Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Side Dishes - Cause Yo' Chicken Needs a Friend

One thing I've been struggling with these last few weeks is trying to pick good sides for my proteins.  I don't want to get stuck in a salad rut, although I make some pretty bangin' salads (peppers, onions, gorgonzola, cilantro, tomatoes, green onions, avocados - solid).  I also don't want to eat too much of my contest prep food, as I'm really trying to save that for when I need to get ready for the stage.  Part of trying to be more "normal" is making side dishes that are still friendly to the old waistline, but are also not a heavily relied on staple for competitions.  So last night I did some cookin', and I made sweet potato fries (yes, I eat these in contest prep), asparagus (see previous comment), summer squash, and bok choy.  Technically the last 2 could be eaten, too, so I guess I failed!!  But I did incorporate more oils, whereas during prep I'd prepare with PAM or eliminate all together.  So here are my recipes and some pics.

Summer squash with garlic and bread crumbs: both on and off season: omit bread crumbs when prepping, although they really don't add that much in terms of cals; really close to a show they'd need to come out completely.  You can also do this same recipe with mushrooms since they also release liquid when you add head.  If I use mushrooms, I usually throw in a little fresh parsley.

2 zucchini
2 yellow summer squash
4 -5 cloves of garlic (yes, I'm a garlic whore), chopped
1 T olive or canola oil
1/4 c italian bread crumbs

Heat the oil in a skillet (I used cast iron - it's just my preference) and add the garlic.  Saute garlic for a few minutes, but don't burn it, otherwise it'll taste bitter.  Add the zucchini and the squash and  and cook until they become opaque.  Here's the trick: these veggies release water as they cook, and you'll actually want to cook them until they start to release some water.  Once they release water and are opaque, add your bread crumbs and turn off the heat.  Stir to combine everything and serve.  If you don't wait until the veggies release their water, the bread crumbs won't have anything to adhere to and your dish will suck.  Don't do that. 

Bok Choy: on or off season (in season, I would sub Pam for oil and soy will eventually have to come out if you sodium deplete)

3 heads baby bok choy, separated
5 cremini or shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 T shallots, chopped
1 t fresh grated ginger
1/2 c bean sprouts (the big ones)
1 green onion, chopped
1-2 T fresh chopped cilantro
1-2 T peanut or sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 T soy sauce
1/2 c water

Heat the peanut/sesame oil until it's hot.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or 2.  Add mushrooms and cook until they start to release water.  Once they do, add the bok choy and all remaining ingredients and cook until all the liquid evaporates.  Yum!

Grilled Asparagus: on or off season (in season, sub Pam for oil, and again soy will come out if you manipulate sodium)
2 bunches asparagus, ends cut (the thick asparagus work best under high heat - thin ones will burn and turn limp - that's what she said)
3 T balsamic vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 T soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a pyrex dish and marinate asparagus for about 30 minutes.  Heat a grill pan or grill on med-high eat and grill asparagus on each side for 3-4 mins, turning frequently.  The key is to arrange them in a single layer.  If you don't they won't cook well and they won't cook evenly.  Work in layers!

BPs Sweet Potato Fries: on or off season (can make a "sweet" version with just splenda and cinnamon and eat up through show day!!  If you manipulate salt, opt for the sweet.  But these can be eaten all during prep)
4-5 sweet potatoes, cut into fries (sometimes I do mine like beefsteak fries - nice thick wedges - other times I do shoestring fries)
cajun seasoning
garlic powder
onion powder
2 T olive oil

Spray cookie sheet w/non-stick spray and arrange fries in a single layer.  Spray w/additional Pam and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on your spices and bake at 450 for 25 minutes.  Check them after 25 and cook an additional 15 minutes, if necessary.  The beefsteak wedges usually need more time, but the thin fries do not. 

Baked Polenta (on or off season: on season sub PAM for oil)

1 tube of polenta cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (I get mine from Trader Joes but my local grocery store also sells it)
2 T olive oil
Parsley, thyme, salt, pepper
2 T fresh grated parm cheese

Spray cookie sheet with Pam and arrange polenta cakes.  Drizzle over your olive oil and then add all of your spices.  Bake according to the package instructions.  When the polenta is done, sprinkle over your parmesan cheese.  The polenta should have a nice buttery, soft consistency. 

I make enough of all of these side dishes to last me for a few days, so I can mix and match them with chicken, fish, pork, turkey, steak, etc.  I change it up every single day.

I will try to upload more pics later, but I'm having major, major issues with all electronic devices at the moment........
Baked polenta

Asparagus, squash, fries!


  1. I laughed out loud at "that's what she said"... I don't even know what bok choy or polenta ARE! You make everything sound delicious though... I wish I lived next door to you so you could teach me all of this!

  2. Beth - I am loving your Blog! I've been very much in need of some quick recipes that are also tasty - yours seem to be perfect. Quick question about these sides - if you make them all at once do they last throughout the week? I was wondering how the asparagus and sweet potatoes held-up when reheated?

  3. Hey Alyssa!! Polenta - think of it like grits. It's pretty much the same thing. You can make it homemeade w/cornmeal or you can buy it already prepared, which is where mine came from. It's usually in a tube, like breakfast sausage sometimes is. It's a super low cal carb.

    Julie - they do get a little mushy over time, I won't lie! But to me, the taste trumps the consistency, and they taste delicious. The asparagus actually hold up pretty well, because I do not cook them for long - I always keep in mind the fact that I'm going to be reaheating things. I buy only the thickest asparagus I can find since the thin ones get really limp and mushy when reheated.