Category Archives: Side dishes

Oven Roasted Veggies – the Perfect Side Dish for Fall

Photo credit: AnneCN on Flickr

One of the easiest side dished you can prepare for fall (and Thanksgiving, in particular) is a platter of roasted vegetables. Heart healthy and low calorie, roasted veggies make an ideal accompaniment to low fat chicken, pork or fish dishes.  As I mentioned in the post for roasted vegetable soup, roasting brings out the fullest flavor of vegetables; reduces any bitterness and enhances their natural sweetness.

Just about any vegetable will work. For obvious reasons, more water laden veggies like celery or leafy greens are not good candidates.

Preparing veggies is as simple as washing, trimming and cutting them into uniform pieces so they cook evenly. Unless you choose to stagger cooking times, denser root veggies benefit from being cut small because they take longer to cook. The finished product can be served hot or cold. Veggies can be roasted in advance and then reheated too.

I always coat the veggies with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper prior to roasting. Here are some of my favorites to roast with how I like to cut them for optimal browning.

Mix and or all of these:

  • Asparagus – cut woody stems off bottom
  • Bell peppers – remove stems and seeds; cut into 1″ wide strips
  • Eggplant – peel and cut eggplant in half lengthwise and then into 1/2″ strips
  • Mushrooms – roast whole or cut in half
  • Summer Squash – cut in half and then in quarters
  • Onion – cut in half and lay face down
  • Brussels sprouts – cut in half
  • Fennel – remove fronds and stalks; cut into wedges
  • Potatoes/Yams/Turnips – cut into chunks


  • Pre-heat oven to 400°
  • Chop veggies evenly
  • Coat with olive oil making sure there is an even sheen all the way around
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Lay in a single layer on a roasting pan
  • Check every 10 minutes. Remove veggies from pan as they are done

Kat’s tip: My favorite melange consists of onion, summer squash, asparagus, and mushrooms. I add the onions first and roast for 10 minutes. Then I add the asparagus and summer squash and roast another 10 minutes. Last I add the mushrooms and roast 5 to 10 minutes or until they’re done. I serve this with slices of rotisserie chicken, soft cheeses (Brie and goat) and fresh bread.


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Healthy Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

Photo credit: orphanjones on

I’ve posted a lot about how our traditional Turkey Day menu has been the same for as long as I can recall. What I can’t remember, though, is when the green bean casserole got added to the mix because we didn’t grow up with it. I asked my sister, thinking it might have coincided with a newly added in-law. Her husband doesn’t do mushrooms so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on his account. Although neither of us can remember why or when, one thing is for sure…if I’m making it, there won’t be any canned soup in it.

The ironic thing is that condensed soup is actually really easy to make from scratch. Combine fresh ingredients with low fat milk, bind them together with either flour or corn starch and you have the making for something far tastier than you can ever get out of can without all the yucky additives, preservatives and sodium.

I pulled the basics for this extremely rich base from an old Weight Watchers recipe. The sauce is so thick that the texture is similar to condensed soup as it comes out of the can. You could easily take this technique and use it to create any variety of “cream-o” soups.

This recipe is easily adaptable to either one or two pounds of green beans. You can use either fresh or frozen green beans. Since the mushroom mixture is so thick, you may need to add extra milk (1/4 cup at a time) until you get a consistency you’re happy with. I’ve chosen to top this year’s presentation with caramelized onions. In years past I’ve also done a mixture of grated Parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs with equal success.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Very thick mushroom sauce


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1.5 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped (I use baby bellas)
  • 1 cup nonfat or lowfat milk
  • Optional: 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (I prefer white pepper in this recipe)


  1. Add the milk, cornstarch, thyme, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk together. Cornstarch clumps together in liquid so keep the whisk handy.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes until they start to release their juices.
  4. Pour this milk mixture into the saucepan with the mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the mixture thickens considerably. This will happen quickly so be careful not to let it burn.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.

