Easy Side Dishes Easy Parmesan Orzo from It's a Keeper

Easy Parmesan Orzo

A while back, Christina at This Woman Cooks, posted this recipe on my weekly linky party. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it! It looked so cheesy and good. Plus, she said it was super easy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for new side dishes that I can add to my weeknight dinner arsenal. I mean, c’mon, we love brown rice as much as the next guy, but one can only eat so much before it gets bor-ring! Needless to say, this recipe caught my attention so I thought I would test it out for all of my faithful readers!

Go a head. Hit the “print this” button below. You’ll definitely want to keep a copy of this recipe handy. It’s THAT good!

Carrot Apple Ginger Slaw It's a Keeper

Carrot Apple Ginger Slaw

In my humble opinion, coleslaws are the quintessential summer salad.  They are perfect for cookouts and picnics.   Some are sweet and creamy while others can be tangy and bright.  One thing I adore about slaws is their versatility.   Gone are the days of the boring coleslaw.  Why go with boring when you can tinker around with different veggies and sauces?  Some of my favorites are  my Creamy Broccoli Slaw, Sriracha Coleslaw, California Citrus Slaw and this delightful Carrot Apple Ginger Slaw.

I love the flavor combination of this salad.  The apples and carrots are crisp and fresh.  While the ginger-infused sauce has a tart, slightly sweet flavor.  When all of these flavors and textures come together, you have a refreshing summer salad that is just bursting with flavor!  It goes perfectly with fish – providing some acidity to balance out the flavors.  Or, I love it on top of a good turkey burger!

Tomato and Asparagus Salad It's a Keeper

Fresh Tomato and Asparagus Salad

There is nothing like the taste of fresh asparagus to signify that spring is here.  As one of the first harvests of spring, there’s a small window of time when asparagus is at its finest. This tomato and asparagus salad, topped with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect way to welcome warmer weather.

This crisp, light salad showcases all that tender asparagus has to offer.  It’s almost like you can taste spring-time in every bite.   It’s truly a beautiful salad.  The red, juicy tomatoes contrasted with the bright green asparagus and ribbons of fresh basil.  The whole thing glistening from the vinaigrette.   It’s a sight, I tell you.

Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes It's a Keeper

Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes

Just what is a Hassleback Potato, you ask?  Fanned out like an accordion, these spuds were named after the Restaurant Hasselbacken in Stockholm, Sweden.  It was here that these delicious cheesy potatoes were created.

While these little gems may look intricate and difficult to make, they aren’t. They are just a few simple steps away from traditional, every day, run-of-the-mill baked potatoes.   All it takes is a few swipes of your knife (be sure to take note of the wooden spoon trick below) and some scrumptious toppings.  And viola!  Hassleback Cheesy Potatoes!

Easy Cheesy Orzo It's a Keeper

Easy Cheesy Orzo

One of my favorite go-to side dish recipes is this Parmesan Orzo.  I love it because it’s super simple to make and it tastes so good.   The last time I made this recipe, I had some left over Velveeta cheese in the fridge.  I swapped out the Parmesan for the Velveeta.

The result?  A creamy, cheesy, deeeelicious side dish!  The fam was crazy about it.  It reminded them of my homemade mac and cheese.

I think this would be perfect pair with my meatloaf or Crispy Oven Fried Chicken!

What’s your favorite go-to side dish?


Crispy Kale Chips 2 It's a Keeper

Kale Chips

If you are looking for a fun, healthy way to eat kale, then look no further!  These baked crispy kale chips are a light and tasty snack (or side dish).

Everyone has their cravings.  Some crave chocolate or sweets.  Others crave salty and crunchy.  Mine is ice cream.  If we have it in the house, it actually talks to me.  I hear it calling from the freezer.  And, no matter how hard I try to fight it, I find myself being led into the kitchen for “just a scoop”.  I even try to trick myself by putting the ice cream in a small drinking glass rather than a bowl. 

Oven Fries with Horseradish Cream It's a Keeper

Oven Fries with Horseradish Cream

I have a confession to make. I have never deep fried anything. Nothing. Ever. Frankly, I think the whole idea of a big pan of hot grease scares me.

Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean my family doesn’t love french fries or fried chicken. It just means that I have to come up with other ways to give them what they want. I’m a big fan of “oven-frying”. It’s not really frying. It’s more like trying to simulate the fried flavor and texture in the oven.

I think oven-frying is a great alternative and this recipe for Oven Fries is one of my favorites. They are the perfect side dish for Crunchy Onion Bourbon Burgers, Burgers with Caramelized Onions or any kind of sandwich. The Horseradish Cream makes a great dipping sauce, too.

American Pierogies It's a Keeper

American Pierogies

This recipe is pure, unadulterated comfort food!  I’m going to warn you right now…there is absolutely NOTHING healthy about this recipe.  While it may not be very nutritious, it is one of those recipes that just makes you feel cozy.  It’s warm and comforting and oh so good!

