Delectable Holiday Sides

Friday 22 November 2019

Delectable Holiday Sides

While there is nothing I love more than a great roast turkey for the Holidays, I get way more excited about the sides.  There are certain dishes which I really enjoy with my holiday meals, dishes that MAKE the meal what it is.  
At the end of the day a Roast Turkey is only as good as it's supporting acts are! They are the deal breakers for me and are a huge contribution to making the dinner as special as it really is.  I wanted to share my favourites with you today!  
One good thing about side dishes is that, for the most part, you can make them all ahead of time and just reheat them on the day!

I don't know about you, but my favourite part of any turkey dinner is the stuffing, or dressing as it is sometimes called!  I suppose if it is cooked inside the bird you might want to call it stuffing, but if it is cooked outside the bird you could call is dressing.  Either way I love it.  My mother made the absolute best stuffing in the world. No matter how many times I make it, it never quite tastes as good to me as the memory of hers tastes. That is not to say it isn't delicious, but you know what memories are like. Nothing can ever touch them!  

I have to say this Sage & Onion Stuffing recipe comes very close.  In fact I could quite happily sit down with a plate of this and some gravy and be very happy! 

*Sage & Onion Stuffing*
Makes 8 servings
One word for this. Perfect. 

450g onions, peeled and chopped (1 pound)
300ml water (1 1/3 cups)
75g butter, melted, plus extra for buttering the dish (1/3 cup)
1 TBS chopped fresh sage leaves
225g fresh soft white bread crumbs (8 slices, 1/2 pound)
salt and black pepper to taste 

Place the chopped onion into a saucepan.  Cover with the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.  Drain very well.  Stir in the butter and the remaining ingredients, tossing to combine and seasoning to taste.  Allow to cool completely if you are using it to stuff a bird.  If you are cooking it separately.  Place into a buttered dish.  Dot butter over the top.  Cover and bake in a 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4 oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes to crisp up the top if desired. 

Note - One potato mashed can be stirred into the bread crumbs along with the onion and then you have Bread, Sage & Onion Stuffing.  This is as my mother always made it.


One vegetable that my holiday meal just wouldn't be the same without is the humble Swede, or turnip as my mom called it. The real name of it is the Rutabaga.

Believe it or not, turnips/Swede/rutabaga are one of those root vegetables that actually have an underlying sweetness. This can be greatly enhanced when you cook them.  
It's subtle for sure, but I find the addition of a tiny bit of brown sugar, always brings out the natural sweetness even more and makes a big difference.   

Raw, peeled swede is grated and then slowly sauteed in a skillet along with some butter.  The absence of liquid means that you end up with a side dish of turnips that is light and fluffy, and amazingly delicious!  

I first had this at a Mennonite restaurant called Anna Mae's in Southern Ontario many years ago. I fell in love with it and determined to make it at home. This was the result.

You can very easily do this a day or two before the holiday meal and simply reheat it in the microwave when you are ready to serve it.   

*Sauteed Yellow Turnips*
(Also known as Swede or Rutabaga)
Serves 6 to 8
This is the mennonite way of cooking Turnips.   I first tasted it like this back in the 1990's when I ate at a Mennonite Restaurant in St Jacob's, Ontario, in Canada.   It was delicious.  I searched and searched for a recipe, but couldn't find one.   I experimented and this is what I came up with which is very close to the way theirs tasted. I've been doing my swede this way ever since.  Much better than just boiled. 

1 large rutabaga/swede, peeled and grated
(or two small to medium ones.  You will need about 5 to 6 cups grated swede)
5 TBS butter
salt and black pepper to taste
1 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed 

Melt the butter in a large skillet.   Add the rutabaga/swede and saute over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until they are soft and turn a deep yellow in colour.  Stir in the brown sugar and season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Serve hot.  Delicious! 

Butternut Squash is another must have for all of my holiday meals. When I was a child I never liked squash, but as an adult I adore it. 
Is especially delicious roasted in the oven, which is also not that hard to do.

My mother used to just peel and boil it and I always thought it was wet and flavourless.  Sorry mom.
Squash was never a favourite vegetable in our home.

I like to roast it in the oven with a bit of olive oil and seasoning and just a touch of water.  The roasting really helps to highlight and enhance the beautiful natural sweetness of this gorgeous vegetable!
Once you have had it this way, you will always want it to grace your holiday dinner table!

Once you have roasted it, its very easy to just scoop out the flesh and mash it together with a knob of butter and some Maple syrup. Not necessary, but very nice. 

*Oven Roasted Butternut Squash*
Serves 6

Quite simply delicious.

1 medium to large butternut squash
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
60ml water (1/4 cup)
a knob of butter
a drizzle of maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 4.  Line a baking tray with sides with some aluminium foil. Set aside.

Cut the squash in half horizontally.  Using a sharp spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard.  Place them on the baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Turn face down onto the baking sheet and add the water.  Pop into the oven to roast.  Check periodically to make sure that the pan isn't going dry. At the end of that time, the squash will have absorbed most of the water if not all and have begun to caramelise a bit.

