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Despite 10 years of blogging, there are some dishes that I make that I’ve never considered blogging about. They’re family classics that I make on auto-pilot, that feel a bit like cheater recipes. No or very minimal recipe, sometimes using store-bought ingredients. This recipe is one of them.

My grandmother has made this Italian Green Bean Salad for as long as I can remember. I remember – back when I was in elementary school – picking the green beans from her huge backyard garden, sitting on the steps trimming the ends, and then watching her make it for family dinner that night. It’s a quick and easy recipe, perfect for weeknight dinners but also summer BBQs and potlucks, as it can be served at room temperature. It’s also easy to adjust the recipe for a dinner for two or to feed a crowd.

Italian Green Bean Salad

Recipe Notes:

  • This salad can be served warm (room temperature) or cold, straight from the fridge. If making ahead and storing in the fridge, be sure to check before serving, to make sure that it doesn’t need a little extra salad dressing.
  • Asiago cheese can be exchanged for Parmesan, if you have that on hand.

Italian Green Bean Salad

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
  • Italian Salad Dressing (I use Good Seasonings Italian, made with balsamic vinegar)
  • Asiago cheese, finely grated (about 1 oz. Asiago, grated)

Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and blanch, cooking for 3-5 minutes until still crunchy. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move green beans to bowl of ice, to prevent beans from cooking any longer. When beans have cooled to room temperature (or cooler), drain and transfer to a serving dish.

Toss green beans with Italian dressing. Top with finely grated Asiago cheese just before serving.

Serve green beans at room temperature or cold.

Store covered tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge, if not serving immediately.

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Happy Sunday! I hope you are enjoying a long weekend celebrating our great country.

My family and I are thankfully having a mostly lazy weekend – play dates, baking, and chores, with a dinner with friends planned for the 4th. We’ve had a whirlwind could of weeks with me away for a week and some family in town. I’ve been enjoying playing catch up. Enjoying the relative quiet in the house. And enjoying taking a little bit of time to menu plan, blog plan, and vacation plan.

Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto

Store-bought ravioli or tortellini with homemade pesto from the freezer has become an easy weeknight staple in our house. It takes so little effort and time to make that we really have no excused for ordering out when I’ve got the pasta and pesto in the freezer. I stock up on homemade pesto when my herbs (or my mom’s herbs) are growing like crazy over the summer time. They’ve been planted for less than two months and they’ve already started to grow a bit wild. I’ve already have to trim them back several times, freezing sage leaves and making both cilantro and basil pesto.

Tortellini with Fresh Basil Pesto

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 2 as a main dish, 3-4 as a side dish

Ingredients for the Tortellini:

  • 1-9 oz. package store-bought cheese tortellini
  • 1 c. fresh basil pesto (ingredients and instructions below)

Ingredients for the Basil Pesto: (makes 1 cup) 

  • 2 c. packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • ¼ c. pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, skins removed
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

Prepare tortellini according to package. While tortellini are cooking, make the pesto. (If tortellini are finished before pesto, drain, toss with a little bit of olive oil to avoid sticking, and cover to keep warm.)

Make the Pesto: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until large chunks. With the food processor still running, slowly pour in olive oil. Turn off when thoroughly combined.

Toss tortellini and pesto, until tortellini are completely coated. You may not need the entire cup.

Freezing Pesto: Basil pesto freezes wonderfully and is one of my favorite things to stock up on over summer, for quick weeknight dinners throughout the year.

To freeze, transfer pesto to an airtight container (I use mason jars) and freeze until ready to use. Pesto may be defrosted in the fridge or for 30-60 seconds in the microwave (don’t forget to take off the metal lid and rim!)

Fresh Basil Pesto
Tortellini with Homemade Basil Pesto on Books n Cooks
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I don’t know about you all, but we’re big Chipotle fans in our house. Burrito bowl for me, burrito for my hubby, and my kids split the quesadilla kids meal – Miss. Hazelnut getting the quesadilla and fruit/chips and Mr. Nutterbutter getting the rice, black beans, and guacamole. This rice reminds me a lot of the rice at the bottom of my burrito bowl, with a burst of freshness from the lime juice and cilantro added at the end. It holds its own as a part of dish or as a standalone side.

Be sure to check at the end of the recipe for more #MexicanRecipes to inspire your weekend entertaining. And huge thanks to Sue at Palatable Pastime for organizing this great event!