Green Bean Casserole

Onions after 15 minutes


  • 1 medium onion, sliced into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 pound bags frozen cut green beans
  • 1 portion cream of mushroom soup, above
  • 1/3 cup panko or whole wheat breadcrumbs


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat the oil. Add the onion slices and cook over medium low heat until they are golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  3. Spray a 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  4. Spread the beans in the casserole dish. Pour the mushroom soup in and stir. If the mixture it too thick, add milk 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve a nice creamy consistency.
  5. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and then top with the caramelized onions.
  6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Kat’s tip: You can easily start with frozen green beans; you just may have to leave the casserole in the oven a while longer.

Serves 8

Nutritional information:

Calories 80.8  Total Fat 3.3 g  Cholesterol 1.5 mg  Sodium 21.7 mg  Potassium 118.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 9.7 g  Protein 2.0 g


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Kat’s Fantasy Turkey Dinner on Pinterest

Photo courtesy of

Have you gotten sucked into Pinterest yet? Do you spend a lot of time on the internet? Do you bookmark sites to revisit? Did you ever wish you had bookmarked an awesome site you loved because now you can’t remember where you found it? Well, Pinterest may be the answer. Pinterest’s About page describes the app as “a virtual pinboard — a place to catalog and share the things you love. Pin anything that catches your eye: memorable meals, places to visit, or great shopping finds!”

I have friends who swear that pinning is addictive. Great! Now I have a new way to enable my ever-so-slight OCD problem. Pinterest works sort of the same way that Amazon leads me to overspend. Wow! If you like this, then you’ll like this and this and this and this! And then before you know it I have 5 or 6 books, DVDs or CDs on the same topic in my shopping cart. Pinterest, does the same kind of suggestive “selling” by showcasing what other Pinners find appealing on the web.

Don’t cha know I just had to get on the Pinterest bandwagon. My recipe bookmark folder was getting a little overwhelmed anyway. In lieu of indexing my recipe bookmarks into subcategories, I started fresh by pinning those sites on different “boards” in Pinterest. At this point, you may be thinking that I’m a sheer genius or a tish insane. Sigh! Welcome to the way my brain works.

Of course I created a board to pin all the Thanksgiving dinner recipes that caught my eye. When I look over the recipes I collected, I realize that one theme stands out. Simplicity. I am obviously under the spell of October: Unprocessed. I’m craving simple food. Healthy without a lot of added anything. Roasted to fit in with the fall season. And homemade.

If it were up to me, my Thanksgiving menu would look a lot like this:


I’m usually responsible for the olive platter appetizer. A great “grown up” starter would be Roasted butternut squash bruschetta. Mental note: plant sage next year. This is the first time I realize that sage shows up a lot in fall recipes.

Turkey and dressing:

Even though not having stuffing is a cardinal sin in my family, I would have an unstuffed fresh, not frozen, brined-at-home turkey with wild rice and mushroom dressing on the side.

It would be another sin in our family not to have gravy. Pan drippings and flour make traditional gravy super yummy but also super fattening. I would love to have an apple cider gravy on my table this year. Bonus points that it comes in at about 1/3 fewer calories.

Side dishes:

We didn’t grow up with the standard green bean casserole. It got added in years later by virtue of one of the in-laws who married into the family. We’ve never been a brussels sprouts family either but the flavor profile on this recipe cries out to me. Maybe its the balsamic vinegar. Likewise I don’t recall a lot of cooked carrots (unless they were in chicken soup) but I think roasted carrots would go well with the rest of the meal.

My one indulgence would probably be rolls and butter. I’ve never made rolls from scratch but this year I may try it.


My other indulgence would be dessert, of course. I love pumpkin cheesecake but it has to have real whipped cream like Grandma used to make.

So, there is my Pinterest Thanksgiving Day board in a nutshell. Not all of these recipes will make it to the table this year because I have to defer to family traditions (did you hear the mashed potato squadron screaming their dissent??), but a girl can dream, and pin, and plan.

If you’re on Pinterest already, follow me. If you’re not on Pinterest and would like a Pinvitation, leave a comment with your email address and I’ll invite you.

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Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Appetizers, Desserts, Holiday, Side dishes, Turkey


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Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Slow roasted tomatoes served along side homemade crème fraiche

My world abounds with tomatoes these days. The best way to deal with the leftovers from the previous week’s events is to roast or dry them in the oven. Tomatoes done this way are a delight. The flavors are so concentrated and they’re as easy to eat as candy.

