I read an article the other day talking about how we spend all of our cooking time on the main course or entree — so much so, that we "neglect" doing anything special with the side dishes. The author insinuated that cooking vegetables by either "just steaming" them or serving a big green salad on the side constitutes "culinary neglect." The article went on to provide an argument on why we should spend equal time cooking our vegetables, utilizing side dish recipes, preparations, sauces and the whole nine yards.
I couldn't disagree with this more. Sometimes, just getting a salad on the table in addition to the entree is in and of itself a feat to be proud of at my house!
Listen, I don't know about you, but I don't have the luxury of an hour to prepare dinner. I need it to be fast, easy and nutritious. So instead of preparing elaborate side dishes, I go the fast and easy route. A thrown-together salad from ready-to-go salad greens from the grocery store and some simple steamed broccoli make me feel like I've done my nutritional best. When you think about it, both verdant veggies help balance out the day by giving you two servings of veggies instead of just the one. At my house, dinner is all about catching up on the veggies — we don't do really well with veggie eating the rest of the day.
The thing I hate about articles like the one I just mentioned is that they make people feel guilty for not cooking "enough." As if you're not doing enough by "just steaming" your vegetables! That's nonsense. Besides, have you ever tried "just steamed" broccoli with a little dollop of mayo on the top? (low-fat, of course!). This is how we eat it in my house and it's delicious. Before you turn your nose up at it, try it! My high school sweetheart's mother made broccoli this way, and it actually taught me to eat broccoli and love it!
And that would be my advice to y'all: If you aren't getting veggies on the table each night because you "don't have time" to fix them, don't abandon the produce ship! Just make them simpler — steam them, make a salad, buy them frozen and heat them up. Whatever you do, don't chide yourself for "culinary neglect" if you don't have the time for fancy footwork with your veggies!
Remember the KISS principle: keep it simple, sweetie! That's what side dishes are all about — simple, nutritious and all about easy!
Here is a nonrecipe recipe for a great side dish that definitely seems like fancy footwork but absolutely is not. I have measurements for those of you who like them, but I never measure for this because it is a thrown-together side dish that is really easy. I make this when I already have the oven on, otherwise I wouldn't bother. Try it, you'll love it!
Leanne's Baked Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, steamed
1 tablespoon (thereabouts) butter
1 tablespoon (thereabouts) Dijon mustard
1 cup (thereabouts) lowfat shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place steamed cauliflower in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Rub butter over the top, rub the mustard over the top, sprinkle cheese on the top. Place cauliflower in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly. Serves 4.
Leanne Ely, a k a Dinner Diva, is the author of the best-selling "Saving Dinner" and "Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way" (Ballantine). What's for dinner? Go to www.savingdinner.com and find the solution!