Halfway Homemade: Easy Holiday Side Dishes

Try these tips and recipes for fast and festive sides

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

The best part about holiday meals is that it's not all about the meat -- every part of the meal is special! Side dishes shine just as much as the festive appetizers and the dazzling dessert. But with so much effort going into the entree and desserts, wouldn't it be nice to save some time with those side dishes?

That's what this edition of "Halfway Homemade" is all about -- throwing together side dishes that are festive enough to sit beside that holiday roast or prime rib at your holiday table.

If you think about it, side dishes really don't need a long list of ingredients and cooking steps (save that for the dessert!). They should be fairly simple and feature a food group that isn't represented by the main dish, like fruits, vegetables, or grains.

10 Time-Saving Tips

There are several ways to save time with your sides. Here are 10 ideas to try:

1. Use ready-to-go products for garnishes or embellishments instead of making them yourself. For example, use Sunkist Almond Accents Honey Roasted Flavored Sliced Almonds in your Green Bean Almandine (see recipe below).

2. Use frozen vegetables (or even canned, in some cases) and kiss veggie-washing-and-slicing good-bye.

3. Use washed-and-ready bags of spinach or Romaine lettuce for salads.

4. Whenever you can, buy ingredients already cooked. For example, get cooked and cleaned crab instead of a whole crab (see the Festive Deviled Eggs recipe below).

5. Buy canned or bottled sauces and dressings, like the cranberry sauce and vinaigrette used in our Cranberry-Glazed Carrots, and the frozen pesto in our Holiday Tortelloni with Red and Green Dip (recipes below).

6. Buy accent ingredients already chopped and ready to sprinkle over or mix into your dish. We used chopped pecans in our Cranberry-Glazed Carrots and julienne sun-dried tomatoes in the Holiday Tortelloni.

7. Buy shredded cheese; it comes in several flavors, including jack, cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss).

8. Buy your herbs, spices, and seasoning blends chopped and ready to go in the spice aisle of your supermarket (like the ground nutmeg and parsley flakes or Mrs. Dash in the deviled egg recipe below).

9. Buy ready-to-pour lemon or lime juice (in glass and plastic bottles in your supermarket) and ready-to-measure lemon or orange zest (in the dried spice section).

10. Look for recipes with short ingredient lists. This is usually a good sign, though there are exceptions. The deviled egg recipe below has nine ingredients, but it only takes about nine minutes to pull together once your eggs are boiled and cool.

Halfway Homemade Side Dish Recipes

Festive Deviled Eggs

6 large, hard-cooked eggs, cooled and peeled (use higher omega-3 eggs if available; you'll only use half of the yolks)
1/4 cup cleaned and shredded crab (or finely chopped lean ham)
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped green onion (mostly the green part)
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise (or low-fat or fat-free, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Smidgen ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
Black pepper to taste (or Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper)

  • Cut eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Place half the yolks in a medium bowl and mash with fork (throw the other half away).
  • Add the crab, red pepper, green onion, mayonnaise, mustard, nutmeg, and parsley to the yolks and blend well with a fork. Add pepper to taste.
  • Spoon mixture evening among the 12 egg white halves.

Yield: 6 servings (2 deviled egg halves per serving)

Per serving: 70 calories, 6 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 111 mg cholesterol, 0.1 g fiber, 151 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 58%.

Easy Green Beans Almandine

24-ounce bag extra fine French green beans (I found mine at Trader Joe's)
1 1/2 tablespoons whipped butter
2 tablespoons Amaretto (or similar almond liqueur)
1/4 cup toasted flavored sliced almonds (like Sunkist Almond Accents Honey Roasted)

  • Briefly rinse frozen beans in hot water from the tap to lightly thaw. Heat a large, nonstick frying pan, skillet, or wok over medium-high heat. Add the whipped butter and let it brown just slightly (about a minute), stirring constantly.
  • Add the green beans and saute about 2 minutes, stirring often. Drizzle Amaretto liqueur over the top and continue to saute 2 to 3 minutes more or until beans are still a nice green and just tender.
  • Spoon the green beans into a serving bowl and sprinkle the almond slices evenly over the top.