No meal is complete without side dishes, lets be honest, half the time when you are eating out, or making something at home the side dishes are the items on the plate that you are the most excited about!… or maybe thats just me?!
Growing up we always had the basics as our sides to our main meal, the protein source. It was always asparagus or a simple green salad and maybe some brown rice or a steamed potato. I never thought much about the mini meal that was taking up half our plates until I married my husband. He is what I call “a sides guy”. He loves all things sides; mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, creamed spinach, roasted Brussels, crispy fries, a delicious beet salad, the list goes on!
When we moved in together and started to meal plan, we would always go through the week and make our dinner ideas; and one of Tyler’s big requests was that he liked interesting and fun side dishes..and let me tell you, this takes EFFORT! Gone are the simple ides of just an easy green veggie, and hello, come what I thought at the time, were complicated dishes like Sicilian cauliflower or a lemon steamed green bean salad.
Opening my eyes to a new world, I became enthralled with figuring out how to make our overall meals more interesting than the typical protein, veggie, carb, fat. I scoured the pinterest boards and looked for various intriguing ideas, all the while thinking how I could modify these dishes to fit our meals. This became a fun game for me and I continue to enjoy to challenge myself to find new and interesting sides dishes or ways to make veggies more appealing to my husband.
I decided to compile a list of notes from my “research and testing” for you to use when deciding on your
Don’t overthink it- if you want spinach, then ask yourself how can I make this more interesting? pair it with shiitake mushrooms for a simple yet flavorful sautéed dish, or maybe elevate it by adding red pepper flakes and come coconut cream, or perhaps just pair it with an easy boxed Mac and cheese for a creamy spinach Mac and cheese.
Work with what you’ve got- Don’t go out and buy a bunch of spices or some exotic sauce that you will never use again, use whats in your pantry and focus instead on the fresh ingredients.
Modifying to meet your dietary needs or taste buds- If you see a dish that you think you would like to make but you hate one of the ingredients, take it out or perhaps substitute it for something you know you like. For example- I hate mayonnaise, so for most of my dressings I just replace mayo with greek yogurt.
Some easy side dish ideas to help you get started:
simple green bean and zucchini salad with a lemon vinaigrette
Whole Foods copy cat Sicilian Cauliflower
moroccan style sweet potatoes
mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon butter
balsamic roasted brussel sprouts
asparagus wrapped with turkey bacon
quinoa stuffed mushrooms
Always remember that first and for most, cooking should be fun and not overly complicated. Using these ideas and recipes I hope you can bring home some new, creative, and simple ways to elevate your next “mini meal”.