Join Me in the Kitchen: Apple Cranberry Stuffing

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Vicki McGraw, owner of Elegant Edibles.

Good Grief!! Thanksgiving is this week! If you are an “old hand” at hosting Thanksgiving, I’m sure you have everything under control. But, if this is your first time doing the hosting, you may be feeling a bit of stress…Are you ready? Anxious? Worried? Over-whelmed? Or maybe a little bit of everything is running through your head these days. Meal planning doesn’t bother me, but I know my mind starts spinning when I think of the fast approach of the holiday season. There are so many things to do, places to go and expectations to be met, many of us miss the joy and spirit of the holidays because we are so caught up in our plans!

As I write this weeks’ edition of Join me in the Kitchen, I have less than a week left to prepare for Thanksgiving (and yet, I am already thinking about Christmas fast approaching as well). As I always do, I have been making lists…shopping lists, guest lists, to do lists. I am lost without my lists! I am a traditionalist, so my menu will be “the usual”… as expected, turkey with all the trimmings, but, because our beloved Buffalo Bills will be playing on Thanksgiving this year, I have made appropriate concessions to the menu to include a few “game day favorites”…gotta have chicken wings on game day, you know!! My biggest preparation for the holiday so far is buying my turkey. I always like to buy my bird a week before the big day because it is very important to allow sufficient time for your turkey to thaw completely. You don’t want to leave a frozen turkey sitting out on the counter to thaw; that is an open invitation to bacteria growth and spoilage. The best method is to thaw your turkey under refrigeration, allowing one day refrigerated thaw time for every 3-4 pounds of turkey (for example, give an 18 pound turkey about 5 days in the fridge to thaw completely).

Included on my shopping list for early this week are all of the non-perishables I will need for my holiday feast. Canned goods and baking ingredients can be bought ahead for last minute preparation. I will buy my fresh veggies and other perishables today, and I will start my prep by Tuesday evening. Potatoes (and other veggies) can be peeled and cut for later cooking, simply put them in a large container, cover with water and refrigerate until it is time to cook. Stuffing bread can be cubed, stored in a zip bag and frozen until the day before you need it. Similarly, pie fillings can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for last minute assembly and baking.

I always use my grandmothers’ china for holiday meals, so this past weekend I got it out of the china cabinet and made sure nothing needed to be washed (or replaced) before the big day. Being the compulsive person I am, I will have a list all of my serving dishes with what will be going in them so that I don’t have to scramble for a bowl or platter at the last minute. I will also make sure my favorite tablecloth is clean and ironed and that I have a stash of my favorite wines (and Robert’s favorite beer) ready to serve when my family arrives.

With a few lists and a bit of pre-planning, the day before any special dinner will be a breeze. By the time the big day arrives, I plan to do the last minute stuff, sit back and enjoy my family!

Apple Cranberry Stuffing

1 Cup fresh cranberries
2 apples (I prefer Gala), diced
1 small onion, diced
1 Cup sliced celery
1 large loaf of brioche bread
½ t rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1-1 ½ c milk
4 T butter

Cut bread into cubes and set aside.

Saute celery and onions in 2 T butter until tender. Add cranberries and apples and continue to saute until cranberries split open. Add rosemary, salt and pepper, remaining butter and ½ cup milk and heat until gently simmering. Carefully pour over bread and gently mix, adding additional milk if stuffing is dry.

Bake at 350* for 35-45 minutes, until heated through.

To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.