Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean we abandon healthy eating habits, instead we adapt favorite recipes into healthy holiday alternatives, like this little twist on an old favorite – Vegan Stuffing.
To say that I eat a little differently from the chef in my life would be something of an understatement. While he’s a big fan of some vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts and savoy cabbage, he has an aversion to a long list of ‘Ben’s most hated’ that includes carrots, eggplant and fresh spinach (just to name a few). He will cook anything (to perfection) but he won’t eat it, in fact if it contains some of the most loathed items he will call over another member of the kitchen team to taste.
His Stuffing. Her Stuffing.
To keep us both healthy (and happy) I’ve learned to easily shift recipes on the fly so that I can make two versions at once with little effort. His Stuffing: Traditional Sausage Stuffing, long on butter and pork sausage. Her Stuffing: Savory and sweet, packed with healthy berries, fiber, seeds and nuts.
To make things easy I start with one stuffing base: bread, onions, celery, ground flax seed and seasonings then split it; in one half goes the sausage, chicken stock and butter, in the other goes whatever dried fruit and nuts are in the pantry that pair well with the rest of the menu, vegetable stock and olive oil (or butter for the vegetarian version).
A couple of ideas to customize your stuffing along with animal protein pairings for the omnivores among us, you can substitute your flavour of vegan stuffing for any starch, like potatoes or rice. Alternatively pair with roasted vegetables flavored to suit, from simple salt & pepper roasted to a five spice rubbed (which is dynamite with butternut squash).
Custom Vegan Stuffing:
Traditional Flavours: Dried cranberries & apricots with pecans and pumpkin seeds (pair with turkey, chicken or Cornish hen.) Native Foraging: Dried blueberries or plumbs & dried mushrooms (soaked & chopped) with sunflower seeds (pair with wild fowl, like pheasant) Fall Flavours: Dried cherries & apples with chestnuts and sunflower seeds (pair with duck or pork) Middle Eastern: Dried figs & berberis with chopped almonds or pistachios, sumac and dried lemon peel (pair with goose or guinea fowl) Sweet Asian: Shredded unsweetened coconut, dried goji berries with dried ginger, roasted garlic and black sesame seeds (pair with chicken, leaning Thai.) Savory: Sun dried tomatoes & (soaked & chopped), chopped cooked leeks & pine nuts. (Pair with chicken, pork or cornish hen)
Adapting favorite recipes to create healthy holiday alternatives keep us healthy all year. Here’s a little twist on an old family favorite – Vegan Stuffing – packed with dried berries, nuts and fiber.
1/4 cup olive oil (divided)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
5 cups dried white or French bread, cubed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, lightly chopped
1/4 cup dried figs, quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup raw pecans (or almonds), lightly chopped
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 – 2 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, heat two tablespoons of oil and then add onions & celery. Sweat your vegetables until transparent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Toss dried bread cubes with herbs & ground flax seed in a large bowl and season to taste. Add cooked vegetables and drizzle with extra oil, then add dried fruit and nuts. Add vegetable stock as you toss the stuffing mixture, until well moistened, but not mushy. Lightly pack stuffing into your prepared baking dish, and cover tightly with foil or tight fitting lid.
Bake for approximately 35 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Remove foil, fork toss top of stuffing and toast, uncovered, for about 10 to 15 minutes or just until toasty brown on top.
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.