September 28, 2023

Make Stuffing Using What You Have

Here’s how to make stuffing using what you have.

This is a year for high priced groceries. When holidays come, what do you do?

One thing you can try is to forget about Aunt Elsie’s traditional stuffing or whatever you plan to make. Instead, just wing it using what you have in the pantry and fridge.

Any smart restaurant owner knows that the best food is made with leftovers and scraps of this and that.

So let me tell you the basics of stuffing making from scratch. You don’t even need a box of Stove Top.

First, you should have some bread. It doesn’t have to be croutons. Doesn’t have to be fresh bread, either. Bread that’s a few days old is fine as long as there’s no mold or weird smells.

If you’re low on bread, you can also add cooked rice or cooked potato pieces. You could even add these after the fact if you have leftover stuffing and you love the flavor and want to stretch it for another couple of meals.

You definitely want butter. If you’re health conscious, you can cut the butter and make stuffing with half butter and half olive oil.

Vegans can just use olive oil.

You also want chicken broth to soften the bread and add depth of flavor. If you’re vegan, you could use veggie broth.

You want a mix of vegetables. They traditional ones would be onions and celery.

Technically if you don’t have any celery it’s going to be a little bit less stuffingish. But you can cheat by sprinkling in some celery salt if you have that. But we’ll get to the seasonings later.

All right, so now you want to cut up a bowl of different vegetables or fruit into chunks.

Good combinations:

  • Carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms
  • Onion, celery, apple and raisins
  • Onions, peppers and mushrooms
  • Mushrooms, spinach and onions
  • Onions, pear, cranberries, walnuts

If you don’t have onion, sub in scallions.

Your stuffing will be better if you add in a savory, fatty meat.

If you’re a vegan, you don’t have to add meat of course.

Sausage is the traditional stuffing ingredient. But you could also fry up a package of bacon.

Cook your meat ahead of time in a big skillet, and drain the fat.

You could also crumble ground turkey meat and add sausage-like seasonings i.e. sage, rosemary, and maybe a little fennel if you didn’t have sausage or you wanted to cut fat from the recipe.

Ham could be a good addition to your stuffing, especially if it’s left over baked ham.

In that case, you might want to combine peppers, onions and pineapple for an interesting Hawaiian twist. Maybe not for Thanksgiving.

Remember, though, that we can eat stuffing anytime we want!! And who doesn’t love stuffing?

Okay: so now we have bread, butter and oil, a mix of chopped vegetables, and cooked sausage or similar meat.

Cut up and tear up the bread. Add this plus all other ingredients except broth or other liquids, to a big bowl.

Season with herbs and spices.

A good, traditional American stuffing mix will include dried sage, rosemary, allspice, and maybe a little nutmeg or yellow curry powder… but go light on the curry.

How much spice? About a quarter teaspoon of each is pretty good. Adding extra spice doesn’t necessarily make the food better.

Mix up the spices with salt and pepper. If you like garlic, shake a little garlic powder in. If you don’t have celery and enjoy the flavor of it, shake on some celery powder.

A fresh herb is a nice thing to have if you’re making stuffing. Flat leaf parsley is the herb of choice.

If you don’t have any fresh herbs, it’s okay. Your stuffing will still be good.

If you’re using sausage and mushrooms, you can make this an Italian stuffing.

To do this, use the same seasonings you would use to make stuffed mushrooms.

  • Instead of onions and herbs, grate two cloves of garlic into the bowl and finely chopped, fresh parsley.
  • Shake in a good amount of Parmesan cheese and mix everything with mushrooms.
  • Instead of butter use olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

So all your dry ingredients are in a big bowl now.

Use your hands to toss everything up and make sure the butter and oil coat the bread nicely and that the spices are well combined with everything else.

Take out a big Pyrex dish and grease the bottom with some butter.

Add your stuffing to the pan. Pour chicken broth over all, and place in the oven.

Other liquids you can use to flavor your stuffing along with the broth:

  • Apple cider if you’ve made a fruit and nut stuffing.
  • White wine if you’ve made a sausage mushroom stuffing.
  • Half and half if you want your stuffing to be a little creamy.

The point of all of this is to search around your kitchen for ingredients that would make an interesting stuffing using what you have.

This will save you money, reduce food waste and inspire the creative chef in you.

Happy Thanksgiving!