I’m going to keep this short. We’re days away from Thanksgiving and we need easy side dishes for the big dinner. I’ve got you covered. I’ve gathered together eight of my favorite side dishes. Each one is easy to make, mostly healthy and definitely delicious. Any and all of these would make a wonderful addition to any dinner table.
healthy side dish
What is your go-to when you really don’t want to cook? Maybe I should back up a bit. What are the staples in your fridge or pantry? The items you know you can always make a meal out of in ten minutes or less? My staples include kale (don’t roll your eyes at me), chickpeas, tortillas and eggs. At my laziest, I will toss together a kale salad. The toppings vary as far as which cheese or seeds I might sprinkle on top but I always include chickpeas for protein. My other go-to quick meal option is a breakfast taco. I live in South Texas and down here, there is no room for not loving breakfast tacos.
I get it that there are plenty of people who don’t like kale. Heck, there are plenty to mock it and shout their hate for kale from the rooftops. However, I think those people either haven’t actually tried it OR it wasn’t prepared well for them. In raw form, it can be really tough and fibrous. If the stem isn’t removed, you’ll feel like you’re gnawing on a tree branch. HOWEVER, if prepared well, it is delicious and has lots of nutritional value. At the very least, it is worth trying. If you still don’t like it? Hey, more for me!
- I created this recipe as a side salad. However, you can top it with chickpeas, a hard-boiled egg or even grilled chicken to turn it into a meal.
- To make this recipe go even faster, you can use a store-bought vinaigrette instead of the one I created for this salad.
Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 5 large handfuls kale, destemmed and torn into pieces
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons roasted & salted pepita seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the Vinaigrette
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- Place kale, lemon zest and salt in a large pan with 1 tablespoon of water. Sauté 2-3 minutes or until kale is bright green and slightly tender. Remove from heat immediately and put kale in a medium bowl.
- Toss kale with pepitas, parmesan and red pepper flakes until ingredients are evenly distributed.
For the vinaigrette
- For the vinaigrette: whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle over salad as desired.
As some of you may know, I followed a pretty strict vegetarian diet for about a year in 2017-2018. I’ve loved vegetables for as long as I can remember so it wasn’t too far of a stretch for me to jump in completely. When I took the time to truly plan my meals, it was a relatively easy diet for me to follow and I truly enjoyed it. When I didn’t take that time to plan and prep though, it was rough. Every Wednesday night my husband and I join two other couples for what we call small group. Fellowship is probably a better word to describe these evenings. We share a meal, talk about Jesus and talk about life. I love our Wednesday nights and these friends are really more like family. However, cooking on those nights became stressful. I would make a dish for the non-vegetarian group of friends. Cook something for my daughter (who wasn’t eating with us or I would have served her the same thing). And after each of those, I was still cooking a vegetarian dinner for myself. It was too much. Too much to accomplish within a small window of time after work and before getting our group together. Ultimately, the diet wasn’t worth the cooking chaos and I started reincorporating meats into my routine. Perhaps down the road I will give it another go but right now it isn’t the right option for me.
I still enjoy cooking vegetarian based dishes at home when life isn’t too crazy though. This is why I have kept the blog as primarily vegetarian. I love the challenge and health benefits of keeping more plants on my plate than meats. Even when we go out to dinner I often choose a vegetarian option. One of my favorite things to do is to order a few different side dishes or appetizers and eat those as my dinner rather than ordering an entrée. I feel like I have more options that way. Plus, I feel like I get to try a wider variety of what the restaurant has to offer. With this in mind, I also enjoy making side dishes at home and claiming them as my main course. I discovered last week that I can eat about a pound of asparagus on my own. Sorry to my husband for not sharing, haha! This recipe is a new one for us but is so easy and tasty that it might very well make it to the usual rotation of favorite recipes.
- Feel free to swap out the grape tomatoes for whatever small sweet tomatoes you can find at your local store.
- I highly recommend sticking with fresh herbs on this one. Dried herbs will not give the same fresh flavor.
Parmesan Asparagus & Tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
- 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 3 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
- salt to taste
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, stir frequently. Add asparagus, stirring occasionally, and cook until slightly tender and starting to get char markings, about 5 minutes. Stir in oregano and thyme. Push asparagus to one side of the pan, place tomatoes on other side. Cook tomatoes until they soften slightly and start to get char markings, about 3 minutes. Add parmesan and salt, stir all ingredients together in the pan until well combined.
