9 Easy, Kid-Tested Side Dishes for Fall

One mom shares the seasonal side dishes she relies on for family dinnertime.
By: Foodlets


Chef Name: Ree Drummond Full Recipe Name: Butternut Squash and Kale Stir Fry Talent Recipe: Ree Drummond’s Butternut Squash and Kale Stir Fry, as seen on The Pioneer Woman FNK Recipe: Project: Foodnetwork.com, Back to School/Sandwich Central/Dinner and a Movie/Sides Show Name: The Pioneer Woman Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Are you looking for ways to get more veggies onto your kids' plates (and your own) at dinnertime — without wasting time, effort or food along the way? I have four small kids, and these are the sides I can rely on everyone liking every time. Here’s what's in my fall rotation.

Healthy and colorful, this simple side from The Pioneer Woman can be on the table in just 30 minutes.

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If you can slice a couple of sweet potatoes, you’ve got this one down. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, add a sprinkle of salt and follow that with the secret ingredient kids love: cinnamon. Throw the whole thing in the oven and ta-da! You’ve got a full-flavored side everyone loves every time.

Make-ahead tip: You can prep these beauties the night before. Slice the sweet potatoes and dress them in the olive oil and cinnamon — excluding the salt. Store your whole sheet pan in the fridge, lined with foil that you’ll remove before adding the salt and popping the pan in the oven. (Not enough space in your fridge for a pan? Put the sliced and dressed sweet potatoes in a gallon-size zip-top bag, then add the salt once they’re poured onto your baking sheet.)

Ina Garten's Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts for Game Plan as seen on Food Network's Barefoot Contessa

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

These are not your grandmother’s Brussels sprouts! Leave it to Ina Garten to totally transform a vegetable that was best avoided in its boiled and squishy form into a crispy side dish bursting with fall flavor.

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If there is one recipe I turn to whenever I’m having other people’s kids over for dinner, this is it. It’s hands-down the favorite veggie I’ve ever made. The preparation is similar to the way you make the sweet potato fries: Just slather baby carrots with olive oil, salt and, in this case, a drizzle of maple syrup.

Make it faster: Thanks to baby carrots in a bag, there’s no chopping or peeling required. But if you want your carrots to cook even faster, slice them down the center before throwing everything on the pan.

This is probably the simplest recipe you’ll ever see from a certain kitchen in the Hamptons: cabbage plus butter plus salt and pepper. But the results are shockingly delicious. Still not sure about cabbage? With more than 100 reviews and a perfect 5-star rating, I’ve got to invoke the Barefoot Contessa’s own famous line: How bad can that be? (Answer: It’s amazing.)

Make it more kid-friendly: I let the kids add bacon bits or dried cranberries to the top of their portions. They dish it up themselves, which always makes all the difference.

Photo by: Tara Donne ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Tara Donne, FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

There is not an easier dish to have in your arsenal than this one — and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that’s a bigger crowd-pleaser. Even my sister-in-law, who confessed that she doesn’t usually like cauliflower, loved this one.

Make it easier: I like to cut up a whole cauliflower on the weekend and then store it in a gallon-size zip-top bag until I’m ready to use it during the week. But you could also use a bag of frozen cauliflower. Pour the bag onto your pan and follow the same directions. In the last few minutes, turn the broiler on to get those nice charred edges.

Whether it’s from a farmers market or the store, this is the season for fresh kale. And before you stop reading: This homemade dressing is the entire reason why our kids are now salad eaters. It took only a handful of ingredients, and I wish I’d whipped it up for them years ago!

Make-ahead tip: Mix the simple salad dressing together right in the bottom of your salad bowl. Then layer the kale on top. Let it sit in the fridge overnight or all day, then toss about 20 minutes before serving. (Kale is that rare green that actually improves when dressed in advance.)

This is the dish my second grader asks for the most. There’s something about the way the squash soaks up the butter, salt and maple syrup that just makes every bite melt in your mouth.

This is one of those miracle dishes. It starts with a bag of frozen spinach and turns out to be one of my kids’ favorite (and most-nutritious) sides — in minutes.

Charity Curley Mathews is a contributor to PopSugar, Huffington Post, InStyle and the founder of  Foodlets.com, a site full of simple real-food recipes for parents of small kids (plus all the tips and tricks she uses to teach her own four kids to love good food).

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