Curried Lentils with Roasted Beets, Chickpeas, and Fresh Spinach

The side dishes that show up on the holiday table have started to look the same every year. I’m all for tradition and love a large helping of creamy mashed potatoes, however, how many green bean casseroles do you need to eat before you decide it’s time to broaden your options?

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Herbed Brown Rice Pilaf

This recipe is a super quick, packed with flavor side dish that works great for a weekday dinner, and comes together in about 15 minutes. The vegetables add a vibrant pop of color and the aromatics from the fresh herbs and lemon zest jazz up the mild chewy tenderness of the brown rice.

On days when I know my prep time will be short, I’ll chop the vegetables ahead of time the evening before, and store them in a container in the fridge. That way when you’re ready to cook, they’re ready to go!

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Farro with Fresh Herbs

Eating a low-carb diet doesn’t mean you have to give up on carbs entirely as long as you focus on whole, heart-healthy, unprocessed grains, like farro. Very similar to barley, farro is a dense, chewy grain that has a thick outer husk and deep nutty, rich flavor.

This recipe was the first time I cooked with farro, and I immediately loved it. I was happy with my decision to pair it with the fresh herbs and the fresh lemon juice which brightened up the flavor and made a great side dish.

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Heirloom Tomatoes with Citrus Salsa and Pickled Jalapeno

As summer winds down and the season’s harvest of delectable tomatoes comes to a close, I managed to snag a few remaining heirloom tomatoes from the produce stand down the street this week and created this gorgeous masterpiece. It was so visually stunning when I prepared it, I hesitated eating it.

The tomato is a variety called a Lime Green Salad and this was the first time I’d seen it. The fruit is only 3 to 4 ounces in size, yet they literally burst with intricate, sweet refreshing citrusy flavor when you bite into them. So, of course, it was the perfect match for the sweet acidity of the citrus salsa and the spiciness from the pickled jalapeno.

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Couscous, Fresh Herb and Feta Stuffed Tomatoes

Okay, one last side dish before we go back to making some more delicious main dishes and decadent desserts.

I served these stuffed tomatoes for dinner one night with some roasted chicken, and they were the perfect marriage of flavor. The tender couscous, creamy feta cheese, fresh herbs and briny capers were such a surprising bright pop of flavor, my husband and daughter asked me to make the couscous again the following weekend.

This recipe would also be a perfect appetizer using the smaller cherry tomatoes. In fact, ladies, get ready for the next get-together at my house. These little cherry bombs are what I’ll be making!

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Curried Fried Rice

This side dish is super fast to prepare once you have the ingredient prep work done and pairs perfectly with any protein whether it’s grilled fish, braised pork chops, seared steak or roasted chicken. The chile peppers, fresh ginger, and curry powder give the rice a nice low heat, the touch of sesame oil adds a subtle nutty flavor, and the cilantro and lime juice add a bright pop of freshness.

The second great thing about this recipe is any leftovers you have quickly become a vamped up version of the dish, adding the chopped protein into the rice!

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Cauliflower Gratin

This version of cauliflower gratin uses a sauce made from light sour cream, reduced-fat half and half, and aged Parmesan cheese, which gives the cauliflower a light, delicate flavor as compared to traditional heavy cheddar or bechamel sauces.

The preparation and cook times are quick and easy making it a great option for a weekday dinner side dish.

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Bruschetta Stuffed Artichokes

Artichokes are one of those vegetables I’ve typically bought marinated in a jar ready to eat. When I decided to try making them fresh, I learned three things. The preparation time is long; you need to be careful of the tiny leaves with exceptionally sharp barbs in the center guarding the heart of the artichoke, and the taste is amazing! The flavor is so much richer and intense from those in a jar. Then paired with the rich flavors of the minced garlic, acidic tomatoes, briny capers and creamy Parmesan in the bruschetta filling, it was so worth the time it took making them!

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Whipped Parsnips and Carrots

Next up in the veggie arena are these whipped parsnips and carrots, which would go perfectly with an Easter ham.

And I’ll be the first to admit, it took a small act of bravery to eat a cooked carrot – something I swore I would never do again since tasting one and spitting it out when I was a child. (Here comes the ‘big but’) BUT, when whipped with savory parsnips, sweet creamy butter and a touch of nutmeg, I couldn’t tell I was eating cooked carrots. In fact, I had two helpings, that’s how good they were. What about my other picky veggie eaters at the table you ask? They both tasted them and said, “Huh, those are pretty good!” Still a win in my book!

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Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Custard

As I was putting away the groceries the other day, I realized I had fallen into a vegetable rut, and my side dishes were afterthoughts. My daughter is very picky when it comes to vegetables, so we’d become limited to broccoli, corn, and salads. It was time to try something new.

So for the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on some unique and delicious sides to accompany main courses. First up is this delicious recipe.

When do squash and sweet potatoes taste like a pumpkin pie? When they are pureed and baked into this amazing custard! Sweet, spicy, creamy, fluffy, – my goodness, this dish is addictive!

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