Let set a few minutes until you can comfortably handle them and then scoop out all of the flesh into a bowl. Mash lightly along with a knob of butter and some maple syrup if desired. Keep warm until you need it.

The British really love Roast Potatoes with their holiday meals.  I do have to agree that they are very good. 
My Canadian Soul always longs for a nice pile of fluffy white mashed potatoes to help cradle that delicious gravy however.  It wouldn't be a holiday meal without some light and fluffy mash.

They are not as hard to make as some people would suppose. Simple and straightforward, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
  • use the proper potato. You want a floury type of potato, that is to say one that breaks down well once cooked. You do not want a waxy type of potato, or one that holds it's shape well when cooked. Some great examples of floury potatoes are Maris Piper, Estima, King Edward or Desiree (In North America use a Russet, Idaho or baking potato)
  • Do not make the mistake of not cooking the potatoes long enough. Better to err on the side of overcooking than undercooking. You cannot mash a hard lump no matter how hard you try!
  • Never add cold butter or milk to cooked potatoes. Always use room temperature or melted butter and gently warmed milk or cream
  • Add any liquid to the cooked potatoes slowly. Some days you may need more, some days you may need less. How much can only be determined by adding it slowly.

I have nothing against roast potatoes. 
In fact you can find my recipe for how to do them here.  I just love mashed potatoes more!

*Perfect Mashed Potatoes*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Simple and perfect!

2 pounds of large floury potatoes (In the UK a Maris Piper is ideal, in North America
I would use a russet or idaho)
4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup, or one stick)
4 fluid ounces of single cream or full fat milk (1/2 cup) gently warmed
fine seasalt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and quarter the potatoes then place the potatoes into a pot of lightly salted water to cover.  Bring to the boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until fork tender.  Drain well in a colander and then return them to the hot pot.  Cover with the lid and give them a good shake, which will help to break them up.  Add the butter and warmed cream or milk, adding the latter a little at a time, whilst mashing the potatoes, only adding as much as is needed to give you the correct consistency.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  The potatoes should be light, fluffy, creamy and  ready to eat.

Note - I often use my electric handwhisk to mash the potatoes.  This helps to insure a smooth mixture without lumps.  I also have a potato ricer, which does a fabulous lump free job.

I love to have sweet potatoes with my holiday meal as well.  One simple way to prepare them is to just wash them really well and pop them onto a foil lined tray.
 You then to bang them into the oven to roast while you are roasting your turkey.  Depending on the size of them they will be done in about an hour and a half, maximum.

They are done when they yield to a soft squeeze with your hand.  I then cut them in half and holding the halves with a hand covered with an oven mit I use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a bowl. 
You can add butter if you want, but we find they are delicious just as they are, with perhaps only a touch of salt and pepper.  We are not of the marshmallow topped sweet potato loving school.

Another dish we really enjoy with our turkey dinner is Green Bean & Almond Casserole. This is a delicious casserole, made completely from scratch and flavoured with celery, onion and dried dill weed.  

I first tasted Green Bean Casserole at my mom's cousin Polly's in Vermont back in 1966. We all fell in love with it.

This is rich and creamy and the flavours of the dill go very well with the beans. And I love that it is made from scratch.

Although to be sure the one made with cream soup is also very good.

The crunchy topping is a nutty buttery crisp mix of dry bread crumbs, flaked almonds and butter.

Yield: 8

Green Bean & Almond Casserole

Green Bean & Almond Casserole

This is a fabulous side dish for the holidays with wonderful flavours.


For the Sauce:
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 480 ml of milk (2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 TBS of butter
  • 2 TBS plain flour
  • 150ml of single cream (slightly more than half a cup)
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste
You will also need:
  • 2 tins (400g) cut green beans, drained well (2 14 oz. cans)
  • 60g dried bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
  • 170g flaked almonds (1 cup)
  • 2 TBS butter, melted


How to cook Green Bean & Almond Casserole

  1. First make the sauce. Stud the bay leaf to the onion with the clove,
  2. pressing the clove through the bay leaf and into the onion. Place in a
  3. saucepan along with the milk and the cream. Warm the milk mixture slowly
  4. to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to infuse with the flavours of the studded onion for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, strain the onion out and discard.
  5. Melt the butter for the sauce in a saucepan. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently over medium heat until softened. Whisk in the flour and cook over low heat for several minutes.
  6. Whisk in the warm milk and cream, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a
  7. smooth sauce. Allow to cook, over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. At the end of that time it should be lovely and thick. Season to taste
  8. with some salt and pepper. Whisk in the dill weed. Set aside and keep warm.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a shallow baking dish. (about 7 by 11 inches).
  10. Drainyour green beans very well. Fold into the sauce to combine well. Pour
  11. into the prepared baking dish, spreading out in an even layer. Mix together the bread crumbs, almonds and melted butter. Sprinkle over top
  12. of the green beans.
  13. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until heated through and golden brown. Serve hot.


