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5 Terrific Side Dishes for Summer Potlucks

Wondering what to bring to a summer potluck? The side dishes below are easy to make, tasty, and complement many main dishes.

Roasted Potato Salad with Vegetables

This is a beautiful potato salad that is a great side dish to take along to a barbecue. Roasting brings out the flavours of the potatoes, and adding corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions lightens up the salad while adding great taste, colour, and good nutrition.

This is a much healthier option than traditional mayonnaise-laden potato salads, which are often calorie-dense and nutrient poor: some traditional deli potato salads have almost 500 calories and more than 20 g fat per cup, with few protective nutrients.

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Rice Noodle Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

This is a light and refreshing salad that is a tasty and eye-catching side dish for almost any meal, and a perfect potluck dish. This salad combines rice noodles, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, and feta cheese in a lime dressing, giving this dish Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican influences . . . sounds odd, but the flavours blend together beautifully!

Don’t be dissuaded if you are, like me, not typically a fan of cold pasta-salad style noodles. Rice noodles make an entirely different type of salad; they are lighter than pasta or wheat-based noodles, and are better at absorbing flavourful and zesty dressings like this one.

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Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

This is a terrific salad with vibrant colors and a great combination of flavors. It’s also quite versatile:  it’s a great side dish to bring to a pot-luck or BBQ, a nutritious meal you can pack for tasty lunch, and stuff any leftovers into a pita for a nutritious sandwich.  Exact measurements aren’t important, so feel free to add more or less of what’s listed.

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Beets & Arugula in a Curry Vinaigrette

This beet and arugula salad is great anytime, but terrific when fresh beets and apples are in season. It takes a little longer to prepare than my typical salads, but if you cook the beets in advance it is pretty quick to put together.

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Orzo with Kale, Artichokes, & Chickpeas

This dish is a terrific and pretty side salad that’s versatile enough to bring to a summer BBQ or winter potluck; with the chickpeas providing protein it’s a nourishing main course. If you have leftovers, you’ve got a tasty ready-made lunch on hand.

This recipe magically transform 12 cups of kale into 1.5 cups of kale pesto/puree. All that good nutrition and it doesn’t really taste like kale . . .

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Butternut Squash Soup with White Beans & Greens

Butternut SquashSweet butternut squash, aromatic onions and garlic, white beans, and dark leafy greens deliver terrific flavours and great nutrition to this nourishing soup. Pair a bowl of this tasty soup with hot crusty bread and you’ll have a wonderful and warming meal.

The nutrient-dense vegetables and beans help you obtain a variety of nutrients and many health-promoting compounds in one bowl.  In fact, some research suggests that nutrient-dense soups such as these can help keep us healthy.

You can substitute other winter squash for the butternut. Acorn, kabocha, or pumpkin would work well. Exact proportions aren’t important, so adjust the ingredients to suit the size of your vegetables and your taste.

READ  Beyond Taste: Can Soups Help Keep Us Healthy?


  • 1 large (or 2 small) butternut squash (about 2 lbs, should yield about 3.5 cups cooked)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 3-4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cups cooked white beans* (or two 19-oz cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cups dark leafy greens, chopped (spinach, Swiss chard, or kale)
  • A generous amount of pepper, and salt (to taste)
  • Additional seasoning (optional) – thyme and sage

*white kidney beans (cannellini beans), navy or Great Northern beans will all work


1.  Cook squash (you have a few options here, depending on how much time you have – see how to cut and cook squash).  If you have time, roasting the squash deepens the flavour, but any method will work! Once cooked and cooled, scoop the squash out of the skin and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into rough 1-inch chunks and mash 1/3 of the squash.

2.  In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Stir in cooked squash and 3 cups of broth.

3. Mash about 1/3 of the white beans with a fork or masher, and add all beans to the soup.  Add extra broth (or water) depending on whether you prefer a thinner or thicker soup. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. If you’re using kale, chop finely; more tender greens like spinach or chard can be roughly cut.  Add greens to your soup and simmer until greens are wilted (about 5 to 10 minutes).

5. Taste and season with pepper or salt as needed.  Serve hot.

Makes about 10 cups.

Butternut Squash White Bean Soup Text

Nutrition Notes

  • butternut squash_fotoliaThe deep-orange colour of butternut squash is a sign of protective carotenoids (mainly beta-carotene), which can act as an antioxidant, inhibit cancer cell growth, and improve immune response. A number of studies suggest that diets rich in carotenoid-containing foods can help discourage the development and progression of several types of cancer.
  • Onions are rich in protective phytochemicals. The sulfur compounds — which give onions their pungent taste and smell — help lower blood cholesterol and protect arteries.  Onions are one of the richest dietary sources of flavonoids, especially quercetin, which is linked to reduced muscle damage after exercise, and reduced chronic inflammation that can trigger heart disease and some cancers.
  • White BeansWhite beans are a good source of carbohydrates and protein. In addition, beans are rich in iron, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, calcium, zinc.  The fiber and resistant starch in beans are health promoting, and help keep blood sugar levels stable.  Like other beans, white beans are also rich in B vitamins, particularly folic acid, which is being studied extensively for its disease-fighting properties.
  • Dark leafy greens are nutrition powerhouses rich in vitamins A and C, dietary nitrates, folic acid, fiber, magnesium, and carotenoids.

supersoupstightNutrition per cup

  • 160 calories
  • 7 g protein
  • 28 g carbohydrates
  • 3 g fat (<1 g sat),
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 9 g fiber
  • 695 mg sodium
  • 575 mg potassium

Check out my cooking tips for this recipe:

More About Soups, and More Soup Recipes:

More Healthy Eating Articles . . .


