These Scrumptious Side Dishes are True Family Treasures

Jane’s Mother-in-Law’s Butternut Squash Bisque

When my children were small, we would venture to Virginia for Thanksgiving week to visit my in-laws. The weather was colder; the scenery was breathtaking. It looked and smelled like fall at their house! I cherish the many wonderful memories and great fun we had during those visits. 

Food was always front and center because my mother-in-law is an excellent cook. She particularly delights in trying new recipes even during holidays. I love her process of planning the meal—what to serve and how to set the table is all part of the fun and started well in advance. Butternut squash bisque was introduced a few years ago when she searched for The Capital Grille’s recipe. This soup is gorgeous when plated on a festive Thanksgiving table; it is velvety in texture and incredibly tasty. If you are interested in trying something new, this may be the perfect reason.

Stephanie’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

When I was a little girl, every Thanksgiving began with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by a long nap. While the rest of the house snoozed, my mother would toil away in the kitchen. And when we awoke, the house would be filled with the aromas of Thanksgiving. To this day, I can recall those glorious scents that brought so much joy.

When I was blessed with a family of my own, I wanted to recreate that feeling for my children. Not wanting to toil away in the kitchen all Thanksgiving day as my mom had, I decided to begin making a few dishes a day in advance, including my homemade cranberry sauce, which has become a tradition in our home. Though my boys don’t love to eat it, they do love to smell it simmering away on the stove with its notes of cinnamon, orange and apple. To them, it is the smell of Thanksgiving, and that now brings me joy. 

Grammy’s Butternut Squash Bisque

Adapted from The Capital Grille

Yields 10 8-ounce servings


2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 quart vegetable stock

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar

Garnish options: curried apples (recipe below) or creme fraiche and parsley


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place half the squash on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside.

2. Using a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the butter. Add the remaining squash and saute 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the nutmeg, curry powder, salt, cream, sugar and roasted squash, stirring to combine. Simmer 5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

4. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Rewarm over low heat. Garnish soup with 1 teaspoon of curried apples.

Curried Apples

Yields about 1/4 cup


1 1/2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

3/4 teaspoon minced chives

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon canola oil

1/4 pound Fuji apples, cored and finely diced


Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, tossing to combine. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Stephanie’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Yields about 2 cups


1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 cup brown sugar (can substitute honey or maple syrup)

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1 cup apple cider

Zest of 1 orange

2 cinnamon sticks


In a saucepan, combine cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice, apple cider and cinnamon sticks over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the berries burst and the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Let cranberry sauce cool, then pour into a large Mason jar and refrigerate.