Cilantro Lime Rice

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 c. long-grained rice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

In a medium stockpot over medium heat, heat vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic, cooking for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Reduce heat to low. Add rice and salt. Cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, lemon zest, and about 3/4 of the lime juice (reserving the remaining lime juice for finishing). Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid is gone and rice is cooked. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Toss rice with reserved lime juice and cilantro.

Serve hot as a side dish or as the base for burrito bowls (I like to make them with taco meat, roasted or sauteed peppers and onion, homemade salsa, guacamole, and cheese.)

#MexicanRecipes
Happy #MexicanRecipes
Let’s have a fiesta of Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes all week long!

Check back each and every day for new recipes by following along with the hashtag #MexicanRecipes on social media.

Are you a food blogger interested in posting within our blogging community? Find out more by joining us online: Holiday Fun with Our Blog Friends.

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My hubby and I ate very differently when we started dating. With me being raised in New England and my hubby from the deep South, we grew up on different foods. My family ate a lot of comfort foods (meatloaf Mondays anyone?) and from my Italian and Polish roots. My hubby grew up on casseroles, catfish, and whatever game came home from hunting trips.

So when we started dating, it was easy to impress him with what I considered old-standbys, like pasta with meat sauce and chicken parmesan. He was not quite as open-minded about trying new vegetables, however. To this day, I still remember making him these Roasted Brussels Sprouts and hearing the doubt in his tone when I served them. It’s a Brussels sprout, and you know those have a bad reputation. He was convinced that they were going to be terrible.

Hubby didn’t expect to love roasted Brussels sprouts as much as he did. Today, he not only requests this side dish, but he peeks into the oven to see how much longer until they’re done.

Brussels sprouts really do get a bad rap. But when you roast them perfectly, they’re amazing. Crispy on the outside, just under al dente on the inside. The recipe below is my favorite way to make them – very simply, seasoned only with a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, you can throw a few slices (probably 6-8 for the recipe below) of diced, raw bacon in there when cooking. My hubby loves it when he finds a bacon surprise in one of his favorite vegetable dishes. 🙂

These Roasted Brussels Sprouts are just one of the healthy, green recipes the #SundaySupper tastemakers have put together for you, for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for more inspiration on healthy options for your St. Patty’s Day.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

By Books n’ Cooks

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, halved, with outer leaves discarded
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 450F.

In a large Pyrex or baking dish, toss Brussels sprouts with oil until mostly coated. Sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the pepper. Toss. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Toss.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Brussels sprouts should be cooked throughout but not be soft, and leaves will be beginning to get crispy.

Serve immediately.

Check out more fabulous healthy, green recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations below, from the #SundaySupper tastemakers.

Best Breakfasts

Must Make Main Dishes

Scrumptious Salads

Stunning Sides

Dreamy Desserts

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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Avocado Corn Salad

Can you believe it’s football season already? I can’t. Football and baseball seem like the longest seasons in the world to me. To say I’m not a football fan would be an understatement – I’ll do just about everything I can to get out of watching a game, live or on tv. On the other hand, my hubby is a HUGE football fan, particularly college football. So I’m kinda stuck with having the sport on tv a good bit of the time as well as playing the occasional hostess when my hubby’s college team is playing.

Football entertaining in my house is all about super easy dinners or heavy munchies. Chili and buffalo chicken dip are two of our favorites, but really, if I put out some homemade chips and guac, my hubby is happy. This avocado corn salad is equally as easy but a nice change from those old standbys. We like to serve it as a chunky dip with tortilla chips (perfect for game day!), although it can also stand on its own as a side for burgers or tacos. I first tried this salad when my sister-in-law made it, and my hubby and I were instantly big fans. The fresh, ripe veggies shine. Below is our favorite way to make the salad, but adjust the quantities ingredients according to your tastes.

Avocado Corn Salad

Avocado Corn Salad

Inspired by Live Dine Party

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe avocados, large dice
  • 2 plum tomatoes, small dice
  • 1/4 red onion, small dice
  • 1 c. corn kernels (from 1 ear of grilled corn, or use canned corn, drained)
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

In a medium bowl, gently toss avocado, tomato, red onion, corn and cilantro to mix.  Add lime juice, olive oil, and honey and toss again. Vegetable should be just barely coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Add more cilantro, lime, honey or salt/pepper to taste.

Serve with tortilla chips for a quick dip or as a standalone side.

Avocado Corn Salad_Pint

Serve at room temperature within an hour of putting together.