And, it reminds of my childhood!  My mom used to make this recipe for us when we were kids.  If I remember correctly (it’s been a while now!), my mother made this for one of my first sleep-over parties.  We must have been pretty hungry girls because we polished off an entire pan of the stuff and asked her to make more!  It is THAT good! 

Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts It's a Keeper

Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I am always on the look out for recipes that will help me encourage my family to eat more veggies.  And, over the years I’ve found that I can roast pretty much anything and they will love it!  Especially if I roast it with garlic!  I mean, what’s not to love?!  Some of my favorite roasted vegetable recipes are Tuscan Roasted Asparagus, Parmesan Roasted Green Beans and Roasted Provencal Vegetables.  When, I found this recipe for roasted Brussels Sprouts on Pinterest, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Homemade Mac & cheese it's a keeper

My Favorite Mac & Cheese

There is nothing more perfect (in my 5 year old’s opinion) than macaroni and cheese.  He would eat it with everything meal — including breakfast if I let him!  It goes with everything — chicken, beef, fish, pancakes (he actually tried to convince me of that once!).

While my son loves mac and cheese from a box, he loves my homemade version even more.  Making homemade mac & cheese is not as daunting of a task as you might think.  It’s really quite simple.   And, this recipe tastes sooo much better than the stuff from a box.  Trust me on this.  Years ago I found a recipe in the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook that seemed to work perfectly for me.  I’ve since adapted the recipe a bit to suit our tastes, and now it’s just right!

Emeril Lagasse Sweet Peas Au Gratin

Emeril’s Au Gratin Sweet Peas

Is it bad that I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is “my” family holiday — which means it’s my turn to have the whole fam over. So, I’m always on the lookout of Thanksgiving dinner contenders.  I came across this recipe for Au Gratin Sweet Peas in the pile.  It was waaaay down on the bottom.  Probably because I printed it out in 2000!  This was back when Emeril Lagasse was the big star Food Network.  Pre Rachel. Pre Paula.  Pre (dare I say it…) Ina.

My mom makes the best creamy peas.  You know, the ones with the little pearl onions in a cream sauce.  Soooo good!  I was curious to see if Emeril’s recipe was as good.

Nepa mom

Guest Post: Making Life Easier with Bulk Cooking

I am so excited to introduce a special guest-blogger today! Megan from NEPA Mom is sharing how she makes her life easier with bulk cooking. Megan is a very busy stay-at-home mom/blogger who shares family-friendly activities, great deals, and reviews of products that make her life easier!   NEPA Mom is a great site to bookmark if you’re looking for things to do in northeastern Pennsylvania, or if you’re planning to visit.  It’s such a wealth of information-you’ll never search for something to do with the family again!

So with a big round of applause, let’s welcome Megan!

Wegman's Grilled Orzo Salad

Grilled Orzo Salad

A few years ago I went to a cooking class at my local Wegman’s supermarket.  It was a great class on grilling.  I learned a log of great tips and techniques.  One of the recipes they made that night was a Grilled Orzo Salad.  I must have liked the recipe, because I found it buried deep in my recipe stash. 

Grilled Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

Grilled Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

During the hot, sticky summer months, I’m always on the lookout for new salad ideas. Maybe it’s because I’m not in the mood for heavy dishes. Or, maybe it’s because my garden is always so plentiful during the dog-days of summer. Whatever the reason, my recipe pile is full of contenders — everything from slaws, pasta salads and mayo-based concoctions to plates full of leafy goodness.

Broccoli Slaw

Creamy Broccoli Slaw

My family loves broccoli slaw! This is one of those recipes that I’m always asked to make. And, I really don’t mind at all! I came up with this idea after visiting with some family. My cousin brought a broccoli slaw made at a local deli and it was fantastic! So, I took my regular coleslaw recipe and swapped out the cabbage for broccoli and….viola! Broccoli slaw!

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, I featured Crock Pot Chicken Parm by The Rickett Chronicles on my weekly recipe and craft linky — It’s a Keeper Thursday.  Nestled inside her recipe for Chicken Parmesan, was another recipe for Roasted Roma Tomatoes.  My test of her Slow Cooker Chicken Parm recipe turned out pretty good! And, since I was already planning on roasting some green beans for Parmesan Roasted Green Beans (are you noticing a theme here?!?), I thought why not give the tomatoes a try too! 

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese

I thought it would be fun to host a cookbook review on It’s a Keeper (IAK).  Some of my readers and Facebook/Twitter followers who wanted to participate don’t have blogs of their own to share their recipes on, so I offered up a guest post on IAK to give all of my readers the opportunity to share their reviews.  This one is from my good friend, Natalie.

When looking for a recipe or two to review for the It’s A Keeper Cookbook Review, I came across Ina Garten’s Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese.  One of my very favorite salads, especially in the fall when the pears and apples are at their peak, is one with pears, walnuts, and cranberries, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

I thought it would be fun to host a cookbook review on It’s a Keeper (IAK).  Some of my readers and Facebook/Twitter follwers who wanted to participate don’t have blogs of their own to share their recipes on, so I offered up a guest post on IAK to give all of my readers the opportunity to share their reviews.  This one is from my good friend, Natalie.

