Ranch Glazed Carrots

I swear, Pinterest can be my best friend, or my worst enemy. Just depends on the day. I’m always coming across a recipe here, a recipe there that I know, I just know, has to be dinner tonight. And I’m cooking so I get to make what I want, right? But later, usually while I’m pulling out ingredients, that rational part of my brain starts functioning again, and it reminds me that dinner needs to be more. I actually have to make sides and stuff. Not just the 5-star main dish I had my heart set on. Bummer.

Carrots and ranch area a match made in heaven, so I thought ‘these have to be amazing, right?!’ What’s better than having the flavors you love from your favorite dressing in an easy to make side dish that’ll have you wanting to eat your veggies?  These are a perfect summer side, well in our opinion, they’re really good anytime of the year. Just five minutes is all you need to make this savory-sweet glaze for cooked carrots.

Ranch Glazed Carrots

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ranch Glazed Carrots

recipe adapted from Eat At Home Cooks

1 pound baby carrots
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 envelope (or 2 1/2- 3 tbsp) dry ranch salad dressing & seasoning mix

Directions

1. Cook the carrots in 1 cup of boiling water until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Drain the carrots & place them back in the warm pot.
2. Add the butter, brown sugar & dry dressing mix to the carrots and toss to coat.
3. Mix until evenly combined and the carrots are well glazed. Serve warm (but still serves well chilled as leftovers)

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

Baked Beans. Burgers. Typical cookout staples, right? Once upon a time, I never had any idea that they could be improved upon. Then a little fairy Godmother served these at a get together on a silver platter. Ah-mazing! I savored every bite. It was an intense, but brief affair. The clock struck 12, and just like that they were gone. The magic faded, but even after the party I couldn’t forget about them. It took some tracking down, but I found the maker of the magical beans, and there was no going back. This became a dinner, and cookout staple. Obviously, our family lived happily ever after in the kingdom of Beef & Beans.

Debut this cookout season in style. Be the belle of the ball by bringing these babies.

P.S. I’ve gotta tell ya, that these are great slathered on a hamburger bun too!

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped, about 2 cups
1 pound ground beef
2 15-ounce cans Boston-style baked beans
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
6 slices of your favorite bacon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion; cook about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the beef; cook about 10 minutes or until brown, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beef mixture with the remaining ingredients except the bacon; mix well. Pour beef mixture into the prepared casserole; arrange the bacon slices on top. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake about 45 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Uncover dish and preheat broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crisp.

Asian Pasta Salad

This pasta, tossed in a sesame oil and soy sauce-based dressing, is a refreshing, Asian-inspired side dish perfect for picnics.  This is great for lunch, a light main meal, or even a supper-time side dish, so serve it for the family, or make ahead for your next Bar-B-Q.

Do you ever roast a whole chicken, and then wonder what you’re going to do with all the leftover meat after dinner is over? This is perfect for a chicken dinner day after. Pick those bones clean! Don’t let anything go to waste. As my mom always said, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’ That, and some juicy, leftover pieces from your roast chicken would be the perfect reason to whip up this dish.  Vegetarian or looking for a meatless meal idea? Omit the chicken. All the original tangy flavors will still infiltrate every bite.

Summer will be here before we know it, and this quick, colorful, and oh-so tasty cold, oriental noodle salad will pair perfectly with the season!

Asian Pasta Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Asian Pasta Salad

recipe adapted from Lil Luna

1 lb.  Tri-Color Rotini
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 cups diced or shredded chicken breast
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper strips, optional

Directions

1. Make pasta as directed and set aside.
2. Cook sesame seeds in a skillet on medium heat for 1-2 minutes until lightly toasted. Set aside.
3. Mix together vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, sesame seeds and pepper with a whisk until mixed well.
4. Pour dressing mixture over pasta and mix until coated evenly
5. Add chicken, cilantro, spinach, carrots, and peppers, if using. Toss and serve.

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

Sometimes the simplest things taste the best. Just like I sometimes need a break from the rigmarole of everyday life, sometimes my taste buds need a break from complex flavor combinations. This orzo is just the thing for times like that. With a simple, yet creamy, low-fat sauce coating the tiny rice-shaped pasta and wilted spinach, it makes a great side dish, especially with chicken or fish, or even a light main meal.  This is the happy place where health & comfort (food) meet.

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

4 Sons 'R' Us: Spinach Parmesan Orzo

recipe adapted from Life Tastes Good

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3-4 cups of fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat and add 1 cup orzo. Stir until the orzo is lightly browned/toasted. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the orzo is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
2. While the orzo is simmering it is a good time to prepare the spinach. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add 10 ounces of baby spinach and a pinch of salt. Saute until wilted. Set aside until orzo is done.
3. When orzo is done add the spinach and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. The Parmesan will add some saltiness to the dish, so be sure to give it a taste to ensure you don’t add too much salt!

Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

Up until a week ago, the sons had never taken a single bite out of a Brussel sprout. Still, they had an instinctive hatred of them, refusing to try a single bite of their side of ‘roasted’ Brussel sprouts they were served with dinner. Yet, how can I blame them? Up until this recipe last week, I too had always steered clear to them, to the point or stubborn out-right refusal of even considering to try them. Even when my mantra to the sons is try new things. Brussels sprouts probably have the worst reputation of any vegetable. As you’ve seen, they’re the classic example of the vegetable hated by both kids and adults, only eaten because they’re so good for you. However, we were able to use this awesome recipe to change our whole familiys’ minds. A lot of the issue with people who have tried Brussel sprouts and hated them, is that they are a naturally bitter vegetable. And I do mean, bitter! However, roasting them (whether in a pan as in this recipe, or even in the oven) allows the sugars to break down and caramelize, nicely balancing out and breaking down their originally bite.

Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

recipe adapted from Favorite Family Recipes

1 lb Brussel Sprouts
4 Tbsp butter
5- 6 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Clean the brussel sprouts by trimming off the ends and peeling the outer layer of the sprout off. Cut each one in half.
2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
3. Once heated, add the halved brussel sprouts to the pan and saute for about 8-10 minutes on each side until the outer part is a caramelized brown and the inside is soft and fully cooked.
4. Add the garlic half way through the cooking.
5. Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
6. Stir to combine and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed. Add the cheese on top and serve.

Note: So if you need to convince someone stubborn to like Brussel sprouts or it’s their first time trying them; the best way to have brussels sprouts is to roast them, and this is the only recipe you will ever need.

Sriracha Broccoli

Sriracha is an amazing sauce. We’re a little nuts for it over here. In fact, I have it on good authority one of the sons is even getting a bottle in his Easter basket this year. This hot sauce can literally make anything taste better. Add it to some broccoli and you’ve got yourself an epic combination. I realize it may not look quite as vibrant or delicious now, but that’s just what soy sauce does to broccoli. It turns it brown. This saucy side dish may not be all that much of a looker, but rest assured, she’s got it going on! While skinny on the calories, this Asian-style broccoli is full on flavor and packs just the right amount of spice.

Sriracha Broccoli 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sriracha Broccoli

recipe adapted from Food and Other Things

3 heads of broccoli
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seed oil
3 tbsp Sriracha (your choice on how spicy you want it. Use 1 1/2 tbs for less spicy)
2 tsp minced garlic
small handful of crushed peanuts (~15)
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
2. Cut the broccoli from the stalk into small florets and wash & dry well.
3. In a large bowl, mix all the seasonings and diced garlic together.
4. Coat the broccoli evenly.
5. Put the seasoned broccoli onto a baking pan with a baking sheet, or parchment paper, under the broccoli.
6. Bake for 15 minutes, but remember to toss it half way through.
7. Serve with extra crushed peanuts on top!

Greek-Style Oven Fries

We eat potatoes at least 2 times a week, sometimes three, so I’m always on the look out for new things to do with them. Although they probably wouldn’t want to readily admit to it, the sons like a little spice in their lives, or in this case, variety.  These are a different take on ‘traditional’ roasted potatoes. We shall call them oven fries. I have kids, which would yours choose? The fancy, shmancy roasted potatoes, or something with the word fries in it? The lemon juice gives them a little tang and they’re roasted to crispy perfection on the outside, leaving the inside nice and tender. These oven roasted, Greek-style fries are the perfect accompaniment to almost any meal. I highly recommend making sure to double the recipe though,  because you won’t have enough!! Yes, they are THAT GOOD!!!

Greek-Style Oven Fries

4 Sons 'R' Us: Greek-Style Oven Fries

recipe originally from Food.com

3 medium unpeeled baking potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
vegetable oil cooking spray

Directions

1. Cut each potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.
2. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, pepper, salt, and garlic in a large bowl.
3. Add potatoes and toss well to coat.
4. Place potatoes, skin side down, on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and lightly browned.

If desired, you can sprinkle some Feta cheese crumbles over potatoes before serving.

Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots

Maple. Syrup. Ahh, luscious maple syrup. It has a rich, earthy caramel smell with woodsy hints of vanilla. One sniff, one taste, and I am sitting in a cozy log cabin in the snow-covered woods. Inside, the fire crackles and I take lazy sips of hot tea, snugly in soft slippers while fluffy pancakes sizzle on a hot grill in the kitchen, and a tall pitcher of maple syrup waits on the table.

I learned a long time ago that my love affair with maple syrup isn’t just limited to fresh pancakes, it’s so much bigger than that. Maple syrup can seriously make so many things that much better. For instance… carrots. These carrots, with the help of a little time thyme, some syrup, and a little love become the perfect side to complement any Winter meal.

Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots

4 Sons 'R' Us: Maple & Thyme Roasted Carrots

recipe originally from Life Currents

 6-8 large carrots, scrubbed and peeled
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
a generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

1. Depending on the size of your carrots, cut them in half lengthwise, and possibly in half or thirds width-wise. You want your carrot pieces to be roughly uniform in size so they all cook at about the same rate.
2. Heat oil in a heavy, oven proof skillet. Either cast-iron or a dutch oven should work well.
3. Once the oil is nice and hot add carrots, sauteing for 4-6 minutes until they begin to brown.
4. Don’t over-stir. The longer they’re touching the bottom of the skillet, the quicker they will brown.
5. Sprinkle with thyme and salt.
6. Pour maple syrup over the top and give the carrots a quick stir.
7. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and roast for 8-9 minutes.
8. Serve.