Check out what my #SundaySupper friends are serving for game day. And big thanks to Coleen at The Redhead Baker for hosting!

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Appetizers

Main Dishes

Side Dishes

Desserts

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.
Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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Warm Pasta with Grilled Zucchini and Tomato

When my family comes to visit, sometimes I feel like meal planning is a real struggle. I always try to accommodate everyone’s food preferences – there is no Mexican food and limited Asian-inspired options; the meal has to be substantial enough for two big guys (salad, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc. aren’t the best options for dinner); and there are few seafood options that the majority will eat. But the hardest person to cater to is my little brother. He’s is the only vegetarian in our immediate family, and having a husband that prefers meat at almost every dinner (this Pasta with Walnuts and Parmesan is the only vegetarian dish I’ve made to date that really leaves him happy and satisfied), I don’t have much of a repertoire of vegetarian meals in my arsenal.

While my brother would happily fend for himself, he visits enough (and is so good to my daughter!) that I’ve been trying to make an extra effort to prepare new dishes (eggplant parmesan gets tiring after a while!) that he would enjoy. Last time he was in town, we tried out this warm pasta salad with grilled tomatoes and zucchini – definitely substantial enough on it’s own but paired with grilled chicken for the carnivores. I could have eaten the whole thing myself. The pasta and grilled vegetables are lightly dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which lets the sweetness of the warm tomatoes and the saltiness of the freshly grated Pecorino Romano shine through. (Don’t skimp and buy buy the pre-shredded/shaved/grated stuff – the freshly shaved cheese really makes this dish).

Warm Pasta with Grilled Zucchini and Tomato 2

Recipe Note: The original recipe calls for chopped thyme and chives, which is reflected below. I’ve also omitted these and made the salad with a sprinkle of Herbes de Province sea salt and chopped fresh basil (pictured here). The basil was a stronger flavor, but the pasta salad was equally amazing.

Serving Note: While the pasta salad is meant to be served warm, the cold leftovers were also good.

Warm Pasta Salad with Grilled Tomatoes & Zucchini

Adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue #86

Serves 4-5 as a meal; 8+ as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 lb. ripe plum tomatoes (about 8), cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1-1/4 lb. small zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (see recipe note above)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 oz. Pecorino Romano, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 2 cups)
  • 1 lb. dried penne
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh chives (see recipe note above)
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, more to taste
Prep & Grill the Veggies: Preheat grill to medium heat. Meanwhile, toss veggies in a bowl with 2 Tbs. oil, 2 tsp. thyme, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set bowl aside – do not empty or clean bowl.
Grill veggies, cut side down for about 5 minutes before flipping and cooking for another 5-8 minutes, until desired doneness (I like my zucchini still slightly crunchy). Remove from grill and return them to the same bowl.
Allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and set pasta aside.
Assemble the Salad: Coarsely chop the warm veggies and toss with half of the cheese, 3 Tbs. chives, remaining olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining chives, thyme, and cheese.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
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What's_Baking_BadgeThis month’s theme for What’s Baking? – baking bread – was chosen by Heather at Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks. I definitely debated about whether to use this as an excuse to make a warm, crusty baguette. I contemplated a dinner of fresh bread and cheese, maybe a little fresh fruit and olives… but I bet my hubby would tell me that’s not an acceptable dinner. After all, he scoffed at a box of Girl Scout cookies for lunch. Apparently 6+ months pregnant isn’t an excuse to indulge. Anyway, in the end, I decided that with the cold weather we’ve been having, I’d make a hearty dinner of chili and made-from-scratch traditional cornbread.

This recipe is super easy – it took only a few minutes to put together and surprisingly little time to bake. My oven runs a tad hot, so I ended up with a slightly crispy edge that I couldn’t help but eat first. 🙂

Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread

Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread

Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 107 (p. 37)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 c. stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into a couple of pieces

Ensure that a rack is placed in the center of the oven. Place a 9-10 inch cast-iron skillet in an oven and heat to 425°F. Allow skillet to sit in the oven until the oven is completely preheated, if not longer.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a small pot, bring 1/2 c. water to a boil. Whisk in 1/2 c. of the cornmeal until a thick mush has formed. Whisk in buttermilk, sour cream, and eggs until smooth.

When oven has been properly preheated, about 20 minutes, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir together with a wooden spoon until smooth and no clumps remain. Switch to a whisk if a few stubborn clumps remain.