You can prepare ahead of time, right up to the topping with the crumbs,
 and baking in the oven.  Bring to room temperature when you want to
bake it. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top and proceed as above.

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Most holiday meals would not be complete without the offereing of some kind of bread.  This is my favourite bread roll recipe. 
And when I say favourite I really mean favourite!

They are my favourites because they are soft and fluffy. They have a golden brown crust and a lovely light crumb. 

They are simply beautiful rolls.  Perfect dinner rolls.

Old Fashioned Pull-Aparts

Of course you can just buy in your rolls to save time and trouble. With a little bit of forethought you can bake these up a week ahead of your meal and freeze them.
Ready to pop into a slow oven for re-heating while your turkey is resting and you are making your gravy!

Yield: 16

Old Fashioned Pull-Aparts

Old Fashioned Pull-Aparts

Soft and fluffy inside with a golden crust.  In short, the perfect dinner roll.


  • 3 1/2 cups strong bread flour (490g)
  • 2 tsp active dried yeast
  • 3 TBS dry milk powder
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1 1/2tsp salt
  • 4 TBS softened butter
  • 2/3 cup of lukewarm water (156ml)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (18ml)
  • melted butter to brush on top


How to cook Old Fashioned Pull-Aparts

  1. Stir together all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Drop in the butter and the water and milk. Stir together until you have a soft dough. Knead, using your hands or a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle, until you have a soft, smooth dough. Place into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for at least an hour, until double in bulk. Punch the dough down gently and then transfer to a lightly floured work surface.
  2. Divide the dough by cutting in half and then dividing again and again until you have 16 equally sized pieces. Shape each into a round smooth ball.
  3. Lightly butter a 9 by 15 inch pan,or two round 8 or 9 inch cake tins. Arrange the balls in the long tin, or place 8 into each of the smaller round tins. Cover again and set in a warm place to rise for at least another hour, until they are crowded against each other and quite puffed. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.
  4. Uncover the buns and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown on top and the edges of the centre bun spring back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Serve warm.

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Herb Roasted Turkey Breast 

So there you have it, a multitude of what I feel are the perfect sides to serve with your holiday turkey!  One thing I never get tired of is a tasty Turkey Dinner.  When my children were growing up we would often pop across to the US to pick up a turkey, or in our case several as there were 7 of us altogether. We could bring back one per person in the car without paying duty.  
I have to say that I never ever had a dry turkey, not once.  I loved American turkey's.  Also one of my favourite meals ever eaten in the US, was a turkey dinner eaten at a road stop cafe in New York State on our way back from Ontario to Nova Scotia. It was just my husband and myself.  I think it was somewhere near Syracuse.  We had the turkey dinner on the Early Bird Special.  Wow, was it ever good!

Happy Holidays! 

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  1. Great ideas - our turnips are indeed swedes. I lived in London for a year and couldn't find swedes in my local green grocer - although I would ask for 'turnips' and they'd try and get me to buy one of your green and white ones. They wouldn't do. Months later, I went in and saw a Canadian turnip. I said to they guy "Finally a turnip!" The green grocer, who was often fed up with my measly daily purchases bellowed "Good God woman - that's not a turnip - it's a swede!"
    Being an Irish Maritimer, I grew up on a dressing with potatoes, crumbs and summer savory - it never made sense to me. When I married I had a wee gov't publication of Nova Scotia apple recipes - it had a stuffing with breadcrumbs, chopped celery in butter, chopped raw McIntosh, chopped onion, an egg to bind and salt, pepper and of course summer savory - my family won't have anything else now - so here's a recipe idea for you. Oh, and I put it in the turkey - despite all of the dire warnings not to do so. Haven't killed anyone yet! Have a great Christmas season.

    1. Like you, I grew up calling them Turnips Linda. Mom always mashed a potato in with them to make them taste less bitter. Yes, your dressing is the same as the one I grew up with also. Summer Savoury, so difficult to get out of province. I always bring back several packages of it when I go home for a visit. The packages I have in my freezer at the moment are 7 years old, its been that long since I was home. But they are still good. Ohh, that apple stuffing does sound nice. I must give it a go! You have a great Christmas Season also! xoxo

  2. I love all of these! I am trying out your stuffing and turkey recipes for Thanksgiving- question, you don't use chicken stock for the stuffing? Cheers!

    1. Thanks Mrs Pear! No, there is no stock needed for this stuffing recipe. It turns out perfect just as it is! Hope you enjoy it!

    2. Hi Marie! I made the stuffing and mashed sweet potato as 2 of my sides for today's feast and they were DELICIOUS! Even my very picky 7 and 8 year olds loved them. Cheers!

    3. Oh, I am so pleased that I was a part of your holiday meal and that they were enjoyed! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know Mrs. Pear! Happy Holidays! ♥♥♥

  3. The squash looks especially delicious and so do those pull-aparts. I must ask Rick to make rolls, rather than bread, for TG this year!

    1. Men are the absolute best bread bakers Jeanie! Todd has never baked any but my ex used to bake all of our fresh bread, about 12 loaves every week when he was home and not out in the field! xoxo


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