If there’s anything that brings back my childhood memories of preparing Thanksgiving it’s stuffing. When I was a little kid I’d help my mom put together our family’s homemade stuffing. As a child of the 70’s, though, our stuffing recipe was filled with white bread and then later bags of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing mix. Unfortunately these bags of stuffing have become the norm. But when you take a quick look at the ingredient label most of us will agree, we can do better!
Here are just some of the things I don’t like about the popular bagged stuffing mix.
- Bread crumbs made mostly from white bread and highly processed flours are nutritionally empty calories. While stuffing is never going to be a health food, let’s start out with some high quality bread that packs some nutrients.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup makes an appearance because it’s still the sweetener of choice for most highly processed breads.
- The continued use of Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil / Trans Fats is just downright irresponsible in this day and age. We now know how deadly this stuff is, yet Big Food continues to use it. Although the amount is relatively small (under .5g since Og Trans Fats is declared on the nutrition panel), any amount is too much.
- Genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) are most likely in this bag and come from the high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and possibly the molasses.
- Chemically produced MSG-like ingredients are also in this bag in the form of malted barley flour.
So as part of my real food journey I’ve decided to ditch the popular, stuffing bags. While there are some organic versions that are better, it really doesn’t take much time to cube some bread, so that’s the route I’m going these days. And honestly, I’m never turning back. My whole wheat, organic stuffing recipe tastes amazing. Check it out and customize it to your tastes and family traditions!
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 large sweet onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 4 ounces bacon, chopped (about 4-6 strips)
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 3 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
- ¼ cup sherry (optional – if you omit, replace with additional stock)
- 1 pound organic, whole grain bread, crusts removed, cubed and dried overnight
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a 3-4 quart saucepan melt butter over medium heat.
- Add onions and cook for 10-15 minutes—until they begin to brown and caramelize.
- Add garlic, celery, and bacon. Stir occasionally and continue cooking until bacon is browned.
- Add the rosemary and sage then stir in the broth and sherry. Lower he heat slightly and warm until the mixture boils.
- Pour mixture over dried bread cubes a cup at a time, mixing between each addition. You want your stuffing moist, NOT drenched. If it’s getting too wet, set the liquid aside. You can always add more when the stuffing is cooking and it gets too dry.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the stuffing in a buttered 3 quart casserole dish and cover.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the stuffing is hot, removing cover or foil for the last 5 minutes to brown the stuffing.
For the bread, I use about 10 slices of an Organic, Sprouted, Whole Wheat high fiber bread and 10 slices of Alvarado St. Bakery Organic, 100% Whole Grain Sprouted Sourdough bread (from Whole Foods’s frozen bread section)
I dry my cubed bread in my oven using a drying setting. Ideally you want the bread very dry. If it isn’t completely dry you’re going to want to use less broth.
I really recommend you use the sherry. You can get a high quality bottle of sherry without spending a fortune, and it can add a lot of flavor to lots of different recipes! I use a Vacuvin to keep it fresh longer.
Kitchen Tips and Resources:
- A great, non-slip cutting board is an invaluable kitchen asset when cutting up the vegetables for your stuffing and cubing the bread. I upgraded to these Epicurean non-slip boards this summer, and I’ve been really pleased with them.
- A high quality set of cutting knives can make a huge difference, especially when you’re cooking REAL food. My local knife shop advised me to invest in the higher quality Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature brand (much higher quality than the J.A. Henckels International brand) and time has proven them right. (To make sure you know which Henckels knives are better, here’s a tip — look for the “twins” on the knives vs. the single guy sporting the trident.) While you can buy these knives online, but if you’ve got a local knife/cutlery store, support them instead. I love my local cutlery store and bring my knives in every six months or so to get them maintained with a nice, sharp edge!
- If you already have some great knives, but you don’t have a bread knife, you should definitely get one. Here’s one of my favorites, the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star 8-Inch High Carbon Stainless Steel Bread knife.
- The OXO Good Grips food chopper is great for dicing some of these veggies or chopping up the fresh spices.