Side Dishes


Got apples?  Here’s a simple recipe that has been a family favorite since I was a kid.  It’s perfect in the fall when apples are abundant and even better in the winter on a cold snowy night.  I serve it unsweetened as a side dish (it’s especially good with pork) or drizzled with a little honey for the boy’s dessert.   You can peel the apples if you want, or leave the peels on if you’ve got fresh apples without too many blemishes or pesky pesticides.

We’ve been making fried apples a lot this month to use up our U-Pick apples, especially the ones that looked great when we picked them, but have since gotten spotty and bruised.  Aidan loves this dish.  We’ve never had left-overs and I often pass up seconds, so Aidan can have thirds!  Enjoy.

Fried Apples

6 – 8 medium-sized cooking apples (such as Granny Smith or Jonathon)
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (adjust to taste)
A drizzle of honey (optional)

Peel the apples if desired, then core them and cut them into thin slices.  Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples and saute until tender, allowing at least some of the apples to become golden brown.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top and add a drizzle of honey if desired.  Stir just enough to coat the apples and serve warm.

Makes 6- 8 servings.

Serving Suggestions: Fried apples are especially good as a dinner-time side dish with pork chops or pork roast.  You can also serve them for breakfast with ham or sausage, as a topper for  cottage cheese pancakes, or sprinkled with granola.  Serve over ice cream for a lovely fall dessert.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Peel the apples and leave out (or reduce) the cinnamon.  If your kids like that, experiment with adding more cinnamon or leaving on the peels next time.

My boys have a new favorite food–Jamaican Rice and Peas!  This is a staple from my vegetarian days that I haven’t made in years, but I had one of those crazy cravings and gave in.  It also seemed like a good learning opportunity for the boys.  What better way to introduce new cultures than through their food?

Yummy Jamaican Rice and Peas

Aidan loves his rice and peas (here made with kidney beans)

Rice and peas is an everyday staple in Jamaica.  Its subtle coconut flavor and creamy texture are a perfect complement to Jamaican Jerk Chicken and other spicy island treats (try it with salsa chicken and pineapple for an easy, Caribbean-inspired family meal).  It is traditionally made with pigeon peas, but black-eyed peas or kidney beans are often substituted.  I make it with canned peas because it’s so easy, but you can prepare  the raw peas yourself if you can’t find canned pigeon peas and want to make the traditional dish (use one cup raw peas with three cups water).  I sometimes use the  pepper and sometimes don’t.  Since you use a whole pepper and remove it before cooking, it doesn’t make the rice hot, but adds a nice, subtle pepper flavor.

The night I introduced Jamaican Rice and Peas to my boys, I talked with them about Jamaica and tropical islands.  They were fascinated and asked lots of questions and repeated the things I was telling them over and over.  I think it was the first time it had started to make sense to them that people live in many different places, and that people in different places eat different foods than we do.  It was fun watching them learn, and  it was a very pleasant way to make dinner conversation with soon-t0-be-three-year-olds.  I plan to buy a good map to keep in the kitchen, so as we cook and learn together I can point out where the different foods we eat come from.  I hope this will also make cooking and eating together as a family more fun.  It sure was fun last week.  And it was even more fun when Aidan requested “Island rice and beans” again for dinner a few nights later (we ate it as our main meal the second night since I already knew they liked it).

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 can kidney beans, pigeon peas or black-eyed peas (15 ounces) (see note)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
1 cup water
2 cups brown rice (or substitute long or short grain white rice–not instant!)
1 habanero pepper (can substitute a Scotch bonnet or chili pepper or omit)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan, including the liquid from the beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (about 50 minutes for brown rice or 30 minutes for white rice).  Remove the habanero pepper and serve.

Makes 4 main dish or 8 side dish servings.

Note:  Most Jamaican chefs cook raw beans first (which are soupy like non-drained canned beans) which is why I use the canned bean “juice” in my recipe. It keeps things easy and more authentic tasting.  You may like the texture of this dish better, however, if you drain and rinse the beans first, then add an extra 1/2 -3/4 cup water to dish.  (I find that I need more water when I use white rice instead of brown rice.)

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Try leaving out the pepper, thyme, garlic and beans at first, so you just have coconut rice (you will have to add 1/2-3/4 cup water).  If your picky eater likes this, try adding back in the beans first, then add each “spice” one at a time each time you make the dish.  Alternately, make “coconut rice” and let family members add their own beans at the table.  You can also use 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs instead of the dried thyme and remove them before serving.

Menu Planner:  Rice and beans makes a filling vegetarian meal by itself, but it is also really good with spicy meat dishes like jerk chicken.  Try it as a side dish with salsa chicken and pineapple or as a main dish with a tropical fruit salad on the side (mango, banana and pineapple with coconut sprinkles-yum!).