Archive for the ‘Salads and Sides’ Category

This delicious Italian dish is equally authentic without breadcrumbs and eggs. Serve it as a side, or even as an entree.  With all the goodness of vegetables and cheese its a filling meal by itself, perhaps with hash browns or gluten free corn bread on the side.  I make it less cheesy than restaurants do, but that’s your choice. Great for a fun family meal.


2 pounds or 2 medium-large eggplants cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

1 1/2 cups rice crackers pulsed in food processor

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

4 tablespoons corn starch mixed into 1/2 cup water to make a thin paste.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

Salt and pepper to taste.

For Sauce:

28 ounce can (3 1/2 cups) of crushed tomatoes.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

1/2 cup packed finely chopped fresh basil leaves.

1 teaspoon fresh, minced garlic.

1 teaspoon paprika. 

1/2 teaspoon oregano.

Salt and pepper to taste.

1 cup shredded Parmesan and 1 cup shredded mozzarella for layering.

Method: Preheat oven to 400 F ./ approx. 200 C.  Line baking tray with lightly oiled aluminum foil

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of eggplant slices. 

Mix pulsed rice crackers with the Parmesan cheese on a large surface.

Dip each eggplant slice in the corn starch mixture. 

Dredge each slice in cheese and rice cracker mixture and place on baking tray. 

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, or till eggplant slices are soft and golden brown. 

Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in saucepan and add the minced, fresh garlic.  When garlic sizzles, add crushed tomato.Give a few stirs, and allow tomato to simmer and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add paprika, oregano and fresh basil leaves.  Turn off heat.

To assemble, spread 1/3 of the sauce into a large casserole dish.  Place half the eggplant rounds in a single layer covering the sauce at the bottom of the pan.

With a ladle spoon small portions of sauce over each eggplant round. Then spoon shredded mozzarella on top of sauce, on each round. Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded Parmesan. 

Place remaining eggplant rounds over the cheeses.  Repeat process by spooning sauce and cheeses on top of each round. Pour remaining sauce on top. and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.  Bake uncovered at 350 F / 180 C for 35 minutes. 

Let casserole sit for a few minutes, before cutting into it to serve.

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You can’t go wrong with a combination of quinoa, pineapple, red peppers and raisins.  Its delicious and colorful, makes a great table centerpiece….you can’t beat it for nutrition and taste!


1 cup quinoa

1 15 ounce can of diced pineapple, drained, juice reserved

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt to taste


To cook quinoa

Place quinoa in a fine sieve.  Wash under gently running water, rubbing the grain slightly as you wash.  When water has drained, repeat the process a couple of times.

Hear two cups water in a medium saucepan.  Add 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Gently pour in the washed and drained quinoa into the water.

Lower heat and simmer uncovered till most of the water has been absorbed and the grain is tender.

Cover and cook for a couple of minutes more till all the water is absorbed and the grain is well cooked.

Remove from heat. Uncover and fluff the quinoa grain with a fork to release steam and prevent grain from sticking.  Spread on a platter and allow it to cool.


To assemble

In a salad bowl, whisk together. 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice with olive oil, lemon juice, sugar and salt.

Add pineapple bits, chopped red bell pepper and raisins.

Gently mix cooked and cooled quinoa.

Easy, filling and so healthy!

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This is an ideal snack for any kids party….these  potato mice will make little ones squeal with delight.  Omit the cheese if dairy is a no-no…the mice taste super with or without!  At other times a little potato mouse can be served as an exciting side dish to coax little people to eat a complete meal.  Potato on the side is a good substitute for grains.



10 medium potatoes

1 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

1 -2 carrots, washed and peeled

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

A few drops of red and green food colors

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch plus half teaspoon water



Wash and peel potatoes.

Place peeled potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted water and boil

Boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes or so, or till potatoes are almost done, but not too soft.  Do not overcook.

Drain water

Place potatoes on a flat lightly greased, or parchment lined baking tray when cool enough to handle

Preheat oven to 350 F

Carefully make slits along length of each potato, without going close to edges.  Slits should be deep, but not so deep that the knife will touch the base and cut off pieces.  Try to make 4-5 slits

Stuff slits with grated cheese.  If cheese cannot be used, brush olive oil mixed with a little salt, pepper and a dash of garlic powder/ dried basil / thyme, or any herb of your choice, into the slits

Cut off top ends of carrot, then slice the top one third of carrot/s into a few coins. Using kitchen scissors, shape carrot coins into triangles to form ears.

