Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

Carrots are one of those things that I don’t really LIKE… but they’re non-offensive enough (and convenient enough for a quick snack) that I force myself to eat them, because apparently they’re healthy and stuff. I’ve found that the most tolerable way to eat them is paired with something with a bit of spice – for instance, some raw carrots dipped in chipotle hummus (Dear Trader Joe’s, WHYYYY did you discontinue your amazing chipotle hummus?? You’re breakin’ my heart, guys…)

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

Another tough part of the carrot equation is texture. Cooked carrots are… not delightful, in my opinion. Too often they’re mushy, and just plain overcooked. So, given all of the above information, you’re probably wondering why the hell I opted to make these carrots at all! I kind of wondered myself, actually. But, if any unappealing vegetable can be saved, there are two ways to do it: roasting it, or crusting it in a boatload of delicious spices. And I plan to employ the “crusting vegetables in spices” method a lot more from now on, because the results are FABULOUS.

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce
serves 8-10 as a side
adapted from here

2lb small to medium carrots, with tops
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2-3 T vegetable oil
1 cup greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
zest of one lemon
1 T harissa, sriracha, or other chili sauce

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

1.) Set a large pot of water to boil, and prepare an ice bath (fill a large bowl about 1/3 of the way with ice, then add water). As the water comes up to a boil, peel the carrots, and trim their tops to about 1-2″ long.

2.) When the water is boiling, add a small handful of kosher salt, then add the carrots. Allow the carrots to blanch for about 6 minutes – less if they’re particularly small, more if they’re large. After 6 minutes, remove them from the water and put them straight into the ice bath.

3.) While the carrots sit in the ice bath for a minute, mix up your spices. Combine the brown sugar, ground mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.

4.) Once the carrots have cooled a bit (just 2-3 minutes), remove them from the ice bath and pat them dry. Place them into a large mixing bowl, and toss with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and the spice mixture, until all the carrots are well-coated in the spices.

5.) Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat, and add enough vegetable oil to very thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Once it’s good and hot, add a single layer of carrots, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until they’re nicely golden brown, and then flip. Keep a close eye on them – if your pan is too hot or you didn’t use enough oil, the brown sugar in the spice mix will burn REALLY fast.

6.) Continue cooking batches in the same manner, until all the carrots are done. While the carrots cook, mix up your dipping sauce. Add the zest to the greek yogurt, and mix to thoroughly combine. Then, add the chili sauce, and swirl it into the greek yogurt (it looks prettier if you don’t fully mix the two together, but it’ll taste delicious either way).

7.) Serve the carrots hot, with the greek yogurt chili sauce spooned on top.

Spice-Crusted Carrots with Lemon and Chili Greek Yogurt Sauce

This recipe might just make a carrot lover out of me, yet. The spice mix is SO GOOD – a lot of savory flavors, some spice, and just a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar. I’ve actually used the leftover spice mix on a few other vegetables this week, and they’ve all been totally delicious! The greek yogurt dip is nice and creamy and cool, but with a bit of brightness from the lemon and the chili sauce, which cuts the richness a little. All of the carrot-haters at our table loved these, and I can’t wait to make them again!

Who knew that boiling purple carrots would turn the water black??
Tina

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Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

This year, I thought I’d try something new, and post a Thanksgiving recipe BEFORE Thanksgiving! Isn’t that a great idea? Just you watch, I think it’s gonna catch on around the food blog world. I’m practically a genius.

This has become one of my go-to sides this fall. The idea actually came to me after I made a dinner that involved stuffing acorn squash halves with chipotle chicken (I’ll be back with that recipe before too long) – and I LOVED the flavor combination of the sweet squash and the smokey, spicy chipotles. I often find that acorn and butternut squash can be too sweet for my liking, but the addition of some spice completely turned things around. I tried this mash out shortly thereafter, and my husband and I can’t get enough of it! I think it’ll make a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving – a newer, more interesting take on the traditional sweet potatoes (not that I have anything against brown sugar and marshmallows – I’m not a MONSTER).

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash
serves 4 as a side dish

2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded
3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and poked with a fork
2 chipotles, minced
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (2% or full fat – sour cream will also work)
1 T butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°, and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray the inside of the acorn squash with olive oil, and season the flesh with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet, and place the potatoes on the same sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are fork tender (the potatoes might take longer than the squash).

