Category Archives: Side Dishes

How to Roast Pumpkins and Winter Squash

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Winter squash is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, but can be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with cooking it.

To use winter squash in recipes, roasting is a great way to get tender squash with deep flavor without the excess water that comes from boiling.

A few of the varieties of winter squash that you can choose from (pictured):

  • pumpkins (smaller will be less stringy)
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • delicata squash

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  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Wash the outside of the squash to remove any dirt. Dry.

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  • Cut squash in half using a large sharp knife. If your butternut squash is really large, or you do not have a large knife, you can cut the butternut squash in half crosswise first (right at the point where the neck begins) and then in half lengthwise. The narrower neck of a butternut squash does not have any seeds, just the rounder base.
  • Remove seeds and stringy pulp from inside the squash. Save those seeds for roasting! They are the best part of the squash (Yes-you can roast squash seeds too, not just pumpkin seeds).

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  • Place squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush inside of squash halves with olive oil.

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  • Turn squash over, cut side down, on the baking sheet.

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  • Bake at 425°F for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of your squash or pumpkin. Check softness by turning squash over and piercing with a fork. The squash flesh should be soft, but not mushy.

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  • Cool 10-15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out of shell. Puree or dice for use in recipes. Squash is easily frozen in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze in 1 cup portions (be sure to label your bags with how much of what kind of squash you put in them).

Recipes using roasted squash/pumpkins:

Squash Equivalents:

  • 1 pound peeled squash = 1 cup cooked, pureed
  • 2-1/2 pounds whole squash = about 2-3/4 to 3 cups pureed
  • 1 large (15 to 20 pounds) pumpkin = about 5 quarts (20 cups) of cooked, pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large butternut squash or 1 medium sugar/pie pumpkin = about 2-3 cups pureed

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Szechuan Beans

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Szechuan Beans are one of my favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants. Often at restaurants, they are made with Chinese long beans. When I make them at home, I use the skinny French filet beans.

These beans are slightly spicy, flavored with Szechuan peppercorns, a good dose of garlic, ginger and chili paste. Szechuan peppercorns are actually less spicy than regular black pepper or chili peppers. They have a slightly lemony taste and leave your tongue with an interesting tingly, slightly numb sensation.

Szechuan Peppercorns

Szechuan Peppercorns

I buy whole Szechuan peppercorns from Penzeys. If I am grinding a large quantity of the peppercorns, I use a mini electric coffee grinder. For times when I only need a small amount of ground peppercorn, I have a separate peppermill (the wooden kind you turn by hand) that I keep full of these peppercorns. Don’t use your regular black peppercorn mill to grind the Szechuan peppercorns and then refill with the black ones. As straight Szechuan peppercorns can leave your tongue feeling numb, your kids might not appreciate that sensation when they are expecting regular pepper.

I like to include a small amount of ground pork when I make these beans, but you could leave that out for a vegetarian dish.

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RECIPE:

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Szechuan Beans

1 Tbs oil
¼ lb ground pork
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ground chili paste (use more for spicier beans)
1 tsp honey
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 lb Chinese long beans or French filet beans, ends trimmed

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground pork, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook until pork is cooked through.

Add soy sauce, chili paste, honey and ground peppercorns to skillet. Stir to mix, then add green beans to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 3 Tbs water to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook beans for about 3 minutes, or until beans are not quite done.

Remove lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender. Do not overcook beans. Serve immediately.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Gratin

Squash Gratin

I love butternut squash in the winter. Squash are great, inexpensive vegetables that can be cooked many different ways, both sweet and savory. If you want to pay a little more, you can also buy them pre-peeled and diced. But then you don’t get any of those great seeds for Roasting.

This gratin is a savory side dish that is really flavorful and goes great with roast chicken or beef.

RECIPE:

Squash Gratin

Roasted Butternut Squash Gratin

2 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbs Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a 2-quart baking dish, combine squash cubes, garlic, onion, olive oil and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, cream, bouillon and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir into roasted squash. Combine panko bread crumbs and 2 Tbs Parmesan. Sprinkle over squash. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly. If topping is not browned, broil for 1-2 minutes before serving.

 

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Roasted Garlic Rosemary Beets

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Beets are a controversial vegetable in our house. Until recently we were split pretty evenly between beet lovers and beet haters. This recipe, however, has made some converts to the beet-loving camp. There are still 2 hold-outs, but that may be due more to stubbornness than actual taste preferences. One child hardly put enough in her mouth to actually taste it before declaring it gross.