Use the narrow part of the carrot to make very thin, long slices for tails

Grate some of the center portion of the carrot for mice whiskers

Push triangular carrot ears on either side of one end of each potato

Mix water into the cornstarch and use the sticky mixture to gently attach a few shreds of carrot to create whiskers a little below ears leaving space to paint eyes and nose

Push in the finely cut long, very thin carrot slices on the other end of each potato.  Use cornstarch mixture if necessary to stick on these tails.

Mix green and red food colors to make a dark brownish color, and paint on eyes and nose.

Place baking tray in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or till potatoes brown a little on the outside and are soft cooked inside

These tasty mice are all time party favorites!

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A very easy-to-make side to serve with meat/poultry, or even with a platter of roasted or steamed veggies.  Kids love this healthy and full of goodness potato dish.  No cream or butter—ideal for the dairy allergic– and absolutely no fuss.

Serve your veggies on a bed of steamed quinoa to create a complete meal with Hot Potatoes on the side.

Smashed Hot Potatoes


8 medium size red potatoes

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic, or garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


Boil potatoes in lightly salted water, till cooked (about 15-20 minutes)

Heat oven to 400 F

Place potatoes on a baking tray or any oven proof dish

While potatoes are warm, smash each potato with the back of a large, heavy spoon, till potato is coarsely mashed, with skin on

In a small bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper

Drizzle oil mixture on potato tops

Bake 20 minutes, partially pull out oven rack and carefully sprinkle grated cheese on top of each potato (optional)

Slide tray back and bake for 10 minutes more, or till potatoes are golden brown and crisp and the cheese has melted

When not using cheese, bake for about 25 minutes

Totally yummy!


Did you know?

That red potatoes have the lowest glycemic index of all potatoes?

(see my note on potatoes in the Basics section to learn about the goodness of  potatoes)

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This is great to serve as an after school snack, or after that game on a cold day.  Or the rostis could make a good side dish to balance the meat entrée in a meal.  Whichever way, they are delicious, satisfying and wholesome.


Potato Rosti


4 cups (well packed) frozen, hash brown potatoes, thawed.

(Alternately, use 4 cups boiled, peeled and grated potatoes.  Boil the potatoes till they are just cooked and not too soft.  Allow to cool, then grate.)

1 cup frozen broccoli florets, or 1 cup freshly cut broccoli florets, preferably cut small.

1 medium red pepper, chopped

1/3 cup onion sliced fine, lengthwise

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, divided into 4 portions

2 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil/ olive oil

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste.


Combine shredded potatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in a pan, add onions and saute for a minute or till they are soft and golden.

Add broccoli and red pepper

Stir in 2 Tablespoons water, cover and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or till the veggies are tender crisp.

Add dried basil, and set aside.

Place a large skillet on medium heat.

Drizzle a few drops of oil on pan, or lightly oil with cooking spray.

While skillet heats up, make 8 portions of the shredded potato mixture.

Shape 4 portions lightly into balls and place each ball on skillet.

Using a spatula, flatten each ball to form pancakes about 4-5” in diameter.

Allow potato ‘pancakes’ to cook for about 4-5 minutes, or till edges start to look golden.

Flip the pancakes.

Divide cooked veggies into 4 portions. 

Place 2 portions on top of two of the pancakes, sprinkle vegetable topping with grated cheese, then flip the remaining two pancakes on top of each of the veggie topped potato pancakes.

You will now have 2 rostis on the skillet.

After a minute of so, gently flip each rosti, or stuffed pancake, so that both sides can be lightly browned.

Gently remove rostis onto serving platter.

Repeat this procedure with the remaining 4 portions of shredded potato, using the two portions of cooked veggies and grated cheese for stuffing in between.

Serve rostis while warm.  Or place all rostis on a baking tray to warm and serve later.

Or else, microwave individual servings on microwavable tableware. and enjoy!

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This is a good, healthy, after school snack, or a great side dish to serve with a meat/ vegetable entrée.  Make it ahead of time and warm on a skillet or in the oven before serving.  While potato and cheese are wonderful comfort foods,, the addition of quinoa enhances overall nutritional value, making it both wholesome and tasty.


Quinoa Potato Croquette


  • 1 1/2 cups boiled and mashed potato
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa (use about 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa grain to prepare)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella-cheddar cheese mix  (use shredded soy cheese for a dairy free version)
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded carrot
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper (green chilly)—optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix them well together.
  3. If mixture feels too soft to work with, add a tablespoon of oat flour and knead it well.
  4. Make 12 –14 balls and roll them between your palms to form an elongated shape.
  5. Place in single layer on a parchment lined baking pan or lightly grease the pan and place the croquettes.
  6. Bake 25 –30 minutes or till croquettes are golden brown in color and feel crisp on the outside.
  7. You may need to roll them over with an oven proof spatula after 15-20 minutes of baking and bake further for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool just a little before serving.

