For Ceviche is, well, to die for. The Mango Pecan Tart will be in my kitchen soon. One of the true highlights though is the section devoted to sauces. We love to make enchiladas and we have played with a few of them.  We ultimately landed on this version of a traditional red sauce – you can stuff the enchilada with any filling and they are always delicious. While it may look complicated, it can all come together pretty quickly once you have the basic technique of creating a puree from dried peppers down.  As a bonus, any extra sauce freezes nicely for another use.  It’s been fun adapting such a tasty recipe to our kitchen!

I’d like to think my BFF would be proud.


Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles.  You’re looking for the outer skin to crisp and blacken. 

Place the toasted peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat. Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they plump back up a bit.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.18.22 PM

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Side note: that soaking liquid also makes a great broth for a side dish of rice!

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.  Be ready!  That sauce will jump and quickly splatter everywhere!

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.22.32 PM

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more. Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.23.58 PM

In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, “pass” the tortillas through the oil to soften them. You basically want to drag both sides of the tortillas through the hot oil until you see the tortillas start to bubble up just a bit. It should only take a few seconds. Don’t skip this step – if you try to roll the corn tortillas without softening them they will crack and tear as you stuff and roll them.

“Pass” the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.  Tonight, we went with a beef filling – ground beef browned up with onions, peppers and pinto beans.  This red sauce would also be fantastic with shredded chicken or a straight cheese filling!

Line the rolled enchiladas in the prepared baking dish. Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.17 PM

What filling will be in your version of Enchiladas with Red Sauce?


Full Recipe

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until the skins are crisp and blackened.

Place the peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat.

Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they rehydrate, soften and plump up.

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

Once hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more.

Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

When the oil is hot, pass the tortillas through the oil to soften them.

Pass the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.

Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Tortilla Soup

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As promised, here’s one for my Weslaco friends – taking you all the way back to Yogurt Kountry.

My dad is a minister.  We lived in Weslaco, where he served as Associate Pastor and Music Minister at First Baptist Church, for nearly 20 years. We spent a lot of time at the church and knew our small town pretty well.  Sharing the alley with First Baptist was a small strip center which housed Yogurt Kountry, facing Texas Blvd, the “main drag” of Weslaco.  Yogurt Kountry was easy access from the church and as such we had many lunches there. They had a variety of sandwiches to choose from and as the name implies, frozen yogurt with several flavors and mix-ins as a end-of-meal treat.  The star of the menu however was, by far, the Tortilla Soup.

I imagine Yogurt Kountry employees making vats of this soup each day.  I know that the recipe was highly coveted back in the day and it was a well-guarded secret for the fans asking to recreate it at home.  I believe that the restaurant changed locations around the time I packed up and moved to Waco but the menu remained unchanged, showcasing this chunky, homey soup.

I’m not sure if Yogurt Kountry is still in business or if it, like myself and my family, has moved on to other adventures.  Lucky for us though – we were finally able to get our hands on the formula and ensure that the small sandwich shop from Weslaco, Texas lives on forever through our warm bowls of Tortilla Soup.

What food memories of your hometown do you have?  Comment below!


Tortilla Soup

  • 6 pieces of chicken, or 3 leg quarters
  • 2-3 celery sticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 (1 pound) bag frozen corn (I tend to use half a bag)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 T caldo de pollo
  • 1 T caldo de tomate
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded American cheese

To start, we are going to boil the chicken and create a nice broth in the process as the base of the soup. Place the chicken, celery and half of the onion in a large stock pot and fill it with water to about an inch from top of the pot.  Add the garlic salt and pepper, bring to a boil and cook until the chicken is done, about 20 minutes.

I went for three leg quarters in this recipe –  I think chicken thighs are extremely flavorful and lend themselves well to this soup.

***You can definitely speed this recipe up a bit by starting with chicken stock and pre-cooked chicken.  To do so, fill your stock pot up with chicken stock, add the celery (this time chopped celery) and onion, bring to a boil and then pick up the recipe at the point of adding the rice.  You can also  make this soup vegetarian – simply swap the chicken stock out for vegetable stock, swap the caldo de pollo for another tablespoon of caldo de tomate and omit the shredded chicken.  I may also bulk up on the green pepper and tomatoes for a heartier soup.***

When chicken is done, remove the chicken and celery sticks, leaving the broth and onion in the pot. If you’d like to increase the amount of soup, add another cup or two of water.

Chop the celery and shred the chicken; set aside.

Add the rice to the pot and continue to cook until rice is almost done, about 15 minutes.

