Thanksgiving Sides with a Twist

Butternut squash, wild rice stuffing, citrus-pomegranate relish, cream cheese biscuits, blistered green beans with tomato pesto

Fun fact – Liam (my husband) spent many of his high school and college years working on a sailboat, traveling across Europe and doing a transatlantic (you should ask him about it sometime; it’s very cool). During his time in the yachting industry, he built relationships with many people from all over the world, as yacht crews are typically comprised of people from several countries. On the crews he was part of, he was the only one who was culturally American (I say culturally because some have U.S. citizenship).

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was spending our 2021 Thanksgiving with folks from these yacht crews. At the time, I counted 13 different countries represented at our Thanksgiving dinner, and I have to say, the food was undoubtedly some of the best I’ve ever had for the holiday. Everyone put their all into making the most incredible Thanksgiving dishes, many of which were unique twists on traditional dishes like turkey, sweet potatoes, and green beans. For many, being involved in the celebration was a treat, and they went all out with their dishes, leaving me inspired to put a twist on my own Thanksgiving sides going forward.

The following are 5 ideas for your own Thanksgiving gatherings this year. Many can be prepared in advance, and I would say they are all fairly easy on the scale of difficulty. These are all recipes I have adapted from other websites/chefs (no originals today) and edited to fit our own taste and kitchen. Feel free to edit these and do the same! Enjoy 🙂

Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves

8 servings


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup maple syrup (preferably pure, grade B)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper


STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds, remove skin and white flesh underneath to reach orange inside (I use a peeler like I would for carrots). Rub with oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast until squash begins to soften. Test by using a pairing knife; it should only be able to slip in about 1/4 inch. Approx. 15-20 minutes cook time.

STEP 2 – While squash is cooking, bring chili, maple syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, and remove chili as soon as desired heat is reached. Side aside chili for serving if desired. 6-8 minutes cook time for mixture to reach this point (should be just thick enough to coat stirring spoon), then reduce heat to low to keep glaze warm.

STEP 3 – Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score squash halves, going as deep as possible without cutting through. Return squash to baking dish, tucking bay leaves between several slices.

STEP 4 – Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes. Use pastry brush to recover glaze in pan that is browning too much. Cook 45-60 minutes until tender. Glaze should form a rich brown coating. Serve topped with saved chilis.

NOTE – This dish can be prepared several hours in advance. Simply let cool, cover and store at room temp, and reheat before serving.

Wild Rice Stuffing


  • wild rice blend
  • chicken broth or bouillon + water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-7 pieces bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 2-3 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped almonds
  • dried cranberries
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)


STEP 1 – Add wild rice blend to saucepan with chicken broth, a bay leaf, and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is al dente. Approx. 45 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and fluff with a fork after letting sit/cool for a few minutes.

STEP 2 – Meanwhile, brown bacon in large skillet over medium heat, then set aside. Reserve bacon fat in skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high. Melt butter in skillet before adding chopped onion, mushrooms, and celery. Sauté until mushrooms are staring to brown. Season with dried thyme, salt, and pepper

STEP 3 – Add cooked wild rice and bacon into skillet. Add chopped whole almonds, dried cranberries, and for an even more unique twist – freshly grated parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine, adding a splash of chicken broth if needed to loosen the stuffing.

Citrus-Pomegranate Relish

A great cranberry substitute – especially if your Thanksgiving looks like mine, and cranberries are in several dishes!


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 4 small oranges (blood oranges, cara cara, etc.) or other citrus like tangelos
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • salt and pepper


STEP 1 – Cook sugar in saucepan over medium-high heat until ring around the edges is melted. Using a wooden spatula, pull melted sugar in towards center of saucepan, and continue to cook, pulling melted sugar toward the middle and reducing heat if sugar begins to smoke. Once all sugar is melted and reaches a deep caramel color, remove from heat. Cook time approx. 6-8 minutes. Next, add vinegar (carefully!) and cook sauce over medium heat, stirring, until caramel dissolves. Season generously with salt and pepper. If sauce tastes too tart, add extra salt a pinch at a time to balance out.

STEP 2 – Peel oranges and slice crosswise. Place in a large bowl, and add pomegranate seeds and sauce. Toss to coat.

NOTE – Relish can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Let sit at room temp 2 hours before serving.

Cream Cheese Biscuits

9 servings


  • Cooking spray or oil
  • 2 cups soft wheat self-rising flour + more for work surface
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces + 2 tablespoons, melted, divided
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 2 oz. Asiago, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • any herbs of choice (optional)


STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil/spray. Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and cream cheese with forks, and stir in cheese. Add milk, garlic, chives, parsley, pepper, and any herbs of choice to center. Stir with wooden spoon until combined.

STEP 2 – Flour a work surface, and pat dough into a rectangle using well-floured hands. Fold dough in half, and pat again into a rectangle. Repeat two times until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

STEP 3 – Pat dough into 1/2-inch thickness. Use a round biscuit/cookie cutter to cut into circles. Place biscuits touching on prepared baking sheet, and brush tops with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Gather scraps together and repeat to make additional biscuits.

STEP 4 – Bake until golden brown, approx. 12-15 minutes.

Blistered Green Beans with Tomato Pesto

8 servings


  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar/red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds green beans
  • salt and pepper


STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until blistered and lightly charred, 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Finely chop almonds in a food processor, and add garlic, olive oil, half of the tomatoes, vinegar, paprika, and cayenne and pulse to a coarse pesto consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

STEP 2 – Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beans and cook until beginning to blister, about 3 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 7-9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread beans out on a platter. NOTE – if pan is too small, split vegetable oil and beans in half and cook in two rounds.

STEP 3 – Toss beans with pesto and add remaining tomatoes. Transfer to a platter, and season if needed.

NOTE – Dish can be made 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temp. Toss and adjust seasoning before serving.

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