Homemade Cornbread Dressing

Make your own tasty dressing instead of buying it at the store!

Years ago, I started making our holiday dressing from scratch, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as far as our holiday menu each year.  Cornbread dressing has to be one of the most forgiving recipes ever, and anyone can tweak it to their own taste.  Indeed, I think I’ve varied my own recipe just a tad every year, and that is just part of the fun of making it.

Today, I’m sharing my dressing recipe, along with photos of each step.

  • Steps in Part 1 of this process can be done ahead of time to save time on the day the meal is to be served.
  • Steps in Part 2 are best done on the day the meal is served. 

Part 1 (Advance Preparation)

In my previous post, I shared the first aromatic step in making this dressing, sautéing the Creole mirepoix (meer-PWAH).  While this recipe can certainly be tweaked in many ways, omitting a basic mirepoix of onion and celery with another ingredient would be a mistake, since this is the foundation of the dish as far as flavor.  For several years, I just used diced onion and celery, but more recently, I have added diced red bell pepper to the mix because it adds even more flavor and also some nice color.

The mirepoix for the dressing consists of one large sweet onion, the green stalks of a bunch of celery (not the tougher white parts) and one large red bell pepper, all chopped finely by hand or in a food processor.  The mirepoix is then sautéed in about two tablespoons of Land O’ Lakes soft butter/canola oil, but feel free to just use butter or oil, if you desire.

Good cornbread is the base of the dressing, and I prepare two boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix.  Jiffy cornbread is actually a traditional family dish and the only cornbread my mother ever baked.  She also added a little sugar to her cornbread, and I’ve been known to do that a few times myself.  For this recipe, I follow the recipe on the box, which calls for one egg and 1/3 cup of whole milk per box, doubling those for this recipe.

The cornbread can be baked as desired, but I start mine on the stove on medium high heat in an enameled cast iron skillet that has been warmed to 400 degrees in the preheated oven.  Before adding the cornbread mix to the skillet, I melt two tablespoons of Land O’ Lakes butter with canola oil in the skillet, but butter or oil alone would be fine, too.  Allow the mix to heat on the stove for only one minute, no longer, then transfer the skillet to the 400 degree oven for twenty minutes or until the cornbread is thoroughly done in the middle, using the toothpick test.

Cornbread is a real treat for me these days, as I have to follow a low-carb diet most of the time.  So, when I make it, I want it to be pretty much perfect.  This method of preparation is the best I’ve ever found, as the cornbread has a little crunch on the bottom and is evenly cooked throughout.

Isn’t this a beautiful… gorgeous… lovely sight?

dressing-e1smfs
Cornbread, baked to perfection!
dressing-fsmfs
The cornbread turns out to a plate with ease
dressing-gsmfs
I confess. I ate a warm piece. Cooks prerogative.

I could have just stopped right there and eaten the whole thing!  Seriously.

After letting the cornbread cool, crumble it into a bowl or large pan and leave it on the kitchen counter covered by a paper towel for one or two days.  I used a pan with more surface area to allow it to dry out a little faster.  If pressed for time, use the oven at 250 degrees to help the cornbread dry out faster, stirring it every ten minutes until it is a bit crunchy but retains some moisture, too.

dressing-hsmfs
Crumbled cornbread dries for one or two days on the counter or faster in a low oven

Adding one pound of cooked pork breakfast sausage is an optional step, but it is a requirement for us because it adds even more flavor and helps keep the dressing moist.  Simply cook a pound of regular sausage, then drain it thoroughly on paper towels, removing as much fat as possible.  Store the sausage in a sealed container in the refrigerator until the day to make the dressing or in the freezer if making the dressing more than two days later.

At this point, I add some finely diced fresh parsley.  It adds a subtle flavor and also adds some color, complimenting the red bell pepper nicely, and I store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I’m ready to make the dressing.

dressing-ksmfs
Several sprigs of finely diced fresh parsley

 

Part 2 (Assemble and bake)

On Thanksgiving, all that is left to do is combine the pre-prepared ingredients with the seasonings and chicken broth, then bake the dressing in the oven.  Yes, that’s it!  Easy peasy.

