three easy vegetable sides for holiday dinners!

December 7, 2016

I once read an article summarizing a study that found that October was the month in which we would be at our lowest weights. From then on, it would be a slow and steady climb on the scale until January, at which point we would all panic and start the uphill battle to work off that holiday weight. Unfortunately, the study is proving itself true in my household so far — Erlend and I are still making our way through our Thanksgiving leftovers, and I've managed to make it to the gym only a handful of times since then. Oopsy.

But one of the researchers involved in the study did offer some sage advice — in place of a New Year's resolution to lose weight, it would be better to have an October resolution to gain less in the first place. I like that. Having dropped the ball in November and Thanksgiving, I'm making a concerted effort to eat healthier in December. Yes, in December!

Of course, December is a particularly tricky time to eat healthily. Maybe even the worst time to do so. Because not only are there endless parties and get-togethers, it seems that every menu is filled with decadent roasted meats and buttery, fried potato sides. It can feel a little like you're missing out on all the fun when you opt for the salads and the greens.

But that doesn't have to be the case. I'm taking a leaf from Ottolenghi's book and making vegetables the star by sharing three vegetable-focused side recipes that are just as tasty and satisfying as the meat and potatoes! A bright and creamy carrot soup. A unique, savory squash recipe infused with Japanese flavors. A fresh and nutty broccolini salad that will go with literally everything else on the table. Not only are these dishes beautiful, delicious, and healthful, each recipe comes together incredibly quickly in the kitchen, making them perfect, stress-free sides for any holiday dinner party or date night in.



This post was done in partnership with KitchenAid®, who provided compensation and the cookware featured in the post to make it happen. I've never been one to invest in good quality nonstick pots and pans; I've always thought they were a poor investment as they often seem flimsy, with surfaces that scratch and chip easily. This KitchenAid® set has proven me wrong; not only is it beautiful, but it's tough as nails while still being incredibly lightweight! The Teflon nonstick surface works like a dream, with food sliding off and out of the pan easily with little to no oil. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own — thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and my sponsors! 


Warm Broccolini Salad with Toasted Almonds


(serves 2 people)

For the Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • a pinch of kosher salt

For the Broccolini Salad:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) broccolini, ends removed
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted raw almond slivers 


For the Vinaigrette:
  1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, and a pinch of kosher salt until emulsified. Set aside while you prepare the broccolini salad.

For the Broccolini Salad:
  1. Preheat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the broccolini, tossing the vegetables to coat them in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the broccolini turns a vibrant green, the leaves get slightly charred, and the stems are tender when pierced with a fork.

  2. Transfer the broccolini to a large plate. Drizzle half of the vinaigrette on top of the broccolini, toss, and add more dressing as desired. Top with 1/4 cup almond slivers and enjoy immediately.


Ginger Carrot Bisque with a Crème Fraîche Swirl
(adapted from Food52 Vegan)

Special Equipment
  • a handheld immersion blender (or a regular blender)

(serves 2 to 4 people)

For the Ginger Carrot Bisque:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 "heaping" cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 10 ounces carrots, chopped into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoons mild curry powder
  • kosher salt, to taste 
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche 


For the Ginger Carrot Bisque:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup onion, 1/4 cup celery, and finely chopped ginger and sauté until the onion is tender and translucent, about 8 minutes.

  2. Stir in 2 cups vegetable broth, carrots, potatoes, and 3/4 teaspoons curry powder and bring to a boil. Season everything with salt. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Using an immersion blender (or using a regular blender and working in batches), blend until completely smooth. Return the soup to the pot over low heat and cook, stirring often, until heated through.

  4. Serve the soup hot and garnish with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche. Drag a butter knife or toothpick through the swirls for a marble effect.


Dashi Braised Carnival Squash
(adapted from Food52)

(serves 4 people)

For the Dashi:

For the Braised Squash:
  • 1 cup dashi broth (recipe above)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 medium carnival squash, seeded and cut into 8 moon shapes
  • 1 teaspoon togarashi 
  • scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish


For the Dashi:
  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine 2 cups water and 1 sheet kombu. Bring to a simmer, and remove from heat. Immediately add 1/4 cup bonito flakes, stir, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Use broth immediately.

For the Braised Squash:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup dashi broth, 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce until well combined. Set aside. 

  2. Preheat 2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add the squash, cooking for a few minutes until slightly brown. Flip and cook on the other side. Once both sides are browned and seared, add the dashi mixture (from the first step). Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, flipping the squash pieces about halfway through. Towards the end, most of the dashi mixture will have been reduced and the remaining liquid will be syrupy. Shake the pan to coat all the squash pieces and transfer to a plate.

  3. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon togarashi over the squash, and garnish with scallions for serving.


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