Category Archives: Veggies

Asparagus and Grape Tomato Side

This is so simple, I hesitate to call it a recipe!

I like to keep things fresh. Not fresh like crispy veggies, but fresh as in not cooking the same things over and over again. This is an unexpected side dish that is super simple, not starchy, adds color to any plate, healthy, and goes with anything (unless your main dish involves asparagus and grape tomatoes).

Let’s get started. Halve some ripe grape tomatoes, snap off the hard ends of some medium to small diameter asparagus, then toss both in a little EVOO. Place the brilliant red and green mixture in a large skillet over medium heat.

Put a couple of tablespoons of salted butter in a cup. Take a clove or two of garlic and run it through your garlic press on top of the butter. You do have a garlic press, don’t you? Zap the butter-garlic mixture in the microwave until the butter is melted and the garlic is warmed.

Saute the asparagus and tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes become blistered and the asparagus is done. How do you know when the asparagus is done? … when no one is looking, take a bite out of the end of one of your stalks (you can put that one on your plate).

When ready, transfer to your plates, spoon a little of the butter-garlic sauce over the veggies and top with a little fresh grated Parmesan.

Yes, it’s that simple!

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Ode to Okra


Is there any vegetable more Southern than okra? Is there any vegetable more funky than okra?

Fuzzy on the outside, slimy on the inside, it can range from the ridiculous to the sublime. In Poppy’s opinion, boiled okra would be on lower end (slimy), but I can’t imagine gumbo without okra, both for its taste and as a thickening agent. Dipped in buttermilk then coated with a lightly seasoned flour-cornmeal mix it can be pan or deep-fried with excellent results. But if you are wanting to eat a little healthier (occasionally I do), then nothing beats roasted okra.

Roasting (IMHO) improves the taste of most vegetables, and okra is no exception. What starts out as fuzzy and slimy ends up crunchy with a divine nutty flavor.

Preheat your oven from 400° to 425°. Slice the okra into 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick pieces, depending on your preferences and diameter of the pods.

Toss the cut okra in a bowl with just enough EVOO to give it a slight coating. Arrange the slices cut-side-down on a foiled lined baking sheet wiped with a thin coating of EVOO. Expect to roast the okra for at least 30 minutes in a convection oven. I normally set a timer for 20 minutes, just to check on its progress. You can add some Panko crumbs or seasoned bread crumbs at this point if you want a little extra crunch, but lately I’ve skipped this part. If you’re ambitious, turn the slices for the final minutes of roasting.

Once the okra has achieved a proper level of crispness and browning, remove from the oven.

My favorite way to finish this dish off, is with a pinch of Cajun seasoning and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

By now you’ve noticed that something is missing from this post … a photo of the finished product!

I’m going to blame my family for this error. It gets eaten before I can take a photo. My grandson in particular eats this stuff like popcorn, by the handful.

If you get a chance to roast some okra and want to send me a photo of the finished dish, I would love to use your photo in this post.

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Roasted Potato, Onion and Spinach


I’ve been on a roasted potato kick lately, this is a variation of Poppy’s Cajun Roasted Potatoes. This time I’ve added sweet onions and wilted spinach.

It couldn’t get any simpler or more delicious. Cooking for three tonight (with planned leftovers) I cubed 4 scrubbed Yukon Gold potatoes (skins intact) into 3/4″ cubes. This was followed by dicing a medium-sized sweet onion into equally sized segments. While the oven was heating to 400°, the potatoes and onion were tossed with a couple of tablespoons of EVOO, then spread on a foiled lined baking sheet. The potato and onion chunks were then treated to a generous grid of coarse black pepper and a sprinkling of Cajun seasoning.


Ready to go into the oven, I set the timer for 35 minutes. I had my oven set to roast with the convection turned on. Your mileage may vary, but don’t sweat it, an extra few minutes won’t hurt anything.

While the potatoes and onions were roasting (and sending a marvelous smell throughout the house), I chopped 4-5 ounces of baby spinach and tossed it in a skillet with a very slight drizzle of EVOO. Stir on your stove top with a medium to low setting until the spinach has wilted. remove from the heat and set aside.


Once the potato and onion mixture is done (slightly browned), transfer them to the skillet with the wilted spinach, toss then sprinkle with some fresh ground grated Parmesan and you are good to go.

Tonight this served as a side to Poppy’s “Honest Burger”, but that’s a post for later.


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Cajun Roasted Taters


I love this because it’s easy (read, I’m lazy), because it tastes great, and is at least semi-healthy.

Preheat your oven to 425°

Start with some medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes or similar. Scrub them  but leave the skins on. Quarter the spuds long ways and coat with olive oil. Place on a foiled lined baking sheet (for easy clean up … did I mention I was lazy?) Arrange them skin side down.


Sprinkle the potato wedges with some Cajun seasoning and some coarse ground black pepper. In my convection oven they stay in for 30-35 minutes. They emerge with some delightfully browned crunchy parts with a soft center.

If you want to get fancy you could add some diced sweet onions about half-way through the roasting cycle or some fresh grated parmesan about 5 minutes before the potatoes are through roasting. These browned beauties don’t require any butter or sour cream. They are the perfect side dish to just about anything.

This is almost too easy, this post is less than 200 words and I can’t think of anything else to add.

Oh yeah, enjoy!