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Add the cooked chicken and celery along with the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the other half of the chopped onion.  Just a note – I usually only add about half of the bag of corn.  This is a fairly chunky soup so I back off on the corn just a touch.

A quick note about two ingredients that I love – caldo de pollo and caldo de tomate.  Essentially, these are chicken and tomato bullion.  In our house, we lovingly call them “chicken powder” and “tomato powder”. They pack a punch of concentrated flavor and are super handy to have in your spice drawer.  Taste them before using for the first time to get a feel for the salt level and then I think you’ll find a new friend in your everyday cooking!  I often add a little caldo de pollo or caldo de tomate to the water when boiling rice for an added boost of flavor.

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Check the seasoning of your broth, adding more salt, pepper or “powders” as desired.

Cook 15-20 more minutes, or until the onion is clear.

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Stir in some chopped cilantro, reserving a little top the soup with.

To serve: ladle the soup into a bowl and top with tortilla chips and shredded American cheese.

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Full Recipe

Tortilla Soup

  • 6 pieces of chicken, or 3 leg quarters
  • 2-3 celery sticks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1 (1 pound) bag frozen corn (I tend to use half a bag)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 T caldo de pollo
  • 1 T caldo de tomate
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded American cheese

Put chicken, celery and half of the onion in a large pot.

Fill to about one inch from top with water.

Add garlic salt and pepper.

Boil until chicken is done.

When chicken is done, remove the chicken and celery sticks, leaving the broth in the pot.

If needed, add another cup or two of water.

Chop the celery and shred the chicken; set aside.

Add the rice to the pot and continue to cook until rice is almost done, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken and celery along with the rest of the ingredients to the pot, including the other half of the chopped onion.

Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or caldo de pollo/tomate as desired.

Cook 15-20 more minutes, or until the onion is clear.

Add chopped cilantro.

To serve: ladle the soup into a bowl and top with tortilla chips,shredded American cheese and chopped cilantro

Cream of Poblano Soup & Firecrackers

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No matter where you live, you can probably think of that “one place” that has that “one thing” they serve that you have to get every time, right?  It’s the Mom & Pop hamburger stand that has those amazing onion rings.  Or the local coffee shop with the perfect latte and cookie combo. Or the sandwich shop with THAT soup.

For those of you around the Lake Jackson area, we’ve got that sandwich shop. You know the one… it may have changed locations once or twice (or more) but THAT soup is always on the menu, served in a mug, creamy, warm and ready to please.  And they serve it with THOSE crackers, the ones that are so tasty with just a little kick. It’s no soup-of-the-day, it’s Cream of Poblano soup and they serve it with Firecrackers.

When ordered at The Picket Fence, Cream of Poblano soup is more of a sidekick, pairing with whatever sandwich or salad you choose to go along with it.  For dinner at our house, we add in some shredded chicken to make it a heartier, stand-alone meal.  If you want to stay true to the original recipe or prefer a vegetarian option, simply leave out the chicken and swap the chicken stock out for veggie.

You ready to try it out?

And stay tuned, my Weslaco friends.  I’ve got another famous sandwich shop recipe coming your way that you will most definitely remember.  Yogurt Kountry, anyone? 😉


Cream of Poblano Soup & Firecrackers

For the crackers:

  • 3 sleeves saltines
  • 1 C canola oil
  • 1 pkg (3 T) dry ranch dressing mix
  • 2 T red pepper flakes

For the soup:

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 jalapeños (add more for extra spice)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup half-and-half or cream
  • Shredded chicken, optional
  • Tortilla chips
  • Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or other white melting cheese)

Let’s start with the crackers, as they will need to sit for a little bit.

Place the crackers in a large container with a secure lid, or in a large ziploc storage bag.  I’ve found that a gallon size bag usually does the trick for three sleeves of crackers.  I also like to control the salt just a little bit, so I tend to use the saltines with the unsalted tops.

Mix together the canola oil, ranch mix and red pepper flakes.

Pour the mixture on top of the crackers.

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Gently mix the crackers so that the oil mixture coats every cracker.  This is where the Ziploc bag saves you a little mixing stress –  just gently turn the bag over in your hands for a few minutes so that the oil gets into each cracker.  Then, for the next couple of hours, give the bag/container a flip every now and then, making sure the crackers are as evenly coated as possible and a bunch of oil hasn’t settled at the bottom.

After a couple hours, I like to put the Firecrackers in a clean, airtight container where they will keep for several days.  You can switch out the flavors of the seasoning as well – the second picture is a batch we mixed up with a Parmesan pesto blend  in place of the ranch mix.

