Holiday Meals: Our Dynamic Duo (And then some…)

Hey, friends: here’s a quick post to help you out with your holiday meal planning! Because if you’re anything like us right now, you’re also running around with your brain yelling things like, “HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!” and “WHEN DID I LOSE MY HOLIDAY  SWEATER AND WHERE!” and “WHO DO I STILL NEED PRESENTS FOR!” and “WHEN DO I GET TO SIT STILL AND DRINK HOT CHOCOLATE AND WATCH ALL THE HOLIDAY MOVIES?” and “WHAT DO I MAKE FOR ALL THE PEOPLE I NEED TO FEED OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS?” So while we can’t help you find your holiday sweater, we can help you with the cooking part: two excellently colorful, festive, delicious, easy and unexpected holiday side dishes that will fill you up without weighing you down (room for dessert: VERY important), and that also make great contributions to holiday potlucks? Coming (we just accidentally wrote “coping” twice—oh, good) right up! That means all you need is a simple main dish to make an awesome meal.


Our sides of choice, which go oh so nicely together and equally well with oh so many mains:

  1. Roasted Cauliflower with Hot Honey, Olives + Dates: The roasted cauliflower is sweet, spicy, and warming thanks to the hot honey (which is chili-infused honey with vinegar) and dates, and gets a salty boost from the olives. The combination is so good.cauliflower_7482
  2. Wheat Berries with Butternut Squash, Pomegranate + Hazelnuts: Wheat berries have this great chewy texture and nutty flavor. If you haven’t had them before, this a delicious introduction. The butternut squash, pomegranate and toasted hazelnuts make the dish look beautiful and also add great wintery flavors without being heavy. A bit of apple cider vinegar makes the whole thing (merry and) bright.


Need a main dish suggestion? There’s Chili-Honey Chicken with Oranges and Herbs, Pan-Fried Trout with Rainbow Chard (or any winter green you like), or Poached Halibut with Vegetables, or even a nice Curried Pumpkin Soup?

Need appetizers? We’ve got you covered there too: how about our Fennel Agrodolce + Soppressata crostini or our Lemony Brussels Sprouts + Pecorino Crostini, or Poached Pears with Crispy Prosciutto and Creamy Gorgonzola, or Mediterranean Red Pepper Spread, or mini Fried Eggplant pouches stuffed with cheese and tomatoes?

Looking for a show-stopping, mouth-dropping dessert to finish the night off? What about Nellie’s Cheesecake, or Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart, or, Almond-Apple Tart, or, Ray’s Chocolate-Raspberry Cake, or our Tried + True Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, or, of course, our Chocolate Christmas Log?



Alright? All set?



* * * *

Roasted Cauliflower with Hot Honey, Olives + Dates
serves 4-6



  • One large head of cauliflower, cut into florets. (If you buy ready-cut cauliflower florets, get about 2 lbs)
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • About 15 dates, roughly chopped
  • About 2/3 cup green or Kalamata olives (or a mix), roughly chopped
  • Hot honey (honey infused with chili and vinegar) for drizzling—our favorite: Mike’s Hot Honey

* Preheat oven to 400° F.



* Place cauliflower in a large roasting or baking pan and drizzle well with olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt and toss to coat.

* Roast for about 30 minutes, then mix in the garlic, dates, and olives.


* Continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes until cauliflower is tender and golden.

* Transfer to a bowl and drizzle on the hot honey—you want everything to have a good coating, but taste as you go so you don’t add too much. Gently mix.

* Taste for seasoning—add some salt, if needed, and serve.

* * * *

Wheat Berries with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate + Hazelnuts
serves 4-6


Notes: To remove the skins from the hazelnuts (unless you buy some with the skins already removed), it’s easiest to do with the nuts whole, right after toasting. Just roll them up in a clean, damp dishtowel and give them a rub, rolling them back and forth under your hands on your countertop.



If you buy a whole pomegranate, which is much more cost-effective than just buying the seeds, here’s a video on how to get the seeds out easily.



  • 1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs), peeled, seeds removed, and cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • 3/4 cup uncooked wheat berries
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped, toasted hazelnuts with skins removed
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • A few sprigs worth of fresh rosemary leaves + a handful of fresh parsley, minced

* Preheat oven to 400° F.

* Put squash in a large roasting or baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and toss to coat. Roast in a single layer (so it doesn’t steam instead of roast) for about 30 minutes, until it’s a nice golden brown on the underside.


wheat berries before cooking

* While the squash is roasting, cook the wheat berries according to the package directions.

* When the squash is done, transfer to a bowl, gently add the cooked wheat berries, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, and herbs.

* Add a good drizzle of olive oil and a little less apple cider vinegar. Gently toss.

* Taste for seasoning and serve.

© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.

5 responses to “Holiday Meals: Our Dynamic Duo (And then some…)

  1. What a life saver……..thanks so much for these fabulous ideas to go with my roast pork for Christmas…..making a (shopping) list and checking it twice……Merry Christmas and happy holiday cheer.

  2. How beautiful!!! Definitely putting the ingredients on my shopping list next week! Thank you for helping save another holiday menu from the same old stuff!!!

  3. Pingback: Lee & Lou: Deliciously Easy Sides - handful of salt·

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