Go-To Side Dishes: Vegetables and Fruit

When you have an exciting main dish and you just want a basic side dish, check out one of these recipes!  For more side dishes, check out the grains and the potatoes posts.

Crudites

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Time to Table: 20 minutes
Needed Equipment: None
Serves: 4
Choose 3-4 of the vegetables below

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bell pepper, cut into spears
  • 3 carrots, cut into spears
  • ½ lb broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4 spears celery, cut into large pieces
  • 20 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • ½ lb cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 avocado, cut into slices

DIRECTIONS:

  1. While your meal is cooking, cut vegetables and serve.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Serve with ranch dressing with desired

Fried Apples

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 15-30 minutes Total: 25-40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Skillet
Serves: 3
Spiced cooked apples! The fried apples recipe is adapted from this Fried Apples recipe.

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Peel the apples if you do not like the cooked skin. Slice the apples thinly and remove the core (You can use an apple corer if you have one and then slice the pieces more thinly. It is easier to slice the apples if you cut from the skin side.).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cooking apples (red delicious golden delicious, Jonathon, or similar)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Dash salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat butter over medium heat in a skillet. Combine apple and seasonings in a bowl and mix to coat. Add the apple mixture to the skillet and cook stirring regularly until the apples are soft.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Make it dairy free by using 1 Tbsp canola oil, vegetables, or regular (not extra virgin) olive oil
  • You can reduce the sugar to 1 Tbsp or substitute another sweetener such as honey or maple syrup

Fruit Salad

Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 0 minutes Total: 20 minutes
Needed Equipment: None
Serves: 6
Fresh fruit salad that will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days without going brown.

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Cut fruit as directed

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 2 pears, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 lb strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 20 oz canned pineapple chunks in juice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine fruit pieces with enough of the pineapple juice to coat (this helps keep the fruit from turning brown).

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Substitute ½ lb grapes, sliced, 1 pint blueberries or blackberries, or whatever fruit you prefer (although I don’t recommend bananas as they brown more easily)

Rosemary Peas and Corn

Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 10 minutes Time to Table: 15 minutes
Needed Equipment: Skillet
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Cut herbs according to directions

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the herbs and saute for about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring a sizzle, stirring regularly. Cook until the vegetables are heated through and crisp-tender.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Substitute any other fresh herbs for the rosemary
  • Make it dairy free by substituting 1 Tbsp olive oil for the butter
  • Substitute 1 cup frozen carrots, cauliflower, or broccoli for the corn or peas

Side Salad

Prep: 10-20 minutes Cook: 0 minutes Total: 10-20 minutes
Needed Equipment: None
Serves: 4
Start with the lettuce and dressing then choose 1-2 topping to add!
Tortilla Casserole

STARTING PREPARATION:

None, although you can cut your vegetables ahead of time and store them according to this chart.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 oz lettuce, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp salad dressing of choice
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • 20 grape or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ lb snap peas
  • 1 carrot, shredded or diced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips or diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, and chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. While your meal is cooking, prepare ingredients and toss salad with or without dressing, according to preference (if you are tossing with the dressing, wait until you are ready to serve).

Spaghetti Squash

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 30-45 minutes Time to Table: 40-55 minutes
Needed Equipment: Baking dish
Serves: 3
Easy baked spaghetti squash (the magical squash that cooks up with a taste and texture very similar to spaghetti)

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Prepare squash by cutting in half lengthwise and scraping out the seeds and strings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 spaghetti squash

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the squash cut-side down in the baking dish. Add a little bit of water around the squash. Bake at 400F for 30-45 minutes until the squash is VERY soft (you should be able to very easily poke the flesh with a fork on all parts of the squash).
  2. Remove from the oven, remove from the baking dish, and allow to cool for a minute. Drag a fork lengthwise down the side of the squash (this will give you longer “noodles”), repeating until you have removed all the flesh.

Go To Side Dishes: Potatoes

When you have an exciting main dish and you just want a basic side dish, check out one of these recipes!  For more side dishes, check out the grains and the vegetables and fruit posts.

