We celebrated Thanksgiving 2020 at home, after 14 years in a row attending a big family gathering where other people made all the food and the most we did was help chop ingredients!
I think I’d just bought an instant-stuffing mix in those long-ago years when we made an autumnal feast (instead of the Stuffed Shells that have become our Christmas tradition) at home. This year, I was determined to make homemade stuffing to use up the bread heels and make something yummier and healthier than a mix!
Also, in one of my efforts to convince my six-year-old Lydia to let me read Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s Farmer Boy to her–she got the book for her birthday but is resisting it for some reason–I mentioned how they eat “apples ‘n’ onions” cooked together and I thought Lydia would like that. I reminded her that the stuffing a cousin has made the past few years has both apples and onions in it, and it’s really good.
I also said that I would make stuffing without celery. I really dislike celery, and nearly every stuffing recipe contains bits of celery that I have to pick out! Lydia said, “It will have mushrooms instead!” and I agreed that was a very good idea.
I started with this Ina Garten recipe, reduced all the amounts because we were serving only 4 people, substituted mushrooms for celery, substituted olive oil for butter, roasted instead of sautéed, substituted dried herbs for fresh, substituted vegetable broth for chicken broth, and did not actually stuff the stuffing into anything. With all those changes, it’s a different recipe!
All 4 of us liked this stuffing a lot! I had to make a second batch during the weekend to go with the rest of our Thanksgiving leftovers!
It’s sort of coincidentally vegan–we weren’t having a vegan meal overall–and you could use chicken broth if that’s what you have and it’s okay with everyone eating. But don’t substitute butter for olive oil because when you’re roasting vegetables, butter will burn and not taste so good. A different vegetable oil would work if you don’t have olive; just don’t use something with an incompatible flavor, like unrefined coconut oil.
To make 8 servings of stuffing, you will need:
- 4 cups of bread cubes. Stale bread will be fine! Using a variety of bread makes it more interesting, so go ahead and throw in some whole-wheat, the last lonely English muffin, or whatever you have.
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup diced apple. This is a great use for apples that don’t look so appetizing or even have mushy spots–just cut up the good parts until you have 1/2 cup!
- 2 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2/3 cup vegetable broth (If you’re actually going to stuff the stuffing into a turkey or something that has its own juices, use just 1/4 cup broth.)
- about 1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F.
Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
Spread olive oil on the bottom of a baking pan, about 9″x9″ or 9″x12″ size. Put onion, mushrooms, and apple in the pan. Sprinkle with parsley, rosemary, and salt. Drizzle olive oil on top.
When oven is heated, put in both the pan of bread and the pan of veggies. Bake 7 minutes.
Remove bread from oven and set aside. Stir veggies and bake another 10 minutes. Stir again. If they aren’t yet looking lightly browned, keep baking 5 minutes at a time until they are. Then you can turn off the oven, if you aren’t baking anything else.
Mix bread and veggies together in a large bowl. Drizzle with the broth and mix thoroughly. Put the whole mixture onto the cookie sheet (be sure to scrape the bowl to get all the yummy herb oil!). If your other foods won’t be ready for a while, set aside the stuffing for now, then put it back into the oven for the last 5-10 minutes before serving. But if you’re almost ready to serve the meal, put the stuffing back into the turned-off oven and use its residual heat to warm up the stuffing and meld the flavors.
If you like your stuffing to be moist, pile it deeply in a casserole dish with lid, instead of on a cookie sheet, for reheating/keeping warm.
This photo shows the finished second batch, made with all one kind of fresh bread because we didn’t have any more odds and ends, yet! You can see that the bits of apple, onion, and mushroom become very small and browned–but they add a lot of flavor!
Store leftover stuffing loosely packed into a glass jar or other storage container with a tight lid, in the refrigerator.
Making your own versions of familiar holiday foods is one way to stay home and stay safe during the pandemic! I’ve got lots of other ideas for making your holidays happy and bright, even when you’re home alone with the same people who’ve been with you all year, in my article at Kitchen Stewardship on creating your own holiday traditions. Maybe you’ll discover something great to share with your relatives next year when you can get together again!
Visit Hearth & Soul for more heartening holiday hints!