Popular Side Dishes for your Holiday Gatherings

It’s that time of year again when the air gets crisp with the hint of cold that is soon to follow, and leaves turn fabulous colors of crimson, orange, and yellow. It is also the time of year when we are reminded of the upcoming family holiday gatherings. Friends and family from near and far come together during Thanksgiving and Christmas time to celebrate each others company and enjoy good food. This yearly tradition is one of great comfort and joy. What better way to enlighten the experience than by sharing a delicious meal together. 

Everyone enjoys the traditional main course during these holidays, but let’s not forget the side dishes. With such an array of casseroles, salads, bread, and other popular meal add-ons, it’s hard to choose which to include and which to exclude. When deciding what to offer on the side, it basically comes down to which main course you’re providing. For Thanksgiving, the first choice and favorite of main dishes is the turkey. 

Turkey Side Dishes 

Standard Potatoes 
The first side that comes to mind when thinking about turkey is potatoes. This is one of the most popular and easily made dishes. There are many varieties of potato to consider. Mashed potatoes are a good standby. While a typical recipe calls for potatoes, milk or cream, and butter, these can also be spruced up by adding garlic and chives. The mashed potatoes can be smooth or slightly lumpy for a more old-fashioned texture. Red or gold potatoes are the best variety to use if deciding to leave the skins on. 

Sweet Potatoes 
Some people prefer having sweet potatoes with their turkey. There are many ways to prepare a sweet potato. They can be twice baked, candied, made as a casserole, or mashed and topped with marshmallow. They are one of the most versatile dishes to enjoy with turkey. 

Cranberry Sauce 
Another traditional side that is most enjoyed during the holidays is the cranberry. The easiest version is the jellied form that comes in a can. If using this variety you can make it a little more interesting by cutting the slices with cookie cutter shapes that fit the holiday. Consider leaf or star shapes and fan them out on a platter. A more complex way to serve cranberries is to make them from the whole berry. There are a variety of recipes that blend sugar, spices, oranges, nuts, and many other unique ingredients. 

Two traditional types of vegetables that people enjoy paired with turkey are corn and green beans. These are obviously simple enough on their own, yet there are ways to spruce them up. Green beans are commonly made into a green bean casserole. This is a simple to make a dish that requires mixing green beans and cream of mushroom soup and then topping with french fried onions. Corn can be served whole, as a cream style, or even as cornbread muffins. 

Bread and Biscuits 
There are many styles and types of bread and biscuits that can be placed on the table. The type that most people go to when enjoying a turkey dinner is the more hardy style biscuits. A country style, southern style, or buttermilk biscuit works quite well. The croissant is a good alternative for those that do not want to fill up on too much bread. 

While turkey may be a favorite past time for Thanksgiving gatherings, Ham has been the number one choice for Christmas. There are many varieties of ham, whether it be a bone in ham, smoked, or glazed. There are a number of sides that pair well with the flavor of ham and have been favorites for family gatherings. 

Ham Side Dishes 

A vegetable that pairs well with ham is the carrot. Since ham is generally glazed with a smokey sweet flavor, a most suitable side is glazed or candied carrots. These are a quick vegetable to make by simply adding butter and brown sugar to cooked carrots, and cooking until glazed. 

The best kind of potatoes that go well with ham are either potatoes au gratin or scalloped potatoes. Although they are similar dishes as they are both sliced and then baked in the oven, they do have one difference. Scalloped potatoes are made with butter, milk, onion, and spices while au gratin is made basically the same but with added cheese. Another favorite side to ham is the sweet potato and yam. 

Deviled Eggs 
This has got to be one of the most popular sides while having ham. It’s also a great item to put out ahead of time so guests can have something to eat while waiting for the main course. They are simple to make and delicious. You simply boil the eggs, cut them in half, scoop out the yokes, mix the yolks with some mayonnaise and paprika, and then put the mixture back into the egg white halves. 

The most popular bread side that compliments the taste of the ham would be a traditional corn muffin. While pretty much any style or type of bread, biscuit, or muffin is suitable for a ham dinner, the corn muffin has a subtle sweetness that works well with the tender sweet ham. 

While the most popular meal add-ons for family holiday gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas may seem basic and even ordinary, they truly are not. Most of these dishes have been given a slight twist so that they are their own unique flavor suitable to compliment the main course. Green beans become green bean casserole. Boiled eggs become deviled eggs. Carrots become a sweet and tasty glazed carrot dish. Even potatoes become a flavorful and creamy, garlic and chive mashed potato dish or a bowl of sweet potatoes with a hint of brown sugar and smothered in marshmallow. It’s the time of year to not only spend with family and friends but also surprise the taste buds with those out of the ordinary yet familiar holiday flavors.

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