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Low Carb Vegetable Dishes that are Creative but Quick

Low Carb Vegetable Dishes that are Creative but Quick

While the macronutrients of protein and fat hold star status on low carb diets, the vegetable side dishes are often what make the meal more interesting and complete.  In the recipes below I am sharing a few of the vegetable side dishes that are truly creative, but remain quick and easy.  

Asparagus with crumbled eggs
Asparagus with crumbled eggs
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There are many cookbooks and blogs that include recipes for low carb side dishes featuring vegetables, and some are quite inspirational.  Many of the more creative recipes however, are either quite complicated or include grains or dairy.  

I bought the cookbook “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi and absolutely love it, but I find I save most of his creative vegetable dishes for the weekend due to complicated ingredients or lengthy directions.

Criteria for Flavorful, but Low Carb Side Dishes:

For me, the resistance to making vegetable side dishes is twofold:

  1. The need for a “recipe” often stops me on weeknights.  I don’t make vegetable side dishes frequently enough to have preparation methods at the tip of my fingertips.  Currently, the mock mashed potato dish (made with cauliflower) and sautéed leafy greens with onions are the workhorses.
  2. The hassle of chopping and rinsing fresh vegetables is also an obstacle.  If you want fresh, there isn’t really any getting around this.  Employ some family help here or put on the headphones and zone out.
  3. Sauteed vegetables are best for those week-night dinners when you need to get something on the table quickly.  Enhance them with some balsamic vinegar, chili spices, or hard-boiled eggs and you’ve gone from good to great.  
  4. Don’t forget to top your veggies with plenty of butter.  Butter is one of those fats that is low carb and can really make a taste difference on vegetables.
  5. Salt is another ingredient that can take vegetables from good to great. Salt has been given a bad rap, and the use of it is frequently misunderstood. Processed foods include a LOT of salt (often hidden) and that is where the health problem comes in. If you cook at home, and use very little processed food, using salt will enhance your food without the health issues.
  6. If you are still shy of using salt on your fresh vegetables, opt for some mild chile spices.

3 Creative, Weeknight Low Carb Side Dishes

Low carb side dishes
Low carb side dishes

So, my recent attempts at getting more creative with spices on vegetable dishes are taking me into the realm of different cultures.  Moroccan, Ethiopian and Vietnamese are my favorites so far, but I’ve just scratched the surface with spice combinations. 

The Cauliflower dish and the asparagus dish were inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, adapted to be compliant with a low carb diet.  The Korean spinach dish was only slightly adapted from a recipe for Korean Barbecue in Fine Cooking Magazine.  

A few other vegetable dishes you might enjoy include:

All three dishes were wonderful, quick and low-carb friendly. Here is a printable recipe card for the asparagus dish, followed by text recipes for the other two vegetable dishes

Asparagus w/ Crumbled eggs & Capers

Asparagus and egg side dish
A low carb side dish of fresh asparagus enhanced with the protein and flavor of crumbled eggs. Flavor is further enhanced with the acidity of capers
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Servings 4
Calories 130
Author dorothy stainbrook

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 large bunches asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tsp capers drained
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Place eggs in a pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When water is boiling, turn burner off and cover the pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon into bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel under cool running water. * note: fresh eggs will not peel well. you really need eggs that are at least a week old.
  • Grate the eggs on a coarse cheese grater.
  • Bend the asparagus until the tough bottom ends snap off and compost the ends (or use in soups). Place the asparagus spears in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender.
  • Drain asparagus. While still warm, drizzle the oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with capers, salt and pepper. Top with the grated egg.

Nutrition

Calories: 130kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 6gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 665mgPotassium: 251mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 940IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 44mgIron: 3mg
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Recipe for Baked Cauliflower with Saffron & Olives

Mediterranean cauliflower with saffron & olives
Mediterranean cauliflower with saffron & olives

  • 2 tsp saffron
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into individual florets
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and cut in half lengthways
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 Tbsp chopped parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Release the oils and fragrance of the saffron by placing it in a small bowl, pouring the boiling water over it, and allowing it to sit for about 5 minutes
  2. In a large bowl add the cauliflower, onion, olives, olive oil, bay leaves, and salt and pepper.  Pour the infused saffron water over the mix in the bowl and mix together well with your hands, coating the cauliflower with the oil and spices.
  3. Spoon the mixture into an 9 x 11 inch baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for a total of 40 to 45 minutes, stirring the mixture after 20 minutes and placing the foil back on to cover for another 20 minutes. Cauliflower should be fork tender, but not mushy.
  4. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the parslet and adjust the salt and pepper if you would like more.
  5. Serve warm.

 Recipe for Korean BBQ Spinach

Korean spinach low carb side dish
Korean spinach low carb side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. spinach, fresh or frozen
  • 3 tsp sesame seeds
  • 5 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar (omit if doing strict slow carb diet)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place sesame seed in small non-stick frying pan and toast over low heat, shaking pan, until they are light brown and nutty (just a few minutes – watch carefully).  Add peanut oil to the pan and heat over low heat for a few minutes to infuse sesame seeds into oil.
  2. Cook the spinach in a pot of boiling water until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Drain well and squeeze out excess water, being careful not to burn your hands.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix until well combined.  Serve warm or at room temperature
  1. Place eggs in a pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  When water is boiling, turn burner off and cover the pot.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Remove eggs with slotted spoon into bowl of ice water and let cool.  Peel under cool running water.  * note: fresh eggs will not peel well.  you really need eggs that are at least a week old.
  2. Grate the eggs on a coarse cheese grater.
  3. Bend the asparagus until the tough bottom ends snap off and compost the ends (or discard).  Place the asparagus spears in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Drain asparagus.  While still warm, drizzle the oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with capers, salt and pepper. Top with the grated egg.

Once vegetables become something you can prep on autopilot, they are really very quick and add a whole new dimension to your meals as a low carb side dish.  And when you start to feel that resistance to cooking vegetables, remember…

“Cooking is a practice, same as Buddhism, CrossFit and sobriety. You just have to do it until that’s what you do. ”  — Sam Sifton

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