Combine the cornbread, mirepoix, sausage and parsley, then add most of a 32 oz. carton of chicken broth, reserving just a bit of the broth.  Add seasoned salt and poultry seasoning, sprinkling both generously over the top, then stir well to combine.  Feel free to taste test and add seasoning as desired, being careful to not over-season the mix.  I don’t add pepper but some other people include it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the empty baking dish in the oven to also preheat.  I used an enameled cast iron baking dish.  When the oven and baking dish are preheated, remove the dish from the oven and spray it with non-stick spray.  (Don’t spray the dish before pre-heating it.)

Pour the dressing mix into the pre-heated dish, smooth it out, then bake it at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.  At that point, remove the dressing from the oven and stir it thoroughly, then bake it for fifteen minutes or more until it reaches your desired consistency.

I love, love, love this dressing!

dressing-rsmfs
The finished product… oh, how I love this!

I can make a meal on this dressing and nothing else.  It’s that good.

As I said earlier, dressing is a very forgiving dish to make.  If your dressing is a bit dry, just add a little more chicken broth and heat it a bit longer.  Take it to new levels by adding even more tasty ingredients, like sautéed diced mushrooms or finely diced jalapeno pepper

For this dish, I do not recommend adding any other types of bread other than cornbread, but feel free to give it a try if you’re feeling especially adventurous.  The consistency and flavor of the cornbread is what makes this dish, in my opinion.  If you opt to use other breads in place of part of the cornbread, just be sure to dry them out as much as possible before making the dressing.

Here is the complete list of ingredients.  Just read back through this post for the preparation instructions.  Enjoy!

Southern Cornbread Dressing

For the Mirepoix:
one large sweet onion

one bunch of celery (use only green stalks)
one large red bell pepper, seeded and cored
two tablespoons Land O’ Lakes butter/canola oil spread

For the cornbread:
two boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
two extra large eggs
2/3 cup milk
two tablespoons Land O’ Lakes butter/canola oil spread

one pound regular pork breakfast sausage

7-8 stalks of parsley leaves, diced

poultry seasoning (to taste)

seasoned salt (to taste)

 32 oz. box regular chicken broth 
(if using low sodium broth, use a little more seasoned salt or regular salt)

 non-stick spray for the bottom of the baking dish

I use enameled cast iron dishes (pre-heated) to bake both the cornbread and the dressing for best results.  If using other non-heated baking dishes, cooking times may take a bit longer.

Happy Thanksgiving cooking!  Savor every moment of the fun!  🙂

 

A Time to Remember

It’s personal for me.

IMG_0748

It’s Memorial Day and a time to remember those who have sacrificed and those who died for us.

On this day each year, I always think of the uncle I never knew that died in WWII.  We actually know much about him, but I will always be sad that I never knew my father’s handsome little brother who endured such great hardship and suffering in war.  My father never talked too much about him because I think it was just too painful to do so.  But, he made sure we knew about him and how he died.

Perhaps that is the reason I’ve always taken Memorial Day to heart.  It’s personal.  Because it is personal for me, I appreciate how it is personal and painful for many, many other family members and dear friends today, too.

Today, we remember and mourn together for our loved ones gone much too soon, and we also show our appreciation as we are moved to do so, including taking time to be with family.  These days, that is certainly something to celebrate, and I think many loved ones gone before us are smiling when we gather.

Today, I hope you will remember those gone and celebrate those present.  We are truly blessed indeed.  May we never take that blessing for granted.

D All Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Wordless Wednesday – Candle of Love

IMG_2619

D All Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Decorated Valentine’s Day Cookies

Ten dozen pretty decorated cookies for family and friends!

I’ve missed baking and decorating cookies.  During the Christmas holidays, when I normally take on this special project for friends and family gifts, my right hand was hurting too much to even consider decorating so many cookies at once.  So, for that reason, I took a pass on the project and hoped to take it on for Valentine’s Day.  Happily, my hand is quite a bit better now, and I was able to bake and decorate about ten dozen cookies over the past few days.

