I love it when I have almost unlimited time to make dinner. I can take my time, not rush and have all the ingredients for everything I ever wanted on hand. Just kidding – I don’t have many days like that. I have days where I’m just happy that dinner isn’t cereal or popcorn. My mama said there’d be days like that, my mama said. But most days fall somewhere in between total chaos and total luxury – I do have a plan, but I don’t always have as much time or as many free hands as I’d like.
The main dish usually comes together easily for me. I tend to keep those simple with common ingredients. But I don’t want to forget about side dishes too. Just like main dishes, I tend towards simple side dishes with common ingredients that take little prep work. I like feeding my family, but I also like saving my brain cells for other things!
If you’re like me and also want simple, but satisfying side dishes – give some of these a try!
Vegetables are very common side dishes, but they can be kind of blah. That is, if you stick only to the “put a steamer bag in the microwave” and 5-7 minutes later, you’re done. There is a time and place for that. After all, it’s what we do 3-4 times a week!
But, there’s also a time and place for something a bit more out of the box. A bit more fancy. A bit more flavor. That’s the nice thing about vegetables – it’s easy to add some flavor! Here are some of my favorites:
- Roasted Broccoli – This could not be easier. Roasting broccoli straight from frozen. No need to defrost. No need to plan ahead any more than ‘I just pulled the bag of broccoli out of the freezer’. Stick them on a cookie sheet, pop in the oven and have a delicious side dish probably about the same time your main dish is done.
- Baked Green Bean Fries – Restaurant quality with the prep time that a home cook has! Green beans are usually loved by all ages, and this takes green beans to a notch above the rest. It’ll still be loved by the whole family, but it’ll make dinner seem just a tad bit more special without a lot more effort. I’d dip mine in ranch dressing as I’m sure my boys would too!
- Easy Potato Salad – This is my favorite potato salad. I can’t even buy a potato salad that I like half as well! One of the main reasons that I make something homemade instead of buying it is that you can control the taste. This one is perfect as written (in my opinion), but if you like mustard, add a little more. Or more pickles. Or more mayo. Or less of any of those. I’ll make enough for 2-3 meals and get a big return on my time!
- Sweet Slow Cooker Carrots – 4 hours in a slow cooker with 3 ingredients = a meal that’s 2 easy to please for 1 family! It does not get any more simple than this!
- Oven Roasted Cauliflower – Like the broccoli above, oven roasting root vegetables makes for a seriously good side dish. A hot oven plus a few seasonings makes for a tasty “eat-as-much-as-you-want-to” treat!
- Cheesy Hashbrowns – I used to joke that this dish would be on my “last meal” list, but that’s kind of morbid. So let’s say that it would be on my “I just won a Nobel Peace Prize for changing the world through menu planning and they’re throwing a dinner in my honor and I get to choose the menu” list. That’s a mouthful to say, but this is my favorite way to eat potatoes. It’s a MUST at my holiday dinner table, but it’s good anytime. I even hide leftovers in the back of the fridge so that I get them all to myself!
- Frozen Fruit Cups – Kids especially love them! It’s a frozen side dish with no need to heat your house in the summer time. Make a batch and keep them in the deep freezer!
- Simple Pasta Salad – This is another one of those “make a bunch and eat on it for a few days” dishes. Pick your favorite noodle. Pick your favorite vegetables. Pick your favorite dressing. DONE! Simple as that.
- Bow Tie Pasta Salad – At first glance, this seems like just another run-of-the-mill pasta salad, but it isn’t. The dressing makes this divine! It’s best made the night before, which takes any pressure of the day of the party preparations. It’s a family favorite!
- Watergate Salad – Speaking of a family favorite, this is another one! It isn’t all that healthy – I mean, hello, whipped topping is the #1 ingredient! But you do add in some fruit, so that’s gotta count for something, right? Right.
- Parmesan Garlic Noodles – Lavish. Luxurious. Ritzy. Sumptuous. That’s what this side dish is. It’s a similar concept to those “rip open a bag of noodles, add the powder and milk” kind of kits, but this takes it to a whole new level. It isn’t complicated though – and well worth your time!
- Mexican Rice – When there’s a fiesta in your family, here’s the side of rice you need. When there’s a party for your people, this should be on your plate. When there’s a luncheon for your ladies, use your ladle (if you must) to serve this up. It’s just a traditional mexican rice, but it’s easy to make and you can make as much as you need for your family. Which is better than those rice packets as it seems there’s never enough for a whole family!
- Baked Beans – No barbecue chicken is complete without baked beans. No cheeseburger should be without this friend. Even if it’s the middle of winter and you’re making the cheeseburgers on a griddle in the middle of a snowstorm. There are different thoughts on how to make them – Here’s how I make them now and here’s how my mom made them when I was growing up. Tasty either way!
- Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits – I don’t want to name names, but you know those biscuits that you get at those famous restaurants named Blue Crab Legs (or maybe it’s Purple Shrimp? Perhaps Yellow Scallops?)? You know those? This is the copycat version of that, except it adds jalapenos. Nice kick for an even nicer side dish!
- Garlic Bread – Just a classic! It’s a simple way of making garlic bread out of almost anything you have on hand. Got hamburger buns? Use them. Hot dog buns? Use them. Hoagie buns? Same thing. It can make as few or as many as you need!
- Cheesy Bean Dip – For that same fiesta that you’re serving the mexican rice, make this bean dip. It’s my “go to” dish for enchiladas, tacos and fajitas!
Jayme is a wife to 1 and a mother to four little boys. She coupons, price matches and meal plans. While she likes to cook, she’s in the stage of life where simple is usually better – she never knows how many hands she’ll have free at dinner time! You can find her at No Regrets Living.