Healthy Holiday Side Dishes


Healthy Holiday SidesLet’s face it; the holidays are all centered around FOOD. We all love to get together and eat. From November through the New Year we can really overindulge in a ton of extra calories that in turn, pack on the pounds. I love all the food, especially the casseroles. OH…the casseroles, comfort food at its best. I indulge, don’t get me wrong, but I also try to sneak in veggies and better choices for my family. That way I can have dessert, my first true love. I have been trying out some healthy holiday side dish recipes in preparation for the holidays. My family has their favorites, but I never told them these were light versions, or new, or less fat-because I wanted true opinions and not “I like the one we usually eat better” out of fear of change. Here’s a little gem of a secret for you: If you don’t tell them, they usually do not even notice! So all of these were huge successes, and I even have a few more for a future post!

My favorite holiday (Christmas, Easter, President’s Day) casserole hands-down is green bean casserole. I was born in the Mid-west and we had it at every big meal. I know it is not a real southern thing, and it’s way healthier to just have green beans, but I LOVE green bean casserole and was determined to give it a yummy but nutritious spin that everyone would love. It’s great because you NEED to make it ahead of time so all the flavors come out and then you just heat it up right before serving. I do not know the calorie content, but I do know it has fewer calories and less fat than a classic recipe and low in sodium, too!


Green Bean Casserole

2 lbs. pole beans (snapped and washed)
3-4 shallots
2 tbsp. flour (I use an oatmeal flour or einkorn flour)
1 cup milk
extra virgin olive oil
red wine (optional)
1 cup chicken broth (I use low sodium, organic)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup each chopped shiitake, baby portobello, and white or button mushrooms (just get three types you like, it gives  your soup a fuller flavor)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Instructions: To make the soup, chop onion and sauté on medium in olive oil. Once soft, add chopped mushrooms and minced garlic. Cook until soft. Add red wine (I add about ¼ cup, but this is optional) and chicken broth; simmer until reduced. Add milk and spices and heat thoroughly. Side note: If you want your mushroom soup to be thicker, add 1-2 tsp. cornstarch to your COLD milk before adding to the mushrooms.
Slice shallots as thinly as possible. Toss them into the flour to coat. Spray bar pan with nonstick spray, and place the onions in a single layer. Cook on 475 F until golden brown, turning a few times during cooking.
Cook beans the way you like them; I blanch mine because I like them slightly tender but still crisp and bright green. To blanch them, boil water, add beans, then let them boil for about 3-4 minutes. Place them in an ice bath (cold water and ice — this just stops the cooking process). Drain them, and set aside.
Spray casserole dish with nonstick spray. In a bowl combine green beans and soup. Mix well. Pour into casserole dish. You can, at this point, put it in the fridge until the next day. Bring to room temperature and bake on 400 F for about 20 minutes or until bubbly around the side. Top with shallots and continue baking for 5 minutes. Enjoy your guilt-free green bean casserole!

Sweet Potato Casserole


My kids’ favorite, by far, and they did not even notice that it had NO SUGAR! They loved it, and asked for seconds. My mom loves sweet potatoes. I remember as a kid she would bake herself one almost daily in the winter and eat it with butter only. It always smelled so good. I would ask for a bite, but then have trouble choking it down. I liked the sweet potato casserole, filled with sugar and marshmallows, not sweet potatoes. My mom does not eat sugar, and I try to make yummy things she can indulge in, but my kids will still eat. I was determined to nail a sweet potato casserole that will last generations in our family. NAILED IT!

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. milk
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup toasted, unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tbsp. real maple syrup
3 tbsp. real butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Boil sweet potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Mash them with 2 tbsp. butter, vanilla, milk, and 2 tbsp. maple syrup and place in casserole dish. I usually use the mixer so they are very smooth, but I made this later at night (or in the wee hours of the morning) so I had to be quiet lest I wake the sleeping monsters angels. The hand masher did just fine and was way easier to wash up. Toss the oats, coconut and pecans in 1 tbsp. melted butter and 1 tbsp. maple syrup and place on top of sweet potatoes. Place this in the fridge overnight so the potatoes can soak in all the yummy flavor from the syrup. Bake at 400 F until brown on top, and edges are bubbly.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Cranberries, and Walnuts

These are a crowd-pleaser, even with the kids! My children actually ASK me to make Brussels sprouts! It’s the secret ingredient that keeps them coming back for more: Real maple syrup! They are not only delicious and nutritious, but super easy. Don’t try making these ahead, though, they get soggy left over and are not as good.

1-2 lbs. Brussels sprouts (I buy organic)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 strips bacon, chopped
2 tbsp. real maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Wash Brussels sprouts and remove wilted leaves and cut off ends. Chop in half. Place in shallow pan with bacon and roast in oven at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes until soft on the inside, and lightly browned and crisp on the outside. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve hot.

Here is another sweet potato recipe from our friend Erica over at Simple Bites Gourmet that she prepared for WBIR a couple weeks ago: Sweet Potato Gratin with Poblano Peppers. 

I could really keep posting yummy recipes, but I think that gives you some fine choices for a nutritional spin on holiday sides. I hope you find these recipes easy and delicious. Don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our followers!



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