Beets are one vegetable that grew really well in my garden this year. I had to fight the deer for the beet greens, but even without their tops, the beets grew undisturbed by the menagerie of wildlife in my backyard these days. I love how prominent the stripes are in the raw beets!

Roasted fresh beets are a whole different animal than those sweet canned things. Add some garlic and rosemary and I think they are divine.

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The cooked beets, unfortunately, don’t look as brilliantly beautiful as the raw ones, but they sure taste great!

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RECIPE:

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Roasted Garlic Rosemary Beets
——————-(from Guilty Kitchen)

3 large beets, peeled
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbs olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut beets into wedges (each beet should make 8 wedges). In a large bowl, stir together beet wedges, minced rosemary, sliced garlic and olive oil. Grind in some fresh salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Place in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Taste; add additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

 

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Grilled Greek Chicken

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The weather here has turned from dreary, cold and rainy to beautiful, sunny and warm. So I am putting away the soup recipes for a couple of weeks, and firing up the grill. This chicken is marinated in a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil and Greek spices (including fresh oregano-which is still hanging on in my garden!). The tomato cucumber salad is a nice accompaniment to the grilled chicken, providing a tangy balance to the chicken.

When I prepare chicken or other meat to grill, I always make double and freeze half in a separate Ziploc bag for a quick meal another day. You can either cook all of it and freeze the extra cooked chicken (either whole or diced) to add to future recipes, or freeze the extra raw chicken in the marinade, and then thaw and grill it another day.

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After making the marinade, I put a small amount (about 1/4 cup) in a separate Ziploc bag and marinated some fresh asparagus, and then grilled it alongside the chicken. I put the asparagus on the grill at the same time as I turned the chicken over, and they were done at about the same time. Zucchini/summer squash would be another great vege to marinate and grill.

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We ate the grilled chicken and asparagus with this Greek tomato and cucumber salad topped with feta cheese. Most of my garden is done for the year, but I do still have some green tomatoes slowly ripening on my kitchen counter. A couple of nice red ones made for a great fresh end-of-summer salad. You can find the recipe for the salad HERE.

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RECIPE:

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Grilled Greek Chicken
———–(adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup  lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest**
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 tsp Greek seasoning (or additional oregano)
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp black pepper**

Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before cooking.

Preheat grill to medium-hot and grill chicken 15-18 minutes, or until well browned and firm but not hard to the touch. Actual cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, the heat of your grill and the temperature outside, so don’t overcook.

**or omit lemon zest and black pepper and substitute 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning

FOR GRILLED GREEK ASPARAGUS (OR OTHER VEGETABLE):

1 lb fresh asparagus (or zucchini/summer squash or other vege of choice)
1/4 cup marinade from above recipe

Place asparagus or sliced vegetable into a Ziploc bag. Add marinade (be sure to place marinade in vegetable bag before adding it to the chicken bag). Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (longer is fine too). Grill for 5-6 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

 

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Grilled Chicken with Mint Chutney and Indian Spiced Cauliflower

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Most of my garden is finished now: just a few lingering tomatoes and herbs. And mint. Lots and lots of mint. Mint is an indestructible herb; plant it once, and it will be with you for life. Like it or not. Thanks to this mint chutney recipe, I really like the mint in my garden.

There are actually both mint and cilantro in this chutney, but the mint is definitely the star player here. Chutneys are an Indian condiment that are usually a combination of both sweet and spicy elements, and often preserved with vinegar. This chutney does not have a strong sweet component, as it uses mint and cilantro as the base instead of fruit, but it does have a slightly sour tang from lemon juice. The heat comes from onion and hot peppers. I make it pretty spicy, but you can tone it down by using less hot pepper.

Mint chutney is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken,  or Naan.

I used THIS RECIPE for the grilled chicken, which is called “Spicy Grilled Chicken”, but really isn’t all that spicy. It has a little bit of mint in the marinade, so it pairs really well with the chutney. The Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower was also great eaten with the mint chutney.

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RECIPES:

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Mint Cilantro Chutney

1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 of a small onion
1/2 – 1 fresh hot chili pepper (remove seeds if desired)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cumin (or 1 tsp whole cumin seeds)

Using a blender, food processor, or mortar & pestle, blend all ingredients until finely chopped. Add water 1 Tbs at a time (usually about 2-3 Tbs total) until chutney is desired consistency.

Serve with Grilled Chicken or roasted vegetables, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken, or Naan.

