Archive for the ‘Salads and Sides’ Category


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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Dressings and Dips

A simple vinaigrette dressing is excellent with crunchy leaves. For kids who might find vinegar too tart, there is lemon juice. Vinegar is mostly gluten free, except when derived from barley malt. If malt is derived from any other source, it is usually mentioned on the label.

Some of the dressings available on the shelf might be just fine, but please read every ingredient in detail.

Some quick and simple dressings for (4-6 servings)

Basic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar
  • Whisk all ingredients, then pour on salad.

Orange Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Beat well, using a whisk or fork.

Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt.
  • Mix and beat well.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed slightly
  • Dried or fresh, finely chopped herbs of your choice—basil, oregano, thyme, parsley,—just get creative with flavors.

Additional Ideas for that Extra Zing

  • Use lemon or orange zest, berries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, oranges, pineapples—fruits of your choice, with good crunchy lettuce, spinach, arugula and other such green leafy veggies.
  • Vary dressings, garnish with sunflower or pumpkin kernels,serve with cooked meats of your choice, and watch the salads disappear!

Caramelized Sunflower / Pumpkin Kernels

  • For half a cup of kernels, use 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Roast seeds lightly in a pan, add sugar and continue to roast till sugar caramelizes and forms a rich brown coating on the seeds. Remove from pan and cool before adding to salads. These are wonderful alternatives for nuts. Seeds are also rich in vitamin C.
  • Lightly roasted, roughly crushed flax seeds also create a healthy,nutritious and crunchy topping.


  • Sour cream or thick yogurt is an excellent base for dips. Soft silken tofu or tofutti is a good dairy free alternative. If ready dips on store shelves have dubious additives, get plain sour cream and flavor it with simple ingredients of your choice—finely chopped green onion, dill, cilantro, basil, garlic—the list is endless

Gluten free, Eggless “Mayonnaise”

Mayonnaise is just off the list for most people with allergies. But try this delicious alternative, which is a great substitute for the original.


  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup milk /soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons corn-starch
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar/lemon juice,
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon wheat free, gluten free mustard powder or paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup milk.
  2. Mix corn-starch into remaining 1/4 cup milk.
  3. When the milk in the saucepan has almost come to a boil, add the cold milk-corn-starch mixture, stirring continuously till sauce thickens.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. When sauce has cooled, add remaining ingredients and chill.

Use with potato salad, chicken salad, wheat and gluten free macaroni, and anything else you fancy.

Chef’s tip: Add a dollop of sour cream before using the prepared ‘mayo’.


To one cup gluten and egg free “mayonnaise”, add 1 Tablespoon finely chopped green pepper, 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped green onion, and toss in another Tablespoon of finely chopped olives or pimiento.

You have just created an allergy free Thousand Island-like dressing!

Olive Oil

This is great to use, especially for dairy allergic people. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, Omega 6 and the Omega 3 fatty acids. Nutritionists recommend extra virgin olive oil, as the process through which it is obtained ensures retention of maximum nutrients. It has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for salad dressing, while virgin olive oil is good for cooking as it has a higher smoke point.

It is important to store olive oil (and other oils) in dark colored bottles or steel jars. Too much light and air destroys nutrients

Sunflower, Pumpkin and Flax Seeds

These are good sources of Vitamin E Buy kernels, as seeds have a husk like covering which needs to be removed. It is always good to lightly roast sunflower kernels. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. they give us essential fatty acids and protein when eaten raw.

Flax seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and are excellent for those who cannot have fish.

Flax meal is convenient to buy, as dehusking and coarse grinding is not necessary. Flax meal is best when lightly roasted and stored in an airtight bottle in the fridge. Flax can turn rancid very quickly.


Make sure that the mustard you buy is gluten free.

American mustard is usually made from white mustard seeds blended with sugar, vinegar and colored with turmeric.

English mustard is also made from white mustard seeds but has a greater pungency. It is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and has turmeric for color. It is important to watch out for any wheat ingredient before using this mustard.

Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is necessary to find out from the manufacturer whether wheat or gluten ingredients have been used in the wine fermentation process.


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This wonderfully refreshing, ‘fruity’ salad can actually be made a day ahead, and kept overnight in the fridge—ideal to serve along with birthday eats or to add color and flavor at a luncheon.  This recipe actually comes from my American ‘Mom”, Happy Hopkins.  I have modified it a little to suit special food needs.

make ahead apple salad


  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 20 oz can diced pineapple (drained and liquid reserved)
  • 10 cherries. cut into half, seeds removed (to add just before serving)
  • 1 cup pineapple liquid reserved from can
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon corn-starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom.


  1. Combine sugar, corn-starch, cardamom and water in saucepan, and stir to blend.
  2. Over low heat, stir mixture. gradually adding pineapple liquid, until mixture is thick and clear.let sauce cool.
  3. Combine apple, celery and pineapple in a bowl and pour cool sauce over them.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Decorate with cherry halves and serve.
  6. Variation: Use chopped dates to mix in and also for decoration, instead of cherries.

Fact File

One apple has more fiber than a serving of oatmeal. A medium apple has nearly 160 g of potassium, like oranges and bananas. Researchers in the UK say that kids who are big apple eaters have better lung function and are at a lower risk of asthma. An apple a day just might keep the doctor away!

Some fruits such as pineapples (along with papayas and mangoes) contain certain protein breaking enzymes which can attack the mast cells which are part of the body’s immune system.

Nutritionists recommend that these fruits should not be eaten on an empty stomach. Canned pineapple is generally safe as the heat used in canning destroys this enzyme. Use caution when introducing a never-before-tried fruit.

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