Holiday Side Dish Ideas

Side dishes are often my favorite part of the meal. They enhance the main course. They can be warm and comforting or light and refreshing. They can be vegetarian, vegan and gluten free or full of butter, bacon and cheese, still gluten free 🙂 Side dishes give you an opportunity to use seasonal vegetables to make your meal amazing, butternut squash in the fall or asparagus in the spring.

Last winter we moved into a new house and were very excited for spring to see what was going to grow. We were not expecting asparagus, but one day the kids were playing out back and discovered stalks of asparagus growing out of the ground! We learned that asparagus is difficult to grow. It takes years to establish a patch of asparagus. We are very lucky that the previous owner had a green thumb! Here is a simple roasted asparagus recipe that would be a great addition to your holiday table.

Roasted Asparagus


About 1 pound of fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

¾ of a teaspoon salt

1/8 of a teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all the ingredients together on a sheet pan. Spread asparagus out and roast for about 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and transfer asparagus to a serving platter.

This is such a great, simple recipe that you can prep in the morning and put in the oven just before serving. Similarly you can do this with Green Beans.

I’m going to serve this asparagus dish at Easter with a version of my Twice Baked Potatoes. If you are looking for a decadent side dish try this Sweet Potato Gratin or easy Polenta. However, if you have time, try making Potato Gnocchi or Quinoa Risotto to wow your guests.

You can make your holiday meals as simple or involved as you like. I have learned over the years, for me, I try to keep it simple on the holidays, make things I can prep ahead of time that don’t involve a lot of hands on work the day of. For example, if I am serving mashed potatoes, I make it in the morning or day before and then put into the crock pot to keep warm or reheat.  For us it is easier to make everything rather than worry about cross-contamination if someone brings something with gluten in it. How do you handle the holidays with food allergies or Celiac disease?


Balsamic Honey Mustard Sauce

Sauces are a great way to transform your leftovers. If you are grilling, grill extra chicken or veggies and then use different sauces to make completely different meals from the same base ingredients.

Last week I shared my favorite Apricot barbecue sauce. This week I’m sharing a super simple sauce that would be great on your Easter ham. This sauce also works well with chicken, steak, carrots, asparagus and more!

Balsamic Honey Mustard Sauce


2 Tablespoons of honey

3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons of spicy brown mustard


Mix all the ingredients together and microwave for 20 seconds or heat on stove, medium low, just until warmed through.

I made this sauce earlier this week to top grilled pork chops. It was amazing! Served with some polenta and rosemary corn.

Try this sauce with your spring grilled meats and vegetables or on your Easter ham or disguise your Easter ham leftovers 🙂 Let me know how it turns out!  I’m working on some dessert recipes for the upcoming holidays. Any requests?


Cornish Game Hens

Check another meal off my bucket list for 2017! Cornish game hen are a way to wow guests and a great alternative to ham for Easter Dinner or beef for Christmas.

I made them on a snowy April Fools Day. We took advantage of a nasty day outside, in between sports seasons, to stay warm inside, start a home improvement project, play board games and make some comfort food.

Cornish Game Hen


5 Cornish game hen, keep the gizzards and neck

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons of salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1 lemon, zested and cut into 6 pieces

1 large white onion, cut into 12 pieces

5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

10 stems of fresh thyme


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Dry the hens. Stuff each with a piece of onion, piece of garlic, piece of lemon and a stem of thyme Mix the lemon zest with the salt, pepper and ground thyme in a small bowl. Rub each hen with olive oil and sprinkle with  the lemon zest, salt, pepper and ground thyme mixture. Place into roasting pan and surround with the gizzards, rest of the onions, garlic and thyme stems. Roast in oven for about 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes. Check internal temperature. When cooked through and juices run clear, place hens on a cutting board under a foil tent to rest for about 10 minutes.

You can make a great pan sauce with the drippings. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat (2 burners if a large pan) and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the gizzards, onions, garlic and thyme stems. Add the juice of about 1/2 a lemon, a tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and stir. Whisk in 1 to 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes, whisking to get clumps out. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and remove from heat. It is ready to serve!

Each person got half of a bird and I still have enough to make a pasta dish with the leftovers for dinner tonight. I served served the hens with wild rice from Wegmans and frozen peas.

What are you making for Easter dinner? I am thinking ham, salmon, a potato dish and maybe asparagus. What sides are tradition in your family? Try something new like my Sweet Potato Gratin or polenta with Balsamic green beans.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Even though the weather seems to be getting warmer (wishful thinking that spring is near!) soup is still a great comfort. Especially, this light, delicious soup (which is vegan and gluten free if you need it to be). It is a great lunch with grilled cheese or perfect starter for you Easter dinner.

Carrot Ginger Soup


2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

½ teaspoon of sesame oil

1 large sweet onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch of fresh ginger, minced

5 to 6 large carrots, diced

1 ½ teaspoons of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

5 ½ cups of chicken or vegetable stock

Sour cream or plain greek yogurt, optional


Heat oils in a stock pot. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Stir and cook until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add carrots, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the stock and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Blend with a handheld blender or allow to cool and transfer to a blender or food processor to puree. If there are lumps, run through a sieve. Keep in stock pot on low heat or in a crock pot on warm or low until ready to serve. Top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt if you like.

Spring will be here before we know it! With a slight chill in the air, soups make an easy, healthy lunch, served with a salad or sandwich. Let me know if there are any recipes you want to see for the spring!

Here are some of my other soup recipes if you are in the mood for something different.