Baked Potato

Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 10-60 minutes Total: 15-65 minutes
Needed Equipment: rimmed baking sheet (optional)
Basic baked potato, cooked in either the oven or the microwave
Serves: 1

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large Russet potato
  • ¼ tsp salt (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Bake: Thoroughly clean the outside of the potatoes and dry. Poke holes all over the potatoes with a fork. Place them in a bowl and spread oil over them, and sprinkle with salt. Place them in a 350F oven directly on a rack in the middle of the oven; place a rimmed baking sheet underneath to catch anything that drips. Let cook for 45-60 minutes until the skin is crispy, and the flesh inside feels cooked.
Microwave: Thoroughly wash, dry, and poke holes in the potato as above. Cook the potatoes on high, 3 at a time, for 8-10 minutes.
Grill: Thoroughly wash, dry, poke holes in the potato, and add oil and salt as above. Wrap each potato in two pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure the potato is completely covered. Place on a medium-hot grill for 30-45 minutes until soft. You can remove the aluminum foil and cook directly on the grill for the last 5 minutes to brown the skin if desired.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes (Dairy-Free)

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Total: 40 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 4
Shepherd's Pie
Creamy mashed potatoes without the dairy! The mashed potato recipe is adapted from the Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe at The Blender Girl.

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Peel and cut potatoes into large chunks

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Dash pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cover the potatoes with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and boil for 20-30 minutes until very tender. Drain the potatoes.
  2. Return the potatoes to the dry saucepan and put back on medium heat. Cook the potatoes, stirring often to dry them out a bit (2-3 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and continuing stirring until the potatoes are mashed. ou may need to add additional oil if it is not turning out creamy enough. If they are not mashing enough, use a potato masher or ricer to finish mashing them.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

  • Substitute 1 lb parsnips or turnips for the potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Prep: 0 minutes Inactive Cook: 0-8 hours Cook: 0-60 minutes Total: 5-65 minutes
Needed Equipment: Slow cooker or baking sheet
Serves: 1

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sweet potato
  • Dash salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Bake: Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Poke the potatoes all over with a fork. On a rimmed, foil-lined baking sheet, bake at 400F for 45-60 minutes until tender. Serve with salt and pepper.
Slow Cook: Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Put them into the slow cooker (stack if you need to). Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. To keep the potatoes from splitting, you can rotate the potatoes part-way through the cooking. Serve with salt and pepper.
Microwave: Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Poke each potato several times with a fork. Microwave 7-9 minutes until they squish easily to the touch. Serve with salt and pepper.

Sweet Potato Fries

Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 25 minutes Total: 45 minutes
Needed Equipment: Baking sheet
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

-Cut sweet potatoes according to directions – use a large, sharp knife for this. You can do this ahead of time and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days covered with a wet paper towel.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into spears (most sweet potatoes at the store are more than one serving)
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Toss the ingredients in the bowl until well combined. Put on a greased baking sheet and bake at 425F for about 25 minutes until lightly browned.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Substitute 1 lb rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, or cauliflower (cut into florets) for the sweet potatoes

Go-to Side Dishes: Grains

When you have an exciting main dish and you just want a basic side dish, check out one of these recipes!  For more side dishes, check out the potatoes and the vegetables and fruit posts.

Grits/Polenta

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Total: 20 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 4
Notes: Grits/polenta is usually sold with the gluten-free foods or with the breakfast grains (like oatmeal). You want the kind that will cook inn about 5 minutes according to the directions. It may be labeled as grits or polenta and it may or may not say “quick cooking.” It looks like corn meal (but is coarser so do not substitute corn meal).
Pre-cooked polenta is usually sold with the gluten-free foods or the rice and beans. It is sold in a roll that looks like yellow sausage and does not need to be refrigerated until opened.

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup quick grits
  • Dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium high heat. Add the grits and the salt. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking often. Add the butter and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for at least a couple of minutes before serving to thicken (you can cover to keep warm if it finishes before the rest of the food).

