Stuffing is not just for turkeys, veggies

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Whole wheat/dried fruit stuffing is made just like the apricot/pecan filling in today’s column, but using dried whole wheat bread cubes and dried fruits — tart cherries, prunes, currants and golden raisins in smaller amounts to equal the fruit/nuts in that recipe.

Stuffing, Dressing, Filling — every part of the United States has their own name for the savory mixture most often used to augment the holiday turkey. Whether in the bird, or baked in its own casserole dish, stuffing is too often prepared only as a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas-time dish and that’s a shame.

Of course, many folks make stuffing for veggies: bell peppers, Acorn, Sweet Dumpling or Butternut squash, and even large onions (delicious!) but still rarely on its own. Today, the chef will try to persuade you to mend that error with some tempting and delectable on-their-own stuffing recipes to serve as a main or side-dish for any dinner.

All of the following recipes are actually guidelines, since you can change the whole personality of each one by changing breads — swap with cornbread, whole wheat, sourdough, for instance — and or different fruits, nuts and spice or herb ingredients. Experiment and enjoy!

Sweet Potato/

Apple Dressing

(Serves 4)

1 8-10-ounce sweet potato, peeled, diced

2 Tbs. vegetable oil (I use 1 Tb oil and 1 Tb butter)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced red-skinned apple

1/3 cup finely chopped celery

1 1/2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix

1/2 tsp. finely crumbled dried sage

1 cup vegetable broth OR water heated with 1 teaspoon butter and dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 4-cup casserole. Cook potato in small pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside. Heat oil in deep, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion, apple and celery; sauté until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add potato and sauté 1 minute. Add stuffing mix, sage and broth. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until stock is absorbed, about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Transfer to prepared casserole dish, cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until top begins to brown, about 15 minutes longer.

Mushroom Chestnut Stuffing

(Serves 8)

8 cups dried/toasted white bread cubes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 cups fresh chestnuts, roasted, shelled, chopped OR 1 1/2 cups purchased steamed chestnuts

In jar, very coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

3/4 cup vegetable broth OR water heated with 1 teaspoon butter and dash of salt

Place jprepared bread cubes in large bowl; set aside. Melt butter in large heavy saucepan over med-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in mushrooms, cooking until they begin to soften and release juices, about 5 minutes. Add celery and stir 2 minutes. Pour and mix pan contents into bread cubes; add chestnuts, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8x8x2-inch baking dish OR large oven-proof casserole dish. Mix the broth or warm water mixture into stuffing until well incorporated. Transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake until heated through, about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Apricot and Pecan Stuffing

(Serves 10)

3/4 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup chopped red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tb. oil or melted butter

1/2 cup chopped dried apricot

2 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary

2 Tb. finely chopped sage leaves (or 2 tsp. dried

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

6 cups dry bread cubes

1&3/4 cup vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 325F. Dry-roast pecans in large skillet over med. heat until fragrant, shaking gently about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and set aside. Saute garlic and onion in oil in same skillet until just browned, about 5 minutes. Add apricot, rosemary, sage and parsley; sauté until heated through. Add to bowl of pecans and stir until all is mixed well. Stir in bread cubes and add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until desired moistness is reached. Transfer to a large, lightly buttered casserole, cover and bake for 20 minutes. Baste occasionally with broth as necessary. Remove cover and bake 20 minutes longer until top is browned. Serve.

Our final dish provides a savory stuffed squash recipe designed for butternut, but good for any sweet, heavy-bodied winter squash such as Acorn.

Butternut Squash with

Wild Rice/Onion Stuffing

(Serves 8)

4 butternut squash

2 cups water

3/4 cup raw wild rice, rinsed

3 cups chopped red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tb. Canola oil

3 cups whole wheat bread cubes

1 Tb. sesame seeds

2-3 dried sage leaves, crumbled fine

1 sprig dried thyme leaves

Salt to taste

1 cup orange juice

Set oven at 375: Split squashes lengthwise, scoop out and discard seeds and fibers; place cut side up in a shallow baking dish.

Cover and bake until easily pierced with a knife point, but still firm (about 50 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan; stir in rice, reduce heat to simmer covered until water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Stir and set aside.

Scoop out pulp from squash, leaving 1/2-inch thick shells; set shells aside, chop pulp and place in large bowl.

Saute onions and garlic in oil in a skillet until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir rice, onion mixture, herbs and salt into squash cubes and mix well. Spoon into squash halves and place in a foil-lined baking dish. Cover and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at bcdailybee@bonnercountydailybee.com or by phone at 208-265-4688.

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