Now for the soup!

You’ll need to roast the poblano and jalapeños.  If you haven’t ever roasted peppers before, there are just a couple of easy tricks.  

To start, rub a little olive oil or vegetable oil over the peppers and place them on a sheet tray.  Place them under the broiler, or directly on a hot grill, and char the outsides of the peppers.  You want them to be black and blistered.

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Once the peppers are blackened, place them in a bowl and cover it with foil.  Let them sit and sweat for a while so that the blistered skin starts to peel off.  Then just use your fingers to wipe most of the black char and all of the seeds and membranes from the peppers, leaving you with perfectly roasted strips.  Give the peppers a rough chop.

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In a large pot, saute the roasted peppers, onions, garlic and carrots in butter until they begin to soften and the onions become clear.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper.

Add the flour to the pot and stir, cooking the flour just a bit.

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Slowly add the chicken (or veggie) stock, stirring as you do to get rid of any lumps. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Using either an immersion blender directly in the soup pot, or transferring the soup carefully to a blender, puree the soup to your desired consistency.  I like a fairly smooth soup here, but if you prefer a chunkier version you can skip this step altogether.

Stir in the half-and-half/cream.  This is also where I mix in the shredded chicken – just  leave it out if you prefer to do so.  I went extremely easy here and took advantage of a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for this one.

Give the soup a good stir and let it heat through for a few minutes.   As soon as it is as hot as you like it you are good to go!

Place a few tortilla chips in a bowl and spoon some of the soup over the top, sprinkling with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or any other white melting cheese you have on hand – I’m pretty partial to the HEB Mi Comida blends).  You can most definitely play around with other toppings if you like – some sour cream, chopped chives or green onion, bacon bits, sliced fresh jalapeño, whatever you like!  BUT – you must serve them with Firecrackers 🙂

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What’s your place with THE thing they serve?  Let me know!


Full Recipes

Cream of Poblano Soup

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 jalapeños (add more for extra spice)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup half-and-half or cream
  • Shredded chicken, optional
  • Tortilla chips
  • Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (or other white melting cheese)

Broil poblanos & jalapeños until blistered on all sides.

Place peppers in a Ziploc bag or in a bowl covered with foil for about 15 minutes.

Peel the skin off the peppers, remove the seeds, then roughly dice the peppers.

Saute peppers, onions, garlic and carrots in butter until tender.

Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with flour and stir.

Slowly add the broth, stirring out any lumps.

Add salt to taste.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Using either an immersion blender or a stand-up blender, puree the soup to your desired consistency.

Add the half-and-half or cream.

Add chicken, if using, and heat through.

Place a few tortilla chips in a bowl or cup.

Top with soup and cheese.

Firecrackers

  • 3 sleeves saltines
  • 1 C canola oil
  • 1 pkg (3 T) dry ranch dressing mix
  • 2 T red pepper flakes

Place the crackers in a large container with a lid or a large resealable plastic bag.

Mix other ingredients together and pour over crackers.

Gently mix for several minutes then cover/seal the bag.

Turn container/invert every 20-30 minutes for a couple of hours.

Beef Stroganoff

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Baby, it’s cold outside! We just blew past those fall-like temps into the frigid winter of Gulf Coast Texas.  For a couple days at least 😉

While our winters may not be as brutal as our Northern friends, or last as long, the chilly outside still calls for warm dinners inside. In our house, that typically means either a slow-cooking something on the stove or a quick, warm, filling dinner before dark falls. This one fits the latter.

This recipe is adapted from one a friend shared with me years ago – back when we were just college babies learning to fend for ourselves. We didn’t add mushrooms and if we had there surely wouldn’t have been good wine to flavor them with! This beef stroganoff is time-tested and one I’ll happily make, good wine in hand and fond memories of friends in mind, for many years to come.

Here’s to you, Becca!

What recipe have you held on to for years?  Tell me about them!


Beef Stroganoff

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Worcestershire
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt the water fairly generously and cook the egg noodles until al dente.  Set aside.

Let’s talk mushrooms for a minute:

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To start, mushroom storage.  If you purchase prepackaged mushrooms, leave them in their packaging and place them in the fridge.  If you purchase bulk mushrooms, don’t worry about cleaning them first, just place them in a paper bag and stick them in the fridge.  This allows them to breathe a bit and stay firmer longer – plastic grocery bags can cause them to fade quicker.

