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12 Delicious and Surprising Holiday Side Dishes

These sides will take center stage at the holiday table.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Move over Christmas ham, side dishes are having their moment. The main attraction of the holiday table used to be the glorious beast in the center, but the real crowd pleasers are the vegetables and starchy side dishes. Think of them as your holiday dinner wingmen. Need to serve gluten-free guests? No problem. Lactose intolerant? Vegetarian? Sides have you covered.

The key is to dress up your sides with a little flair. Serve rice, but not your everyday variety—dress it up with walnuts and mushrooms. Vegetable medleys get a boost from Asian flavors, and pumpkin adds seasonal appeal to risotto. A little change from the everyday versions will have guests clamoring for more.

Read on for for delicious side recipes that will please all of your guests:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 6

Ingredients: 

  • 20 ounces Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces bacon
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions: 

  • In a skillet, fry bacon and drain; reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in pan. 
  • Remove bacon from skillet. Add Brussels sprouts and carrots to pan and sauté until sprouts start to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add raisins and chicken broth; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are tender when pierced, about 12 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.


Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sesame Chili Orange Sauce 

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup prepared teriyaki glaze
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 cups fresh snow peas, trimmed, sliced on the bias
  • 2 cups orange bell peppers, quartered, sliced diagonal 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 large bok choy, bias-sliced into 1-inch ribbons (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup scallions, diagonal sliced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions: 

  • Combine first four ingredients and 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a saucepan; whisk to blend. 
  • Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Reserve. 
  • Heat peanut oil and remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a wok or large sauté pan. Add snow peas, bell pepper, garlic and ginger; stir fry over medium high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until tender crisp. 
  • Add bok choy, scallions and sesame seeds; stir fry an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until tender crisp. 
  • Add reserved sesame chili orange sauce and stir to blend. Simmer until fully heated.


Coconut Vegetable Curry

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 cups Thai coconut milk
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 3 to 4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1/2 cup carrots, peeled, cut diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper.

Preparation: 

  • In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, ginger, curry powder and sugar and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil. Plunge asparagus, cauliflower and carrots into boiling water briefly and then into cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain. 
  • Add asparagus, cauliflower and carrots to the sauce. Serve warm.


Pickled Beets with Eggs

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

  • 13 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 8 medium beets, untrimmed and unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 1/2 medium onion, sliced, 1/4" thick

Directions: 

  • Combine sugar, vinegar, water, salt and spices in a saucepan and place over medium heat. 
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. 
  • Wash beets and trim the stems, leaving about 1" of stem. Place the beets in a pot, cover with water and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until the beets are just tender. 
  • Drain, cool, peel and cut off stems. 
  • Place the beets, onions and eggs in a large jar and pour the sugar-vinegar mixture over. 
  • Cover tightly, allow to cool, and store in refrigerator up to two weeks.


Sweet and Savory Apples

Serves 6

Ingredients: 

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 8 large crisp apples 
  • bacon drippings
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • sugar

Directions:

For Baked Apples: 

  • Heat oven to 350°F. 
  • Cut 4 apples into 4 wedges. Scoop out middle with a small paring knife. 
  • Roll each wedge into a bowl of sugar. 
  • Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. 
  • Sprinkle each wedge with cinnamon and bake 15 minutes or until softened.
  • Remove from oven and set aside.

For Fried Apples: 

  • Wash, dry and slice 4 apples into 1/2-inch slices. 
  • Heat butter and bacon drippings in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and cook for about 2 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Continue cooking until apples are browned and caramelized. 
  • Spoon on 2-3 apple slices onto a baked apple wedge and serve warm.


Roasted Butternut Squash and Apples with Maple Glazed Pecans

Serves 6

Ingredients: 

  • 1 butternut squash (about 8 cups), peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2" thick slices
  • 3 cups apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 350°F. 
  • Combine first 10 ingredients together in large bowl and toss to blend. 
  • Arrange in an 8–inch x 8–inch baking dish. 
  • Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine pecan halves and 6 tablespoons maple syrup in a small nonstick skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the maple syrup has reduced to a thick glaze coating the pecans. 
  • Immediately spread on a foil-lined baking sheet; sprinkle salt evenly over pecans. 
  • Cool and break apart. 
  • After butternut squash mixture has cooked for 45 minutes, remove from oven and top with maple glazed pecans. 
  • Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.


