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side dish recipes

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Sassy Side dishes Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes // Karista's Kitchen

It seems I anguish over Thanksgiving side dishes every year.  

The question being, should I prepare the same sides as last year and make everyone completely happy or should I venture out of our “safe” side dish zone and create a few new dishes that will hopefully catch on and become new favorites? Ah the side dish dilemma.

I always try to set a selection of colorful and appetizing sides on the Thanksgiving table as well as sides that complement our roasted or grilled turkey.  One of my daughters insists on some sort of potato dish, preferably a mashed potato, and my other daughter would never let me hear the end of it if we didn’t serve apple and sausage stuffing.  Ranger Craig is big on veggies, so there is always a hearty vegetable dish of some sort along with my favorite roasted cranberry and mandarin salad.  Dare I forget the gravy and on occasion I’ll throw in a sweet potato spoon bread for good measure.

As my youngest daughter once said, “I come to the Thanksgiving table excited for all the side dishes”. 🙂

So in honor of the well-loved and obligatory side dish, I thought I’d share a collection of side dishes that just might tickle your taste buds and inspire a few new Thanksgiving side dish traditions in your home.

Maple Roasted Carrots and Parsnips from Alaska From Scratch

Maple Roasted Parsnips and Carrots from Alaska From Scratch

I think what I love most about these Maple Roasted Carrots and Parsnips from Alaska From Scratch and Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Luci’s Morsels is that they make a colorful and delectable addition to the Thanksgiving table as well as they are relatively fuss-free – which is a good thing during the holidays.

Perfectly Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Luci’s Morsels

Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Luci's Morsels

These stuffed acorn squash make a lovely alternative to Thanksgiving side dishes and can serve as a vegetarian entrée option for your guests.

Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash // Karista's Kitchen

Oh who can resist the lush elegance of Gorgonzola mashed potatoes?!  This is always the first of the side dishes to be passed around my table.

Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes 

Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes // Karista's Kitchen

Add a little light, fresh and sweet to the meal with this gorgeous mixed greens salad with mandarin oranges. A tasteful compliment to the heavier Thanksgiving side dishes.


Mixed Greens and Mandarin Orange Salad with Candied Nuts 

Mixed Greens with Mandarin Oranges, Candied Nuts and Parsley Vinaigrette // Karista's Kitchen

I’ve finished this round-up with one of my favorite sweet potato dishes, Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Gingersnap Crumbles – you’ll find the recipe below.  This captivating dish often serves as my dessert!

Wishing you all the most delicious of holiday seasons.  If you have any questions, comments or need a different recipe for your Thanksgiving table, please leave a comment below or feel free to email me.

Loads of Love!


Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Serving Size: 4-6

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Sweet potatoes are delicious on their own, but add maple syrup, spices and ginger snaps and this bright orange side dish tastes like a celebration


  • 3 large sweet potatoes or yams (I prefer yams due to the rich color and smooth texture)
  • 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground all-spice
  • ½ cup real maple syrup, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup crumbled ginger snaps


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Wrap each sweet potato or yam loosely in foil. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until soft. Remove them from the oven and let them cool. When they are cool, take them out of the foil and remove the skins. The skins should easily peel away. Discard the skin and place the sweet potato in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • With the whip attachment, begin to whip the potatoes on medium speed. Add the melted butter, cinnamon, all-spice and ¼ cup of the maple syrup and whip until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl and top with the remaining ¼ cup of maple syrup and sprinkle with crumbled ginger snaps. Serve warm.
  • Notes

    Created for Home By Design Magazine Retro Buffett Issue 2016

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    Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash // Karista's Kitchen

    My youngest sassy gal said to me yesterday “Mom, I’m in need of some Christmas. Can we Christmas things up a bit?”

    Ok, so I was thinking I’d done a really good job of creating our little Christmas season indoors – but maybe not so much. 🙁

    My sassy gal has had her head in the books, preparing for college entrance exams and finishing a tough semester at school.  I think she may have just noticed it’s Christmas!

    So today I’m on a mission to fill my daughter’s Christmas well.  We’re off to do our Christmas Eve and Christmas day food shopping, stopping at a few farms along the way that are sweetly decorated for the season.  We’ll stop for tea, cocoa or coffee at one of our local coffee houses and then once we’re home, I’ve got movies and music planned, along with delicious food of course, for our evening’s festivities.  I think this will do it.

    Although I’ve got our Italian holiday tradition, Feast of the Seven Fishes, planned for Christmas Eve, and this lovely Prime Rib planned for Christmas Day, tonight’s dinner is a lovely ham served with this gorgeous Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash.

    These little stuffed squash are the perfect compliment to a ham and look so lovely on a holiday table.  Sometimes just for fun I’ll stuff them with coconut rice, golden raisins and top with chopped pistachios.  Sounds delicious doesn’t it?