To clean your mushrooms, avoid running them under water. Mushrooms retain moisture like a sponge, giving them more will prevent the mushrooms from browning nicely and give more of a chewy texture to them once cooked. Instead, use a damp paper towel and brush off any excess dirt.  Slice or chop them in similar sizes so that they cook up evenly.

Finally, don’t crowd the mushrooms in your pan and wait a bit before salting them.  Give your fungi some room to groove as they cook so that they saute and brown rather than steam.  Salt will bring out the moisture in the mushrooms, which is true for any veggie.  With mushrooms though, you want them to retain the moisture for a bit so that, again, they brown rather than steam. I’m willing to be that those that don’t care for mushrooms have had ones that lean more towards the steamed, flavorless side of cooking.  Let’s avoid that!  Mushrooms are like a sponge, right?  They’ll take on some of whatever flavor you give them but you want to give them a chance to develop their unique nutty, earthy flavors first.

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If you have a mushroom-loving family, you can most certainly start the mushrooms in a larger skillet and once they are beginning to brown, add the ground beef and cook it all together in the same skillet.  Just remember, you want to give the mushrooms a little time to brown up before salting them. I live in a house divided – one of us says they do not like mushrooms.  It’s okay, we can’t all be perfect 😉 I’m willing to go with it on this one though – I kind of like the presentation of having the sauteed mushrooms on top of the stroganoff rather than all mixed together.

Back to the recipe! In a medium skillet, cook the mushrooms in just a touch of olive oil or butter. Once the mushrooms begin to brown and release their liquid, season them with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and let the mushrooms continue to cook as you move on to the beef. I may be biased… but a splash of hearty red wine never hurts here.  You know the rule though – make sure it’s a wine you would drink as the flavor intensifies as it cooks. Worcestershire sauce is also a nice addition to the earthy veggies.

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Saute the onions, garlic and ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the meat begins to brown and the veggies soften, season the pan with Worcestershire, salt and pepper to your liking.

If your ground beef was fairly lean, add a tablespoon or so of butter to the pan. Add the flour and stir to absorb the fat and cook the flour a bit. Stir in the beef broth and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream and check your seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you like. Let the stroganoff simmer until heated all the way through.

Spoon the stroganoff over the egg noodles and top with mushrooms.  Enjoy!

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Full Recipe

Beef Stroganoff

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Worcestershire
  • 4 T flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cook egg noodles in boiling water until done; drain.

In a medium skillet, cook mushrooms in just a little olive oil.

Once the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, season with salt and pepper.

Saute the ground beef, garlic and onions in a large skillet over medium heat until the meat begins to brown and the veggies soften.

Season the meat with Worcestershire sauce.

If the beef was fairly lean, add a couple tablespoons butter to the skillet.

Add the flour and stir to absorb the fat and cook the flour.

Stir in beef broth and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream,  season to taste with salt and pepper.

Continue cooking until sauce is hot all the way through.

Serve sauce over egg noodles and top with mushrooms.

Zucchini Nut Muffins

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Will and I may disagree a little on this one. He heard “zucchini” and immediately said “NO”.  But for a muffin with some squash in it, these are pretty dang tasty.

Back in Weslaco, Texas my mom made these little gems often.  I believe the recipe came from a friend in town and my sister and I love them.  In fact, when Laura made the seven-and-a-half hour move to Baylor University these muffins became part of care packages sent her way.  I remember packing them up and more than once making sure the precious cargo got in the hands of a loving, die-hard Baylor couple from the church that would be making the trek up north.  When I went to Baylor a few years later you best be sure plans were made to send me some as well.

Zucchini Nut Muffins have everything right about them – they are just a little sweet, always moist, have a crunch from the nuts and they freeze well.  One batch makes 24 muffins so they are great grab-and-go breakfast options or make an easy brunch offering.

Let’s go back to our college days for just a few minutes: What’s in your care package?  You can fill mine with Zucchini Nut Muffins any day.


Zucchini Nut Muffins

-This recipe makes 24 muffins-
  • 2 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini*
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c corn oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)

Preheat your oven to 400.  Grease two muffin tins or line the cups with baking liners.

*When you shred the zucchini be sure to leave the peel on.  Just wash the produce, chop the stem off and then use a grater to shred it up.  To get 2 cups of shredded zucchini you will need roughly one large or 2-3 small veggies.  Be sure you concentrate just as hard as I am 😉

In a large bowl, combine the shredded zucchini, eggs, oil and vanilla.

