Looking forward to the holiday season and thinking about getting together with family and friends? Are you concerned that your health and wellness goals will have to be paused because some of the traditional side dishes don’t quite measure up to your new eating patterns? Here are a few ideas for some sides that can align with your goals. They will enhance almost any entree; they are colorful, varied in texture, cooking method, most importantly, bursting with flavor!
The simplicity of this recipe makes it one of my favorites; adding fresh rosemary and lightly browning the potatoes during roasting brings out their natural sweetness; no marshmallows here! Between their vibrant color, depth of taste, and texture, sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in many ways. The presentation is going to delight your guests, too!
Sweet Potato Bake
4-6 large sweet potatoes
1 T. melted butter
2 T. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 springs of fresh rosemary lightly misted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Prepare a baking dish by spraying with cooking spray or brushing with olive oil.
- Wash potatoes well, scrubbing the skin with a soft brush, removing all visible dirt. Discard ends.
- Cut into 1/8″ slices and add to a large stainless steel bowl.
- Add olive oil and melted butter and coat potatoes well.
- Add rosemary and garlic and toss together.
- Using your hand, pick up the potatoes together in bunches and then fan out in a well-greased baking dish of your choice. I like a round, shallow dish, but use what works best for the number of servings you are preparing.
- Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes.
Nutrition for 10 servings: Calories 89; fat 3.3g; carbohydrates 14.3g; fiber 2 g; protein1.1g
This next dish will go well with any roasted protein that you may be serving, can also be batch-cooked for part of your weekly meal prep, or taken along to your host’s home if you need a side that everyone will love! I used a wild rice blend (pictured below) that has a nice bite to it. I used frozen pomegranate arils which were tasty and crunchy, but lacking in color that you would expect from fresh.
Rice Stuffing with Pecans
2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 carrots, peeled, washed, and chopped
4 stalks of celery, washed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. Fresh sage chopped or 2 tsp dried
1 T. fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp salt
2 c. uncooked wild and brown rice blend or brown rice
Freshly ground black pepper; approximately ¼ tsp
1-quart low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
½ c. pomegranate arils or dried cranberries
½ c. chopped pecans
- In a Dutch oven or large stock pot. Melt olive oil and butter, add onion, carrots, celery, and wild rice blend.
- Add garlic and cook for one minute longer.
- Add sage, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Add broth, cook on low heat, and cook until tender, approximately 10-15 minutes. (Add more liquid if rice is not tender and cook a few minutes longer.)
- While the rice is cooking, toast pecans on a sheet pan in a 325-degree oven until lightly toasted.
- Toss the rice mixture and ½ of the pecans together, and sprinkle with pomegranates and remaining pecans.
Notes: The pecans can also be quickly sauteed for a few minutes in a small amount of clarified butter in a non-stick pan until fragrant. You can also substitute chopped hazelnuts or walnuts. Cranberries can also be used in place of pomegranates to ensure you get that pop of color that makes this side dish a star on your table.
Nutrition: 10 servings Calories: 222; fat 7.5 g; carbohydrate 33g; protein
Here is a recipe if you are getting together for breakfast or brunch! Use oat flour for a tender crumb pancake – spiced up with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for a taste of fall!
Pumpkin Pancakes with Mixed berry syrup
1c. pumpkin puree
1 c. oat flour
1/2 c oats
2 tsp. baking baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
7 T . unsweetened almond milk ( or milk of your choice)
Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
- In a medium bowl, sift together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- In a separate bowl, add applesauce, pumpkin puree, and beaten egg; mix well.
- Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until well-mixed.
- Stir in oats.
- Stir in almond milk; allow to sit for a few minutes.
- Scoop out the batter and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
Serve with Mixed berry syrup for a special treat!
Nutrition: 5 servings (without syrup) Calories 168; fat 2 g; carbohydrate 25 g fiber 5.2 g Protein 7.2 g; Sugar 2.5g
Mixed Berry Syrup
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. mixed berries
Add water and sugar to a small saucepan, and over low to medium heat, bring to a simmer and until all of the sugar is dissolved.
Add berries and cook until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
If you have some extra time try baking sugar pumpkins–you will love how easy it is to prepare, and you will have it on hand for all of your pumpkin recipes. I use sugar pumpkins because they have a thicker flesh than larger pumpkins used for Jack O’Lanterns-but those pumpkins can be cooked too, if they have been properly stored and are fresh.
Wash the outside of the pumpkin well and cut it into small sections; remove the seeds and stringy flesh. Arrange on a foil-lined sheet pan with the rind side down.
Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender, being careful not to brown the flesh as it will become part of your final product.
Allow the pumpkin to cool, and gently remove the outer skin; it should come off easily.
Depending on your recipe, you can add the pumpkin flesh to a food processor or mash with a fork. For pumpkin pie, the food processor is the better option as it allows for a more consistent product. If you are used to using canned pumpkin puree, be aware that fresh pumpkin may be lighter in color and not as thick as you are used to when you are preparing pumpkin pie filling, but the final product will have a similar if not the same consistency as canned.
We can make choices that align with our health goals even when we are celebrating being together with our family and friends. Be the hostess who provides several options for guests, serve a fruit plate as one of the choices for dessert, or be the guest who brings a healthy side! Chances are you aren’t the only one with health and nutrition goals, and someone else will be glad that you are on the Path to Wellness.
Have a happy and healthy Holiday Season!