Healthy Holiday Side Dishes

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Looking for a lighter side dish to serve at your holiday gathering this year? Try out some of these recipes from our Eating the Mediterranean Way program.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Risotto


  • 6 cups mushroom, vegetable, or chicken broth
  • 1½ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 3 cups sliced or coarse chopped mushrooms, any variety or combination
  • 1½ cups uncooked barley, rinsed  (do not use quick cooking)
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (omit to make this dish vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (omit to make this dish vegan)
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste



  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring broth and water to a simmer.
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or large chef’s pan. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add red wine and cook until almost evaporated.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook stirring often until they begin to release their juices.
  5. Add barley and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add 1 cup of warm broth and stir continuously until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Continue adding broth 1 cup at a time while stirring. Keep adding broth until barley is cooked through and tender (about 35-45 minutes). Add a bit more broth. Dish should be a bit loose at this point as it will continue to thicken.
  8. Stir in spinach and allow to wilt.
  9. Add more broth if the dish is too stiff.
  10. Stir in balsamic vinegar, cheese, and butter if using.
  11. Taste and add pepper and adjust seasoning if needed.

See serving and nutrition information.

Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)*
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Topping:
    • ½ cup quick oats
    • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    •  2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1½ tablespoon olive oil


  1. Pierce clean sweet potatoes with a fork and place in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 15- 18 minutes, or until tender. Flip sweet potatoes
    halfway through. (or boil sweet potatoes until tender)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Remove sweet potatoes from microwave and carefully cut lengthwise; this will help to cool them. faster.
  4. Once the sweet potatoes are able to be held, hold each half and scoop the insides into a mixing bowl, discarding the skins.
  5. Use a potato masher, hand beaters, or a food processor to further mash sweet potatoes.
  6. To the sweet potatoes, add apple sauce, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
  7. Pour mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together quick oats, pecans (optional), brown sugar, cinnamon, and oil.
  9. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly on top of the sweet potato mixture.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  11. Remove pan from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe (1)See serving and nutrition information.

Kale, Arugula, and Farro Salad


  • 2 cups cooked farro
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 box (5 ounces) arugula
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled


Citrus Salad Dressing

  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook farro according to package directions to yield 2 cups of cooked grain.
  2. Once cooked, chill farro.
  3. Wash and remove ribs from kale.
  4. Cut kale into small strips.
  5. Combine the farro, kale, and arugula.
  6. Dress with Citrus Salad Dressing.
  7. Top with almonds and feta.

Tip: Cook the farro to yield about 2 cups cooked. This is about 3/4 cups dry farro. Try cooking the farro using the pasta method. Rinse uncooked farro and add to a large pot. Add water to cover the farro plus about 3 or 4 inches. This is more water than the faro will absorb. Cook for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until tender. Then drain as you would pasta.

See serving and nutrition information