PRE-PACKAGED POLENTA:

  • 16 oz pre-cooked polenta
  • ¼ cup water
  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, stir together the water and polenta. Microwave uncovered for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes. If the polenta is too thick, add more water; stir polenta again if necessary; microwave more if necessary until desired thickness and temperature.

Quinoa

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 15-20 minutes Total: 15-20 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan with a lid
Serves: 4

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or broth

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Rinse quinoa (if you need to – check the packaging) using a fine sieve or a paper towel in the bottom of a colander. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed. The quinoa is done when the “tails” appear to have come away from the middle of the quinoa.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Experiment with seasonings or frozen vegetables!Here is my Allspice Quinoa recipe (for 3 people) to get you started:
    • 3/4 cup quinoa
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 tsp basil
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 1 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove)
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • ¼ tsp allspice
  1. Rinse quinoa if you need to (check the packaging) using a fine sieve or a paper towel in the bottom of a colander. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the quinoa and the seasonings, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed. The quinoa is done when the “tails” appear to have come away from the middle of the quinoa.

Quick Cooking Pasta

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 15-20 minutes Total: 15-20 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan
Serves: 3

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ lb pasta (use whichever kind is called for in the recipe)
  • Dash salt (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Use a regular size saucepan filled about half to three-quarters full of water, then add the pasta right away. Add salt as desired (it helps to improve the flavor but is not necessary). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high so that the water continues to boil well. The whole time stir often! (This is the key because the smaller amount of water tends to make the pasta stick together.) Continue cooking the pasta until it is done (for spaghetti, it takes another 5-8 minutes after the water starts boiling).

Rice

Prep: 0 minutes Cook: 20-60 minutes Total: 20-60 minutes
Needed Equipment: Saucepan with lid
Serves: 3
Spark Meals - Let's Make Family Meals Happen!

STARTING PREPARATION:

None

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 2/3 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

Stove top:
Brown Rice: Put rice and water (stove top amount) in a saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes (you really want it to simmer – just a little bit of bubbles). Remove from heat and let sit COVERED for 15 more minutes (this is the trick to making good brown rice – those extra few minutes steam the rice and it becomes really soft and fluffy like white rice but with more flavor and nutrition).
White Rice: Use the same amount of rice and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes (you really want it to simmer – just a little bit of bubbles) until all the water has been absorbed.
Pressure cooker:
Brown Rice: Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer under running water until the water runs clean. Put the rice and water in the pressure cooker with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bring the pressure to high over medium-high heat (see your owner’s manual for instructions). Maintain pressure over medium low heat for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool and lower pressure for 15 minutes before releasing pressure according to instructions. Taste for doneness and simmer over medium heat until soft if needed. Drain before serving if needed.
White Rice: Use the same amount of rice and water. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer under running water until the water runs clean. Put the rice and water (pressure cooker amount) in the pressure cooker with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bring the pressure to high over medium-high heat (see your owner’s manual for instructions). Maintain pressure over medium low heat for 3 minutes. Release pressure according to instructions for a quick release. Taste for doneness and simmer over medium heat until soft if needed. Drain before serving if needed.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • Add seasonings to the finished rice, if desired.For cilantro rice, you can stir 1/2 tsp salt, 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced, and ½ tsp apple cider vinegar into the cooked rice.

The Secret to Stuffed Zucchini + Crispy Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

 Stuffed ZucchiniIf you are anything like me, any recipe that requires you to “stuff” something into something else is one that I tend to avoid.  It never seems to turn out right!  I usually end up destroying what I am trying to stuff and looks anything but appealing.  This time, though, I discovered a sure-fire way to get a beautiful zucchini shell with minimal effort!  Included is an easy and delightfully light Crispy Stuffed Zucchini recipe that works for lunch or dinner!  At the bottom you will find instructions for a dairy-free version, as well as one for using meat instead of beans.
 All you do is use a paring knife to cut around the outside of the shape you want to remove (it doesn’t even have to be perfect – you can see where I cut it again to get the shape right).  Then I just made short cuts across – just make sure you don’t cut too deep or you will cut through the bottom.  The flesh was then easy to scoop out with a spoon, leaving a beautiful shell to fill later! It is as simple as that!

