Side Dishes - Holiday Meal Planning

Sometimes, the sides at holiday parties outshine the main dishes. From creamy mashed potatoes to vegetable casseroles with cripsy, delicious toppings, it's a feast of carbs and fiber in only the best ways. Today's recipes are some of the easier options to whip up this holiday season and although very orange, quite tasty. More importantly, they're not so terrible for you. Both recipes are heavy in sweet potato, one of the most nutrient dense options out there. Even if they're not the best for your holiday table, they make fantastic sides for weeknight or weekend dinners with the family.

Stuffing is something a lot of people don't have the heart to mess with. They have a recipe their family has used for years or they're so attached to a box version that it doesn't seem appetizing to go out of the box, literally. Rachael Ray initially introduced me to adding apples into stuffing, and sometimes even meat, and I was sold on the first bite. Delicious and comforting, making a stuffing a little heartier is not a bad thing.

Betsy's Best recently sent me several samples of their gourmet nut and seed butter as well as a few recipes to try out. This stuffing recipe below is on the sweeter side of the flavor spectrum and makes a perfect accompaniment to chicken or turkey. Instead of the Almond Butter, I changed things around and used the sunflower seed butter so my mom could eat it but I have no doubt any of their gourmet products would work beautifully. Check it out below. If you're interested in reading more about Betsy's Best, see our post sharing a Harvest Smoothie and head back later today to check out another one of our gift guides!

Sweet Potato and Almond Glazed Apple Stuffing from Betsy's Best
2 large Sweet Potatoes, cubed with skin
2 tbs. Grapeseed, Coconut or Canola Oil
1.5 cups Onions, Chopped
1.2 cup Celery, chopped
2 cups Apples, chopped
2 tbsp. Betsy's Best Gourmet Almond Butter
1/2 cup Water
4 slices Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Bread, toasted and crumbled (about 2 cups)
1/2 Low Sodium Chicken Broth (or water)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg

1. Wash the potatoes, leaving the skin on and dice into large chunks. Cover the sweet potatoes in water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Drain and mash the potatoes in a large bowl. Heat oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add apples, almond butter, water and spices. Continue cooking and stirring for 3-4 minutes.

3. Stir mixture and bread crumbs into the sweet potatoes. Add chicken broth or water. Serve as is or place in a lightly oiled 9x9 inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve. 

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This recipe was inspired by a Butternut Squash Gratin I made from A Kitchen In France for the French cooking series (coming Friday). I loved the idea of using different vegetables for a gratin. The general idea behind this kind of dish is simplicity and minimalism which are two words I love in cooking, especially during the crazy holiday season. I bumped up the sweet and savory contrast by using a tangy Parmesan Romano cheese mix and adding a drizzle of honey at the end. It gives it a nice caramelized finish. Keep it on the more savory side by omitting the brown sugar mixed in with the bread crumbs. 

Sweet Potato Gratin
4-5 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 medium Yellow Onion, halved and sliced
Pinch of Nutmeg
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Plain Breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 cup Shredded Parmesan & Romano Cheese
1 tbsp. Honey
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook another 10-12 minutes until softened. 

2. Transfer potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Pour heavy cream all over the potatoes. Mix together in a small bowl breadcrumbs and brown sugar. Sprinkle all over the potatoes to form a sturdy crust. Top with cheese and a drizzle of honey. 

3. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let set for about five minutes and serve.

Let us know if you try these recipes and how you like them in the comments below. Tell us what kind of side dishes you serve at your holiday dinners as well.