I’ll never forget my first married Thanksgiving. We were young and poor and far away from family. I was determined to make my first Thanksgiving entirely from scratch. I took the liberty to nix certain staples off the menu and add some new ones. I cleaned, brined, and cooked the turkey all by myself. I was proud, so proud, until Kev saw the final spread.
Where’s the green bean casserole? The sweet potato casserole?? The corn casserole??? He said with increased worry, hoping there was more food behind door number 2.
Oh, I don’t make casseroles. Didn’t he know that by now, I thought. Clearly we missed a major topic in premarital counseling.
I’d never heard of corn casserole. I didn’t have the ingredients for green bean casserole. But I did have one lonely sweet potato on the counter. It was fate. I emergency called my mom for her recipe, and threw together a single portion of sweet potato casserole as fast as humanly possible. This is love.
Over the years, I’ve learned to more carefully craft my Thanksgiving menu while still making a wholesome meal. Green Bean Casserole always makes the list, though it’s made from scratch (and 1,000,000 times better). I’m still not sure what corn casserole is. And despite my effort to keep the menu simple, sweet potato casserole is usually a last minute addition after Kev does a walk through. This year, I’ve partnered with Grain Foods Foundation to share my homemade stuffing, made from a mixture of whole wheat bread and cranberry walnut bread. It’s filled with savory vegetables, thyme and sage, plus an extra handful of dried cranberries and walnuts for good measure. It puts the bagged stuffing to shame (though I’m not down with shaming). Pinky promise.
I’m making Thanksgiving for 18 people, most of which have not had my Thanksgiving meal before. There’s so much love, goodness, and flavor buried into that meal. But, I’m still shaking in my boots, and praying no one looks for door number 2. I’ll have a sweet potato casserole behind it just in case. This is love.
Everyone’s favorite side dish turned wholesome without compromising flavor. It’s mostly savory with a minor sweet note. The kale crisps as it bakes with the carrots and walnuts offering a nice crunch. I prefer my stuffing unstuffed, but feel free to do otherwise.
3 c. cranberry walnut bread, diced into 1/2” cubes
2 c. wheat bread (not sourdough), diced into 1/2 ” cubes
1 sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 stalks kale, chopped
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. walnuts, lightly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 c. stock
salt and pepper, to taste
Cut up bread and allow to dry out on the counter for at least 24 hours or bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until hardened.
Prepare vegetables. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil. Add in onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Into a 10″ x 8″ pan (or something similar), add bread, cooked vegetables, kale, cranberries, walnuts, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir together until evenly combined.
Pour stock over stuffing and stir again to evenly coat. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden (or use as stuffing for the turkey). Serve warm.
• Bread and sautéed vegetables can be prepared a couple days in advance. Assemble and bake the day of.