Alternately, these croquettes can be pan/skillet grilled on medium-low heat.  Drizzle a little oil on pan/skillet, and allow oil to heat before placing croquettes

Turn over as sides brown.

Remove from heat, and place on serving platter.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, onions or any salads / veggies of your choice, or just serve as finger foods with a dipping sauce of your choice.

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This is a satisfying comfort food.  Serve a favourite hot soup with this cold salad, and you have a wholesome meal for everyone at the table.

If wild rice is not available use brown rice, preferably the basmati variety.

To know more about wild rice, read my note on RICE, in the BASICS category

wild rice salad


  • 3 cups cooked wild and brown rice blend. (one cup uncooked rice will yield almost 3 cups cooked rice).
  • 2 cups cooked turkey breast cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  (Use chicken if you like)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped.
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons orange zest (grated orange rind)
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper(red chilly powder), or to taste
  • Salt to taste.


  1. Gently stir in 1 cup washed and rinsed wild and brown rice blend in 3 cups boiling water, using a large saucepan.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and allow rice to simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Uncover and check to see if rice is well cooked, or needs a little more water.  Cover and cook for a few more minutes if required.
  4. (I pressure cook for 10-12 minutes).
  5. Fluff cooked rice with a fork, and allow it to cool.
  6. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, cooked and diced turkey breast,
  7. chopped onion, bell pepper and parsley.
  8. In a smaller bowl, whisk together orange juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, orange zest, garlic, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  9. Pour and mix gently into the rice and turkey mixture.

Make a few hours ahead and refrigerate before serving.


Did You Know–

A quarter cup of cranberries yields just 90 calories.

Cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C, a quarter cup serving gives us about 20% of our daily requirement.

Cranberries also contain potassium and phytochemicals

They do not have any fat or sodium, and are high in fiber

Pumpkin seeds are rich in Vitamin E.

Parsley is a good digestive aid, and is full of goodness—Vitamins C and A, iron, copper and manganese. 

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Salads and sides add variety to our meals.  they add color, texture and freshness to balance meats, pastas, rice and other entrees.

Salads stimulate the appetite and intensify the activities of salivary glands and gastric juices.  They are high in fiber and sweep the colon clean of post digestive debris.

For maximizing on nutrition choose–

  • Loose leaf lettuce such as Romaine and endive, which have more nutrition than the iceberg lettuce.
  • Buy dark green broccoli and deep orange carrots.
  • Buy veggies which are in season, or produce grown locally.  Vegetables and fruits which have travelled long distances and stored for more days tend to diminish in nutritional value.
  • Fresh, frozen veggies are also nutritionally good to use.
  • Avoid leaving cut fruit or vegetables outside or uncovered in the fridge for a long time, as this will destroy vitamins—a slice of cucumber can lose 1/3 of its Vitamin C in just one hour.
  • Wash salads and veggies thoroughly before cutting. A good portion of the water soluble vitamins, namely the B group vitamins and Vitamin C will get washed away along with some other nutrients if cut and then washed. 
  • Raw salads eaten just before a meal do not generally create flatulence as food contains some salt.  In the presence of salt, saliva breaks down the carbs in salads more effectively.

USDA dietary guidelines recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables for children over two.  Barely 15% have this quantity, while half the kids below twelve do not eat any fruit at all on a given day.

What to Avoid

Since we are dealing with multiple allergies, there are certain questionable ingredients that I stay away from–  aged cheeses and mushrooms are high in MSG , honey contains pollens of different kinds and could create a problem, and also sesame seeds which have been identified by the Ministry of Health, Govt. of Canada as a main allergenic food.

In any case, use utmost caution before using any new ingredient.

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Roasting Vegetables

Roasting caramelizes vegetables, thus enhancing flavor while retaining crunchy textures.  Roasted veggies make excellent snacks or sides for children.  Well known nutritionist, Marion Nestle writes –”…one thirds of all vegetables consumed in the USA come from just three sources: French fries, potato chips and iceberg lettuce.”  Roasted veggies can take the prime spot for healthy and ‘yum’ food.

Roasting has to be just right, so that vegetables are cooked, but firm, not overcooked and squishy

Place them in a single layer on a roasting pan/ heavy bottom skillet or on a baking sheet when roasting in the oven.  Veggies should not be crowded together, or else they will steam up and lose their crispness.

Cut vegetables to the same size for uniform cooking.

Even though some of the water soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin C and the B group vitamins, are lost to some extent in the cooking process,the nutrients in food are better assimilated by the body when food is cooked.

