Thanksgiving, my favorite food holiday of the entire year, is but a mere twelve hours away and I am already drooling at the thought of my mom's candied yams, her stuffing, and everything else that we inhale on that special day. I'm also looking forward to seeing just how much I'll be able to bring back home in terms of leftovers, as that's what usually gets me through most of the month of December. In preparation for this onslaught of foil wrapped packages and plastic containers, I thought it'd be a good idea clear out my fridge & freezer, a task I'll admit I've been neglecting for awhile. It proved a fruitful endeavor, and I found some items I knew I wasn't going to use in any other dishes for awhile, like a ton of wheat bread (I'm just not the biggest bread eater...). With some produce I didn't want to risk having to throw out after the long weekend and a giant sweet potato I'd been looking forward to sinking my teeth into, I decided to make a nice stuffing that would supplement the leftovers that will be coming soon.
Now, I find my mom's stuffing to be the best stuffing ever, so to even consider a different stuffing recipe seems almost sacrilegious. It's like one's mom's meatloaf or potato salad: there are just some things that moms make that taste better than any other variation of the dish. But I suppose that doesn't mean I can't try my hand at something new, and that's how I decided to approach this dish. While it's definitely Thanksgiving-worthy, it doesn't necessarily have to be a Thanksgiving-only dish, making it quite versatile. With plenty of crunchy veggies, meaty mushrooms and the tender sweetness of roasted sweet potatoes, it's great pretty much year round. It's a unique, tasty way to make use of any vegetable odds & ends, as well as any extra bread that might have gone stale while you weren't looking.
Because it has a high veggie-to-bread ratio, this is a bit less sinful than most stuffing recipes you may see at this time of year that are made with all sorts of evil things like bacon or sausage or a ton of heavy cream and butter. I used a minimal amount of butter and used my homemade vegetable stock to moisten this stuffing, keeping things tasty, but lower in fat than traditional recipes. While it's great as a side, I found myself enjoying it as a hearty, meatless, one-dish meal, so my non-meat-eating friends can partake of this as well. Serve it with your favorite gravy, and voila! Dinner is served!
And did I mention it feeds a small army for just about $7 for the entire dish? :)
Sweet Potato, Mushroom & Veggie Stuffing (makes 6-8 servings; total cost per serving: $1.20)
3 c cubed wheat bread (preferably stale)
1 large red sweet potato (about 1-2 lbs)
1 c chopped carrots
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped red onion
1 8 oz. package white mushrooms, sliced into 1/2" thick pieces
2 1/2 c vegetable stock or broth
4 T butter, melted
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T + 1/2 t salt
1 t dried sage
1 t + 1/2 t thyme
1 t + 1/2 t ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside. Peel and chop the sweet potato into 1" cubes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and toss together until combined. Place on the cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for about 10 minutes, or until barely tender (do NOT overcook!). Set aside and allow to cool.
Reduce the oven heat to 350° and lightly grease a 9" x 13" x 2" baking dish. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Season with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, and sauté over medium heat until just. Remove from heat.
Place the bread cubes, chopped carrots, onions and celery into a large bowl. Add the vegetable stock, melted butter and remaining seasonings, and mix together until the bread is moist and everything is well combined. Next, add the sweet potatoes and cooked mushrooms, and gently fold them into the bread mixture. Transfer to the baking dish and bake until heated through and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Serve as a side with your favorite holiday meal, top with gravy, and enjoy!