Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Serious Sides






We froze some entrees, yes. But that is not all we can do, oh no that is not all...

Some days motherhood feels like spinning plates. Cooking for a month can feel like that, but I love it. I love that I won't have to feel this busy about food for another month!

Mostly I make fresh sides at mealtime, or those bags of frozen steam veggies, or skip it (what do I look like Martha Stewart?) but there are a few things that are easy to make a head and whip out for a light lunch or to balance dinner on a busy week night.

Sweet potato oven fries

These are not really fries at all. They never touch hot oil, but they are in the "French fry" shape and perfect for dipping in ketchup. I love them, but I don't love the premium price of sweet potato fries in the frozen aisle.

Just julienne some sweet potatoes, par boil (boil for 3 min then dunk in ice water) or soak in cold water for 15 minutes, pat dry, season then spread on a cookie sheet to freeze individually. I just sprinkled mine with salt, pepper and onion powder this time. Bake them like you would any frozen fry product 400-450 until crisp. Next time I am going to try this method, because damn, those pictures look good!

Mashed potatoes on demand

Mashed potatoes are not hard. But...we had a bunch of potatoes that needed to be used ASAP in the back of the pantry. The Hubster made a mega huge batch of mashed potatoes and I froze them for later consumption.

To make them easier to work with, I spread them on a cookie sheet and made score lines in them, then let them cool.

Once cool, I stuck the whole cookie sheet in the freezer until they were hard, then broke them along the score lines for freezing. This way I can easily take out just what I need.

(See the hamburger buns? I totally just stick then in the freezer in the bag they come in. They stay fresh and I have never had a problem with freezer burn.)

Twice Baked Potato Skins

I have a weakness for pub food. Fry it and serve it with beer and I'm in. (If anyone knows of a pub in the Pittsburgh area with good fried dill pickles please let me know.) I am not allowed to deep fry anything at home since the fried okra incident of '07. But I had a craving for potato skins, so I came up with this alternative. It's marginally healthy too. So that's cool.

Bake a mess of potatoes. Cut them in half. Scoop out the middle leaving some flesh on the skin. Mash the scooped out bits with some butter and some milk. Toss in some cheddar cheese. The cheap yellow kind. (It's supposed to look like pub food.) Add some crispy crumbled bacon. Stir. Scoop the mashed stuff back into the "shells". Place on cookie sheets to freeze individually.

On meal day, bake at 350 or 400 for 40-60 minutes. Shorter if you actually managed to plan ahead and thaw them (show off).

Twice baked yams

Same procedure as the potato skins, minus the bacon. I like to add some maple syrup or brown sugar to the mash, and some nutmeg and cinnamon too. We ate them all before I started taking pictures. Sorry. They were good. Like pie, but for dinner. If you need a visual, look

over here.

That looks about right. But seriously, you don't need cream cheese, 2% milk works just fine. There are about a million versions of these on the web. I intend to try many of them.


I didn't actually prep anything. I just mention it because I love it. Just toss it in the fridge. It keeps really well. Day of, wash it, dry it, and sauté it with loads of garlic and some oil. So yummy.

So that's it for side dish prep. Did you detect a theme? Yeah. Potatoes freeze well and they take a long time to make day of. I like to focus prep work on things that will save me time through put the month. Like I said, salads and steamed veggies are not do-it-ahead territory.

Our sides vary seasonally too. Right now it is early almost spring, so there's nothing in the garden yet, and all of the squash from last year is used up. So...potatoes. Yup.


PS- it has taken me waaaaay longer to write all if this than to actually do it. And week nights dinner takes about 10-15 minutes, although I pretend it takes longer so I can sit and read a magazine or something while Hubster takes orders from my Personal Assistant. It is making week nights much less stressful and hectic to have dinner planned and ready to go. Which makes me very happy.


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