Roasted Cranberry-Glazed Butternut Squash

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds 1 1/2-inch diced butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for buttering pan
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced 
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh sage sprigs

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 425° F. 
  • Grease a 10 x 13 inch baking dish with butter. 
  • In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, cranberry juice, maple syrup, and minced garlic. 
  • In a large bowl, combine squash, apples, cranberries, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. 
  • Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir mixture one time during the cooking process. 
  • Drizzle glaze on top; garnish with sage sprigs.

Roasted Fall Vegetables

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed 
  • 2 pounds small potatoes (use Yukon Gold, Red Bliss and Blue potatoes)
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
  • 20 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper.

Directions: 

  • Heat oven to 425°F. 
  • Cut fennel into 6 wedges, cutting through core to keep wedges intact. Cut potatoes in half length wise. Place vegetables in a large bowl. Pour olive oil over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until coated well. 
  • Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender; tossing once while cooking.
  • Serve warm.


Sweet Potato Fries with Apricot Dijon Dipping Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients: 

  • 1 (20 ounce) package frozen spicy sweet potato fries
  • 3/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-ground country mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Directions: 

  • Prepare sweet potato fries according to package directions. Season with kosher salt. 
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a small nonstick sauce pan and whisk to blend. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken (sauce will continue to thicken as it cools).
  • Serve sauce with sweet potato fries.


Black Walnut Wild Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup rice, wild, uncooked
  • 3/4 to 1 cup fancy large black walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Directions: 

  • Cook wild rice according to package directions. 
  • Melt butter in skillet; add mushrooms and sauté 3 minutes. 
  • Add black walnuts, onions, garlic salt, and peppers; cook for additional 3 minutes or until the vegetables soften slightly. 
  • Add wild rice, stirring until rice is heated through.


Pumpkin Walnut Risotto

Serves 8

Ingredients: 

For Caramelized Walnuts:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
For Risotto:
  • 1 15 ounce canned pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 6-7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 3" cinnamon stick
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese


Directions: 

  • Add sugar to a small skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • As sugar starts to melt add salt and walnuts, stirring constantly to coat, about 3-5 minutes. 
  • Remove nuts and place on a sheet pan to cool and harden. When cool enough to touch, break up the clumps of nuts and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, heat chicken stock and cinnamon stick over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Set aside, discard cinnamon stick and keep warm. 
  • In a medium saucepan, combine butter and olive oil and heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add pureed pumpkin, season with salt and pepper and sauté for another 3 minutes. 
  • Combine rice with pumpkin mixture; mix well. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Begin adding hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and making sure all liquid is absorbed before next addition. 
  • Finish with 1 tablespoon butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano to give the risotto a nice, creamy texture. 
  • Garnish with caramelized walnuts (recipe below) and serve.


Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients: 

  • 4 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation: 

  • In a heavy skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. 
  • In a medium size bowl, whisk eggs and milk together. 
  • Scoop flour onto a plate. Combine cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and put on another plate. 
  • Dip sliced tomatoes into flour and then into the milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumb mixture to completely coat both sides. 
  • Test the oil by adding a pinch of cornmeal; if it bubbles to the top it’s ready. 
  • Carefully fry the tomato slices for 3 to 4 minutes each side. 
  • Remove and drain on paper towels.

More from Kitchen Daily: 

Easy Ways to Dress Up Your Christmas Cookie Recipes
9 DIY Foodie Gifts that Practically Make Themselves
The Secret to Making Creamy Mashed Potatoes
How Pie Birds Will Save Your Fruit Pies
Traditional Red Berry Holiday Trifle Recipe
 

This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere. 

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