Holiday Cooking: Festive Side Dish Ideas

During the holiday meal, each dish should offer a festive presentation. Here are some Christmas sides that will help to dress up the table.

With all of the hullabaloo to make a moist Christmas goose or the prettiest holiday dessert, side dishes sometimes get lost in the shuffle. For a truly festive meal, every part of the dining experience should be special and incorporated into the mood of the season. To that end, here are some great recipes for yuletide sides that will brighten up the dinner table. The recipes can be found online (using titles as keywords) or in a variety of cookbooks.

CHRISTMAS RICE PILAF

This colorful side has the look of a Spanish dish, due to the red and green bell peppers that are added to bring in the colors of the season. In addition, the recipe calls for long-grain rice, onion, celery, chicken broth, butter, salt and fresh black pepper. From the chopping to the 20 minutes of simmering, this side dish will only take approximately 45 minutes to put together, when you factor in the time it takes to sauté the vegetables. It's fast, easy and quite tasty - not to mention festive.

CHRISTMAS RELISH

Here's a dish that couldn't be simpler to put together. The only ingredients are frozen sliced strawberries (of the sweetened variety), sugar and a package of cranberries. The deep, rich reds and the marvelous texture will make a perfect side dish for any Christmas meal. It offers a combination of tartness and sweetness, as well as a delightfully fruity taste that makes a great substitute for traditional cranberry sauce. The prep time is quick and the cost of the ingredients is not exorbitant. After chilling for three hours, this will make a beautiful presentation at holiday time.

HOLIDAY CRANBERRY MASHED SWEET POTATOES

This is a rather interesting holiday dish, which substitutes sweet potatoes for those of the white variety, to make a unique mashed potato side. After the potatoes have been whipped with butter and milk, whole cranberry sauce is blended into the mixture, providing a sensational taste and a festive yuletide addition to your holiday meal that will have them coming back for more. The creation of this dish is extremely simple and the cost is quite low. The overall presentation is delightful, with its mixture of colors and textures.

MAKE-AHEAD HOLIDAY MASHED POTATOES

For those who prefer white potato dishes, this is a colorful side with lots of zesty flavor as the result of sun-dried tomato butter - just perfect for a holiday meal. Among the ingredients are butter, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, potatoes, cream cheese, milk, paprika and parsley. There's quite a bit of work to be done to put this dish together, which is why it's categorized as a "make-ahead" dish. If you've got the time to commit to it, you won't be sorry. It's absolutely luscious and will inspire the dinner table during the Christmas season with its outstanding presentation.

CABERNET CRANBERRIES

For an exciting alternative to traditional cranberry sauce, serve Cabernet Cranberries for your holiday meal this year. Offering a delightful blend of sugar, Cabernet Sauvignon, cranberries, grated tangerine or orange rind - and topped off with a cinnamon stick - this tasty little number brings color, flavor and originality to an otherwise predictable holiday meal. The preparation is quite simple, and the dish can be served either warm or chilled, depending upon your preference. An added perk to making this dish is that it can be refrigerated and enjoyed for up to two months.



ESCALLOPED APPLES WALDORF SPECIAL

If you're looking for an extraordinary salad to dress up the Christmas dinner table, this delectable side dish will fill the bill. As a colorful yuletide treasure, this side utilizes harvest apples, red grapes, toasted pecans (or walnuts), celery and pre-mixed salad greens, to present a crunchy - yet juicy - dish that's as festive to the tastebuds as it is to the eyes. With low prep time and a reasonable price for the ingredients, consider this side when you're looking for something a bit different for the holidays.

CHRISTMAS PICKLES

Among the most common of staples found on a platter or serving dish during the holidays is the pickle. Along with its counterpart, the olive, it makes its appearance at many a party and holiday dinner. This year, consider trying this delightful alternative. A combination of diced pineapple, maraschino cherries (red and green), figs, gherkin pickles, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, sugar and water come together to provide one of the tastiest dishes of the season. With its array of colorful ingredients and blending of sweet and slightly tart tastes, Christmas Pickles will be the hit of the holiday meal.

CARROT-PECAN CASSEROLE

A lovely combination of baby carrots, sugar, butter, toasted pecans, milk, eggs, flour, orange rind, vanilla extract and ground nutmeg team up to make a luscious side dish that's quite hearty and sweetly spicy. Although it takes upwards of an hour to make, from beginning to end, this dish is really quite easy to make and is a unique addition to the more traditional Christmas dinner foods. A food processor is needed for this recipe, as well as the stovetop and oven. Fresh baby carrots make the dish tastier than the processed canned version.

FRUITY RUTABAGA

This is an incredibly delicious version of a winter vegetable side dish, with a colorful presentation that's filled with the rich reds of the Christmas season. Simple to make - and inexpensive, as well - ingredients such as rutabagas, apple cider, cranberries, apples, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and butter blend together to bring a slightly-tart, slightly-sweet side to your holiday meal this year. Those who gather around your dinner table during this yuletide season will be delighted by the unique alternative to this often overlooked vegetable.

FAVORITE AMBROSIA

This sweet, fruity side dish is a perfect blend of oranges, grapefruit, bananas, maraschino cherries, grated orange rind, toasted coconut, powdered sugar, whipped topping and mayonnaise. One of the best things about this dish is that it's made with fresh fruits, as opposed to the syrupy canned variety. Colorful and delightfully tasty, this side brings a lot to the table without taking a lot of time to put together. It can be prepared in a family-size bowl or individual serving cups, depending upon the effect that you're striving to create.

Most of these dishes are easy to prepare and fairly inexpensive. All are quite delicious and express themselves beautifully in the right serving container. The next time you're asked to host a holiday dinner, keep these Christmas jewels in mind.

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