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Parmesan Baby Potatoes with Sweet Onions


I love a good trick … a shortcut, especially when it comes to cooking. This is one of my go-to side dishes that always gets rave reviews and best of all it’s easy if you know the trick!

Potatoes are perhaps the most ubiquitous of side dishes, we bake them, we fry them. we mash them, we cook them in almost every imaginable way … this is Poppy’s version.

It starts with baby potatoes, most of the time I just buy a 24 oz. bag of Klondike Gourmet petite potatoes from our local Shop N’ Save. If you calculate the cost per ounce, it’s not the cheapest option, but it is the easiest. It’s easy because they are small and except for the largest ones, don’t require any dicing. Most days, I’m all about easy!



The trick, what’s this trick you speak of Poppy?


OK, it’s very simple, we want these little guys tasty, we want them buttery, we want them crispy, but we don’t want to have to deep fry them or cook them for a long time. So the trick is to … drum roll please … pre-cook them in the microwave!

Spread out our little potato friends on 2 or 3 folded wet paper towels on your microwave dish, top them with a few more layers of wet paper towels and cook them for 7-8 minutes.

While they are cooking melt 4 to 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and cut a medium size sweet onion into large chunks ( ⅜ to ½ inch ).

Since these potatoes are a side dish, chances are you have several other things going on. It doesn’t hurt to keep the potatoes in the microwave while you are multitasking. They will stay warm and not dry out sandwiched between the wet paper towels.

When it’s time to finish them, turn the heat up on your skillet, add the potatoes and onions, stirring occasionally. Since the potatoes are precooked, all we need to do now is make sure they get crispy skins and the onions get cooked. (Did I mention this smells delicious?)

When the potato skins start to crisped and the onions are cooked, add a little seasoned salt, some coarse ground black pepper, then grab your block of good parmesan cheese and grate it over the potatoes.

Badda Bing, Badda Boom … tasty, delicious potatoes!

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K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)


K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) … The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; unnecessary complexity should be avoided. This principle works in most day-to day issues, and certainly in cooking!

This simple recipe combines two very basic (and simple) items … cast iron and fresh veggies.

I have come to love cast iron cooking utensils. There is much to love about cast iron … stovetop to oven, no problem … teflon and other mystery chemicals, not in cast iron … heat convection and retention, you bet … need to bonk a burglar or zombie over the head, look no further than a cast iron skillet!

My oldest cast iron skillet is handed down from my mother, who will turn 100 in four months. I have no idea how old the skillet is, she could have inherited it from her mother, yes it’s that durable!


The skillet I used for these grilled veggies is much newer, and ribbed. The ribbing has two main benefits, it gives your food a great restaurant quality seared appearance,  and keeps any fats away from the meat you are cooking.

Ribbed skillet

Tonight I wasn’t grilling meat, just yellow squash and zucchini. I sliced the squash on the diagonal about a ¼” inch thick, brushed the slices with EVOO and placed on the hot skillet. When the squash slices start to turn translucent, with a good sear on the bottom. its time to flip them over. I finished with a simple grind of black and red pepper and a little sea salt. Simple and delicious.

Tonight the grilled squash was paired with whole grain angel hair pasta with basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. (not shown because it tasted much better than it photographed)

Hey, keep it simple … stupid!

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Roasted Corn Salsa !


Woot, back to cooking! This one is a keeper! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, lately I’ve done more “musing” than cooking.

My go-to side dish with my chicken enchiladas is normally a simple refried bean-black bean concoction. It’s tried and true and will continue to be a staple, but when fresh bi-color corn first starts to appear in the grocery store, I can’t pass it by. This truly is, “easy-tasty-healthy”!


If you have followed Poppy at all, you know I’m a big fan of roasting vegetables. Roasting pumps up the flavor quotient without adding a lot of extra seasoning … let’s get started … I’m starting to salivate just thinking about this. If my family is any indication, plan on at least 1 ½ ears of corn per person (minimum). I’m a bit of a slow learner, but I’ve figured out that if I hold the ears of corn upright in a very large bowl to cut the kernels off, they don’t jump all over the countertop and I don’t have to transfer them to another container to toss in EVOO.


Being the brilliant readers that you are, you’re a step ahead of me and have figured out  the first step is cutting the kernels off the cob. Once done, drizzle enough EVOO over the corn to coat the kernels after a good tossing. Transfer them to a baking sheet covered in foil and lightly coated with EVOO and place them in the oven preheated to 375.


While they are starting to roast, dice an avocado into ¼” cubes. Next start dicing the grape tomatoes. I was lucky enough to find a pint containing a variety of various color grape tomatoes, but any kind will do.

Check on the roasting corn, plan on tossing it after 10-15 minutes in the oven. The goal is to end up with corn that is roasted and slightly browned but not burnt. Once the corn is pleasantly roasted, transfer to the bowl you used to cut the kernels off. Add the diced tomatoes and avocado in proportions that you find pleasing. Cooking for 3, I used 5 ears of corn, most of a small avocado and about ½ pint of the grape tomatoes … your mileage may vary 😉


Combine the roasted corn, avocado, tomatoes with some fresh chopped cilantro, a generous grind of coarse black pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of Cajun seasonings … toss and you are ready to go!


  • fresh corn
  • grape tomatoes
  • avocado
  • cilantro
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • lemon juice
  • Cajun seasoning


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