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Low carb Christmas side dishes

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Low carb Christmas sides

The holiday season is upon us, which means indulging in countless feasts while still trying to count carbs. Everything seems to be going well, you've said "no, thanks" to a dinner roll, taken a sane serving of turkey -- but then it begins. Platter after platter of potatoes, white bread stuffing, corn... will it ever end? Take matters into your own hands and create a low carb meal you'll be happy to eat and proud to serve to any guest.

A different take on sides

The holidays are a time of festive indulgence, which, at first, doesn't appear to be friendly to a lifestyle that's low in carbs. You don't want to eat mounds of mashed potatoes, but you don't want to go the familiar -- and not-very-fancy route of mashed cauliflower. There is a solution: start with a favorite ingredient that's low in carbs, and build an elegant dish around it. A few extra touches can elevate the most boring vegetable to company-worthy status. The following recipes are easy to prepare, special enough for guests and are lower in carbs.

(Editor's note: Not all of these recipes are appropriate for all phases of various low carb diets.)

Spinach With White Beans

Garlic-infused olive oil and white beans add a Tuscan flair to a traditional side. This side dish is definitely not for someone in the beginning phases of a low carb diet and is geared more toward those in the maintenance phases.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 can (15.5 ounces) small white beans, drained
24 ounces baby spinach, washed, trimmed, left damp

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat oil over low heat.

2. Add garlic; cook about 1 minute, just enough to flavor the oil.

3. Remove garlic; increase heat to medium high. Add beans; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add spinach; cook until just wilted. Stir well to combine.

Makes 8 (3/4-cup) servings.

Per 3/4-cup serving: 21.2g carbs, 6.7g fiber, 2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 6g protein, 138mg sodium, 116 calories

Note: For fewer carbs, reduce the serving size to 1/2 cup.

Roasted Cauliflower

Oven-roasting imparts a smoky flavor to the cauliflower, while the cheese adds a piquant note.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, reserve 2 tablespoons for drizzling
2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine oil and cauliflower in a 3-quart casserole dish. Mix well, coating cauliflower with oil.

3. Sprinkle about half the cheese over the cauliflower; mix to coat cauliflower. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Drizzle remaining oil over top. Cover with foil; bake for 30 minutes, or until fork tender. If a brown top is desired, remove foil for last 15 minutes.

Makes 8 (1-cup) servings.

Per 1-cup serving: 11.2g carbs, 5.3g fiber, 8g total fat, 2mg cholesterol, 5g protein, 238mg sodium, 124 calories

Sweet Potato Bake

A familiar ingredient at holiday meals, enlivened with apples and crunchy pecans. For best results, use an apple that will keep its shape, like Gala or Braeburn.

Ingredients for the topping:
2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granular Splenda

Ingredients for the filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices (if allowed on your plan)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Nonstick cooking spray

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large, non-stick skillet, toast pecans over low heat for 10 minutes, or until you smell their aroma.

2. Increase heat to medium; add water, Splenda and salt.

3. Toss pecans to coat; continue to toss until water has evaporated. Remove from heat; let cool.

4. Prepare a 3-quart casserole dish. with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange a layer of overlapping potato on the bottom of the dish. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Place a layer of apple on top of the potatoes. Dot with butter. Continue to layer until you run out of ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper after each potato layer, and dotting with butter after each apple layer. You should finish with a layer of apple on top.

6. Finely chop pecans and sprinkle over top. Dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.

Makes 10 (1/2-cup) servings.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 19.1g carbs, 4.5g fiber, 22g total fat, 12mg cholesterol, 3g protein, 245mg sodium, 270 calories

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon

Roasting caramelizes the lemons and asparagus, producing complex flavors for a deceptively simple dish.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 medium lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. On a rimmed baking sheet, coat asparagus with oil, arranging in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cut lemon in half. Squeeze juice from half a lemon over asparagus. Cut the other half into paper-thin slices and arrange in a layer down the middle of the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bake for 15 minutes on center rack in oven, or until asparagus are tender and lightly browned.

Makes 6 (3/4-cup) servings.

Per 3/4-cup serving: 6.9g carbs, 3.3g fiber, 5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 3g protein, 194mg sodium, 84 calories

Solve your side dish conundrum with the above recipes. No more making mountains of carbohydrate-heavy food just because it's tradition. You have other options. This holiday season, serve your guests exciting, healthy side dishes. You'll enjoy each family gathering knowing you're serving a meal that's not only delicious, but also lower in carbs.


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