Baked Alaska

Check one item off my 2017 Cooking Bucket List! For Valentine’s Day I made Baked Alaska for my family. It is definitely old fashioned and definitely delicious! I scoured the internet and my cookbook collection for recipes to learn the process. never fails to provide good recipes, so I used this recipe to make sure I got the meringue right.  Some use pound cake and sorbet and bake the meringue while others use sponge cake and ice cream and use a torch on the meringue. The thought of putting ice cream in the oven, made me nervous, so I decided to go the torch route. Plus that is more fun!

Baked Alaska


1 gallon of Hood Patchwork ice cream

1 box of gluten free chocolate cake mix, plus an extra egg (I like Wegmans GF chocolate cake mix)

8 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of sugar


Take the gallon of ice cream out to soften, about 10 to 15 minutes. Prepare a medium sized bowl by lining with plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Press the ice cream down into the bowl and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

Make 8 inch round cake according to instructions, adding the extra egg. Cool the cake and cut to size of the ice cream in the bowl if needed. Press cake onto the bottom of the ice cream. Cover and freeze for another 4 hours or overnight. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, take the bowl of ice cream and cake out of the freezer and make the meringue. Add the remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form. Turn the bowl with ice cream and cake onto a plate and take the bowl and wrap or paper off.

Frost the ice cream with the meringue. Take a culinary torch and run it over all the meringue until toasted. Serve immediately. Freeze the leftovers.

It was much easier to make than I thought. It does take planning, however. I froze the ice cream in the bowl and made the cake one night. The next morning (day of service) I cut the cake to fit the ice cream and put back in the freezer until after dinner, when I finished it with the meringue.

Working my way through my bucket list. I found cornish game hens on sale this week and put them in the freezer, so a fancy dinner where we will each have our own “little chicken” according to my kids, is coming soon 🙂 What is on your cooking bucket list? What would you love to cook?

Recipe Resources and Easter Leftovers

After spending all day on the computer at work or because you just don’t like staring at a computer when you’re exhausted at the end of the day, where can you look for recipes? I like to look through cookbooks, magazines and get ideas from other moms. We are a great resource for each other.
Dust off some of those cookbooks on your shelves at home and look through them. Take pictures of the recipes you want to make with your phone or put a post it note on the page with the name of the recipe written so you can see it when the book is closed.  Then add those recipes into your menu plan. Don’t have any cookbooks that excite you? Go to the library! Libraries are a great resource. You can take the books out and then use your camera to take a picture of the recipe so you’ll always have it. My local library is great. Each time I take the kids, I swing by the cook book area and pick out a couple of books for myself. Here are some suggestions of books I have recently checked out:

Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld.  Some of the recipes are bland, but gave me good ideas.

Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives, Jessica Seinfeld
Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair. Great insight into making whole foods for your family
Great Easy Meals: 250 Fast & Fun Recipes, Food Network Magazine. A wide variety of recipes and a section on 10 minute desserts!
Kitchen Express, Mark Bittman. Seasonal recipes that are designed to be made in 20 minutes or less.
The new Mayo Clinic Cookbook. Great healthy recipes, sauces and ideas for making healthy taste good!
Wilmington 275th Anniversary Family Cookbook, 2004. Simple recipes with (mostly) less than 10 ingredients that are easy to find.
From my own library (which you could check if they are at the library and even if not at your local one, the librarians can order it for you if it is at another one):
Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites, Southern Living. I LOVE this cookbook, but I replace the cream for fat free half and half or skim milk and don’t add all the butter J BBQ muffins, broccoli, ham and cheese soup, cheeseburger meatloaf = comfort food at its finest! (See recipe for soup below)
Mom-a-licious, Domenica Catelli. Great info on feeding your kids healthy foods that taste good. I swear by her hummus recipe!
Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook. If you are like me and love Trader Joe’s, this is a great cookbook with easy recipes that contain ingredients all found at Trader Joes.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1996. This is a great cookbook to learn new techniques and cooking basics. It has really taught me a lot, like how to use fresh herbs v. dried herbs, how to select fresh fruit and veggies and what it means to beat an egg white until stiff peaks form. I love their Spinach Dip recipe, sauce recipes and basic meal plans that I can tweak for my family’s likes and dislikes.
Magazines are also a great resource. Parents magazine now has a section on recipes in every edition, Family Circle, Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, etc. No matter what subject matter the magazine is, most of them now contain at least one recipe. Or try out that recipe you saw in the newspaper last weekend.
Talk to other moms about cooking or not wanting to cook because your 2 year old is throwing all the food you just spent your last bit of energy cooking. We are here to support each other and making food is one thing we all have to do.  I got a great tip from a fellow mom, Becca, at a recent Cooking Crew night (mom’s who get together once a month and have a potluck and exchange recipes) where the theme was Italian. She made an amazing Chicken Parmesan. The breading stayed on the chicken. She said the key was the bread the chicken the night before and put it in the fridge. Then cook it the next day. It was delicious! I never would have thought of that on my own!
Here is a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks if you have some leftover ham to use up!

Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Soup
from Southern Living’s Busy Moms Weeknight Favorites. Great way to use up your leftover ham, potatoes, and vegetables from Easter Dinner!
 5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cubed (or 2-3 cups of mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes)
 1 medium onion chopped
28 oz of chicken broth
12 oz of diced ham (or beef, lamb or pork)
 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2tsp bottle minced garlic (or 1 small clove fresh garlic, minced)
 1/2 tsp of salt
3/4 tsp pepper (I often use lemon pepper)
2 cups of cream (I use fat free half and half or skim milk)
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (or you can use your leftover cheese from a cheese plate).
Add everything except the cream and the cheese to the slow cooker and cook on high for 1 hour and then reduce to low and cook for 6 hours. (I also cook it on the stove in about an hour or when the potatoes are tender). Process half of the soup mixture in a food processor (or use a hand held immersion blender) and then pour it back into the pot. Add cream and cheese, stir and serve!