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holiday side dishes

Fantastic Party Sides

Many a merry gathering will be taking place now through the New Year.  In fact, there’s no other period of time that has quite as many celebrations.  Naturally, food tends to play an important role in assorted get-togethers.  Yet, hosts often prefer to keep cooking simple, as there are so many other things to do.

Well, want some easy to make sides that pull through with flavor?  Okay, here are three.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

At one time, a considerable number of people snubbed their noses at these mini-looking cabbages: now, this vegetable is quite popular.  A great recipe?  Rinse 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts in a colander and pat dry with paper towel: shave off darkened ends and remove any outer deadened leaves.  Place in a stainless steel or glass baking dish and evenly distribute one teaspoon of Himalayan or sea salt, ½ to ¾ teaspoon of cracked pepper, and 4 tablespoons of olive or grape seed oil.  Roast at 375 degrees for ½ hour or so, periodically shaking pan to ensure even cooking.  When the Brussels sprouts are done, the outer leaves should be brown and somewhat crispy, while the inside should be tender.  Taste.  If necessary, add additional salt and pepper.

NOTE:  Trader Joe’s sells frozen Belgian Brussels sprouts in one-pound bags.  Naturally, fresh sprouts are crisper, but the frozen variety is also enjoyable.  If you decide on frozen, buy two bags one-pound bags and follow the above instructions.  However, you will not need to snip or clean, and roasting time will be reduced (check dish after 15 minutes).


Sautéed Artichoke Hearts

This dish tastes best with frozen artichoke hearts, not the canned variety.  Defrost two 12-ounce bags of artichoke hearts.  In a sturdy skillet, heat 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil on low medium to medium heat: do not allow oil to reach smoke point: lower heat if oil begins to smoke.  Stir artichoke hearts around for a couple of minutes and then add one teaspoon of sea salt, ½ teaspoon of cracked pepper, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, and two fairly quick squirts of organic lemon juice: stir.  Continue cooking until hearts are hot (usually ten minutes or so).  Taste.  If the dish seems bland to you, carefully add additional salt and/or lemon juice until satisfied.

NOTE: The lemon juice really gives this side a pleasing flavor.  Still, there tends to be a fine line between just enough and too much (so add slowly).


Delectable Shrooms

Either you like mushrooms or you don’t.  If you like them, you’re almost certain to love this dish.  Wash two pounds of Baby Bella mushrooms (you can use white button if you wish, but they will not be as flavorful).  If mushrooms are larger than a quarter, cut in half.  Sauté in 4 tablespoons of olive oil until a significant amount of mushroom juice releases.  Add one teaspoon of sea salt, one teaspoon of dried parsley, ½ teaspoon of ground pepper, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder, and one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (the balsamic vinegar is optional and actually quite pleasurable if you’re seeking a slightly sweeter taste).  Continue stirring until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are slightly brown.  Sample.  You may want to add more salt and/or balsamic vinegar according to taste.  Again, do so carefully, there’s a delicate line between perfect and too much.

The above sides can be made ahead of time and heated in an oven (or microwave) when ready to serve: they can also be offered as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  If you do go the appetizer/hors d’oeuvres route, place on a decorative platter or party tray, and be sure to have toothpicks or appetizer forks nearby.  Afterwards, enjoy!

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