Veggies can also be roasted on stove top using a heavy bottom pan / skillet



  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Lightly spray/drizzle baking sheet with oil.
  • Cut broccoli into florets.  Trim spears by peeling the tough skin on the outside and toss them in.
  • Roast 10 minutes. Pull out oven rack a little and turn broccoli florets over with spatula.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast 6-7 minutes more.  Pierce stem with knife to check.

Delicious as Simply Broccoli!


Green Beans

  • 1 pound green beans , trimmed
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Snap off tips of beans at both ends and peel off any fibrous strands that come with it.
  • Place in single layer on lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat
  • Roast for 5 minutes.  Stir, and roast for 5 minutes more.  If beans are too dry, throw in a quarter cup of water.
  • Remove from oven.  Squeeze a few drops of lemon / lime juice.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Children love it dotted with a little butter.

For those with dairy allergy, serve with a light vinaigrette dressing.



  • 1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 pound unpeeled red potatoes, diced.
  • 2 Tablespoons butter/ olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Place florets and potatoes in single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet, and roast for 10 minutes. 
  • Stir, roast for 5 minutes more.  If still hard but caramelized, drizzle with 2-3 Tablespoons of water and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, cut up butter and toss onto hot cauliflower.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.



  • 1 pound baby carrots / 2 inch cut carrot spears
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter / margarine with 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Toss in baby carrots drizzled with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.
  • Drizzle with butter and maple syrup dressing and roast for 5 minutes more.

Great accompaniment with meat and potatoes!


Carrots and Parsnips

These are good pan roasted


  • 3 medium carrots. washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 “ cubes.
  • 3 medium parsnips cut the same way
  • 2 Tablespoons butter / olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raisins


  1. On medium heat, in a large skillet, melt butter / add olive oil and toss in carrots and parsnips.
  2. Sauté for a minute.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1/4 cup water. lower heat.
  4. Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes more
  5. Add raisins to hot veggies.
  6. cover and set aside for a few minutes.

Serve warm.


Roasted Grapes

Make your servings even more tasty colorful and interesting by adding roasted fruit to complement the dish.

  • 2 cups red seedless grapes
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place grapes on baking sheet.  Drizzle oil to coat.  Bake 10-12 minutes or till color deepens and skins begin to split.

Serve with lightly roasted yellow peppers.  Bright colors will tempt young palates

Combine other roasted fruits with veggies.  Hard fruits like apples and pears roast well and are delicious caramelized.  Canned pineapples combine well with broccoli and red peppers.



  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Cut peaches into halves and remove stones.
  • Fill in half a teaspoon of brown sugar into each half and smear it into the fruit with the back of a spoon.
  • Place peach halves on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cut side facing down.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes, or till fruit is soft.
  • Serve warm roasted peaches with a meat entrée, or reserve, warm again and serve with ice cream for dessert


Roasted asparagus, grilled zucchini, squashes make healthy and tasty side dishes.

Enhance nutrition and appearance by topping with caramelized sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped dates, raisins, roasted fruit, dried blueberries, cranberries—just think color, texture, combine and create your own veggie sides.  Then watch all the goodness go down with relish!

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Quinoa is an excellent substitute for couscous in any recipe, and is, of course, more nutritious.

Quinoa should be rinsed in a fine mesh strainer.  It has a slightly bitter coating which is removed by washing and rinsing.


  • 1/2 cup quinoa grain
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, diced cucumbers
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions -white part only
  • 1/4 cup ( or more) vinaigrette dressing of your choice.


  1. Place quinoa grain in a fine sieve.  Wash carefully under slow flowing water, rubbing the grain gently as you wash.  Drain water.  Repeat process 3 times.
  2. Heat 1 cup water in a medium pot.  Add rinsed, drained quinoa to hot water.
  3. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Simmer uncovered over low heat till most of the water has been absorbed,
  5. Stir and check if you need a little more liquid for the grain to soften and cook well.
  6. Add extra water if required, cover and cook on low heat for a few more minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes or so.
  8. Uncover and spread cooked quinoa on a flat dish.  Let it cool.
  9. In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa with cucumber, bell pepper and green onion.
  10. Pour dressing and gently stir it in.

Fact File

The National Academy of Science describes quinoa as “the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom”.

Ancient Incas revered it and called it the “mother grain”. It has nine essential amino acids and can be called a complete protein.

For more on quinoa, check the write up on “Grandma’s Gluten Free Flour Mix” in the Cakes, Cookies and Desserts category.

Red peppers are a great source of Vitamin C. Peppers of all colors are rich in carotenoids and antioxidants.

They make meals more colorful and help us follow one good criterion that a balanced meal must have—as many colors of the spectrum as possible.

Every color in food yields different kinds of antioxidants / phytochemicals.

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