Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Low Carb Holiday Classic Sides

When we start putting our holiday menu down on paper, we usually notice something happening. The same dishes appear year after year after year. Aside from the traditional main dish, there seems to be a pattern in many households of our favorite sides reappearing. It's wonderful to follow tradition, but what happens when those family favorites are in conflict with your healthy diet? Many sides we love are not exactly what you'd call low-carb. So, how do we reinvent our holiday side dishes? Let's take a look at a few new ways to treat a few old favorites.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Anyone on a low-carb diet will automatically push past the mashed potatoes and gravy. We know it's loaded in carbs, right? But the clever cook can easily replace the traditional favorite with a new favorite; Mock Smashed Potatoes and Golden Au Jus. The secret to this low-carb dish is simply that you aren't cooking potatoes; you're creating potatoes out of cauliflower.

Boil cauliflower, then mash or put in food processor with cream cheese and other ingredients, and you have a smooth potato-like texture. You can thicken the “potatoes” a bit with a tablespoon or so of almond flour if you wish. Add garlic, Parmesan cheese, onion, salt and pepper to add even more flavor.

Then the gravy is simple. All you need really is the pan drippings, a little water, and a saucepan over medium high heat. Get the liquid bubbling and let it reduce by half and you'll have a nice, rich gravy without any added flour. Of course, if you wish to thicken the gravy a bit, a little sprinkling of flour won't add a significant amount of carbs to the meal.

Green Bean Casserole

You know you love a big heaping helping of this favorite dish, but just one look at that can of cream of soup and you also know it's off limits. But you can have this traditional side dish again; all you need to do is control the ingredients.

Once you have your green beans cooking and your seasonings ready, you just need the sauce to bring it all together. That thick creamy sauce is what makes the dish, right? Create your own cream of soup by making a simple white sauce using milk and almond flour to thicken. You can also stir in a bit of cream cheese to give it an even creamier texture. It's really as simple as opening a can once you get the basic technique down.

As for those crunchy onions on top, the carbs don't account for much in the entire dish, but if you want to eliminate them entirely, but keep the onion taste, oven fry some thinly cut onion that has been coated lightly with olive oil. When they get golden brown, toss them into and on top of the casserole for all the flavor without any breading.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This favorite side dish will take a lot of tweaking, but with the carb savings you'll enjoy, it's well worth it. Sweet potatoes are loaded with carbohydrates, and I don't mean a little; I mean a lot! One trick for bringing the carb count down is to mix pureed pumpkin in with the sweet potatoes. You maintain the texture and flavor (remember, pureed pumpkin doesn't have any flavor of its own), and bring the carbs down within a reasonable amount.

Of course, you'll want to avoid as much sugar as possible, so one alternative is to stir in a bit of artificial sweetener, just enough to bring the sweetness to a level that you're used to. Another way is to readjust your thinking entirely when it comes to sweet potato casserole. You may want to make it savory instead of sweet. A sweet potato casserole made with crispy bacon or sausage instead of marshmallows and sugar could be a nice change on your holiday table.

Cranberry Relish

There are even ways to tweak this tangy sweet side dish. Cranberry relish is typically not what you would call low-carb. The amount of sugar in most recipes is pretty much off the scale, and the canned variety is even worse. But, even though the amount you would normally eat at one sitting won't amount to too much, there are still ways to reduce the normal amount of carbs.

One interesting way to reduce the amount of carbs in a bowl of cranberry relish is to “bulk” up the relish as much as possible with lower carb ingredients. Surprisingly, the peel of the orange is lower in carbs than the fruit itself. Fill your food processor with raw cranberries and the peels of several washed oranges and process until finely chopped. Then, add sections of the orange, tasting after a few are processed, and stop adding when you have a nice blend of tangy and sweet. Add a sprinkle of artificial sweetener or sugar just until you've gotten the sweetness you like. You'll be surprised how little sugar you'll have to add if you taste it first.

All of these makeovers have one thing in common – you have to just stop and think before you do what you've always done. Often that's all it takes. When you rethink the ingredients, you can usually eliminate or substitute something that is healthier and just as tasty. You may even be creating new holiday dinner traditions.

No comments:

Post a Comment