Stuffing Appetizers and Appetizing Stuffing

December 21, 2009 at 4:51 pm Leave a comment

   If the first week of December was, as declared here, “officially cold,” then the second week has to qualify as “officially too cold.”  The bad news is that wind chill temps as low as -20° make for miserable snow shoveling; the good news is that prospects are fine for a white Christmas. 

With such visions of future holidays dancing in my head, I am reminded of this Thanksgiving past and being served the best stuffing I have ever eaten at the table of a gracious friend and neighbor, who found her recipe in the November 2009 issue of Southern Living magazine.  My version omits the butter and sugar, and increases the ratio of vegetables to bread, but the result was good enough that I could have eaten it for breakfast and lunch the next day.  

Inspired by success, I retrieved some leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Breast from the freezer, reheated it in a bath of chicken broth, and built around it a menu of  Stuffed Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, Squash, and Corn Bread Stuffing, Field Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette, and Grilled Bananas.  The stuffing recipe makes a generous amount, enough for those reruns you’ll be craving for the next few days. 

The mushrooms call for: 

8-10 large stuffing mushrooms            6 links of pork breakfast sausage, skin removed

1/2 tsp garlic powder                                    1-14 oz can chopped tomatoes, drained

                                    1/3 C grated Parmesan – packed 

Rub mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel and remove and chop the stems.  Place mushroom caps, hollow side up, on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Chop the sausage fine and brown it in a nonstick skillet over medium low. (I found some nice lean, organic sausage at my local grocery outlet, which offers a rotating selection of goods from week to week.) 

Drain off any collected fat and add the chopped stems; cook, stirring, for a minute or two or until the stem pieces look a bit wilted.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and stir in tomatoes.  Using a largish spoon, scoop generous mounds of the sausage-tomato mixture into the mushroom caps.  Top each with a large pinch of cheese to cover and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.  These little guys taste just like a crustless pizza. They went over as well with the Greatest Generation crowd as with the Boomers and Xers. 

For the main attraction stuffing, gather together: 

1/2 C chopped onion                1 C chopped red pepper               1 C chopped green pepper

1 C chopped celery                    2 cloves minced garlic                  3-1/2 C Hubbard squash

2 C chopped sweet potato       2 C chopped green apple              1 tsp powdered sage

2 tsp Creole seasoning              2 C chicken broth, divided           4 C corn bread in 1/2″ cubes

                                                1 C coarsely chopped pecans

Spray a non-stick skillet with canola oil and gently cook the onion over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the red and green peppers and cook an additional2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the celery and garlic and cook another minute.  I got my squash already peeled and cut into chunks at our local produce market and used 1-1/4# to chop into 1/2″ pieces.  Stir the squash, the peeled, cubed sweet potato, apple, sage, and Creole seasoning into the mixture in the skillet, then pour over 1 C of the chicken broth and cook for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the cubed corn bread (which is about 5 corn muffins’ worth) and the additional 1 C broth.  Spoon into a large (approx 12″ x 12″), shallow greased casserole dish and sprinkle with pecans.  Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes, or until heated through and firm. 

For the salad, a very simple assemblage of: 

mixed field greens              sliced red onion             mandarin orange sections, drained 

Toss all ingredients lightly.  I sprayed the combo with Wishbone™ Raspberry Bliss Salad Spritzer for a nice hint of fruitiness in a light vinaigrette-style dressing.  

And for the equally light banana dessert, to serve four: 

4 large, ripe but firm bananas            1 TB honey               1 TB brandy or bourbon

1 tsp melted butter                                  1/2 tsp sugar           1/2 tsp cinnamon         

                                    8 TB Greek-style vanilla yogurt 

Slice bananas in half crosswise, then lengthwise, and set pieces on a cooling rack over a large plate.  Whisk together the honey, brandy, and melted butter, and roll each banana piece in this mixture.  Return banana pieces, cut-side up, to the rack.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over all exposed banana surfaces.  Let sit for five minutes while warming a grill pan over medium-low heat on the stove top.  

(A little shopper’s side note:  I first searched for a grill pan at fancy gourmet shops and found plenty – but with a hefty price tag of $80.00 and up.  I ended up at Target, where I found a perfectly functional 9″ x 9″ square non-stick pan for about $8.99.  I have not been disappointed with my decision, and I highly recommend this option if you don’t have a grill pan among your supplies.) 

Grill banana pieces, flat side down, in the hot grill pan, raising temperature if necessary to get a little grill mark going, for five to six minutes.  I like to roll them over for a brief heating on the rounded side to gently “sear off” any moistness on that surface.  Place four quarters on a dessert plate, top with a large dollop of the yogurt or a tiny scoop of light vanilla ice cream, and throw on a little sprig of fresh mint, if you have it, for presentation’s sake. 

Here’s wishing everyone a white – but not frigid – Christmas, and a New Year blessed with the peace and hope and joy promised us by The Reason for the Season.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Cold Comforts Seasonal Serendipity

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