Two Favorite Side Dishes for Holiday Entertaining: Green Bean Casserole and Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Green Bean Casserole


    One of the recipes which our family always enjoyed at the holidays when I was growing up was the traditional mushroom soup/green bean casserole. But one year more recently I wanted to find a healthier, more grownup version of a green bean side dish to serve at Thanksgiving. The following recipe is based on one I found online. It has now become the “please make your green bean dish” annual favorite for my husband and his family. It does require some attending to the stove, but goes quickly and is worth it for the taste.



        •       1-1.5 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed

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        •       1 tablespoon olive oil

        •       8 ounces sliced mushrooms

        •       2 cloves garlic, minced

        •       2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

        •       Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

        •       1/3 cup brandy or cognac

        •       1/3 cup red wine

        •       1/3 cup chicken broth

        •       1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions (optional)



    Preheat oven to 425°F. Boil green beans in well-salted water until tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; season with salt and pepper, to taste; cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add brandy or cognac, red wine and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Simmer to blend flavors and reduce sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add green beans to mushroom sauce and toss to coat. Place on a large oven-safe serving dish; season again with salt and pepper, to taste. Optional: Sprinkle with fried onions and bake in oven 5-10 minutes, or until onions are brown and crispy. Serves 6-8.



        •       Use clean scissors to trim ends of green beans.

        •       Use an Alaskan Ulu Knife ( (or rocking knife) to mince garlic and chop thyme leaves.

        •       If you don’t have brandy or cognac on hand, purchase a 50ml ‘nip’ or miniature bottle at the liquor store to provide approximately 1/4 cup of liquid. I have purchased these smaller bottles for $1-2 dollars at the local liquor store and they work perfectly for this recipe.


    Roasted Butternut Squash with Red Grapes, Onions, and Sage


    Meals that are colorful are always fun and often highly nutritious. Butternut squash is a powerhouse fruit that is low in fat, rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, and high in dietary fiber. A one cup serving provides nearly half of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Red grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol that is thought to protect against heart disease. Try this seasonal recipe which is both sweet and savory and packs an anti-inflammatory boost to any holiday meal.


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        •       2-2.5 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1.5-inch pieces

        •       1 cup seedless red grapes

        •       1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

        •       1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage leaves

        •       2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

        •       2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

        •       1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)



    Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine butternut squash, grapes, onion, and sage in large bowl. Drizzle with oil and melted butter. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread out onto large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until squash and onion begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl or platter, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts (optional). Serves 6-8.



        •       Butternut squash can be difficult to slice, requiring a great deal of strength and dexterity. Many grocery stores supply butternut squash which has already been prepared to cook - washed, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces - around the holidays.

        •       Use an Alaskan Ulu Knife (or rocking knife) to mince garlic and chop thyme leaves.

        •       Line the large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier clean-up.

        •       Reduce the amount of olive oil and butter, if desired, without losing any flavor.



    Time-Saving Bonus Tip:

    You may be able to create both of these side dishes at the same time. Begin with the butternut squash dish and while it is roasting, begin the green bean dish. When you are ready to brown the french fried onion topping on the green bean dish, simply place it in the oven with the butternut squash. Stir the squash dish at the same time. Remove green bean dish when the onions begin to brown. Stir the squash dish again. Remove squash dish when the butternut squash and onions begin to brown.


    Check out my recipes for Caramelized-Onion Pot Roast and Potato Stew and Pumpkin Cheesecake on


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: November 14, 2014