Throughout college I spent my summers working at YMCA residential summer camps. While working at Camp Cosby, we would have snacks for the staff who had a little time off in the evenings. Leftover desserts from dinner, potato chips, I even learned to love cheesy toast (literally just sandwich bread with a slice of cheese on it, toasted up in the oven). Since my specialty in the kitchen was baking, I made a blackberry cobbler one evening – made from fresh blackberries we had picked that week. It was such a treat to have a made from scratch dessert but it wasn’t the most impressive snack we had that summer. There were two staff members from New Orleans who whipped up some fried chicken for us like it was no big deal. I watched them gathering spices and I was amazed by how they knew exactly what they needed and/or knew which spices would go well together. I had never seen someone my own age put a dish together like that without a recipe. Not only that, it was some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.
Fast forward 15+ years and I’ve become more confident in exploring spices and using my pantry to the best of my ability. I love roasting vegetables but I’ve been needing to get out of a flavor rut with them. I’ve been wanting to try and incorporate turmeric so I just went for it, adding some additional spices and a little bit of honey. Guys, I shamelessly ate the ENTIRE pan of vegetables!!! Sure, these experiments don’t always turn out on a first go or even a fifth go but when they do it totally makes up for the frustrating moments that can happen in the kitchen. I hope you are encouraged by this recipe to explore your pantry or spice rack and try something new.
SWEET TURMERIC ROASTED VEGETABLES
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" slices
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place cauliflower and carrots in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Stir until vegetables are evenly coated with oil.
- In a small bowl, mix turmeric, cinnamon, coriander and black pepper. Add spices to vegetables and stir until evenly coated. Spread vegetable mixture onto a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until vegetables are for tender, stirring halfway through cooking.
- Drizzle vegetables with honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Alright, it’s confession time. I absolutely ate my way through the holidays. I mean, I went all out with sweets and wine and homemade Chex mix (because we all know the homemade stuff is at least a million times better than the stuff that comes in a bag). No treat went uneaten. I’m not even sure what got into me because moderation with food is typically not a challenge for me. But I did it, and I did it joyfully!
What’s done is done and now it is time to get back on the wagon of eating a balanced diet. I ate salads all last week for lunch because I actually do love vegetables but I was bored by Friday. I was eating the same mixture of ingredients that I always reach for when making a salad. I need some variety if I‘m going to stick with eating healthier. As usual, I also want to make this easy on myself so I looked through my fridge and pantry for ingredients I already had on hand. This quinoa bowl gave me a change of pace in terms of both texture and flavor but was also incredibly easy to make.
- To make this an even faster recipe, feel free to use a premade pesto from the store rather than making the one included in this recipe.
- You can absolutely portion this out ahead of time for lunches. Just hold off on adding the pesto until you are ready to eat it.
Blueberry and Pesto Quinoa Bowl
4 cups raw baby spinach
1 cup cooked quinoa, cold
2 Tablespoons pepitas
½ cup feta crumbles
¾ cup fresh blueberries
1 ½ cups basil leaves
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
1 ½ teaspoons garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Place spinach in bottom of a large bowl. Top with quinoa then pepitas, feta and blueberries.
For the pesto, combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Drizzle pesto over quinoa bowl as desired.
Easy, healthy and delicious. That is what I love about roasted vegetables but let’s get real here, I’m over the boring potatoes or broccoli. I still need easy but I also need variety both for my palette and my sanity. Why not experiment with a variety of vegetables? I really don’t think you can go wrong with roasting any vegetable out there. My latest vegetable obsession is asparagus so I sometimes add extra of it in this dish. Feel free to adjust quantities based on what is a favorite in your household.
- Watch the pine nuts carefully as you toast them, they burn easily.
- Depending on how evenly your oven cooks, you might want to rotate the pan half way through the roasting process.
Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Dressing
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1” pieces (discard stem end pieces)
1 large red bell pepper diced into bite size pieces
1 large zucchini, sliced and quartered (or two small zucchini, sliced and halved)
1 ½ cups matchstick carrots
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt & ground black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place all vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir ingredients until evenly coated with olive oil. Spread vegetable mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 20 minutes.
While vegetables are roasting, place pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat. Stir nuts in pan until they are slightly brown and aromatic then remove from heat.
In a small bowl, mix all dressing ingredients.
When vegetables are finished roasting, put them back in the large bowl. Pour in the dressing and add the pine nuts. Stir until all ingredients are evenly coated in the dressing.