This is also the first time that I have made cookies for Valentine’s Day gifts, and I must say that I like decorating them for this special holiday as much as I like decorating them for Christmas.  I opted to stick with heart shapes to help keep things a bit more simple.  After baking the first large batch and experimenting with different ways to decorate them, I quickly discovered that one particular cutout shape was by far my favorite.  So, for the final large batch, I only made cookies with that shape – a medium heart cutout with a pretty scalloped edge.

These are vanilla-almond sugar cookies and are so tasty, even without icing.  I also add a little almond flavoring to my royal icing before thinning it for piping and flooding the cookies.  The heart flowers are quite simple to do.  Just layer three dots of flood icing on top of each other, then drag a toothpick from top to bottom through the center of each one in one slightly curved motion.  I varied the heart flower designs on most of the cookies, just to see what each different combination would look like, and there are many combinations that I like in the bunch!

Here are the results of this year’s big cookie project!  I had so much fun that I’m thinking about doing Easter cookies this year, too, if I can find some cute cutouts soon.

ValentinesDayCookies1a
Four different heart cutouts (Wilton brand)
ValentinesDayCookies1b
The second large batch made 62 cookies.

 

ValentinesDayCookies1c
This is my favorite design for Valentine’s Day – a heart flower design with three-color flowers!
ValentinesDayCookies1d
My first attempt at “painted” roses.
ValentinesDayCookies1e
Sprinkle cookies are easy to make and are always a hit with kids.
ValentinesDayCookies1f
More flood icing designs
ValentinesDayCookies1g
Some of my favorites – each a bit different
ValentinesDayCookies2a
These were actually for a sweet little girl’s first birthday party and matched the party décor so well.
ValentinesDayCookies2b
My first attempt at a jumbo double cookie was very cute, and next time, I will make it with the three-color heart flowers.
ValentinesDayCookies2c
Two-color heart flowers are cute, too.  The darkest color can be used for either the outer or inner color, resulting in a slightly different effect.
ValentinesDayCookies2d
More two-color heart flowers
ValentinesDayCookies2e
Enter a caption
ValentinesDayCookies2f
Two-color heart flowers
ValentinesDayCookies2g
Smaller two-color heart flowers
ValentinesDayCookies2h
The first round of gifts are packaged and ready to deliver and mail!
ValentinesDayCookies2i
Ghirardelli dark chocolate chip cookies were a special request by our daughter, and they are now winging their way to California!
D All Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

We visited our two beautiful canyon state parks in one day!

First, my heart is breaking for my fellow Texans downstate today.  Devastating floods have hit many areas, and there is so much hurt right now.  Of course, the much-needed rain will be very welcome once this crisis is over, but many are paying a heavy price for it right now.  The dam on the lake at Bastrop State Park failed, and the lake water has now mostly run out.  This is the same state park that was hit by a devastating wild-fire a few years ago, too.  Scenic little Wimberly in the hill country, which is a huge tourist town, saw a flood of epic proportions over the weekend, with the Blanco River rising 30 feet overnight.  Many cities and state parks have been impacted or shut down.  To have such a devastating situation hit on a holiday weekend just made it all the more challenging for those trying to keep people safe through it all.  I honestly don’t know right now how many people are missing or have lost their lives.  Please pray for those impacted by floods in Texas today. 

Texas Flooding Photos – The Boston Globe

Our decision to forego a long weekend camping trip due to the weather was a good one.  Storms hit our general area, but nothing like the unbelievable storms that hit downstate.  Hubby and I made a long Sunday drive instead, visiting both Caprock Canyons State Park and award-winning Palo Duro Canyon State Park in one day by car with the dogs and a picnic lunch on a beautiful little outing while the weather was nice, and I will share some pictures of our “grand canyons” adventure soon.  Visiting both of the canyon state parks in the Panhandle in one day is always a great scenic drive and a fairly easy one for us.  After all the recent rains, it was beautiful in a way we’ve not seen until now.  We did not start visiting the state parks regularly until 2011 when we bought our RV, the first year of the drought, and it is only getting better and better as more rain falls and renews our land at last.  I also took some great photos of the baby bison at Caprock Canyons.  (I am loving the new camera and lenses!)