Makes about 1 cup chutney

Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower
———————-(adapted from Sassy Radish)

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a Ziploc bag, mix spices with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add cauliflower to bag. Mix well and allow the dressing to coat cauliflower evenly. Spread the cauliflower in a roasting dish (line with foil for easy cleanup) and bake for 20-30 minutes.

While cauliflower is cooking, prepare mint chutney or yogurt dip, and chill until serving time.

When cauliflower is crisp-tender, remove it from the oven, and serve immediately with chutney or yogurt dip on the side.

Yogurt Dip

1 cup plain yogurt (for a thicker dip, use Greek yogurt or strain yogurt in cheesecloth lined colander)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint (or use cilantro without the dill and mint)
½ tsp cumin (optional)
½ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein

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For Book Group this month we read Wild Swans, by Jung Chang, which chronicles the lives of a family of 3 generations of women in modern day China, It is an amazing look at the history of modern China and the rise of Communism under Mao Zedong. As I was hosting this month, I made this Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein, Chinese Almond Cookies and Homemade Fortune Cookies (I will share these recipes later).

This Lo Mein recipe is adaptable to a wide variety of vegetables and can be made with or without chicken (or other cooked meat). I served it cold, but it can also be served hot. When I am making this for a main dish, I usually serve it hot with both chicken and vegetables. When serving it as a side dish, I usually make it with just vegetables and serve it cold.

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This time I used broccoli, asparagus, sliced carrots, red pepper, snow pea pods and green onions. I like to slightly blanch the broccoli and asparagus by placing them in a large colander and pouring the hot cooked noodles and water over the broccoli and asparagus in the colander. Then rinse immediately with cold water to cool the noodles and vegetables. The other vegetables I leave raw and stir into the cold noodles with the sauce.

When I am serving it hot, I like to lightly sauté all of the vegetables until crisp-tender and then add the sauce and noodles to the skillet.

I prefer to use Chinese noodles, usually labeled Chow Mein or Lo Mein, but I have also used regular packaged linguine or spaghetti.

RECIPE:

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Chinese Vegetable (and/or Chicken) Lo Mein

1 lb dried Chinese lo mein or chow mein noodles (or use packaged linguine)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
1-2 cups chopped raw vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, thin sliced carrots, snow peas, green beans, sliced mushrooms, green onions)

Sauce:
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs honey
½ Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp chili paste (or more to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger

FOR COLD NOODLES:Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until sauce begins to boil. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. Cool slightly while noodles cook.

Chop vegetables. If using, place broccoli, asparagus and/or green beans in the bottom of a large colander. Cook noodles according to package directions. Pour cooked noodles and water into the colander with the vegetables (to lightly blanch these vegetables). Rinse with cold water until cool; drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles and vegetables. Add remaining raw chopped vegetables and cooked chicken. Stir sauce into noodles. Refrigerate until cold. Serve cold.

FOR HOT NOODLES:Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles. Set aside.

In the pot that you cooked the noodles, heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil. Lightly sauté chopped vegetables until barely crisp-tender. Add cooked chicken and heat through. Stir together sauce ingredients and pour over chicken and vegetables in the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add noodles to pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

 

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Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

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Surprisingly, cauliflower is one vegetable that everyone in our house loves doesn’t complain about when it shows up on the table. We especially enjoy this roasted cauliflower, flavored with garlic and a little lemon and garnished with toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley.

RECIPE:

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Garlic Roasted Cauliflower
————–(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread pine nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 3-5 minutes, or until toasted (watch carefully-pine nuts burn quickly). Remove pine nuts from baking sheet and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 475°F. In a Ziploc bag or bowl, combine cauliflower florets, garlic slices, olive oil and butter. Toss until well coated. Spread cauliflower onto baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 475°F for 20 minutes, or until tender. Toss cooked cauliflower with parsley, lemon juice and  reserved pine nuts. Taste and add additional salt, if desired.

 

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Thanksgiving: “Bacon Beans”

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This side dish comes together really quickly for a great Thanksgiving vegetable. With all of the heavy items on the table: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes- I like to have a vegetable that is crisp and tender and tastes fresh. These green beans are perfect for that.

Of my five children, only one of them thought that they liked green beans. Until I added bacon. It is amazing what a little bit of bacon will do! Adding some nuts and garlic didn’t hurt anything either. This is the one vegetable I cook where there are NEVER leftovers. They go back for seconds on this dish before anything else on the table. What a change! Whenever they smell bacon cooking around dinner time, the first question out of their mouths is, “Are you making bacon beans?”