Why use corn oil?  Corn oil has a slightly higher smoke point than other oils and is essentially flavorless, both which make it nice for baking. If you don’t have corn oil on hand, reach for the vegetable oil for the same end results.

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Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Add in the nuts and stir until moistened.

It’s completely up to you which nut you use but the most common choices are pecans and walnuts.  More often than not, I’ll go with pecan.  If you have halves on hand, chop them up a bit.  I like to leave some large pieces for texture throughout the muffins so I don’t worry about keeping the sizes of the pieces too even.

Fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full.

Bake for 18 minutes.

Let the muffins sit for a couple minutes in the pan, then move them to a wire rack to cool.

Once cooled, the muffins freeze and reheat very nicely.

What do you think?  Does the squash-in-a-muffin scare you off or are you intrigued?  Mix up a batch and let me know how you like them!


Full Recipe

Zucchini Nut Muffins

  • 2 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 large, 2-3 small veggies)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c corn oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease muffin tins or line with baking liners.

Combine zucchini, eggs, oil and vanilla.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until moistened.

Fill muffin cups ⅔ full.

Bake 18 minutes.

Let cool on rack.

Yields: 24

Grits and Greens Casserole

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I’m not going to lie… I have categorized this as a side dish but have totally eaten this for my dinner.  Like, last night.  Also, I’ve may have made a pot of greens solely for the purpose of putting them in this dish. It’s just so good!

Greens are amazing as leftovers.  The flavors just keep developing.  However, sometimes you need a little pep in that leftover step, right? This casserole is a great option for leftover greens.  It’s pretty simple to put together and bakes into a lovely side for a whole new dinner. I’ve even made this for our Bunco group as it is pretty easy to put together and have ready-to-go for a crowd. If you kept your greens meat-free you can easily use veggie stock in the grits to keep this casserole vegetarian as well.  As a bonus, this dish freezes well and travels nicely for potlucks, housewarmings and the like.

What are some of your favorite “reuse recipes”?


Grits and Greens Casserole

  • 1-2 c cooked greens, drained from the pot liquor
  • 1 cup uncooked instant yellow grits
  • 4 cups vegetable/chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups grated white melting cheese, such as Gouda or mozzarella
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium pot, bring the chicken or veggie stock up to a boil.  Whisk the grits in slowly so that they do not clump.  Full disclosure:  I’ve not listened to my own advice here and managed to get some gritty clumps.  Don’t you just love an immersion blender in these moments though? 😉

Stir the grits until thickened and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the grits into a large bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Add the cooked greens and saute to remove any excess water, about 2-3 minutes.

To the cooked grits, stir in the heavy cream, sour cream, greens and half of the cheese.

At this point, before adding the eggs, taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as you like.  This is a great point for a few shakes of Tabasco if you’re into that 🙂

Stir in the beaten eggs.  If your grits mixture is still fairly warm, be sure to stir them up quickly so that you don’t end up scrambling the eggs before they are incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

Top with the remaining cheese and bake until the center is just set and the top is golden brown, 40-45 minutes.

Let the casserole rest a few minutes before serving.

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Mmm… make this soon!  You’ll thank me!


Full Recipe

Grits and Greens Casserole

  • 1-2 c cooked greens, drained from the pot liquor
  • 1 cup uncooked instant yellow grits
  • 4 cups vegetable/chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups grated white melting cheese, such as Gouda or mozzarella
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring stock up to a boil; whisk in grits slowly so they do not clump.

Stir until thickened; season with s&p.

Remove from heat.

Heat the EVOO in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the shallots and garlic and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooked greens. Saute to remove excess water, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the cooked grits in a large bowl.

Stir in the heavy cream, greens, sour cream and half of the cheese.

Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Stir in the eggs and pour into a baking dish.

Top with the remaining cheese and bake until the center is just set and the top is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Greens

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My appreciation for greens has definitely developed over time.  I didn’t really grow up eating them down in South Texas, I’m talking wayyyy South Texas, and surely didn’t know how to cook them.  After a couple… interesting attempts in cooking greens (ask my sister about her misadventure with red pepper sometime!) and finding a couple places that I now must always order them (looking at you Max’s Wine Dive) I have created a recipe that works for me and Will.

You caught that, right?  This recipe is what works for us.  Greens aren’t very “technical” but more of a process that you feel out until you find what you like.  We prefer a tangy, spicy batch of greens so there is quite a bit of vinegar and some dried peppers here.  When it’s all said and done there is typically a shot of Tabasco or pepper sauce shaken over the top of the bowl.  You can also play with the fat base by swapping out the bacon for pancetta, ham hock, leftover turkey legs from Thanksgiving dinner, or skipping it all together for a vegetarian option (in which case you would sub the chicken stock for veggie stock as well).

