Sausage Stuffing

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When I started following food blogs, I realized some authors had initiated them for the purpose of cataloging family recipes. Therefore the blog was their family cookbook essentially.

I didn’t think much of that concept, because I really didn’t have family recipes. My recipes were those I followed after I got married, when I began cooking seriously, based on saved recipes, those from cookbooks, or these days, recipes online as well.

Every day or two that I cooked, I made a new recipe. Thus my motto – so much food, too little time! There was always something to learn from a recipe, whether a technique or new ingredient.

And then there were holidays, like Thanksgiving. Of course I always made a turkey, but I never made it the same way, which also led to various-tasting gravies. But the side dishes were always different. When my daughters were really young they didn’t take part in the leisurely Thanksgiving meal, so it was an opportunity make new festive dishes – sometimes embracing our favorite global cuisines!


But when my daughters got older, they had Thanksgiving requests. Fine with me, but then I had to figure out what they were requesting. Like their request recently for sausage stuffing. No clue. What kind of sausage? What else is in it? No memory. Was it cornbread? Sourdough? Not sure.

Well great. Now I’m wishing that I’d documented this mysterious Italian sausage stuffing for my own purpose! So this recipe is one I’m (maybe) recreating so that next year I can remember it! I’m pretty sure it’s French-bread-based, and I remember using cognac and cream in the stuffing, inspired by a French recipe ages ago.

And the reason I didn’t post it before Thanksgiving is that I don’t only cook turkeys in November. This stuffing doesn’t have to be stuffed in a bird, either. It makes makes a nice side dish, prepared in a baking dish.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
Serves 4

1 baguette
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of cream, or more
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

If you’re baking the stuffing in a baking dish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease an 8 x 8” baking dish; set aside.

Remove the crusts from the baguette and crumble the bread. Measure 2 cups; set aside.


Heat the butter in a
large skillet. Cook the sausage over medium heat until no pink shows. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.

Using the remaining fat, saute the onion for about 5 minutes, now allowing too much caramelization. Stir in the garlic, and place the sautéed vegetables with the sausage.

Stir the bread crumbles into the sausage mixture gently, then pour the cream and cognac over the top. Stir again gently, and check to see if the stuffing is moist. You don’t want it wet, but it also shouldn’t be dry.


Add the remaining ingredients. Spoon the stuffing into the baking dish and bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

The top should be golden brown.

If you prefer, any kind of whole-grain bread can be substituted for the French bread, and I’ve even used raisin bread in stuffings.

Plus, pecans and dried cranberries can be included as well.

And as I mentioned, you don’t only have to make stuffing on turkey day. Here I’ve served it with a turkey cutlet, but it’s just as delicious with chicken.

The stuffing is moist but not mushy, which is to my liking.

Spaghetti Squash

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There’s a special place in my heart for spaghetti squash. I love all squashes, and my locally available winter squashes like butternut and acorn are great for stuffing or for soups. But spaghetti squash can be used like noodles! After cooking the squash, you use a fork to scrape out the strands of spaghetti, except they’re actually squash strands.

Now I have nothing against pasta, but of course a vegetable, even a starchy squash, will always be healthier, especially over traditional white pasta. Plus the texture is fun and different. It’s just an option. And you don’t need a spiralizer!

There are many ways to cook a spaghetti squash, but I’ll show you the one I now stick with because it’s foolproof.
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And I mostly love it served spaghetti and meatball style!

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Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver, cut the squash lengthwise in half. (My halves aren’t perfectly matched, but I am always concerned for my fingers when I’m wielding a cleaver!)


Remove all of the seeds from inside the squashes. Then place cut-side up in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

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Cover with foil, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. If you want the squash to brown a little, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for about 15 minutes.

Let the squash cool, then scrape at the squash halves with a fork to free up the lovely spaghetti strands. That’s it!


Try spaghetti squash as you would spaghetti, or with a Puttanesca, or underneath grilled chicken and peppers.
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Or you can stuff the squash halves!


I prefer spaghetti squash used as noodles. You can stuff other squashes!

Stuffed Pumpkin

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As you can tell from the above photo, that is not a pumpkin. I set out to stuff a pumpkin, but they were nowhere to be found. It turns out that my local grocery store only sells pumpkins until Halloween. I was truly shocked. So, I bought a pretty acorn squash instead.

As I only feed two people in my household, with my daughters grown and gone, I decided it wasn’t such a terrible idea to just stuff an acorn squash. That way, we each got a nice serving of baked acorn squash stuffed with brilliant saffron rice studded with pistachios and cranberries for a more festive feel.

I baked the acorn squash separately, and made the rice separately, but warmed everything in the oven before serving. If you enjoy this kind of flavor profile, complete with the sweetness from the dried cranberries, I encourage you to follow this recipe, or create one similar. There are many different variations possible. Use what you have on hand and what you like.

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Saffron Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, or larger squash
1 – 0.5 ounce package dried chanterelles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups saffron rice*
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
Broth, see recipe
Pistachios
Dried Cranberries

Slice off the top of the acorn squash, making a “lid.” Scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Wrap the squash completely in foil, including the lid, and bake the squash in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Set aside.
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Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, and cover them with a generous amount of hot water. Set aside.
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Place the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
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Add the onion and sauté them for about 5 minutes.
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Stir in the rice and thyme, if using, and stir it around for about 1 minute.
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Meanwhile, drain the mushrooms in a sieve over a bowl. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Add chicken broth to make the total amount of broth/mushroom liquid equal 3 cups.
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Add the liquid to the rice. Bring the rice to a boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let the rice cook for 30 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed.
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If necessary, remove the woodier stems from the chanterelles, then chop them up.
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Add the mushrooms to the rice and fold them in gently.
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When the acorn squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out a little bit of the squash to create a little more space for the rice stuffing.
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Spoon the rice into the acorn squash. Sprinkle with the cranberries and pistachios.
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Alternatively, add the cranberries and pistachios to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. I happen to feed someone who isn’t enamored by the combination of sweet and savory, and so I went the sprinkling route. It just depends how much of the accessory ingredients you wish to taste.
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* I used saffron rice from Marx Foods. It was part of a nine jar rice sampler that I purchased over a year ago, and I’m still playing with. I wouldn’t have purposely chosen saffron rice, since I own saffron, but I must admit this does come in handy, and holds the beautiful yellow color well. It also tastes good!
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Think about all the variations you can create mixing up the ingredients. You can use many different rices, even including wild rice if you love it. And include some lentils as well. And then there’s celery, leeks, and carrots, if you like. Pine nuts or pecans would be just as delicious, and if you don’t like the fruit addition, you can omit them. Curried rice stuffing would be fabulous as well – you just want the stuffed squash to go with the protein you’re serving it with. So many possibilities!

note: This recipe makes about 6 cups of stuffing, so if you did happen to have a good sized pumpkin it would be perfect. I am going to use the excess rice as a side dish, because it’s delicious on its own.