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I love to use these skinny French green beans, sometimes called filet beans. They are super tender and very flavorful; not at all stringy. They cook very quickly, less than 5 minutes. Be sure not to overcook, or they will be mushy. Both Costco and Sam’s Club carry French beans (different brands, however). I think the one below is from Costco. You can also use regular green beans, but I really love these skinny ones. Bonus: they come with the ends already snapped. No advance prep necessary!DSC02693-1

RECIPE:

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Green Beans with Bacon and Garlic Pine Nuts (or Almonds)

1 lb French green beans (or regular beans, snapped)
6-8 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts or sliced almonds
1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)

In a skillet, combine beans and about 1/2 cup water. Add a small amount of salt to the water, if desired. Bring to a boil; cover pan and cook beans for 3-5 minutes, or until beans are crisp-tender. Do not overcook. Drain water and place beans in a serving dish.

Cook bacon in the same skillet until almost crisp. Drain excess grease, leaving 1-2 Tbs of drippings. (If you are using precooked bacon, and there are no drippings, add 1-2 Tbs butter to pan). With bacon still in the pan, add pine nuts or almond slices and cook until nuts are lightly toasted (about 2 minutes). Stir in garlic powder, if using.

Add green beans back to the pan and stir to combine and warm beans.

 

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Thanksgiving: Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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When it comes to stuffing, I stand firmly on the “outside of the turkey” argument. I am not a fan of soggy stuffing straight from the bird. Or that you have to overcook your turkey in order to bring the stuffing to a safe temperature.

The problem with this can be: how do you fit everything in the oven that needs to be baked and have it all hot at serving time. Especially when you only have one oven. I am experiencing some serious Dual-Oven-Envy at my house. Especially at holiday times.

Solving the problem of competing oven-needing foods is doable with a little advance preparation. Pies can be cooked the day before. Rolls can be prepared and partially pre-baked (more on this later this week). But what about things that need to be cooked same day?

An appliance that can be used to your advantage here is your Crock Pot. With stuffing, however, I really like the crispy bread edges that you can only get in the oven. So I compromise: early in the day, before I put the turkey in the oven, I bake my stuffing at 400°F for 30 minutes, ensuring perfectly crispy edges. I then transfer the stuffing to my crock pot, set it on the lowest heat possible, and keep it warm in the crock pot while the turkey cooks. If you are not making a huge amount of stuffing, some oval casserole dishes will fit directly into the bottom of a large crock pot. If not, just scoop the stuffing into the crock pot, trying to keep the crisp top edges on the top in the crock pot as well.

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This is a pretty standard bread stuffing recipe, with the addition of roasted garlic and dried cranberries. I love the contrast between the smoky flavor of the roasted garlic and the sweet tang of the cranberries. Need help roasting garlic: click through to How To . . . Roast Garlic. It is pretty simple.

You can also add mushrooms, but I usually leave them out to appease my Mushroom-Hating-Children. Occasionally, however, I will chop them finely in the food processor, and then no one is the wiser.

You can use store-bought bread cubes, or make your own (highly recommended). Cube several different varieties of bread: white, wheat, rye, English muffins, bagels—all those ends that no one wants to eat. Spread in a single layer on large baking pans. If you have the time, and the humidity is not too high, just leave them sitting on the counter for 2-3 days to dry out. Stir them around occasionally. Be careful though: these sandwich ends that no one wanted to eat yesterday become just like candy to little fingers when they are turned into bread cubes. So start with more bread than you think you will need. Also: the bread will shrink as it dries, so start with more fresh bread than the dried cubes called for in the recipe.

If you are short on time, dry them in the oven at a very low heat (200°F max), stirring often. It will take about 1 hour to dry the bread in the oven.

RECIPE:

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Roasted Garlic Stuffing

½ cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup sliced or finely chopped mushrooms, optional
1 head of garlic, roasted (about 10 cloves)  <see How To. . . Roast Garlic>
12-13 cups dry bread cubes
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbs fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried sage
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp marjoram
1 ½ – 2 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 cup dried cranberries, optional

Sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in butter. Crush roasted garlic cloves and stir into skillet. Pour vegetables over bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix in seasonings. Stir in enough broth to moisten. Stir in cranberries, if desired. Place in a covered casserole dish and bake at 325°F for 1 hour (or 400°F for 30 minutes).

COOKING TIPS: Stuffing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight. If oven room is a problem, cook stuffing early in the day (before you put the turkey in the oven) for 30 minutes at 400°F. Transfer stuffing to a crock-pot and heat on very low heat until serving time.

Yield: this makes a lot! About 15-20 good-sized servings

 

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