Remove hot skillet from oven and add butter pieces, swirling pan to spread the butter and coat the bottom. Immediately pour cornmeal mixture into pan. Return to oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until top is golden and bread begins to pull away from the sides.

Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve hot.

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I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying to get used to being back at work full-time. It’s been an adjustment all around. How do I manage to balance work with not just home life – cooking, cleaning, being a wife – but also being a mom? It has been a challenge for sure, but my husband and I are beginning to find our routine, even if that means me going to sleep right after the baby to compensate for her new wake-3-times-a-night habit.

This new schedule has meant that I’m focusing on simpler meals in the kitchen. We’ve been doing a lot of grilling and pairing whatever we grill with fresh and easy sides. This southwest quinoa salad is one of our new favorites. The slight kick from the jalapeno is balanced with sweetness from the mango and red bell pepper. Feel free to toss in a little more mango and veggie than the quantities listed below, I know I do.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Adapted from The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer via Skinny Taste

Yields 6 1-cup servings

Ingredients: 

  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 15 oz. can low-sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. fresh mango, chopped
  • 1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and tumeric in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, stirring to combine.

Serve immediately (at room temperature) or refrigerate until serving.

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The weather is gorgeous – 70+ and sunny. Love it! It’s the perfect weather to renew good habits. I’ve been taking regular walks outside both to enjoy the weather and to start training for the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure, which I’ll walk later this year. I’m also loving all the fruit that’s starting to appear in the stores and farm stands. I’ve been getting tired of apples and bananas and have been waiting for berries and nectarines.

This is one of my favorite fruit salads – mixed berries topped with just a touch of homemade vanilla syrup. The syrup adds a brightness and uniqueness to the berries and is a great way to dress up a simple fruit salad for a more formal event, such as a wedding or baby.

Mixed Berry Salad with Vanilla Syrup

Adapted from Fine Cooking, June/July 2004

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 c. fresh mixed berries (any type that are in season. I like a combination of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4. c. water

Instructions:

  1. Clean and slice berries and toss in a large bowl. Cover and place in the fridge to keep cold.
  2. Fill a small saucepan with 1/4 c. water and 1/4 c. sugar.
  3. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds from one half of the vanilla bean and place in the saucepan with water and sugar. (Save the vanilla bean pod for a garnish, or place in your jar of vanilla sugar or vanilla extract.)
  4. Over medium heat, bring water and sugar to just boiling. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for 7 minutes, allowing the vanilla to infuse the syrup.
  5. Allow syrup to cool before moving to a refrigerator to chill completely.

Serve: Pour 1-2 Tbs. syrup over fruit & enjoy!

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Have I ever mentioned that my hubby is a picky eater? While he’s gotten much more adventurous since we moved in together 3 years ago, there’s still a number of items I can’t make for him. No tomatoes or bell peppers, unless they’re hidden so he can’t see them. No light vinaigrette in salads (Ranch and honey mustard are his favorites). Squash… not so much. Maybe on the rare occasion when we’re grilling. Polish stuffed cabbage? Hell no.

So what do I do when I want to make dishes using tomatoes (like this Greek Pananella) or another one of the banned items? I try to save them for potlucks with friends, but when that doesn’t pan out, or I get impatient, I call a good friend. K has offered to move in, just so I have someone a little less picky to cook for. Thanks K, but I’ll just invite you over for dinner weekly. 🙂

With an invitation to a friend’s secured and all of the ingredients in the house, I gave these roasted tomatoes a whirl. I loved the way roasting the tomatoes made them slightly sweet and super soft. The basil pesto was a burst of flavor. I imagined eating one of these atop a slice of crunchy French bread or making these as a side to a roasted or grilled fish for an extra punch of flavor. The best part? This recipe can easily be adjusted to serve 1 or 12.

Roasted Tomatoes with Pesto

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? (p. 179)
also on Food Network

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 2 1/2 lbs. large red tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c. pesto
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

With the tomato stem facing up, slice tomatoes into 1/2-in. thick slices. Place slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, kosher salt (~1 tsp.), and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, until tomatoes are beginning to soften, but still hold their shape.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Top each tomato slice with a bit of pesto (~1/4 – 1/2 tsp. on each) and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for another 7-10 minutes, until Parmesan begins to brown and the tomatoes look softened.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a little more salt (if desired). Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Books n’ Cooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Some links on Books n’ Cooks may be affiliate links – links books and kitchen supplies that I love and would recommend. If you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

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