Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cooking for Carnivores (on a budget) - side dishes

Roasted five hours with liquid smoke and kosher salt
Casseroles, sandwiches, stews...they are all tasty.  My carnivorous family, however, thoroughly enjoys the occasional all-meat main dish - meatloaf, roasts, that sort of thing.  Recently we enjoyed a gorgeous Kalua Pork Roast; this is made with a moderately inexpensive cut of pork, which I found on sale.  It was a huge hit, and for good reason.  It did remind one of a pig roast...

So I had this 4.5 lb roast, and I needed to serve 9 people that night; while a few of the shorter ones seem to merely grace the table as a nod to custom rather than from any true need of sustenance, some others eat more than enough to make up the difference!

I don't frequently serve main dishes that are just meat.  I most often opt to chop the meat into casseroles, sandwiches, tacos, spaghetti sauce, that sort of thing. It makes it go farther.  Or, we eat chicken thighs, and a lot of them!  But when I do serve up the roasts or meat loaves, I have to be strategic to keep people from eating too much of it.  (Note: I prefer "strategic" rather than "sneaky."  It has a better ring to it.)  I don't want to serve a glorious platter of meat, only to leave people wondering why I was so stingy with it.  I also want leftovers if I can get them!  The answer is to make a bunch of side dishes - ones that are cheap, preferably.  Ones that your family absolutely adores, definitely.  The idea is to present the meat alongside whatever potato, bread, vegetable, fruit, etc., your family can't resist.  Here is a list to get you started:
  • Whole Wheat Refrigerator Rolls
  • Homemade bread
  • Garlic mashed potatoes - or mash potatoes with butter, milk, egg, sour cream, and cream cheese, then bake.
  • Scalloped potatoes - from scratch.  Please.  The box ones are nasty, and the fresh ones so easy.  And cheap.
  • Fruit salad, any variety.  We like apples, bananas, and mandarin oranges tossed with plain yogurt.
  • Green salad with favorite fixings
  • Mac and cheese.  I want to be the kind of person who thinks boxed mac and cheese is icky...but I actually rather like it.  Homemade is even better.
  • Pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. 
  • Potatoes - roasted, oven fries, cottage fries, baked, au get the idea.
  • Rice.  I like plain rice with butter; my family buries theirs in cheese, significantly cutting into the cheapness of it, so I don't do this one often.
  • Cooked veggies
We don't eat this style meal too frequently.  It is still more expensive than, say, sloppy joes or tacos, and it's a bit more work, too. But doing it this way means we can have the occasional big cut of meat without having to buy two or three of them!

How about you?  Can you add to my list of good sides to round out a meat-centered meal?

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