Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back to School Series... Simple Sides

Meals aren't usually complete without rounding it out with vegetables, grains and salads on the side. I find sides are a perfect and safe way to introduce your family to a variety of new foods with different flavours and textures. Since you already have a steady main course you know the family will eat, sides allow you to experiment more liberally with ingredients such as unfamiliar vegetables and grains, herbs, sauces and yes, spices and their levels. As I said in my meal post, I hope you discover or rediscover recipes here which are sure winners in my home that will fit your dinner menu and satisfies your family's tastes. Get inspired!


A great hot soothing beginner course or a side to accompany the rest of the meal.

Hot and Sour Soup - a tasty harmony created from hot and sour notes. The delicious secret... toban djan- a specialized Szechuan sauce blending chilis and fermented beans. TIP: You can use vegetable broth to make it truly vegetarian! And adjust the level of spice to suit your taste.

If your kids don't like to see chunks in their soup, try the humble Split Pea Soup loaded with vegetables. Once its put in the blender or a hand blender gets to it, bye bye vegetables!


Greek Dill Quinoa Salad is a refreshing bed of both romaine and mixed greens topped with textured nutty grains of superfood quinoa and a medley of crunchy colourful vegetables dressed with garlicky lemony dill. If you like quinoa, try Simple Cranberry Quinoa Salad and Black Bean Quinoa Salad. Making homemade buttermilk dressing is a cinch and contains ingredients you can pronounce. Try this alternative delicious green salad to accompany your dinner: Garden Salad with Buttermilk Dressing.

Greek Dill Quinoa Salad

Two Chinese-inspired salads I love to make for the family are Spicy Bean Curd Salad and Enoki Mushroom Cucumber SaladBoth are refreshing and textural; feel free to omit or adjust the spiciness of the chili oil in the first to appeal to your family's taste.
Enoki Mushroom Cucumber Salad

Sublime Avocado with Onions A great side for Italian, Mexican and Mediterranean meals! Ripe avocado slices are simply dressed with finely chopped onions, a heavy drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, generous splashes of lime juice, freshly ground pepper and pinches of coarse gourmet salt such as fleur de sel. All it takes is five minutes- how's that for fast and simple! 

So easy to prepare for Asian meals, stir fries will become a mainstay side when you find a few favourites with ingredients you can change up for something new on the table!

Stir-Fried Snow Pea Shoots and Garlic
Essentially the base recipe to make other fabulous stir-fry greens such as bak choy, choy sum, watercress and celery. TIP: Just make sure the vegetable is cooked close to tender or wilts before adding the garlic so that the garlic doesn't overcook and will add the proper fragrant accent to the dish!

Stir-Fried Purple Beans They're green you say? Hmm..Check it out!

Spicy Stir-Fried Cabbage The flavours here uses Szechuan peppercorns and chilis. It could be a pleasant dish to try with the family in low doses of heat. My kids could eat fairly spicy now and its because I slowly crept up the spiciness once I knew they could tolerate the last dosage.

Pan-Fried and Pancakes

Kimchi Pancakes Crispy with caramelized bits on the outside, mildly spicy, slightly crunchy and chewy on the inside... It can be served as an appetizer, or a side accompaniment to a Korean meal such as BBQ meats and lettuce wraps. My twins enjoy eating kimchi on it's own but in small doses with rice; when they are served in a pancake, they can woof those things down easy.

Zucchini Fritters These are definitely crowd-pleasers for the old and young alike! It's a great way to get in a lot of the nutritious vegetable (you use 3) in such a fun and tasty format, which can be attempted to win over a picky eater.


Yes, a meat can be a side too! This exotic meat skewers may not be for the faint at heart (pardon the pun), but try the marinade on more familiar meats such as chicken thighs, steak cubes, pork sausages, you name it... I've also done it with chicken gizzards!When you're thinking of bringing in a new ingredient to your regular meals, always try to adapt it in a dish or format your family is already enjoying. In my case, my kids can eat anything off a stick; if that didn't work with chicken hearts, then I guess the next bet was stir-fry.

Pan-Fried "Steak" Tofu with Mushrooms Full on flavour and a great main or side dish to accompany any Asian meal! This pan-fried tofu dish with the duo topping of Japanese mushrooms really makes this extraordinary. Another super thing is that firm tofu could nicely replace the meat in your meal as it is high in protein (the highest in tofu types) and the texture is quite hearty and unyielding- think "steak" tofu.

Seasoned Sesame Spinach - A great Korean banchan to go with rice!

Extend the flavours of summer with two brush-on sauces on corn on the cob in Grilled Coriander Lime Corn Cob.


Grilled Zucchini with Garlic
With zucchini, simple is best, like I found with this incredibly easy recipe with just good EV olive oil, garlic and coarse salt with flavourful results! Indeed a perfect veggie side to go with pasta and hamburgers!!

Baked Scalloped Potatoesa great side for a meaty main!

When you've got lots of spinach on-hand, give this delicious Creamed Spinach with Bacon recipe a go. Nice to accompany a meat main and stirred into a pasta sauce.

Roasted Cauliflower

Oven-roasting vegetables is a snap. Simply toss your vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and some dried herbs such as thyme or oregano; spread them on a foil-lined oven pan and let bake at 425F until caramelized. I like to use my toaster oven as the amount of vegetable it holds is just right and to save on electricity. I've done asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower this way! And my kids love it!

Next up... Breakfast ideas that are fast and nutritious to get your kids through the morning...

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