Are you ready for the holidays? We’ve been thinking about what we’re going to make since mid-October, and now that November is finally here, it’s crunch time. Planning for the main star of the meal is a task in-and-of-itself that calls for careful planning to ensure that your friends and family are thoroughly impressed. And let’s not forget about the side dishes!
Vegetable sides don’t have to be boring dishes of plan veggies that play second fiddle to the more beloved side dishes like sweet potato casserole, scalloped potatoes, or mashed potatoes (the potato love is real). With that in mind, we delved deep into the reaches of the Food Monster App and extracted the best tips and tricks for holiday sides. Here’s what we learned:
There are a few basic rules to keep in mind when roasting vegetables. First, be sure to line your pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, even if you have a nonstick pan and even if you plan on being generous with the oil. Second, you should generally chop your vegetables into even-sized pieces to ensure that they roast evenly. Keep the smaller pieces for making broth from vegetable scraps. If a vegetable is on the smaller side, like carrots, you might be able to roast them whole. Prior to roasting, add all the vegetables to a bowl and toss them with a little bit of oil, just enough to coat them. Olive oil is a good choice, given you don’t heat it above its smoke point of 425°F.
Be sure to lay your vegetables in an even layer and place the baking pan in the center of the oven, rotating halfway through cook time to ensure even cooking. For tips on prepping and chopping different types of vegetables for roasting, read The Ultimate Guide to Roasting Vegetables.
If you’re avoiding oil, you can still have delicious roasted vegetables for the holiday. First, you need the right cookware. Nonstick pans (like Teflon) work, just be sure not to heat them above 500°F, as this can cause the nonstick coating to break down and release toxic chemicals. If you want to stay away from nonstick pans altogether, then heavy stainless steel, ceramic-coated titanium, and enamel-coated cast iron are also good options.
If you don’t have any of those and want to save money, silicone baking mats or parchment paper will do. Blogger Molly Patrick uses parchment paper for oil-free oven-baking. As you can see in these Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos, these Tangerine Roasted Root Vegetables, and these Oil-Free Roasted Potatoes, the results are delicious.
Oil also helps add flavor to vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, beets, and all those tasty winter vegetables often partially caramelize and crisp up when roasted in oil, which is very tasty. To recreate that without oil, toss your vegetables in a sauce. In the Tangerine Roasted Root Vegetables pictured above, the veggies are tossed in a sauce made from tangerine juice, mustard, rice vinegar, salt, and pepper. It also uses a blend of herbs that we often associate with the holidays, like sage, parsley, rosemary, and basil. You might want to try swapping the tangerine juice for another seasonal fruit juice, like cranberry or pomegranate. Using Molly‘s roasted root vegetables as a guide, play around with creating a sauce that combines sweet, savory, citrus, and salty flavors.
If you want to keep it simple, you could also forego the parchment paper, lay your vegetables evenly on a baking pan, and add a thin layer of vegetable broth with herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary. For a unique twist, try roasting the vegetables in a mixture of organic apple juice and water with warm spices like cinnamon and cloves.
Don’t neglect your herbs and spices! For the holiday seasons, stick with herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme or use warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, or even cardamom. Just toss your vegetables with whatever herbs and spices you want to use. If you’re using fresh, add them to the dish once it’s done roasting.
These Holiday Hasselback Sweet Potatoes are topped with fresh rosemary and sage that have been fried in oil to make them crispy. This Delicata Squash was roasted with cinnamon, then tossed with fresh sage and thyme. These Roasted Sweet Potatoes are cooked with cloves, cinnamon, cayenne, and brown sugar, then topped with fresh parsley. And Holly Bertone’s Roasted Sweet Potatoes are tossed with cinnamon and turmeric. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box, either. This Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin is paired with dairy-free yogurt and hazelnut dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend made from toasted herbs and spices.
Adding some sweet flavor to your roasted vegetables is a nice touch for holiday dishes, and there are a lot of ways to do it.
Using maple syrup is one of the most popular ways to add a touch of sweetness to roasted vegetables. You can toss your vegetables in a mixture of maple syrup and olive oil (or water for oil-free) with herbs, as in these Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots and Parsnips or make it sweet, spicy, and citrus-y like in this Maple Cinnamon Roasted Squash. These Paleo Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes add an unexpected touch with curry powder and ginger. Or, try combining maple syrup and Dijon mustard, like in this Maple Mustard Roasted Cauliflower. For an oil-free option, try the marinade for this Orange Maple Butternut Squash and Tofu Salad.
You could also roast your vegetables with fresh, fall fruit, like red apples, figs, or pears. Slice the fruit evening, toss it in a bit of cinnamon sugar, and add it to a separate pan. Roast it for a shorter amount of time than your vegetables. The fruit is done when it’s tender. This would pair well with root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. Toss the fruit and roasted vegetables together before serving. Adding fruit to your dish after roasting is another good option, particularly dried cranberries, fresh pomegranate seeds, or sliced persimmon.
Candied nuts and seeds can add spice, sweetness, and texture to your dishes. Choose seasonal nuts associated with the holiday season, like walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or hazelnuts. To learn how to make candied nuts, click here. Or, just toss some nuts in there for texture.
Now, talk to us! What side dishes are you planning for the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments!
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Maple Cinnamon Roasted Squash