What would Thanksgiving be without stuffing? I don’t know about you but I’m a huge fan of stuffing. In fact, I choose my seat at the dinner table based on where the stuffing bowl will be…  It’s one of those foods that goes with anything and can be easily adapted to suit personal tastes. We all know stuffing from the box is convenient and easy, but the incredible flavor and texture cannot compare to homemade stuffing. Use whole foods and fresh ingredients rather than prepacked mixes, you’ll maximize the nutritional value while cutting the calories and fat content.

Lets get creative! Why not replace raisins with dried cranberries, diced apples or pears? Throw in sautéed onions, leeks, fennel and shallots. Use a variety of toasted nuts such as walnuts, pine nuts or even macadamia nuts. Some other healthy substitutions you can make include using whole wheat bread (for added fiber) instead of white bread, turkey sausage (lower fat) instead of Italian or regular sausage, and lemon or maple syrup to replace some of the butter (less saturated fat).  The more fruits and vegetables you include, the less bread and meat is needed!

There are even gluten-free stuffing recipes that you can make from tortilla chips, onions, celery, chicken broth, poultry seasonings and any other ingredients you prefer!

To avoid foodborne illness which can sometimes happen when preparing stuffing, follow these basic tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

  • If you stuff poultry, do it just before roasting and stuff loosely. 
  • Be sure the internal temperature of the meat reaches 180 degrees F and the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees F before removing from the oven. 
  • For uniform doneness, cook stuffing separately from the bird, especially if you don’t have a meat thermometer. 
  • Never cook stuffed poultry in a microwave oven. 
  • Refrigerate leftover poultry and stuffing separately.
As a general rule, you should cook stuffing separate from the turkey and let it cool completely. Stuff about 5 cups into the turkey cavities loosely. Save the remainder of the stuffing, or heat and serve it separately. You don’t want to risk getting ill, especially when serving food to others!

Here is one of my stuffing favorites taken from Eatingwell Magazine but feel free to adapt it or share yours in the comment section below!

Bulgur Stuffing with Dried Cranberries & Hazelnuts

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped onions, (2 large)
1 cup chopped celery, (2-3 stalks)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups bulgur, rinsed
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts, (2 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and celery; cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon and allspice; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add bulgur and stir for a few seconds. Add broth, bay leaf and salt; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the bulgur is tender and liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine dried cranberries and orange juice in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 minutes. (Alternatively, bring dried cranberries and orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan on the stovetop and remove from heat.) Set aside to plump.
Toast hazelnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until light golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. When the bulgur is ready, discard the bay leaf. Add the cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, parsley and pepper; fluff with a fork. Makes 10 servings, about 3/4 cups each.

Bulgur is a fiber and protein-rich grain made from pre-cooked, dried and cracked whole wheat kernels. You can use it like rice or couscous and it cooks in 20 minutes or less. Instant, or fine-grain bulgur cooks in under 5 minutes if you are really in a hurry for some whole grains!

Hope you didn’t eat too much candy this week, and I will write again soon!
-Tegan Bissell
KSC Dietetic Intern