    Christmas has always been more than just a gift giving season for me.   It’s a season of love and appreciation, connection and sharing, and most of all, giving of our time and attention.  Even though I may not live near you or able to meet you for coffee or lunch, you are truly appreciated and a special part of Karista’s Kitchen.

    I send you heartfelt thanks for following my blog and for sharing it with others that you care about.   Next year will bring more delicious recipes, snippits of a new project I’m working on, along with a few “how to” videos that hopefully will inspire you in the kitchen.

    I wish you all true joy, happiness, love and a prosperous new year!


    Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Serving Size: 6

    Cranberry, Wild Rice and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash


    • 3 smallish Acorn squash, or evenly sized, cut in half and seeds scraped out
    • 1-2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder (I like Frontier brand Chinese Five Spice Powder because it's more sweet than savory)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup wild rice
    • 1 3/4 cups water
    • 1 cube vegetable boullion (I love the Rapunzel vegetable broth cubes)
    • 1/2 cup diced onion
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/4-1/3 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
    • Fresh Italian parsley, chopped


  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
  • Brush the acorn squash halves with olive oil and then season each cut side half with Chinese Five Spice powder and salt.
  • Place them in a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until they are soft.
  • To prepare the rice
  • Before preparing the rice, sauté the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once the onion is wilted, add the garlic and sauté a minute longer. Then add the cup of rice, the water and the bouillon cube. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for about 40-45 minutes or until done. Fluff with a fork.
  • Stir in the cranberries and toasted walnuts while the rice is hot and then cover with a lid for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  • When you're ready to serve, fill the acorn squash with the rice mixture and garnish with the chopped fresh Italian parsley.
  • Notes

    Note: I typically prepare wild rice with 1 cup of rice to 1 3/4 cups water, depending on the brand and type of wild rice you're using. So prepare the rice according to package directions.

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    Pesto Broccolini

    Pesto Broccolini // Karista's Kitchen

    Some recipes garner a surprising response.  This little platter of Pesto Broccolini got loads of love on my Instagram and Facebook page which honestly, sort of surprised me.

    So, I decided to post it here.  It’s just a simple side that I toss together when I’m in a hurry but I want something fresh and delicious to serve with my dinner entrée.

    I was preparing a stuffed trout dish Monday night and I happened to have several bunches of Broccolini, which I typically pair with pasta or Gnocchi.  But Monday night I decided to serve it a la carte tossed with some basil pesto I had made the day before.  Voila! Pesto Broccolini.

    This is something I also do with blanched broccoli or cauliflower, sautéed or grilled zucchini and on occasion, roasted baby red potatoes and carrots.  It allows me to serve a fresh seasonal side with minimal fuss – because minimal fuss is important when the day is long and dinner is late.

    And who doesn’t love a crisp tender veggie lightly bathed in a spicy and herb laced pesto?  Even my picky eater loves this gorgeous Pesto Broccolini side dish.  If you don’t have the time to knock out a homemade pesto,  just buy one.  There are many excellent, high quality pesto’s in the market these days – many without any preservatives and made exclusively with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

    Here’s to making dinner fresh, simple and delicious! Cheers!


    Pesto Broccolini

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Pesto Broccolini


    • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Broccolini, trimmed and larger stalks halved
    • 1/2 - 1 cup Basil Pesto (prepared or homemade)
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
    • Squeeze of lemon juice


  • Fill a large pot with water and heat over high heat. Once the water has reached a boil, add about one tablespoon of salt. Then add the broccolini.
  • Let the broccolini cook for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes for crisp tender or 4 -5 minutes for tender. Drain in a colander and then place in a bowl and toss gently with 1/2 cup of pesto or more if needed. Drizzle with a squeeze of lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Place on a platter and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
  • Notes

    For this recipe, I don't place the broccolini in an ice bath once it's cooked as I'm usually serving this right away. If I were going to hold the dish for a few minutes, I'd prepare a bowl with ice and water and let the broccolini rest for a few minutes in the ice bath after cooking, before tossing it with pesto. If you do decide to let it rest in the ice bath, gently heat the pesto before tossing with the broccolini so the dish is warm when served.

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    Warm Farro with Wilted Baby Spinach and Crispy Pancetta

    Meet my new discovery, Farro.   Well, it’s not really a “new” discovery, I’ve just finally figured out how to cook with it.  Farro is one of those new again ancient grains to gain popularity in the mainstream food arena.  A grain that feels and cooks much like brown rice or barley, but  more complex and stubborn.  As you can tell I’ve wrestled with perfecting the cooking of this little grain.   

    Farro is the Italian name for Emmer wheat.  The first bite will have you hooked; rich and nutty flavor with just a bit of crunch keeps your spoon or fork digging in for more.  A fabulous alternative to brown rice or couscous, and deliciously pairs with veggies, caramalized onions, wilted spinach, chard and anything else you can think of.   