Cut zucchiniCrispy Stuffed Zucchini

Prep: 30 minutes   Cook: 10+20 minutes   Total Time: 60 minutes
Needed Equipment: skillet, baking sheet
Makes 4 servings

STARTING PREPARATION:
-Cut up broccoli and carrots
-Prepare zucchini: using a paring knife, cut around the inside edge, leaving about ¼” around the outside.  Make short cuts across the shape that you cut out.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and part of the flesh.  Chop up the removed zucchini and add to the broccoli and carrots.

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 zucchini, with seeds removed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 cup broccoli, diced
  • 1 cup Great Northern Beans, cooked
  • 1 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz plain yogurt
  • ½ cup potato chips or rice cereal (like Chex) crushed
  • ½ tsp cloves
DIRECTIONS
1.Heat a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil.  Sautee the broccoli, carrots, cut up zucchini, onion, beans, and thyme for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.  While that is cooking, mix together the cheddar cheese and yogurt in a small bowl.  Also, prepare the potato chips or rice cereal by crushing with your hands into a small bowl – you don’t want the pieces to be too small.2.Assemble the zucchini in the following order: sautéed mixture, yogurt and cheese mixture, crushed chips or rice cereal, then cloves (sprinkle on top).

3.Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

For dairy-free version:
Omit the yogurt and the cheese.  Substitute 1 cup diced red peppers for the broccoli and 1 cup petite diced canned tomatoes for the carrots.

For an omnivore version:
Substitute ½ lb ground beef or turkey for the beans.  Sautee vegetables and meat until the meat is thoroughly cooked.  Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and discard the fat.This recipe is adapted from the “Crunchy Stuffed Zucchini” recipe found in the June 2015 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.

Prepping Vegetables – How Far Ahead & How to Store Them

This handy table lets you know what you can cut up ahead of time and how to store it – and what to not cut up early!  After all, if you are trying to get dinner on the table, oftentimes the thing that takes the longest is cutting up the vegetables.  Get dinner on the table faster by doing prepping the vegetables ahead of time!
All cut vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator.  If the vegetables appear bad (moldy, mushy) or smell strange, do not use them – no matter how long they have been there!
Note: Potatoes will keep best if covered in water (not just with wet paper towels) to keep them from turning brown.
 Prepping Vegetables Chart

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Bowl

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Bowl  Pasta, chicken, corn, and Southwestern goodness – how can this go wrong?  This quick and easy meal will delight you and your family!  Adjust the hot sauce to your family’s preferred spiciness.  I made mine using the Restaurant Style Salsa recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Serve with tortilla chips and salsa if desired.
Prep: 10 minutes   Cook: 20 minutes   Total Time: 30 minutes
Needed Equipment: saucepan, skillet
Makes 3 servings

STARTING PREPARATION:
-Thaw chicken (in the fridge overnight, in a sink of cold water for a couple of hours, or in the microwave).
-Cube chicken (or use leftover cooked chicken)

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ lb chicken (chicken breast or thighs or used leftover cooked chicken)
  • 1 tsp oil (omit if using leftover chicken)
  • ¼ tsp each paprika, garlic powder, and cumin (omit if using leftover chicken)
  • 6 oz fettuccine or spaghetti noodles – gluten-free if needed (use fettuccine noodles preferably)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • 1-2 Tbsp chili sauce
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped (you can substitute 4 tsp dried cilantro, but add with the other ingredients)

DIRECTIONS:

1.Heat oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken to the skillet, sprinkle with the seasonings, and toss to combine.  Cook until no longer pink in the middle.  Remove from heat, drain off excess fat, and set aside until needed.

2.While the chicken is cooking, cook the pasta in the saucepan until not quite done.  While the pasta is cooking, chop the cilantro (be sure to use a clean cutting board, not the one you used for the chicken unless you washed it first).  Drain the pasta, keeping about ¼ cup of the water.

Pasta with Water
Leave about this much water
3.Add the chicken and the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and return to medium heat.  Continue cooking until pasta is done and the other ingredients are heated through.

Add in your ingredients

Adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.