If you live in Phoenix, like I do, this is a great fall project. There’s a reason they’re called ‘slow roasted’ tomatoes…because they take hours in a low temp oven to do their thing. Low temp or not, those of us who live in the desert avoid adding any more heat in our lives during the summer than we have to. Besides, in the summer its hot enough outside to sun dry tomatoes in our yards.

Attempt one:

Patience is not one of my strong suits. I took some smaller grape tomatoes and halved them. I then rinsed them in a colander to de-seed them and them rolled them in two tablespoons of olive oil. I layed them out on a roasting pan lined with parchment paper with the cloves from one head of garlic. Last I sprinkled the whole tray with seasoned salt along with some dried basil and rosemary from my garden. These cooked in the oven at 350° for about an hour while I was merrily busy with other chores in the kitchen. The results, while edible, were more reminiscent of tomato “chips.” As a whole they were over-cooked and some were flat out crispy.

slow roasted tomatoes and garlic

Too crisp to serve company but I'll be eating these anyway

Lesson learned: 350° is too high unless I pay for closer attention during the cook process. Mental note to self, next time set the timer and check tomatoes after 45 minutes.

Attempt two:

I took the larger cherry tomatoes, halved them and repeated the whole olive oil/spice sprinkle process.  I think the first batch would have been OK if I hadn’t de-seeded them so this time I skipped that step. For this batch I set the oven for 225° and the timer for 3 hours. They’re pretty meaty for cherry tomatoes so I really thought they were going to need another hour but since I overcooked the last batch I proceeded with caution.

oven roasted tomatoes

These are little flavor bombs!

These turned out perfectly. I’m adding some fresh basil and pairing the finished product with some homemade ricotta (really crème fraiche) and sliced baguettes for a party tonight. I’ll bet there won’t be any leftovers!


  1. Pre-heat oven to 225°
  2. Cut pre-washed cherry or grape tomatoes in half; place in a large bowl.
  3. Optional: Add peeled cloves of garlic and or thickly sliced onion to the mix.
  4. Add one or two tablespoons of high quality olive oil and toss to coat.
  5. Lay the tomatoes face up in a roasting pan. Lining the pan with parchment paper will make clean up easier.
  6. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other dried herbs to taste.
  7. Roast for three to four hours or until cooked to your liking.
slow roasted tomato leftovers in my fridge

These will keep for at least a week in the fridge

Kat’s tip:

Store tomatoes in a jar in the fridge. Some folks recommend adding olive oil with them. To me that just adds extra calories. These lasted in my fridge for at least a week at which time I had single-handedly eaten them all.

I ate them on crackers, I added them to wraps, I tossed them in with omelets, I threw them in with cooked pasta and I used them in burritos when I ran out of salsa. The possibilities are endless.


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Blue cheese corn muffins

Designed to go alongside the Buffalo Chicken Wing Chili, these muffins are a novel twist on regular corn bread.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Wisconsin Blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 10 (2-1/2-inch) muffin cups or line with paper liners

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cheese in large bowl. Combine egg, milk and butter in small bowl until blended; stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan. Serve warm.


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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Side dishes


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Almond Spinach Pilaf

This is a lovely side dish that is very easy to make. I morphed it from an old Weight Watchers recipe where the proportions were off. A fairly versatile recipe, you can use regular onion or green onion and beef or chicken broth with equal success. For that matter, if you adjust the liquid (add an extra 1/2 cup) you could even use brown rice instead of white.

I serve this with beef, fish, pork or chicken. It goes really well with salmon. Sometimes I’ll add leftover cooked and cubed meat for a quick one-dish lunch I can take with me on the go. Double the recipe and its an easy dish for a buffet or potluck.


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry
  • 1/4  cup chopped onion or green onion
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 ounce chopped or sliced almonds
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the spinach, onions, dill salt and pepper. Cook about two minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender

Add the rice and almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is well coated with the oil, about 2 minutes

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes for white rice or 40 minutes for brown rice.

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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Side dishes, Weight Watchers


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