Whenever I think of holiday side dishes mashed potatoes, peas and carrots immediately come to mind. They’re traditional defaults (at least they have been in my family growing up) to serve alongside whatever meat, poultry or fish is the main. This season however, I wanted to challenge this custom and utilize some of spring’s freshest produce to offer easy, but vibrant, sides that are not only delicious, but packed-full of nutrients. These recipes are perfect to pair with meat or eat alone for a complete vegetarian meal.
Here are four fresh vegetable side dishes that don’t need to be slathered with butter or mashed with cream to taste great. The best part is they’re full of nutritious benefits for your skin, digestion and immune system:
1. Roasted radishes, carrots and green onions
Radishes: High in vitamins C, A and K. They contain phytochemicals, beta-carotene and lutein which contribute to eye health and help ward off cancer. These small wonders also contain phytosterols, which contribute to a healthy heart and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Carrots: They’re very high in antioxidants and anti-aging components making them fantastic for the skin and great for eye health.
Green onions: These beautifully-coloured veggies are full of chromium, which is great for stabilizing blood sugar. They also contain quercetin, a phytonutrient associated with lowering cardiovascular disease risk and preventing free radical damage.
Radishes (any kind! Experiment with all different colours and heirloom varieties to add brightness to your plate)*
Carrots (like the radishes, try heirlooms for their splash of colour)*
*Amounts will vary according to how many you’re cooking for
1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Wash and cut radishes in half and carrots in half and then lengthwise
3. On medium-high, heat a cast iron pan on the stove adding grapeseed oil to coat the bottom. Add fresh thyme sprigs to flavour the oil. Add radishes and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and stir to mix together
4. Put pan in oven and roast until vegetables are soft and browning (approx. 25 minutes), stirring occasionally
5. Remove pan from oven and add green onions to hot pan. Put back into the over for 2-3 minutes, just enough time for the onion to soften.
6. Add sea salt and fresh pepper to taste and serve!
Note: if cooking for a large group, a cast iron pan will not be big enough. Instead roast on a baking sheet and skip the sautéing step, roasting radishes for 5-10 minutes before adding the carrots for even cooking.
2. Mint and feta quinoa
Mint: Not only is mint soothing to the stomach, it also relieves digestive upsets and gastrointestinal issues. It’s an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin A and fibre as well.
Chives: The compound allicin, found in chives, is great for boosting immunity. They also promote liver function and can help eliminate toxins.
2 cups quinoa, cooked
12 large mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of sheep’s feta cheese, crumbled
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 ½ cup mint, chopped
½ cup chives, chopped
Sea salt and pepper
1. Combine quinoa with 3 ½ cups of water (can substitute for vegetable broth) in a medium pot with the lid on and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer until all the water is gone and you can fluff the quinoa with a fork (approx. 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and spread quinoa on a parchment covered baking sheet to make a thin layer (this allows quinoa to cool without becoming mushy). Set aside.
2. On medium heat warm a small pan and add grapeseed oil to lightly coat the surface. Toss in the mushrooms and sauté until soft (approx. 5-10 minutes). Add the garlic about half way and lower the heat so it does not burn. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large bowl combine cooled quinoa, mushrooms, mint, chives and feta cheese. Drizzle with some good olive oil, squeeze some fresh lemon on top and add sea salt and ground pepper to your liking, tasting as you go.
4. Garnish with some more mint and chives and serve.
3. Sautéed dandelion and swiss chard recipe
Dandelion greens: These greens stimulate the digestive juices and bile secretion meaning they’re great for digestion, liver function and cleansing. They contain high amounts of calcium, iron and are very high in minerals.
Large bunch of dandelion greens, washed and chopped (stems removed)
Large bunch of Swiss chard, washed and chopped (stems removed)
A few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1. On medium heat, warm a large pan. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onion and garlic, sautéing for a few minutes until soft.
2. Add the greens to the pan. If they do not all fit at once, wait until some begin to wilt and add more as room frees up.
3. Sauté until wilted, squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and add sea salt to taste. Serve!
4. Watercress and mint pesto recipe
Watercress: As part of the cruciferous vegetable family, this peppery green promotes liver health and has proven cancer-fighting properties.
3 cups watercress
1 cup mint
½ cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic
½ cup olive oil
Juice of ¼ of a lemon
1. Add garlic and pine nuts to a food processor and pulse until combined.
2. Add watercress and mint and pulse until finely chopped and combined.
3. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and taste. Add more if needed. Enjoy!
This pesto can be used on meats, fish, vegetables or pasta!
Tara Miller is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist. Her educational background is from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition combined with a degree in psychology from the University of Guelph. This combination allows Tara to address the challenges individuals face when it comes to everyday healthy living. Tara is also the owner of the Health Hut Boutique in Muskoka where she offers effective and toxic-free beauty, household and specialty food items. You can follow her blog for holistic recipes and tips at taramillernutrition.com.