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

2.) When the squash and sweet potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool for a couple minutes. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh of each into a medium bowl, and add the chipotles, greek yogurt, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth, and well-combined.

Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Chipotle Mash

3.) Spread the mash into a baking dish, and pop back into the over for 5-10 minutes, so everything can warm through. Serve hot.

This could certainly be made ahead of time – I’d say up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate the mash (either in an airtight container, or in the baking dish, covered with plastic wrap), and then reheat in the oven for 20-25 minutes before serving.

I’ve actually found that this makes for a great, quick, weeknight side dish. I throw the squash and sweet potatoes in the oven, and let them bake while I prep the rest of dinner, or work out, or watch some HGTV. Despite needing some baking time, the active prep for this mash is about 5 minutes total! Not too bad, if you ask me. It’s healthy, it’s creamy, it’s a little spicy, and it reheats beautifully – so make a big batch, and use it up throughout the week! You could even spread a little bit on to your post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, to add a little kick.

How can you not love a holiday that basically REQUIRES elastic-waist pants?
Tina

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

I am not typically a big lover of watermelon. Every summer, I see people getting so excited when the season for good watermelon rolls into town, and I think… “Eh. It’s just… watermelon.” It’s just never gotten me real excited.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

However, for reasons that cannot be explained, all winter long I had the urge to make a watermelon and feta salad. It just kept nagging at me in the back of my mind – and, of course, winter is not the time to be making a watermelon salad! (At least not if you want it to be good.) So, when the giant bin of watermelons finally showed up at my Trader Joe’s, I grabbed one and set forth to fulfill my dream of a watermelon salad. (It’s worth noting that watermelon is one of those words that starts to look and sound REALLY STRANGE when you use it too much, as I am doing here. WATERMELON WATERMELON WATERMELON.)

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
serves 10-12 as a side dish

about 1/2 a 5lb watermelon, cut into 1″ cubes
6 oz block of feta, cut into 1/2″ cubes
about 20 mint leaves, chiffonade*
juice of one orange
juice of one lemon
3 T olive oil
1-2 T honey
kosher salt
black pepper

*All this means is that you should stack up the mint leaves, roll them up into a little log, and then slice the log into 1/8″ to 1/4″ wide pieces. This will give you lots of pretty little ribbons of mint!

1.) In a small bowl or jar, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisk or shake until fully combined. (If your watermelon is not super sweet, use more toward 2 tablespoons of honey.)

2.) Take a large, wide serving bowl, and put about half the cubed watermelon in the bottom. Top with half the feta, and half the mint. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 the dressing over the top (you may not end up using it all), and then make a second layer of all the ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for up to 2 hours.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

You could certainly toss all the ingredients together, but layering them keeps the feta from breaking up too much and making the whole salad look a little murky. It looks beautiful once it’s all put together – and tastes just as great! This salad is wonderfully refreshing, and the sweet/salty combination of the watermelon and feta is fantastic.

Of course, this salad would be perfect for a barbecue or outdoor party. If you want to make it ahead, I would just dice and chop everything ahead of time (as well as mixing up the dressing), and then layer it right before serving.

Raise your hand if one of your all time favorite movie lines is “I carried a watermelon.”,
Tina

it’s finally summertime salad.

I have been making this salad since I was 9 months pregnant, when I was too hot and swollen and miserable to make much else. (Having a baby in August in South Carolina is about as ill-advised as getting married outdoors in August.) (Oh wait. Did that too.) It’s easy, and satisfying, and refreshing – all characteristics of a summer side, in my opinion. The original recipe wants you to cook the corn, but I prefer to cut mine off the cob and use it raw. Not only does it keep me from dirtying a pan, it remains crunchy and sweet! The original recipe also calls for cilantro in the dressing, which I leave out.

summer salad.

Summer Salad.
Adapted from here

for the salad
4 ears corn, cut off the cob
1 avocado, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/2 red onion, diced (optional)

for the dressing
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp. olive oil

Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar, shake vigorously to combine.

In a large serving bowl, combine vegetables and feta. Toss with dressing to taste (you won’t need all of it).

Summer is for lots and lots of veggies, and not turning on the oven,
jcristg