So how do you like your greens? Let me know what tricks you have when cooking them or the places you like to order greens.


Greens

  • 1-2 bunches of any green – collard, mustard, turnip
  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • chicken stock, up to 1 quart
  • 2-3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 dried peppers, such as chile de arbol
  • 1-2 T sugar

Rinse the greens well, as they are often pretty gritty.  An easy way to do this is to simply fill your kitchen sink with cool water, chop off the very base of the greens to separate the individual leaves, then submerge the leaves into the water. The grit will fall to the bottom of the sink while your clean leaves stay at the top.

A quick note on the greens: any green will work.  For this recipe, I found both mustard (picture on the left) and collards (pictured on the right) that looked good, so I used a bunch of both!

Leave your knife tucked away for now and just tear off the leafy greens from the stems, trimming the leaves into strips and leaving some small stems.  The easiest way I have found is to fold the leaf in half over the stem and rip from the base of the leaf up towards the top.  Once the whole leaf is removed from the stem I just shred the leaf up a bit. Will’s not a fan of the stems, but I like a few so as I tear I may leave a few of the thinner stems in the mix.  As the greens cook, the stems leave a little “bite” to the dish.

Give the greens another rinse in cool water just for good measure then set them aside to dry a bit as you proceed.

In a large, heavy pot saute the bacon. Or the pancetta.  Or brown up the ham hock/turkey leg a bit, letting some of the meat fall off into the pot.  If you are skipping the meat on this one, drizzle some olive oil around the pot to get your veggies started sauteing.  Once your fat of choice starts browning, toss in the onions and garlic and season with black pepper (add salt if not using meat).  Saute until the veggies are tender.

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Working with a handful at a time, add the greens to the pot.  They will start to release water and shrink up as they cook down.  Stir and add more handfuls until all the greens are in the pot.

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Cover the greens with chicken/vegetable stock.  Depending on how many bunches of greens you started with this may take up to a quart of stock. Add a healthy splash of apple cider vinegar.  I also like to add a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce here for a little depth of flavor and color. Season with salt and pepper and add your heat – red pepper flakes and/or dried peppers.  I like both.  I add about a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 2-3 dried chile de arbol.  Play around with the heat, but remember 1) that we like spicier greens and 2) that the spice will develop as the greens cook so you may want to start on the lighter side and add as you go.

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Add 1-2 tablespoons of white sugar.  This will help to balance some of the bitterness of the greens.

The stock is now developing into what is called pot liquor (or sometimes spelled pot likker).  Bring the pot liquor up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and put a lid on the pot.

Simmer for an hour or two, tasting the pot liquor as it cooks, adjusting the seasoning and vinegar/heat levels to your liking and checking the tenderness of the greens.

The greens can continue to cook as long as you like until they reach your desired tenderness.  On average, I typically cook them for a couple of hours.

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What do you like about greens?  Are you a tangy or a spicy greens lover?  What do you do with your leftover greens? Leave me a comment with your opinions – and stay tuned for a great greens leftover recipe!


Full Recipe

Greens

  • 1-2 bunches of any green – collard, mustard, turnip
  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • chicken stock, up to 1 quart
  • 2-3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 dried peppers, such as chile de arbol
  • 1-2 T sugar

Rinse the greens well, often they are pretty gritty.

Tear the leafy parts off the stems, trimming into strips and leaving some small stems.

Set the greens aside and let them dry a bit.

In a large, heavy pot saute the bacon.

When the bacon starts getting some color, toss in the onions & garlic.

Saute until the veggies are tender.

Working a handful or two at a time, add the greens to the pot, they will start to release water and cook down.

Stir and add more handfuls until all greens are in the pot.

Cover the greens with chicken stock.  Depending on how many bunches you started with this may take up to a quart.  

Add a healthy splash (a couple tablespoons) of apple cider vinegar and/or Worcestershire.  

Add salt & pepper, red pepper flakes and dried peppers to your taste.  *Keep in mind that the spice will develop as it simmers, so you may want to go light on the heat at first.

Add 1-2 T sugar to balance the bitterness of the greens.

Let the stock, aka pot liquor, come up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and put a lid on the pot.  

Simmer for about an hour or two, tasting the pot liquor as it cooks and adjusting seasoning to your preference.

The greens can continue to cook until they are as tender as you like them.