Salads Sides Vegetarian

Oil-Free Greek Chickpea Salad

It’s almost picnic season, and that means that soon you will be requested to bring something to share to a barbeque or dinner. And is it me, or is it always just a little difficult to come up with an idea when you’re put on the spot? I’m great at coming up with ideas on the fly, but sometimes when I’m asked to bring something over to a friend’s house, my brain goes blank! 

Well, keep this salad in the back of your mind for one of those “bring a side” parties. This oil-free, flavorful salad is colorful, delicious, healthy, and quick and easy to prepare. Because it’s oil-free, it’s also guilt-free so you can tell your friends it’s ok to eat a ton of it. They will want to anyway, trust me.


1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 english cucumber, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 c. fresh parsley, chopped

4-5 green onions, chopped

½ c. kalamata olives

½ c. feta cheese

2 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Juice from 2 lemons

Salt and pepper

Mix together all ingredients in a serving bowl. Season liberally with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Sides Vegan Vegetarian

Rotkohl (German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage)

Rotkohl is a very popular and really delicious German side dish made with red cabbage, apples, and onions or shallots. It’s healthy, and goes together well with pork, beef, sausages, and chicken. Rotkohl is the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and tender and crunchy.  It’s also very pleasing to the eye. But rotkohl ain’t just beautiful, it tastes awesome too. Double threat side dish.


1 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. butter

1 green apple, thinly sliced

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

¼ c apple cider vinegar

1 c. apple cider

2 bay leaves

½ tsp. ground cloves (optional, but recommended)

PInch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

To cook the cabbage, heat the butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Cook the shallots and apples for 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, vinegar, apple cider, bay leaves , sugar, and cloves (if you are including them). Turn the heat down to medium, cover, and cook the cabbage for 30 minutes or until it is tender (but not mushy). Season with salt and pepper. 


Dim Sum-Style Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy

The baby bok choy at good dim sum restaurants is truly something to behold. It’s vibrantly green, perfectly tender while somehow still crunchy, and the flavors are ideally balanced. When the little cart comes by with these bad boys on them, I always say yes. 

Unfortunately, around here there’s just no dim sum restaurant like the ones in larger cities to fulfill my baby bok choy dreams . . . so I have learned to make it at home. While it’s not quite as fun as eating at a flashy, bustling dim sum restaurant, home-cooked baby bok choy is every bit as delicious when you make it yourself. And since we don’t have any dim sum joints around here, maybe it’s time to schedule a dim sum party at my place.


6 bunches of baby bok choy, cleaned and ends trimmed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

3 Tbsp. oyster sauce

3 Tbsp. water

Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar and oyster sauce in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the baby bok choy and stir fry with the garlic for another 2 minutes. Add the water and cover the wok. Allow the bok choy to cook for 3 more minutes, or until it is soft (but not soggy). Place the bok choy and garlic pieces onto a platter and pour the sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Sides Vegetarian

Crispy Garlic Parmesan Brussels Sprouts

I’m so happy for brussels sprouts because they are finally getting the love they deserve after such a long time of being hated. Back in the day, brussels sprouts were loathed by all because of the nasty way they were cooked, or should I say over-boiled. Most people have childhood memories of being forced to eat those dirty-sock tasting, over-boiled green balls of grossness.

Brussels sprouts, you’ve come a long way baby.  Now that we know how to cook brussels sprouts properly, we have learned that they are one of the very best veggies out there. These garlicky, cheesy roasted brussels sprouts are so delicious that they may even convert a former hater. If you think you hate brussels sprouts, give these a try. They might just change your mind.


1 lb. brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed  and halved

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

⅓ c. panko breadcrumbs

¼ c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Combine the brussels sprouts, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine. Spread out evenly on a lined baking sheet. Top with panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the brussels sprouts are tender and lightly browned. Enjoy!

Salads Sides

Warm Brussel Sprout Salad with Bacon and Gorgonzola

You know I love a warm and hearty salad, and this one is amazingly delicious and satisfying. Roasted brussel sprouts are infused with the flavors of shallots and garlic, tossed in a light vinaigrette and topped with bacon and gorgonzola. This salad is fodder for sexy salad dreams, I tell you. If you try it, you’ll understand. 


2 c. brussels sprouts, halved

1 shallot, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil 

Salt and pepper

2 slices of bacon, diced

½ c. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled


2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard 

⅓ c. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Toss together the brussels sprouts, shallots, garlic and olive oil and spread out on a lined baking sheet. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and slightly browned. 

Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients and set aside. 

To assemble the salad, place the still-warm brussels sprouts in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Top with bacon and gorgonzola. Serve immediately!

