Tag Archives: Side Dishes

{ Herbed Israeli Coucous with Apples, Cranberries, & Almonds }

A day characterized by complete gluttony, laziness, and endless vino, it is no wonder that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American holidays! Unfortunately though, the dinner, which normally packs about 3,000 – 4,000 calories (not including the next-day turkey sandwiches), leaves most American’s feeling stuffed for days/weeks/months. So why not lighten the meal up a bit?!?

The easiest way to cut back the number of calories in your Thanksgiving feast, it to serve lighter and healthier side dishes. Get rid of that artery-clogging green bean casserole, which costs you about 276 calories, and end the tradition of sweet potato and marshmallow casseroles, which add an additional 476 calories to your plate! Instead, opt for for sautéed and steamed fresh veggies that are prepared without incorporating a stick of butter and heavy cream.

This recipe for herbed Isreali couscous, encompasses all the flavors of fall and would make a delicious (and healthy) addition to any Thanksgiving buffet table! The herbs serve as a refreshing palate cleanser and the light vinaigrette is an interesting contrast to the richer gravies and sauces on the table. Furthermore, the cubed green apples and slivered almonds work together to deliver just the right amount of crunch to the dish.

On the other 364 days of the year, this couscous makes a fabulous side dish for lamb and roasted chicken. It is also great to bring to picnics and parties!

{ Ingredients }

For the Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted in oven*

*Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

{ To Make the Couscous }

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. You really want to open up the nutty flavors of the couscous so it is important that you let it brown properly!. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

{ To Make the Vinaigrette }

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

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{ Curry Roasted Calabaza with Apples & Honey }

If you think that grocery shopping in the Unites States is annoying and tedious, then you would not believe what it takes in Argentina. It is an all day, sometimes doble day process, that requires one to visit multiple verdulerias (veggie markets), canicerias (meat markets), fruterias (fruit markets), and superchinos (the adopted name for small Korean-owned markets, which clutter the city). There is no such thing as one-stop shopping in Buenos Aires, and finding even the most basic ingredients (i.e. black beans, peanut butter, jalapeños, ect…) can often be as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. As a result, my culinary skills were contsantly put to the challenge as I was continuously forced to rethink many of my weeknight dinners and side dishes. Given that there is absolutely NO shortage of calabaza  in the city of Buenos Aires (calabaza = Spanish pumpkin), I decided to start incorporating it into my meals to simplify my shopping experience. It very quickly became a grocery staple, right up there along with bread, butter, and eggs.

One of my favorite ways to prepare calabaza is to simply roast it with a seasoning of olive oil, salt, pepper but then one night I decided to add a sprinkling of Indian curry into the mix and it turned out amazing. The next time I prepared the dish, it evolved even further when I added chopped granny smith apples to the roasting pan halfway through baking. The apple cubes compliment the spice of the curry and add the skins provide a little texture to contrast the smooth butteriness of the pumpkin. Drizzle a little honey on top after everything has roasted and viola….deliciousness!

This has undoubtably become one of my favorite side dishes (served either hot or cold), and I even like to eat it as a main dish over white rice.

{ Ingredients }

  • 3 cups calabaza, chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons curry, depending on your taste
  • 1 cup green apple, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • Honey, optional for finishing

 { To Prepare } Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare you calabaza, cutting it into 1″ cubes. You can either clean down your own calabaza, or use pre-packaged ones cleaned by the store (as I have shown below).

Place into a large mixing bowl and add olive oil, curry, salt, and pepper, tossing with your hands to coat. Arrange the calabaza on a baking sheet in a single layer and put in oven. NOTE: Make sure to turn over calabaza with a spatula every 3-4 minutes, to ensure even cooking!

While the calabza is cooking, prepare your 1/2″ apple cubes. Add the apples to the baking sheet 10 minutes into the baking process, and return to oven.

Continue to bake for additional 5-10 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the apple is golden.

Remove from oven, drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of honey, adjust seasonings, and serve!

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{ Parmesan Roasted Asparagus }

What is a meal without the supporting cast?! Every good entree deserves a delicious side dish, and these parmesan roasted asparagus are one of my all-time favorites! They compliment any protein and taste delicious over rice and risotto. Recently, I have been cooking them in the oven using the broiler setting, but when the weather is nice I prefer to cook them out on the grill. Either way, they taste great!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

{ To Make the Asparagus } Turn the broiler setting of your oven on high.

Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and toss to coat. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in oven. Cook for 8 minutes, turning the asparagus halfway through cooking process. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately!

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{ Lemon Caper Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes }

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a meal, aside from getting all the groceries together, is deciding what the heck your actually going to make! As is true of most hardcore foodies, I’m no basic meat and potatoes girl. I love elaborate side dishes and I practically live for condiments–the more, the merrier! So after I choose a protein to cook, I usually find myself flipping through the section labeled “side dishes” in my recipe binder (aka my bible), searching for the perfect partner(s) for my main dish. The standard garlic mashed potatoes and roasted veggies just haven’t been tickling my fancy as of lately, and tonight I wanted something different. So I turned to the end all be all recipe collection, the direct source itself, the food network.

After a great deal of searching, I resolved to try making this lemon, garlic, caper pasta created by Giada de Laurentis. My main dish was a simple herb grilled chicken breast (although my mom also paired it with a nice filet of salmon), and it complimented both dishes beautifully. There are very few ingredients used in making the pasta, so the tremendous flavor comes as quite a surprise, but it was more than welcomed by my plate tonight.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
{ To Make the PastaBring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.
Just before serving, add the basil, capers, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the spaghetti mixture and toss to combine.

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{ Cheddar & Chive Buttermilk Biscuits }

It’s a rainy day here in Philadelphia, which means that a pot of soup is on the stove in the Bajek household–Tyler Florence’s roasted tomato soup, to be specific! And I highly recommend that recipe if your looking to use up the last of your garden tomatoes! But as much as I love a great bowl of soup, I am a big eater and broth alone just doesn’t cut it for me. I always find myself hungry an hour of so later. To help eliminate this problem, I like to pair my soup with a nice chunk of crusty bread or even grilled cheese sandwich, when I am feeling piggish (which, lets be real, is most of the time!). In fact, I almost never eat grilled cheese with out tomato soup and visa versa. They are a perfect food marriage, intended to be consumed together. However, in an attempt to be healthy today, I have decided to look for grilled cheese alternatives–something I can eat with my tomato soup that won’t pack an extra 500 calories. My solution: these cheddar and chive buttermilk biscuits.

A little surprised that biscuits would be considered a healthy alternative? I was too, considering I associate them with good ole “biscuits and gravy” from the South. But these biscuits are just 92 calories per serving and they are delicious!!

{ Ingredients for Biscuits }

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
  • 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (I use Panko)
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

{ To Make the Biscuits } Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, and use two knives to cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles a course meal.

In a measuring cup, combine the egg and egg yolk, whisking until blended. Add the buttermilk. Whisk in the chopped chives. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, using a fork to mix until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Fold in the shredded cheddar cheese.

Put the dough onto a well-floured surface and kneed gently until the dough is no longer sticky. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough until is about 1/2 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to create the shape of the biscuit and then place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Allow the biscuits to bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are a nice golden brown. Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

{ To Serve } Top the biscuits with butter or serve alongside a sour cream-chive mixture as I did (see photo below). To make the sour cream, combine 1/2 cup sour cream with 3-4 stems of chopped chives. Stir well to mix.


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{ Lentil Salad with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Spinach }

Herbed Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Baby Spinach

Today I feel like shit…like I’m getting the flu, a migraine headache, and possibly dying. I can’t get out of bed and I could hardly make it past one mile on my run. This is the most exhausted that I have ever felt and I’m not really sure if it’s due to the change in diet or what. Maybe I am going through carb withdrawl, or frozen yogurt deprivation, or maybe I’m just really getting sick. Whatever it is, I feel like a slice of toast and peanut butter with a cold glass of milk might just cure me and I can’t do it. But what I wouldn’t give to have some crunchy chunky peanut butter right now. Yummm. But instead, I’m making Herb Lentil Salad with Tomatoes and Baby Spinach, and no, I am not happy about it! I’ve been eating some combination of 3 egg omelets, spinach salads, and meat for the past four days and I am sick of it. Maybe I feel lethargic because I am in a depression, considering that food is my greatest joy in life and my eating habits are now so repetitive and boring. But hey, diets aren’t supposed to be fun and I only have committed myself to this for 30 days….4 down, and 26 to go!

