Super Sides

Every year it takes me by surprise just how quickly the Holidays come and go. Only a few days ago I was echoing the sentiment I do every year; “I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas. It doesn’t feel like it.” The next thing I knew we were at my husband’s parent’s house enjoying Christmas Eve dinner, and then in the blink of an eye we were leaving my family after Christmas dinner. This year has flown by and been one of the biggest years of my life yet. There will certainly be a recap of sorts coming tomorrow!

I had the honor of being a Hormel Foods Extended Family Food Blogger for part of the year, and our last challenge was side dishes. For me, side dishes are often times my favorite part of a meal, becoming the star on the plate. Growing up, we always had a few things on our plates (meat, vegetable, maybe a starch), but I’ve found myself in the kitchen mostly making meals that can all be enjoyed in a bowl, or on a small plate. This isn’t to say the dishes themselves don’t require a lot of pots and pans to get to the end result, but it’s usually just one thing.

After looking through Hormel’s website for some inspiration, I decided to make two side dishes. Growing up, I was (and still am!) a huge mashed potatoes fan. Call me crazy, but I love instant mash just as much as homemade mashed potatoes. Sure, the homemade thing is better, but in a pinch the boxed flakes aren’t half bad. So, I made bacon-ed up mashed poatoes, and a veggie loaded chili dish (because I love everything chili related). Even though chili is usually the key player, this is a perfect side to have with pork, beef, or some marinated and grilled chicken, or you can enjoy it as your main. Maybe even over some mashed potatoes!

I had seen a recipe for Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes on How Sweet Eat’s blog, and had been jonsing to try them. I was going to make it for Thanksgiving, but my mother-in-law’s plain ‘ol milk, butter, and hand mashed  potatoes just can’t be replaced. In honor of Jessica and her love for bacon, I thought she’d appreciate me adding some bacon to the potatoes. And let me tell you, this was a delicious addition! (recipe below).

As for the loaded veggie chili, it’s close to my heaven. Sauteed veggies (onions, peppers, etc.) are some of my favorites, smothered in spices and combined with some Hormel chili couldn’t be easier, or tastier. I actually think this would be a great burrito filler as well, or over rice or mashed potatoes if you’re looking to have it as the star of the show. But, it’s a great side dish as well, and sneaks in a lot of vegetables without you even realizing it. Of course I’m not one to hide my vegetables, but for those of you that are veggie shy or have dining companions that are, this is a great way to get them in.

Browned Butter & Bacon Smashed Potatoes – adapted from How Sweet Eats 
– serves 6 –

3lbs yukon or russet potatoes (I used russet)
1 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter
4 slices of bacon (I used hormel)
3 Tbsp of bacon fat
salt & pepper to taste

1. Chop potatoes (I left the skin on, but you can peel them first if you’d prefer) and put in a large pot, filling just above the potatoes with water. Boil for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are tender
2. Meanwhile, cook 4 pieces of bacon in a medium pan, about 4-5 minutes on each side until they’re nice and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate when done.
4. Keep the pan on, and add the butter, stirring it constantly until it begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and then return them to the pot. Using either a potato masher or hand mixer depending on if you liked smashed or mashed, mash the potatoes until they’re to your liking.
4. While mashing, add in browned butter, bacon fat, crumbled bacon, and milk. Season with salt and pepper

Veggie Loaded Chili
– Serves 4 –

1 yellow onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1 15 oz. can of corn
1 15 oz. can of chili with beans (I used Hormel)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp taco seasoning (I used Chipotle)
1/4 tsp Adobo
1/4 tsp ground cumin

1. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil, and once glistening add in onion, pepper, and jalapeño. Cook until all is just about tender, 5-10 minutes.
2. Add in spices and allow to cook together, about 2 minutes.
3. Add in tomatoes and corn, cook an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add in chili and cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Serve over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, or by itself. Top with cheese if desired.

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