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Festive Vegetable Side Dishes and Holiday Salads

Posted on December 20th, 2014 by | 6 views

Side dishes made with lightly cooked fresh vegetables can add rich flavor, festive color and a dose of delicious nutrition to your holiday dinner table.  Try a few of these side dish recipes:


Mashed Potatoes & Parsnips


  • 4 medium/large baking potatoes
  • 3 medium parsnips
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 cups (32 oz) Chicken broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Directions: Wash and peel the potatoes and parsnips. Cut them into 2-inch chunks and place them and the garlic cloves in a 5 qt. stockpot; add chicken broth until it covers the potatoes. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until a fork slides easily through the potatoes. Drain potatoes, reserving ¾ cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the potato-parsnip mixture with a potato masher until smooth and lump-free. Stir in butter or margarine. Add the reserved liquid ¼ cup at a time, until potatoes have a creamy, whipped texture. Serves 4-6.


Green Beans with Corn & Bacon

  • 2 lbs green beans
  • 1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off cob
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • 3 strips bacon
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Directions: Slice bacon into small (1/2 inch) pieces and fry in saucepan until crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Leave 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, add garlic, onion and corn kernels. Saute about 5 minutes over medium high heat. 

Wash green beans and remove ends.  Place beans in microwave-safe dish, cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 minutes (until bright green and crisp tender). Toss with butter and place in serving dish. Spoon the corn mixture over the green beans and sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve.


Mixed Mushroom Casserole

  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms (different varieties)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (panko crumbs preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Directions: Clean and slice mushrooms.  In large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat, add mushrooms, onion, chicken broth, seasoning and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid by about half. Season with salt and pepper.  Turn mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. If needed, broil for 1-2 minutes to brown bread crumbs.  Serve.


Spinach and Sweet Potato Risotto

  • Risotto (see recipe below)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, washed and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Prepare risotto using recipe below. In a separate pan, sauté the diced sweet potato in the olive oil until soft and nicely browned (about 10 minutes over medium-high heat), add the chopped spinach. Toss gently and let the spinach wilt in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix sweet potato-spinach mixture with risotto. Serve.


  • 1 ½ cups white arborio rice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


Directions: Heat olive oil in a heavy non-stick 2-quart pot at medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are coated with oil.  Add wine and stir constantly on medium heat until wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup hot stock or water, stirring until liquid is absorbed. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes and adding the remaining liquid 1 cup at a time. This rice will create its own creamy sauce. Remove from heat, stir in cheese. 

Holiday Salads

Including a salad on your Holiday dinner menu offers guests a pleasant balance to some of the more traditionally heavy side dishes.  Ensure your salad pairs nicely with the rest of the feast by including traditional holiday ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, apples, and beets.

Salads and dressings can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to serve. For maximum freshness, toss the dressing into the salad just before serving (unless the recipe specifically states otherwise).


Waldorf Salad
In the 1890's, the famed Waldorf Salad was invented by the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Our version includes carrots, apples and grapes making it kid-friendly.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups julienne or shredded carrots
  • 1 apple peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 10-12 seedless grapes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup chopped dates
  • ¼ cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions: Toss apple and lemon juice in a medium sized salad bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Waldorf Dressing

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Before Serving: Drizzle dressing over salad ingredients and toss gently.


Broccoli Slaw

This recipe uses store-bought broccoli slaw mix and ramen noodles. It's simple and full of great flavor.

Salad Ingredients:

Directions: Crush ramen noodles.  In a skillet, heat butter, walnuts and ramen noodles over medium heat.  Stir constantly until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Drain on paper towel and cool. Set aside at room temperature until just before serving.

Salad Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 3-oz package of ramen noodles, chicken flavored
  • 1 16 oz. package shredded broccoli slaw mix
  • ¼ cup thin sliced sweet onion


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • Chicken flavored seasoning packet from Ramen noodles

In saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat.  Stir constantly until sugar dissolves about 2 minutes.  Set aside at room temperature until just before serving.

Before Serving: Toss broccoli slaw mix and onions together in salad bowl. Toss nut mixture into salad mixture. Whisk the dressing and drizzle it over the salad ingredients and toss gently.


Spinach & Beet Salad
This colorful salad is a more traditional tossed green salad with a holiday lift.


  • 9-12 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
  • ½ cup canned beets, drained, sliced or julienned
  • ½ cup mandarin oranges, drained
  • ¼ cup feta or blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds


  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, cover and shake. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Dressing can be made a day ahead).

Before serving: Whisk salad dressing and toss with spinach leaves.  Spread spinach on a large platter or flat bowl.  Add beets and oranges on top of spinach. Sprinkle cheese and sunflower seeds.  Serve.


About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

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