Having been a faithful follower of “It’s a Keeper” for about a year now, when Christina mentioned a group cookbook review, it sounded like fun.  But…. my husband and I are following a Low-Carbohydrate diet, at least until Lent is over, so I had to really look for a recipe or two that we could eat and enjoy without feeling guilty.  So I paged through Ina Garten’s cookbook and found Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli – I love broccoli and I love cheese, and better still, both are relatively low in carbohydrates – perfect.
As a bonus, it was really quite easy to make.  Here’s the recipe.

Balsamic Quinoa Salad

Balsamic Quinoa Salad

I’ve been hearing so much about quinoa lately but I have to admit I’ve never had it. That is, until now. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is a seed-like whole grain that cooks just like rice. It was first eaten by Incan warriors as their fuel for battle because it gave them such good energy and power. Quinoa is not only high in protein but is also:

Roasted Provencal Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables – Provencal Style

One night, we had dinner at my Uncle Carmen’s house and he made THE BEST roasted vegetables.  I couldn’t get enough.  I had seconds…and then I had thirds!  They were THAT good! Uncle Carmen and I are both lovers of all things food.  We talk about recipes and cooking and techniques.  He’s a great cook and we are always swapping recipes.   So, I managed to get his recipe for these heavenly roasted vegetables provencal style  and now I’m going to share it with you!

Uncle Carmen’s Sicilan Cauliflower

I have to admit it…I’m not a huge cauliflower fan.  Neither is my husband.  I don’t know if it’s the color, the texture, or the fact that for one of my 5th grade science projects, I used a head of cauliflower to represent a brain. Whatever it is, I’m just not a fan.

However, if you put my Uncle Carmen’s Sicilian Cauliflower on the table, you can consider it devoured!   In fact, whenever Uncle Carmen makes this dish for a family dinner, he usually has to double the recipe!  It’s gobbled up that quickly!

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

This year, my garden produced a TON of green beans!  There is nothing like fresh beans picked from the vine.  They’re perfect!  With so many on hand, I began searching for new green bean recipes.  That’s when I stumbled upon this great recipe for Parmesan Roasted Green Beans on a great blog I found —  Cooking Tip of the Day.

Bread and Butter Pickles

For those of you that have been following my blog, you know that I’ve been dying to learn how to can!  A few weeks ago I sent out a plea for a little old lady to teach me!  I have to say, I was shocked (and touched) at how many people offered up their grandmas and aunts to me!

Well, I never did complete a canning apprenticeship with a little old lady.  But, this past weekend, my mother and I decided we were going to take the bull by the horns and teach ourselves! 

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

I’m always on the lookout for dishes that I can pre-make for my work lunches.  So when this recipe popped up in my inbox I thought I would give it a try. 

My Mom’s 3 Bean Salad

Tonight, we had dinner at my grandparent’s house.  God love them….they’re 92 and still entertaining!  My grandmother made my favorite stuffed pork chops (with the stuffing on top so it gets all crispy and yummy!) and my mother brought a 3 bean salad.  It’s a new recipe that she tried.

Chive Risotto Cakes

Chive Risotto Cakes

I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day and she was making Chive Risotto Cakes.  I remembered flagging this recipe a while back.  It was in Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook.  They sounded great and looked even better!

Antipasta Platter

My cousin, Donna, bring this great antipasta platter to all of our family get-togethers.  It’s one of my favorite appetizers ever! 

Grilled Garlic Corn on the Cob

I just got home from my friend Jill’s house tonight and, not only did we have great conversation but she had the BEST corn on the cob that I’ve ever had!

They say that a great hostess makes her guests feel right at home and gives the impression that nothing is too much trouble for her guests.  This is Jill.

It was a simple cookout.  The kids swimming in the pool.  Hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.  Big wedges of watermelon on the table.   And, corn on the cob.   A perfect, warm June evening. 

Creamy Coleslaw and Remembering Bingham’s

Coleslaw is one of those foods that I either love or hate.  If it’s made well (translation: to my particular liking), I can’t enough of the stuff.   I think the best coleslaw I have ever tasted was at Bingham’s Family Restaurant in Lenox, PA.  It was perfectly creamy with a hint of sweetness and a little kick.  Of course, I’m not surprised that their coleslaw was fabulous.  Everything I’ve ever ordered from Bingham’s was wonderful.

Birdseed Biscuits

I was looking for a fun project that Joey and I could make for his grandmothers and great-grandmother for Mother’s Day.  I came across this recipe for Birdseed Biscuits in Family Fun Magazine. Since our families love our feathered friends, I thought this would be the perfect hand-made gift!

And, since we had to mix the “biscuits” and bake them, I thought I would share our experience on my blog!