Sides Vegan Vegetarian

Wasabi Smashed Peas

One of my favorite snacks is a few handfuls of wasabi peas. The sweet peas combined with the nasal-clearing, spicy wasabi is such a delicious combination. Earlier this week, I spotted some peas in the freezer and I wondered if I could make a cooked version of wasabi peas to pair with an Asian-inspired salmon I was planning on making. 

The verdict: it totally works, and reminded me a lot of a great sushi meal. These smashed wasabi peas taste so much like dried wasabi peas and were super tasty served with my Maple-Soy Salmon and a side of white rice. Try this quick weeknight side item the next time you cook fish!


2 c. frozen peas

½ c. chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp. To 1 Tbsp. wasabi paste (adjust to your heat preference) 

2 tsp. olive oil

Salt to taste

Bring the peas and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until peas are tender. Remove from heat and using a potato masher, smash the peas, leaving some intact. Add the olive oil, wasabi paste and salt. Mix to combine and serve.


Cuban Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)

These Cuban black beans take the same ‘ol canned black beans and make them so craveworthy that you’ll want to eat them all the time – and you’ll certainly never go back to eating plain black beans again. The savory onions and garlic mixed with the smoky flavors of the bacon and spices are so yummy that you may even make these beans to eat as an actual meal. I have definitely been known to eat a pile o’ these babies for lunch and I loved every bite. These, of course, pair perfectly with my Cuban lechon asado, and would be equally awesome with beef, chicken, or fish . . . but don’t limit these to a side dish. They’re a treat on their own.


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 slices of bacon, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

½ c. chicken broth

1 bay leaf

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

Splash of red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions and green peppers until they are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the bacon and continue to cook until the bacon is crispy. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the bay leaf, cumin, oregano, chicken broth, black beans, and vinegar. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Escargots a la Bourguignonne (Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter)

So many people are hesitant to eat snails because they’re, ahem, a little ugly when they are “naked.” But if you tuck them into their beautiful shells and bathe them in garlic-herb butter, they transform into these eye-pleasing, heavenly, tender, and oh-so-magnificent tasting morsels. Escargot a la Bourguignonne is, without question,one of my favorite foods in the world. 

I have always believed if there was a blind-folded taste test involving a variety of foods, most people would say snails are one of the best things they’ve ever tasted. It is my belief that snails get the short end of the stick because they’re not pretty. Well, neither are oysters. The ugly-looking food argument only goes so far. 

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder . . . and in my eyes, snails are a perfect 10. 


1 can large high-quality French snails (24 qty)

24 snail shells

1 stick butter

1 Tbsp. shallot, minced 

4 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

Combine the butter, shallots, garlic, parsley, and ½ tsp. Salt in a food processor and process until smooth and well mixed. 

Drain and rinse the snails. Push one snail into each shell. Then, spoon some of the butter mixture into each shell pushing it down so that you get plenty of it in there. 

Place the snails on an escargot tray and bake for 6-10 minutes, or until the butter is bubbly and melted. Serve with a baguette, and make sure to make extra bread to soak up the leftover butter sauce.


Creamy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are having their moment in the sun after many years of association with only Thanksgiving side dishes and Southern pie. People have grown to love these lovely orange tubers that taste slightly sweet and delicious in all types of applications, from fries to savory, stuffed versions to taco filling. Sweet potatoes are amazing! 

If you have never made mashed sweet potatoes, what are you waiting for? They are good. So good, in fact, that you may choose to eat these over white potatoes next time.


2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

3 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. whole milk 

Salt and pepper

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat. Add the potatoes, reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. 

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Add the butter and milk slowly until the desired consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Top with parsley.

Sides Vegetarian

Ultra-Yummy Slow Cooker Queso Blanco

Does it get any better than salty, yummy tortilla chips dipped in creamy queso full of New Mexican green chiles and fresh tomatoes? No, I think not. Whether you’re making this for game day, a party, or a weeknight snack, it’s going to bring smiles to everyone in the vicinity. 

Chips and a really great queso are truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you are anything like me, you could eat this combination every day and never get sick of it. Of course, nobody can live on chips and queso alone . . . but that’s neither here nor there. Sometimes you just need to indulge a bit,, and this is definitely worthy of a calorie splurge. 


½ block of cream cheese

½ lb. white American cheese, cubed or shredded

1 4 oz. can diced green chiles

1 roma tomato, chopped

¼ c. chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp.paprika

Chopped jalapenos, for serving

Chopped cilantro, for serving

To make the queso blanco, combine cream cheese, American cheese, green chiles, tomato, chicken or veggie broth, garlic powder, cumin and paprika in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 1 hour. If the sauce is too thick, add 1-2 Tbsp. of milk or water to thin it out.