Cooking {Real Food} for Company: Sides


y quest to make real food (and serve it to company) on a budget continues.  So far, I’ve shared some yummy and frugal main courses and appetizers.  Today, we’re talking sides.

One helpful way I’ve found to shrink the grocery budget is to make good quality meat a “feature” of the meal instead of the star of the show.  Thus, the side dishes have had to step up and hold their own.

The following are some of my favorites.  Yummy, (mostly) nutritionally dense, easy to make, and fairly frugal, these are my go-tos, especially when cooking for larger groups.


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Elana’s Pantry Biscuits

Biscuits :: Grain-free and awesome. Elana’s Pantry never disappoints.

Pioneer Woman's Skillet Cornbread
Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Cornbread

Pioneer Woman’s Cornbread :: Great as a side for soups and chili.  Get some organic cornmeal so you’re not munching on GMOs, okay?

I follow Pioneer Woman’s basic recipe, but I use spelt or kamut flour instead of all-purpose white and will often use a combo of coconut or almond milk (1/2 cup) and water kefir (1 cup, without added fruit juice) instead of milk.

I also substitute coconut oil for the shortening that her recipe calls for. And I don’t use a skillet; just a 9×9 glass pan in the oven at 435 for 20ish minutes.

So in the end, it’s probably nothing like Pioneer Woman’s cornbread.

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Photo by

Homemade French or Sweet Potato Fries :: One of our favorite (easy!) sides for a variety of meals.

Cut the potatoes/sweet potatoes into strips, toss with olive oil (or coconut oil) and sea salt, then spread onto a baking sheet and bake at about 430-450°F (depending on your oven; I’ve had to play around with the temperature at bit) for 25-30 min.  Stop to flip the fries after about 15 min.

Green Beans with Caramelized Almonds :: A sweet, crunchy way to spruce up a veg.

Steam the green beans. Melt about 3T of butter and few spoonfuls of something sweet (organic sugar, sucanat, etc.) in a saucepan over medium heat. Then, add a handful or two of chopped almonds and stir constantly as the mixture heats.

When the sugar has fully dissolved into the butter and the mixture is starting to get sticky, remove the pan from heat. Let it cool, but you might want to continue stirring so you don’t end up with a big rock of caramelized almonds. (No big deal if does become such; just chop it up with a knife). Sprinkle over the green beans.


Kale Chips

These have become a recent favorite snack as well as side dish.  Simply tear the leaves away from the stem of the kale, spread on a cookie sheet, and toss in olive oil and sea salt.  Bake at 325°F for 15ish minutes, stopping halfway through to gently toss with tongs or a spatula. When finished, they should be thin and crispy.

What are some of your favorite “real food” sides to share?

About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • brenda venable

    I can hardly wait for some of those delicious looking ‘sides’………. more pls.

  • Sweet potato fries are a favourite around here as well. And I’ve never made kale chips, but they do sound yum. The recipe for the cornbread made me laugh. Especially the last sentence. =)

  • Great Suggestions! Thanks for the llist. We love Kale Chips and Sweet Potato Fries!

  • Love this. I’ve been thinking about this with my family and you have inspired me to up the sides at the star feature. But I’ve seen those kale crisps everywhere. Been meaning to try them but have my doubts. Are they seriously that good and that easy?

    • Emma, in my opinion, they’re pretty great. And yes, easy too! Just coat them in lots of oil, flip them as needed, and watch them toward the end to make sure you don’t overcook. But on a low temp, you’re probably pretty safe.

      Now that I’ve given these raving endorsements, I hope you don’t try them and think otherwise :).

      • I’m convinced- off to the market this weekend so will add to the weekends cooking. You have finally inspired me to try. I’ll get you posted as to the results.

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