Change up your Christmas Side dishes

During this holiday season while people are planning their meals for the big days of Christmas Eve or Christmas Day tradition is a major thought in their minds. If you have family that comes each year to your home to celebrate more than likely the same dishes are expected. It’s usually something that has been carried on by the generation before yours. You may want to continue to have your mom’s stuffing, your aunt’s dessert and the like each year on the table. So for those who like to change and switch it up, you may feel the resistance from other family members. Holidays are rooted in tradition in many families with outings or routines and meals fall into that category as well. So what do you do if you want to add something new this year and are worried about disgruntled family members? My suggestion is perhaps to try one new thing that gets added to the meal whether you decide to make it or another family member wants to bring it. I think sidedishes are the best place to start for something like this. You can incorporate a tradtional vegetable but change it up slightly to add something new to the table. Or if you never have a salad at the holiday table try adding one. I know in our home we always try out new desserts (usually more than one) to enjoy after our meal and it’s always a nice suprise. Everyone still enjoys the same holiday cookies as well but it’s nice to have something a bit different. I developed these recipes with these special type of family gatherings in mind and will add them to my holiday table this year. If not all at least a couple to inspire the next generation to change it up and enjoy a variety of foods surrounded by tradition of the past and present. Have a wonderful Christmas season!

Balsamic Pear and Candied Pecan Salad

The combination of fresh pears and pecans in this salad will whet your appetite to start off a meal to remember. The combination of greens are perfect with the sweet taste of pears and nutty pecans.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings/Yield: 4 to 6 

2 pears, cored and sliced
4 tbsp (60 mL) aged balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped pecans
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tub (142 g/ 5 oz) baby kale blend greens
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt 
Pinch fresh ground pepper

Toss pears with 3 tbsp (45 mL) of the vinegar and spread onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast in preheated 400 F (200 C) oven for about 12 minutes or until tender and golden; set aside.

Melt butter in a small skillet. Stir in brown sugar until melted. Add pecans and stir to coat. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool completely. 

In a large bowl, combine greens, pepper and roasted pear. 

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining balsamic vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle over greens and toss to coat well. Divide among plates and sprinkle with pecans.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

Tip: You can substitute 6 cups (1.5 L) spring greens and 2 cups (500 mL) baby kale if the baby kale blend is not available.

Roasted Cauliflower and Pumpkin Orzo Toss

This combination brings out the earthy sweet flavour of cauliflower and pumpkin. Together with orzo this can be a new side dish or salad to enjoy at your next family get together. Add leftover turkey to the dish for a hearty lunch leftover.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6

Half a head of cauliflower
3 cups (750 mL) chopped peeled pumpkin
3 tbsp (45 mL) coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1 cup (250 mL) orzo or other small pasta
1/4 cup (60 mL) sesame seeds, toasted
2 tbsp (30 mL) each rice vinegar and sodium reduced soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) sesame oil

Break up cauliflower into small florets and place in large bowl. Add pumpkin, coconut oil, 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss to coat well and spread onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast in 400 F (200 C) oven for about 25 minutes or until tender and golden.

Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling salted water; cook orzo for about 6 minutes or until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together sesame seeds, vinegar, oil and soy sauce.

Scrape vegetables into large bowl and add orzo. Drizzle with dressing and add remaining cilantro. Toss well to combine before serving warm.

Tip: This can also be served at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 2 days and served with a slight chill.

Apple Bacon Brussel Sprouts

This combination will become addictive and you will want to enjoy it for every family gathering. Tender Brussel sprouts absorb the smoky bacon flavour and have a hint of sweetness from the apple-a great marriage to pair with any holiday roast.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves/Yield: 6 cups (1.5 L)

8 slices bacon, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 lb (750 g) fresh Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 large apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup (125 mL) vegetable broth
Pinch each salt and fresh ground pepper

In a large deep skillet, cook bacon and shallot for about 8 minutes or until fat starts to render and bacon starts to crisp up. 

Stir in Brussel sprouts and broth; cover and cook for 7 minutes or until tender but firm. Uncover and stir in apple, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until Brussel sprouts are glazed and apple is tender.


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