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Spicy Side Dishes

Side dishes: a misleading name for the seasoned stuffings, fruits, and vegetables that bring an array of delicious flavors to the holiday table. In fact, some consider sides the best part of any festive meal!

Whether you're hosting a small group or inserting extra table leaves to serve a crowd, we have some ideas for perfectly seasoned recipes to keep your main dish company. (We've included some roll recipes, too.)


Potatoes are part and parcel of most meals for large groups. Whether scalloped, cheesy, mashed, smothered in gravy or sprinkled with an array of spices, potatoes add heartiness and familiarity to any meal.

Here are three ways to deliver traditional potatoes with a bit of pizzazz:

Potatoes and Carrots Au Gratin
Cheesy Yogurt Potato Bake
Roasted New Potatoes with Garlic and Thyme

Sweet potatoes are even more versatile than regular potatoes because they lend themselves to both sweet and savory dishes. They often show up at the Thanksgiving table, but they're becoming increasingly common at everyday meals, too, thanks to increased appreciation of their nutritive value. (Yams, which are often confused with sweet potatoes, are a tropical tuber, and contain more natural sugar and moisture than sweet potatoes.)

Add color, nutrition, and rich flavor to your meal with any of these recipes:

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples
Orange-Scented Yams with Chestnuts
Sweet Potato Bake

Squash comes in several forms, from zucchini to gourds. Those harvested in the fall are known as winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, and pumpkin. Adding a few spices and baking a squash makes your house smell delicious and rounds out your meal in a colorful way.

Pumpkin is called for in this recipe, but you could use any winter squash available:

Pumpkin and Spinach Curry

Ten minutes gets any of these three dishes in the oven:

Baked Orange Ginger Squash
Butternut Squash Couscous
Spiced Butternut Squash

Corn, especially the creamed version, is often a staple of the holiday table. Here's a version that's anything but cliché:
Creamed Corn

And here's a corn recipe that will visually enliven your table:
Amazing Maize Medley

The green bean casserole is an American classic. Here’s a variation (complete with crunchy topping) that you can make ahead easily and bake when needed:
Green and White Bean Gratin

Or you may choose to serve green beans as a sensationally seasoned side, sans casserole:
Seasoned Green Beans

Carrots bring color and flavor to the table. This recipe can be prepared almost instantly:
Parsley Dill Carrots

And this one will simmer in the crock pot after a quick assembly:
Autumn Carrots

Here’s a final idea for a side dish that incorporates the robust flavors of parsnips and turnips:
A Bouquet of Root Vegetables

Stuffings and Dressings

Spices have a starring role in this side dish, which dates back to Roman times. Traditional stuffing often consists of breadcrumbs combined with onion, celery, salt, pepper, sage, and other spices and herbs for seasoning.

By the way, while the terms are used interchangeably, there is technically a difference between "stuffing" and "dressing." When the mixture is cooked on the stovetop or in a separate pan in the oven, it's more properly referred to as dressing. (For food safety, modern cooks are cautioned to cook their dressing separately from the bird.)

This stuffing recipe from Ricki Blau received third place in Vegetarian Times’ 2009 Reader Recipe Contest. Her family and friends range from omnivores to vegans, so when they gather for holidays she likes to prepare food they can all share. She put this stuffing recipe together when she hosted Thanksgiving dinner:

Fruit and Toasted Almond Stuffing

This quick-to-put-together stuffing relies on top-notch poultry seasoning:
Vegetarian Stuffing

Another scrumptious option is to stuff winter squash with your seasoned mix, as in these recipes:

Butternut Squash with Stuffing
Cornbread Stuffed Squash


A festive table can be deliciously completed with seasonal fruits.

Here's a recipe that combines cranberries with apples. This convenient dish cooks all day in a slow cooker, giving you time to tend to other meal details: Baked Cranberry Apples

This cranberry sauce takes just five minutes to prepare! Serve it alongside any main dish:
Heritage Lane Cranberry Sauce

Appropriate as a side or dessert, here's an easy and elegant way to include pears in your menu: Poached Pears

Dinner rolls

While dinner rolls aren't technically a "side dish," any celebratory meal just wouldn't be complete without them.

Homemade rolls are always appreciated, and they're really not hard to make. And if you can time your preparations so the rolls are still warm from the oven when you serve the meal, your guests will be especially delighted.

This intriguing roll includes oats, caraway seeds, and buttermilk: Irish Soda Bread Rolls

A generous selection of herbs and spices enliven these two recipes: Tarragon Tasty Rolls

Herb Wheat Rolls

Or for old-fashioned fun, try these rolls, cooked in a Dutch oven: One Bowl Dinner Rolls

Happily, just as there is an almost endless variation of families and friends gathered around the table for special occasions, there are also plenty of choices for side dishes. Enjoy as many as you can!

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