Is it weird that I love, love, love veggie side dishes? Plain veggies are good for you, but dressing them up makes them a lot more appealing. I’m seriously excited about these green beans with breadcrumbs, almonds and garlic, a recipe I’ve been perfecting for several months now. This recipe comes together in just 15 minutes with a few simple ingredients from the freezer and pantry. I usually have the ingredients for this recipe on hand, so I can whip it up on short notice.
I’m always looking for new salad combinations, especially since I’ve somehow become the go-to salad person for our family get-togethers. Two things I’ve learned about making a good salad are 1) you need a balance of flavors and textures, and 2) you can always look to Italian cuisine for inspiration. This Italian salad with pears, shaved Parmesan and honey-balsamic vinaigrette is a perfect blend of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors, with a variety of textures from tender salad greens to juicy pears to crunchy toasted pine nuts.
There’s something about Italian food that brings people together. Lots of our family celebrations seem to involve pizza, pasta, and generous servings of salad like this chopped antipasti salad. It’s a copycat version of a salad served at Buca di Beppo, one of our favorite restaurants for birthdays, graduations and other special occasions. It’s full of yummy veggies, plus pepperoni, two kinds of olives, and three cheeses. It’s far from being a plain, ordinary salad.
I love salsa: salsa roja, corn salsa, pico de gallo, mango salsa, I’d be happy to eat salsa every single day. But I think salsa verde might just be my favorite. I bought salsa verde for years without thinking about making it myself, for some reason I always thought it was going to be difficult or require complicated ingredients. Last year my family planted a large garden for the first time and we made salsa verde from our own homegrown tomatillos. It was hands down the best salsa verde I’ve ever had, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was. After that summer I’ve never gone back to store-bought salsa verde.
While traditional red salsa is tomato based, salsa verde is tomatillo based. If you’ve never cooked with or purchased tomatillos, they’re those small green tomatoes with husks on them. They’re not actually tomatoes, just a member of the tomato family and they have a bright, fruity flavor that I think comes out especially well when they’re roasted.
Boring vegetable sides are easy to understand – it’s hard enough to come up with a main dish for dinner at the end of a long day, so by the time you get to the side dishes, opening up a can or drizzling bottled dressing on a bagged salad seems like all you can handle. That’s why a recipe like this one is such a lifesaver. Tangy, sweet and salty, with a deep roasted flavor and a hint of garlic, these balsamic roasted carrots require only five minutes of prep time followed by about 30 minutes in the oven. They’re so simple and versatile, you’ll find yourself making them again and again.
There’s nothing I love more than a dinner that practically makes itself. Except perhaps a dinner that practically makes itself that’s also cheap, healthy, low-calorie, crowd-pleasing, and most importantly, delicious. This Crock-Pot Tomato Soup recipe is a staple in my kitchen during the colder months. The family gets to sit down together over a warm meal, even when I just walked in the door.
This soup is also great for entertaining family or friends who are vegetarian, vegan, or have food allergies. On it’s own its totally vegan and each guest can add toppings to their liking and sensitivity.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for canned tomatoes instead of fresh, which makes it a perfect addition to your fall and winter dinner rotation. While I cherish the delicious, ripe tomatoes my back yard garden produces each year, canned tomatoes are a great option for when tomatoes are not in season and actually have some interesting health benefits.
I love that the prep time for this recipe is minimal. In the morning I quickly sauté the veggies, throw everything in the Crock-Pot and leave for the day. When I get home, I blend for a few minutes, and dinner’s ready. I like to serve this soup with a variety of soup toppings, a quick green salad and grilled cheese sandwiches on our Panini press. Each family member gets to choose their own soup and sandwich toppings, so it pleases kids and adults alike.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion – coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper – coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high. Cook and stir garlic, onions, and bell peppers until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Combine sauteed vegetables, tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, and red pepper flakes in Crock-Pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Serve immediately with fresh basil as a garnish.
- Top with Parmesan cheese, croutons, yogurt, or grilled cheese croutons as desired.
I grew up loving broccoli, probably because I usually ate it during Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house, steamed and drizzled with melted butter and lemon juice. Now, when my grandson, daughter and son-in-law come over for Sunday dinner, I often serve fresh, flavorful roasted broccoli with olive oil, lemon, garlic and Parmesan, a vegetable side dish that’s quick and easy, but impressive enough for company. It’s a favorite of my son-in-law and just about everyone else.
This roasted broccoli recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s popular version, but it’s slimmed down in terms of calories, price, and prep time. Ina’s recipe uses lots of olive oil and is garnished with expensive pine nuts. I’ve cut down the amount of oil and used less expensive sliced almonds for garnish. My version also uses Montreal steak seasoning, a combination of garlic, salt, pepper and dried herbs, so you don’t have to fuss with those separately.