IMG_0085 IMG_0192

Later on, I will also share a few suggestions for anyone that is interested in visiting the canyon parks, as we learned some new information on this little outing that opens up new options, especially for anyone that would like to see Palo Duro Canyon but not take their RV down that fairly scary mile-long 10% grade road (with no shoulder and lots of people on bicycles at times) into and out of the park.  We were quite surprised to see a number of improvements in the park, which will make visiting an even better, and more reliable, experience in the canyon.  If we are “experts” on any state parks, it would be these two.  We have been visiting Palo Duro Canyon for five decades and have watched its popularity absolutely skyrocket with visitors from all over the world.  However, we actually prefer taking our RV to Caprock Canyons most of the time.  More to come on these wonderful parks!

IMG_0266
Wide-angle view of a portion of the 10% road into Palo Duro Canyon State Park, as shot from a pull-out on the road.

On Monday, we just relaxed at home and enjoyed a nice dinner at home with our son.  I definitely missed Mom joining us for this little family time, but we had a wonderful time together.  Hubby finally showed our son his pictures from his most recent trips to China and Europe, and we had a tasty dinner of spicy sausage and cabbage, which is quite possibly their favorite dish ever.  Son requested it, and Hubby prepared it.  My kind of meal!

I have so much to write about from our “grand canyons” adventure and also our week-long trip to Maui.  Unfortunately, I also have quite a bit to do right now at home, but I will eventually catch up on writing and sharing pictures here.  I’ve also committed to editing pictures for a friend and her hubby, who just returned from Kauai for their 40th wedding anniversary.  It is my little anniversary gift to them.

We don’t have any more vacations firmly planned at this time, but we will likely make a trip north somewhere over 4th of July week/weekend.  Hubby will be on the road for business more than usual over the next couple of months, and I hope to finally make some real progress on catching up on chores at home, in addition to writing and sharing photos of our most recent trips.  I have some great photos to share!

DAll Original Content
© fivefs.wordpress.com
All Rights Reserved

Holiday Survival Kit

I made a little gift to take to our yearly Christmas party with some dear friends on Sunday evening, and I wanted to share it here.  Blame it on Pinterest.

Holiday Survival Kit
Holiday Survival Kit

Here is the list of items that I included, and I also included a separate printout of the legend of the Candy Cane story.  I only buy Bob’s Candy Canes at Christmas, and I did not include any homemade treats, as these friends will soon receive one of my cookies platters, too.

Holiday Survival Kit Text
I made a kit for each of my special friends, and they both loved their little surprise, in addition to their “real” gift.  The total cost, including the gingerbread box, was less than $10, and I used clear snack sized bags to hold each of the items on the list.  If you want to include more items, there are several good ones listed online.  Just search for “holiday survival kit,” and you’ll see some of them.

One friend keeps her little grandchildren after school each day, and they are going to explore the items in order by taking an item out each day in the order listed.  I never even thought of that possibility, but what a cute idea that is.  The kit could certainly include a few more kid-friendly items for that purpose, too.

This was such a fun little project and took less than an hour to put together after purchasing the necessary items.  Let’s just say while it not definitely not diet friendly, it is a fun little gift to make and give! 😉

D Reindeer_smAll Original Content — © fivefs.wordpress.com — All Rights Reserved

Thankful for a Seagull

Today, I count my dear readers among my many blessings. There is so much to be thankful for that it leaves me almost speechless this morning. Today, I will once again start a new year of gratitude tracking, and if you have never done this, list at least three things each day that you are grateful for, I highly recommend giving it a try! With gratitude for your friendship today! – D

Animal Wonder

A lone seagull at Bolivar A lone seagull at Bolivar

On this wonderful Thanksgiving Day, most of us have turkeys in mind when we think of birds, not seagulls. So, what does this unassuming little seagull have to do with Thanksgiving?

There is a story that goes along with this gull sighting, and it is a story that I want to share here sometime. I will just say for now that I am thankful for this little bird that almost made me cry crocodile tears when I saw it a few years ago. This is far from my best bird photo, but it is one that is near and dear to my heart because of the circumstance where I saw this bird.

We will be enjoying another fabulous meal together with family at our home today, and I will most definitely give thanks for my many blessings once again. I wish you all a very…

View original post 47 more words