Thanksgiving Stuffing

Everyone loves the Thanksgiving meal. Even if turkey is not your favorite main dish, the trimmings give you plenty of goodies to choose from and lots of chances to be creative. There are dozens of ways you can use cranberries, sweet potatoes, and green beans to vary the feast from year to year. And if you're talented and/or ambitious, finding new recipes for old favorites can be fun for the whole family.

But when you want to keep the work to a minimum, it's best to keep it simple. Here's an easy sausage stuffing recipe we think you'll like. Since it's made in a baking dish rather than inside the turkey, you can do it in advance and reheat it on the big day. You can also use this with other main courses like chicken or pork at other times of the year.

You'll need:
• One pound mild or breakfast sausage. (Hint: We recommend San Luis Pork Apple Sausage for a hint of sweetness or Chicken Italian which has savory spices.)
• 1/2 cup butter (4 ounces)
• 2 cups of chopped onion
• 1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped celery
• 10 cups cubed white bread
• 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or one teaspoon of dried sage, crumbled
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Dash of fresh ground black pepper
• 1-1/2 to 1/-3/4 cups chicken broth

Directions:
• Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
• Thoroughly sauté the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up and stirring until fully cooked. Drain on paper towels.
• Wipe out the skillet and melt butter, adding onion and celery. Cook, stirring until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes.
• Separately, in a large mixing bowl, toss the bread with the herbs and seasonings. Add the drained sausage and vegetables with butter.
• Mix in the broth and stir until the ingredients are moist.
• Put the mixture into the baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for about 25 minutes.
• Remove the foil and broil for another 3-4 minutes until nicely browned on top.

The sausage makes this very simple recipe more flavorful. We hope you'll give it a try and let us know how you liked it. And while you're enjoying the meal, look around your table and remember to be thankful for the people you love and the blessings in your life.

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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How Does Cooking and Food Change With the Seasons?

Summer Salad

Life is all about change. We go through cycles, none more obvious than the progression of seasons throughout the year. Even here in Southern California where the climate is moderate, seasons come and go as we tear pages off the calendar. The world seems different in summertime than it does in winter. It's not just the way it looks outside; it's the way we feel inside that changes as the months go by. And as the seasons change, so does the menu. Two obvious reasons are temperature and tradition. 

 When the weather is warm outside, we look for meals that are light and cool. The easier and faster, the better. We're less likely to make dishes that require oven time. (Air conditioning costs enough without having to overcome a hot kitchen!) Or we cook outdoors where the mild temperatures invite backyard eating and barbecue parties. Simplicity rules as we grill steaks, sausages, chicken, and ribs and serve them with refreshing salads or buttered corn on the cob. We may also be less inclined to overeat. There's too much fun to be had and no time to sit around feeling full and sluggish.  

When the weather is cold, we hunger for meals simmered for hours on the stove. We feel the urge to bake. We're more willing to take the time to make complicated recipes. When there's a chill in the air, expect the family to gravitate to the kitchen well before dinnertime, enticed by the aromas as much as the warmth. We can't wait to dig into stews, soups, steaming casseroles, and juicy roasts. We want our apple pie served warm. Cooking makes the house feel cozier, and that's something we appreciate most when it's chilly outside.  

Tradition also plays a big part in how our eating changes with the seasons. Have you ever been to a pool party in August where they served a roasted turkey? Neither have we. Have you chosen hot dogs as the main course for Thanksgiving dinner? Nope. Perhaps the most adventuresome of hosts will change things up by serving something unexpected, but you can be sure there will be whispers among the guests. Sometimes the unorthodox choice works brilliantly, sometimes not.  

Of one thing we're sure, whatever date is on the calendar and whatever is on the menu, it's always “Eating Season.” 

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Keep Your Jack-O-Lanterns Smiling

Halloween is almost here and people, you've got work to do! We know big bags of candy have been calling to you from store shelves for more than a month now, but since you've probably already eaten up all the supplies you bought when they first showed up, you need to get out there and buy more! (If we could just figure out a way to give sausages to the Trick-or-Treaters...) The pumpkin, however, is something you probably only buy once. And after putting in all the effort of carving it into a frightfully wondrous jack-o-lantern, you want it to last for more than a few days. Here's how:

  • Pick out a good pumpkin from the get-go. Avoid one with blemishes and soft spots which indicate that it has already started its descent into mush. Find a clean, firm one that's at its peak. It helps, too, to buy one from a pumpkin patch rather than a bin in the supermarket. Straight-from-the-field pumpkins will be fresher and last longer.
  • Carved pumpkins have a short life-span, maybe a good week. So wait until a few days before Halloween to start the surgery.
  • Pumpkin flesh will turn brown just like other fruits. To preserve the color, coat it with lemon juice just like you would apple slices.
  • Keep it out of the rain. If you're planning to display your jack-o-lantern on the porch or other outdoor location, a shaded or covered area of your house is best. Direct sunlight and freezing temperatures (yes, they happen in SoCal sometimes) are pumpkin killers as well. Take it inside overnight. You can even put it in the refrigerator.

Here's hoping your grand, ghoulish masterpiece will delight all the little rock stars, ghosts, pirates, and other spooky critters who show up at your door on Halloween.

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