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Banana Mango Sorbet with Lime

Here is a light, refreshing, and healthy dessert that is deceptively rich tasting.  It’s also a great way to use up bananas when you have too many ripen at once. Just slice them up and freeze – if you don’t use them for this sorbet, they’ll make your smoothies extra creamy.

Adding yogurt to this sorbet lends some creaminess to the dessert, while providing protein and calcium. Technically this dessert should be called a  “sherbet”  because it contains dairy, but since fruit is the main ingredient I prefer calling it a sorbet.


  • 2 medium bananas (very ripe), frozen
  • 1  cup frozen mango chunks
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (I used nonfat plain, any variety will do)
  • 3  tbsp. maple syrup (or other sweetener)
  • Juice of 1 lime


  1. Peel bananas and cut each into 3-4 pieces. Freeze bananas for at least 8 hours.
  2. Shortly before serving, place the frozen bananas in the bowl of your food processor.
    Add the frozen mango, maple syrup, and lime juice.
  3. Process until smooth.  Stop the processor as needed to break up large chunks of frozen fruit.  Try not to overprocess (you want the sorbet to be the consistency of a soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt).  If too thick, add a little milk or juice, but be careful not to add too much liquid, which will make the recipe more like a “smoothie” than a sorbet (it will still taste delicious!).

Berries and fresh mint are a terrific garnish for this dessert. This sorbet will taste best if served immediately, but if you have leftovers store in your freezer and let stand until softened a bit after removing.

Makes about THREE Cups (four 3/4-cup Servings)

banana mango parfait with textVariations

  • Substitute other frozen fruit for the mangoes. Blueberries or strawberries are delicious!
  • Even with nonfat yogurt, the recipe tastes rich and creamy, but if you want a more decadent dessert (and can afford more calories), use a higher fat yogurt or vanilla Greek yogurt.

Nutrition Notes

  • Bowl of yogurtYogurt is a good source protein and calcium.  High yogurt consumption (> 7 servings/week) is linked to lower weight (especially in people who eat more fruit), and lower risk of diabetes.
  • Bananas are rich in fiber, and an excellent source of potassium, an essential mineral that most people don’t get enough of in their diets. Bananas also contain plant lectins, a type of protein being studied for disease-fighting properties.
  • tranche de mangue découpéeMangoes are full of protective nutrients. The vivid orange flesh reflects their high beta-carotene content, and they are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Nutrition Per Serving
  • 160 calories
  • 3 g protein
  • .5 g fat (0 g sat)
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 36 g carbohydrate
  • 2.6 g fiber
  • 33 mg sodium
  • 396 mg potassium
  • 99 mg calcium
  • 29 mg magnesium

banana mango sorbet square container (640x354)This dessert is a great way to add nutritious fruit to your diet. I adapted this recipe from one developed by my cookbook co-authors Vicky Newman and Susan Faerber for cooking classes at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center. The original recipe is in the cookbook and food guide Food For Thought: Healing Foods to Savor by Sheila Kealey, Vicky Newman, with Susan Faerber.

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Simple & Quick Red Lentils

This a wonderful dish to prepare when you’re short on time.  Red lentils are the star ingredient here – if you’re not familiar with them, this is your chance to get acquainted.  Like other lentils, they are powerhouses of protective nutrients, a good source of protein, and rich in fiber, B-vitamins, and magnesium (not to mention inexpensive and versatile).  Red lentils cook more quickly than other varieties of lentils, which is great for time-pressed cooks.

Using the microwave simplifies preparation and reduces cleanup, which is always a good thing! (I admit, is is odd not to saute the onions in olive oil, but trust me, microwaving them works well in this dish).

I typically serve this with brown rice, garnished with parsley and almonds.


  • 2 large carrots,  chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups (about ¾ lb) red lentils
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth (to reduce cooking time,  I usually use boiling water + Better Than Bouillon vegetable base)

OPTIONAL Ingredients (if you have time – nice, but not necessary!).

Stir in after cooking:

  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime

Garnish with:

  • 1 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley


1.  Chop carrots and onion. (If you are using bouillon, put water on to boil).

2. Transfer carrots and onions to a large microwave-safe bowl or casserole, cover, and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes.

3. Stir in the lentils and broth, cover, and microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes (this might be a bit longer if using room-temperature broth). Drain if any of the broth has not been absorbed.

4. If you have time and the ingredients on hand, stir in the olive oil and lime juice, and garnish with parsley and almonds.


  • If you like a smooth texture (kids might prefer this), blend with an immersion blender before garnishing.
  • If you want a thinner dish, add more broth or milk.
  • Spice it up: consider adding curry paste or powder or fresh herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme)

Makes about SIX 1-cup servings.

Nutrition Per Serving
(includes optional ingredients):

  • 225 calories
  • 14 g protein
  • 31 g carbohydrates
  • 5 g fat
  • 13 g fiber

Be sure to check out my other recipes . . . 

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