Selecting Successful Side Dishes

TRYING to decide which side dishes to serve with your entree can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions to help simplify your selection. Variety is key to pleasing all of your guests. So have an assortment of hot and cold foods and offer vegetables along with grains and pasta. For kids and older guests, provide at least one simple, lightly seasoned side dish. The entree and side dishes should complement one another. If your entree has intense flavor, pair it with more mild-flavored side dishes and vice versa. If your entree has lots of garlic, onion or nuts, stay away from a side dish that's loaded with any of those same ingredients.

For ease of preparation, look for an oven-baked side dish that cooks at the same temperature as your oven entree. If your oven will be full with the entree and other side dishes, choose another side dish that can be prepared on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Or for a refreshing break from the hot foods, turn to a tossed salad, an assortment of fresh fruit or a tried-and-true relish tray. Recipes that can be prepared ahead (like gelatin salads and overnight casseroles) are a real boon to busy cooks.