In an effort to boost my energy, I have decided to make this Lentil Salad recipe by Food Network star, Ellie Krieger. She comes out with a lot of really health conscious recipes, and they are usually pretty tasty, but not generally my first choice, unless I am dieting.

The recipe instructs you to cook out the lentil in a stock pock over the stove, but I suggest just covering them with boiling water in a large bowl and letting them steep for 20 min or so. I find that they tend to overcook when but on the stove and then loose their shape and become mushy, which is gross. Just drain the lentils after they soak and try one to make sure it is soft. If it isn’t, then just repeat the process once more.

Other than that, I followed this recipe verbatim and it turned out pretty good. Of course, it wasn’t toast and peanut butter, but it still left me feeling satisfied. This makes for a great side accompaniment to proteins or serves as a great protein itself, considering the nutritional value of lentils.

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, diced
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

{ To Make the SaladPlace the lentils in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with towel or lid and allow to soak for 20-25 minutes, or until softened.

Over medium-high flame, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentil, basil, parsley, and mint to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and serve!

I enjoy this salad cold as well!

Nutritional Information:

The total number of calories in this dish are 1269. I got about 5 servings from the recipe, which leads to an average of 253 calories per serving. The nutritional break down is as follows: 44 g of fat, 183 g of carbohydrates, 43 g of fiber, and 55 g of protein. Of course, these figures are for the overall dish, so to find the number per serving, divide each by 5.

Cost of Ingredients:

Total cost of this meal is $15.69, based on the assumption that you have olive oil. Since I already had the cherry tomatoes and baby spinach from previous recipes, this dish only cost me $9 to make. If you get 5 servings out of the recipe (I did), then the average cost per serving is $3.13. My average cost per serving was then $1.80. The lentil salad from Greenstreet Café is $7.50, so again, this is quite a savings on each serving.

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{ Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken and Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette }

Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, Corn, Avocado, and Chickpeas tossed in a Dijon Balsamic VInaigrette

Tonight for dinner, I kept it simple with a Spinach salad. The author of the 4 Hour Body, Tim Ferris, lists spinach as one of the most important foods to eat while on the slow-carb diet. It is super high in anto-oxidants and provides a rich source of Vitamin A, C, E, K, iron, protein, folic acid, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate. Spinach is super filling because it expands in your belly, and it has substantially more nutrients than regular lettuce so it makes for a better salad base than Romaine (which makes you retain water by the way!!). The darker your greens and the more raw they are, the better!

I added half a cup of chickpeas, some canned corn, half of an avocado cut into pieces, and some grilled chicken. Since I don’t have a grill in my apartment, I buy chicken cutlets and pound them out real thin so that I can just cook them on the George Forman. I marinade the chicken for a few hours in a mojo sauce (pre-made compliments of Goya!) and then I just cook it out when I am ready to eat. It is super simple as long as you remember to marinade your chicken for at least a few hours, or it won’t properly absorb the flavors. You can choose any marinade that you want, I just like the citrus and garlic flavors of the mojo sauce, personally.

Ohhh, and when using a mojo marinade, which is very acidic, do not be alarmed if the chicken turns white! This is just the acid poaching the chicken….it has not gone bad!

Once the chicken is cooked through, chop into pieces and toss into salad with some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Pre-made dressings tend to pack a lot of hidden calories, so I prefer to make my own. Here is a quick and delicious recipe for easy balsamic vinaigrette:

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (I like pomegranate balsamic)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon resh oregano leaves, chopped (or a light sprinkling of dried oregano leaves)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

{ To Make the Dressing }Whisk together all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss with salad or store in airtight container and refrigerate.

Nutritional Information

This salad, which I made with 3 cups of baby spinach, 4 oz. of chicken, ½ cup chickpeas, ½ avocado, and ¼ cup corn kernels, came out to a total of 455 calories. The nutritional break down was: 27g of fat, 36g of protein, 17g of fiber, 38g carbohydrates.

Cost of Ingredients

The total cost of making this salad was $9.89, but keep in mind that the ingredients will last for a few more days because I bought the spinach in bulk and did not go through all the canned ingredients.

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