Low Carb Cooking 101 Special Edition: Main Dishes and Side Dishes
Written by Di Bauer December 7, 2001, Updated by Andrew DiMino January 8, 2023
Last week we covered appetizers, salads, and beverages in our quest for a make-ahead low carbohydrate holiday meal. This week we will be covering main and side dishes. For even more holiday recipes, please check the article Rani Merens, author of The Low Carb Cook’s Corner, wrote just before Thanksgiving. If you’re looking for stuffing and gravy recipes, go there. I won’t be covering them in Low Carb Cooking 101 since she had already done so beautifully.
I am not actually a proponent of making the main course of a holiday or party meal ahead of time, but once in a while I find something that truly works with at least partial make-ahead preparations, and I’ve included two of those recipes below.
The best tip I can give you for make-ahead main dishes is to buy ahead. My stepmother routinely serves beef tenderloins and veggies at Christmas. Turkey and sometimes ham are on sale around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Beef isn’t. Every year she finds beef tenderloins on sale during the summer. She buys them, wraps them well, freezes them until the day before Christmas, and saves a bundle. It’s too late for this year, I suppose, but don’t forget this tip next summer.
Although the meat is usually the star of a holiday meal, the side dishes are equally important. Face it, in almost all cases meat, is brown or beige, and while it certainly tastes good, it is not exactly festive in appearance. Side dishes provide color, textural differences, and taste variations that complement the main dish.
Do not decide on which side dishes you are going to make until after you determine what main dish you are serving. Remember, the side dishes complement the main dish; they aren’t to be scattered about the buffet table on a whim. Some things go together and some just don’t. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Decide on the main dish, then decide on the side dishes.
Vary the colors, textures, and tastes of your side dishes. They shouldn’t be all green, for crying out loud, and even the green ones can be jazzed up considerably with garnishes and small additions to your original recipes. The addition of sauteed red bell pepper strips in the Christmas Inspired Sautéed Broccoli recipe below takes it out of everyday appearance and into the holiday spirit with very little time, money, or effort.
Actually, low carbohydrate vegetable side dishes are pretty easy to come up with. It’s potato substitutes that are the real problem–at least for the non-low carbers who are at your holiday table. Quite frankly, I make real potatoes for the non-low carbers and save the potato substitute recipes for myself and any other low carbers that happen to be enjoying the season with us.
Below I’ve included both the standard “fauxtatoes” recipe and my own creation, Mexi-Gratin Fauxtatoes, which jump-start your holiday meal with the zing of chilies and cheese. If you or your family are sweet potato aficionados, I recommend again that you check back to Rani Merens holiday article in The Low Carb Cook’s Corner for her famous Faux Sweet Potato recipe. It’s very good!
Enjoy them and the entire holiday season. I hope I’ve made it a little easier for you to stay on plan.
Low-Carb Main Dish Recipes
Low-Carb Vegetables Recipes
- Christmas Inspired Sautéed Broccoli
- Dijon Asparagus
- Lemony Green Beans
- Red Cabbage with Bacon and Caraway
- Rainbow Vegetable Medley
- Low-Carb Spinach Quiche
Low-Carb Potato Substitutes Recipes
- Smashed Cauliflower Fauxtatoes
- Mexi-Gratin Fauxtatoes
- Low-Carb Mashed Not-Potatoes Made with Cauliflower Recipe
- Company Cauliflower Casserole Recipe
- Low-Carb UnPotato Salad with Cauliflower Recipe by Dana Carpender
- Make-Ahead Low-Carb Holiday Recipes Part I: Appetizers, Salads & Beverages
- Make-Ahead Low-Carb Holiday Recipes, Part III: Holiday Desserts