    Ok, so now you know what farro is, let me tell you how I cook it.  I’ve experimented with several methods and the method I’ve had the most luck with is simply boiling in water for a recommended amount of time, taking it off the heat, and letting it sit for a while to soften.  When the grains have popped open and become soft, that’s when I think farro tastes and feels the best.  

    I’d really like to tell you it was my culinary brilliance that figured out my favorite method for preparing farro, but honestly, it was because I had to quickly take the pot of farro off the heat so I could leave my house.  I’d lost track of time experimenting with recipes and forgot I had to pick up my daughter from school!   The farro was just going to have to wait and I’d deal with the disaster when I got home.  To my surprise it wasn’t a disaster at all, it was a delicious discovery.  I love when that happens!

    If you can’t find farro where you live, here is a link to our local Emmer Farro grower, Bluebird Grain Farms.  They will ship right to your door!  

    Serves 4-6


    2 cups Emmer Farro (whole grain, if using cracked farro cut the cook time in half, or follow cooking instructions on the package)

    4 1/2 cups water or veggie or chicken broth

    8 oz – organic baby spinach ( or more, depending on how much you like spinach!)

    8 – 10 slices pancetta (basically it’s Italian bacon)

    1 small onion, halved and thin sliced

    2 cloves garlic, minced


    Olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish, optional)


    In a large pot, heat the 4 1/2 cups water.  Season the water with a little salt, and then add the farro.  Let the farro simmer for about 30 minutes.  Check the farro, if it is soft and plump and you like the texture then it’s ready.  However, if it’s still a bit crunchy and the kernels haven’t burst, take it off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes in the hot water.  

    While the farro is cooking, heat a skillet on medium and add a pat of butter and saute the onions.  Once the onions are soft and golden, add the garlic and saute for a minute longer.

    Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl and set aside.  In the same skillet over medium heat, add the pancetta.  Let the pancetta cook and crisp, like bacon and then transfer to a dish and set aside. 

    Last, again in the same skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil if needed and heat on medium heat.  In batches, add the baby spinach to the pan and let the spinach wilt.  You just want the spinach to wilt slightly, not cook down until soggy.  Transfer the spinach to the dish with the onions and garlic. 

    When the farro is done, drain if needed and place in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

    Toss the farro with the spinach, onions and garlic.  Once it’s blended to your satisfaction, crumble the pancetta over the top and serve.  Dust with fresh chopped Italian parsley if desired. 


    I surfed the net for additional farro recipes, and I love the farro post on the blog Orangette, a fellow Seattlite.  Sounds yummy! PS: I love Molly’s book too!  Definitely worth purchasing, a great read!

    Kid Friendly Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Red Cabbage, Apple and Carrot Coleslaw

    Photo credit: Food Matters Website

    Recently, Ranger Craig and I watched the full length feature film documentary, Food Matters.  A compelling look at the food we eat and how it affects our health and well-being.  It’s an absolute truth that we are what we eat.  Food can affect our bodies and minds either positively or negatively;  all the more reason to keep your food real and consume less processed foods.

    Fresh and flavorful whole foods are a treat to the taste buds.  Whole and healthy foods don’t have to be tasteless, but can be transformed into divine and delicious meals. Using fresh herbs, aromatics (onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, carrots, celery, peppers, etc.), spices, healthy oils and whole seasonings keep the fresh foods bursting with flavor while nourishing our bodies.

    So, when you serve your next barbecue pork, chicken or beef (all natural and organic of course), try serving this delicious fresh whole foods mixed coleslaw salad with your meal.  It will complement your main dish, give your body health boosting nutrients and satisfy your taste buds.

    I loved this recipe so much I wanted to share!  Recipe (and photo) adapted from the Food Matters website. 

    Serves 3-4 (recipe easily doubled)


    • 3 cup of red cabbage (thinly sliced)
    • 6 carrots (peeled and thinly sliced)
    • 1 granny smith apple (thinly sliced)
    • 1-2 cups fresh spring greens (optional)
    • 1/4 cup of sesame seeds
(toasted if you like)
    • 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (raw or organic if you can find it)
    • 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

    handful of pecans or walnuts for garnish (I like the nuts toasted)


    Use a knife or food processor to chop the cabbage, carrots and apple Julienne style. Throw your sesame seeds in (I like using black and white sesame seeds) or toast them lightly in a frying pan.
 Toss all of this together.

    For the dressing combine the ginger, vinegar and oil and stir with a spoon.  Add this to the cabbage, carrots and apples evenly.
    Top with more sesame seeds (fantastic source of Calcium).  Salt and pepper to taste and add pecan nuts for a delicious nutty taste.