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?

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Cornbread, baked to perfection!
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The cornbread turns out to a plate with ease
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!  🙂

 

Creole Mirepoix

The start to so many great dishes!

I’m not sure I enjoy savoring anything more than the colorful look and the fragrant aroma of a nice Mirepoix (meer-PWAH).  My personal favorite is a creole variation with red bell pepper, and I also like equal parts celery and onion in mine.

Sautéing mirepoix is the first step in making our traditional Southern cornbread dressing, and I’m pleased to share these photos today as a part of the daily prompt, “aromatic.”  I only wish I could also share the actual aroma here, too.  Ahhhh!

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Even though we will be dining out with family and friends this Thanksgiving, I still had to make a pan of our traditional dressing because it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving to me without it, even if we enjoy it in the days after the holiday.

Dressing is not difficult to make, and over the past few years, I’ve convinced a few friends to ditch the store-bought dressings in favor of their own homemade versions, especially since most everything can be done ahead of time.  Tomorrow, I hope to share my recipe here, complete with step-by-step photos, but today, I will just enjoy the aroma of this fabulous mirepoix!

via Daily Prompt: Aromatic

 

A Fabulous Thanksgiving

We enjoyed a great traditional lunch with family at our home on Thanksgiving Day.  While I did not get a picture of everything we had to eat, here are a few quick photos that I managed to take amid the process of getting everything served.  Sadly, I did not get a picture of the new brussels sprouts recipe that I made, and it was most definitely a hit with everyone, too.  It also had fresh cranberries, pecans and feta cheese in it, and it was such a pretty dish, as well as a tasty one.

Recipe for Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts
(To make it a bit more diet compliant for me, I omitted the barley and used sugar-free maple syrup.  I used feta cheese crumbles since I already had it on hand.  It came together in a skillet nicely right before we were ready to eat lunch, and this will likely be a regular holiday dish for us now.)

We also had mac and cheese and hot rolls, of course.  I’m glad that my family was just fine to skip any kind of green bean casserole this year.  It seems that we have all grown a bit tired of that particular dish, at least for now, and it’s just no fun to prepare a dish that really doesn’t even sound good.

Thanksgiving Turkey - Alton Brown Recipe
Thanksgiving Turkey – Alton Brown Recipe
Cornbread Dressing Ingredients
Cornbread Dressing Ingredients – I did not get a picture of it after it cooked, but it was so good!
Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes
Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes – yum!
Pea Salad - Marinated
Pea Salad – Marinated – used fall colors in the peppers
Salted Caramel Fudge
Salted Caramel Fudge – a new twist on my fudge recipe
Lemon Chess Pie
Lemon Chess Pie – “ta die fer” – extra lemon, of course!
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie – a must have pie at Thanksgiving

We took off in the RV once again this year after our big Thanksgiving lunch for a nice, long weekend away, carrying most of the leftovers from lunch with us.  After some brutal winter weather only a few days earlier, we had absolutely gorgeous weather for our quick trip, even though it was a little bit windy at times.  A little wind seldom stops us these days, though, and we had a great outing once again this Thanksgiving weekend, instead of opting to stay home and fight the crowds in town for Black Friday weekend shopping.  I am just so done with that now.  I also got to see a friend from high school while we were in the Abilene area that I have not seen since 1976, and that was quite a treat for me indeed.  She is as sweet as ever, too.

This was our first trip to Abilene State Park in the month of November, so it was interesting to compare this trip to past trips there in different months.  The park is actually located near the tiny community of Buffalo Gap but is still only fifteen minutes from the main retail area in Abilene.  I still have not written a post about this nice park yet and need to do so sometime.  We have now been in each of the seasons except summer, and I honestly do not think we will try to go in those very hot months either.  We are quite happy to visit there in the cooler months, even though we ran our air conditioners in the RV on two afternoons on this trip.  Almost every weekend is often booked at this park in the large trailer sites, and winter is definitely the least crowded time for this park.

I also completed the NaBloPoMo blogging challenge on Sunday, having posted every day in the month of November at my new site at Animal Wonder.  If you haven’t yet taken a peek there, I hope you will do so soon.  It is an ongoing project and one that I really enjoyed working on in November.  Many of the photos I shared over the past month are among my favorite bird photos, even though I still have many more favorites to share, too.  I’m excited to continue working on even more animal posts going forward, not just limited to birds that I focused on during the past month.

And speaking of birds, there is some big news right now in birding circles (picture at that site) that is based in my area.  A very rare bird, a Eurasian Common Crane, has recently been spotted among the many Sandhill Cranes at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.  After the news broke a few days ago, I followed their page on Facebook and have been following updates on the rare Eurasian Common Cranes that have been spotted there.  These rare birds have created quite a “circus” at the refuge, according to the people posting the Facebook updates, and people are traveling from as far away as California to see these birds.  So far, I think two Eurasian Cranes have been spotted.  I would love to drive over there soon to see if I could see them, but I’m not sure our crazy December schedule will permit me to do so.  We’ll see.  How I would love to personally take a photograph of this rare bird that is most typically not even seen on this continent!  Birding in our area may be better than normal this year, thanks to some nice fall rains that have left many playa lakes with some much-needed water.

Wikipedia – Eurasian Common Crane

E-Bird Common Crane Sightings (Range Map)

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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…

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Thanksgiving Lunch Lists

This is the week to make the lists and check them twice – the Thanksgiving lunch list and the grocery shopping list to go with it.  I recently discovered the free Keep app, and it has been such a blessing to keep all of my food lists on it.  The lists sync automatically on my phone, my tablet and my laptop, and I am loving it.  Sometimes technology is a truly great thing to help out with the little things.

Thanksgiving Lunch List
Our Thanksgiving meal lineup this year!

While I normally purchase most of our groceries at the club store these days, I will no doubt purchase some things at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving, too.  The Thanksgiving week sale ad just came out, so it is time to look over the shopping list one last time and schedule a trip to the grocery store at a time that is not as crowded.  I’ve stood in too many ridiculously long lines at the grocery store on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sometimes to just purchase one item that I forgot on a previous trip.  I’m so done with that nonsense now, if at all possible, and working carefully on the shopping list in advance has helped to prevent such unneeded stress.

I intentionally planned leftovers from lunch for our camping trip and to send home with others for a second meal.  While the lineup is not low-carb by any stretch, I will try to only partake of very small portions of the items that are not “legal” for me.  I’m still not ready to risk sabotaging my diet too much at this point, after working so hard to lose the weight this past year.

So far this week, I’ve finalized the lunch list, and I am finalizing the shopping list.  I’ve also made good progress on house cleaning, as there will be little time for that next week as I prepare our meal and get things ready to leave in the RV later on Thanksgiving Day.  I also made the pie crusts and put them in the freezer.  I used Pioneer Woman’s “Perfect Pie Crust” recipe this time because it is easy to make, makes two at once, tastes great and freezes quite well.  Making traditional pie crusts is not one of my best talents, to be sure, and this recipe is a very simple one.  It can also be found in her holiday cookbook, too.

With both Thanksgiving and our next RV trip coming right up, things are going to be pretty hectic here until early December.  We also have both movie and play tickets that I am excited about, as well as an evening out with two of my best friends.  I will continue to post over at Animal Wonder for the rest of this month to meet the blogging goal there, but I doubt that I will be back here to post until after our trip, unless I somehow get ahead of schedule.  I hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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