Ask Jen about side dishes

burger and fries

What makes the hamburger a meal? French fries, of course. Pasta isn’t pasta without garlic bread. What is the point of barbecue if you don’t have coleslaw? And roast beef without mashed potatoes is just sinful.

See where I’m going with this?

mashed potatoesJust the way Desi complimented Lucy, the best meal you’ll ever cook is only as good as the side dishes you pair it with. But how do you go about choosing the perfect sides for your meal? Are there any steadfast rules to follow? What should or shouldn’t you have to consider when matching successful sides?

Remember how I like to count things down? Here I go again. The 5 elements I look at when choosing side dishes:

  1. Colors: If it looks good, chances are, we’ll eat it. If it looks bad, we probably won’t. What would look better, a spinach salad with green cucumbers, green peppers, green beans, green peas and avocado dressing, or the same spinach based salad with beautiful red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow and white hard-boiled egg, black olives, yellow and orange peppers and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing? Bring on the colors of the rainbow!!
  1. Nutrition: For the most part, your main dish is probably going to be the protein source. Your side dishes are going to need to bring in the fruits, veggies and grains that aren’t present in the main dish. Think Meatloaf with smashed redskin potatoes, buttered corn and a loaf of fresh bread.
  1. Texture: Soft pairs with crunchy. Think Mac and cheese with a side salad and fresh bread. Or Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes.Mexican food
  1. Flavor: Spicy fits well with mild. Mild also works great with acidic. Going back to that mac and cheese, how about a fresh tomato salad to go with it? The acid in the tomatoes is a nice kick to the smooth pasta. Or how about a spicy Mexican dish with a side of refried beans? Yes, please!

And finally,

  1. Perfection – or rather, the lack of: Don’t spend all of your time planning out and cooking the perfect all around meal, when the real reward is spending meal time with your family. I’m more likely to microwave a can of corn after I’ve told the family that dinner is ready. (Haha – they love waiting.) It’s definitely not a culinary masterpiece but we eat it together, and that’s what really matters.

Go make something awesome,

Instead of just cracking open the can, sometimes I make:

Homemade Creamed Corn

1 bag frozen sweet corn
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2-3 Tbsp. cold water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the corn in water on the stovetop, drain all liquid and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Add the cream, about 1/3 cup at a time. Cover and cook over medium heat until thickened. Stir in sugar, salt and pepper and finally add in the corn. Stir until corn is heated through and serve!

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