Birthday Recap + RECIPE: Cornbread Stuffing with Delicata Squash & Brussels Sprouts

Alright, now that we’ve gotten all those post-election feelings out of the way, let’s get to the happy November things like birthdays and that one holiday that’s coming up in a hurry that happens to be all about food.

Let’s start with my birthday because I love my birthday and you all deserve to share in some pure joy right about now.

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The day started just like any other day. It began with a new favorite morning ritual that involves heading straight from my bed to my couch, wrapping myself in a fuzzy blanket, grabbing a cup of coffee and whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment, and not moving until the cup of coffee is done. I’ve rushed through my mornings for far too long (I think four years to be exact-whenever we started this crazy whirlwind of a farming life) and I’ve forgotten to take time for myself in these early morning hours. After listening to a podcast with Anne Marie Slaughter (a total #girlboss power dynamo) where she shared her morning ritual of starting each day with a lingering cup of coffee and a good book, I knew exactly what I needed in my life. More books. More slow mornings. More building 15 minutes of pure indulgent me time into my day.

So that’s how I began my birthday. Except that this particular day was all about personal indulgence so of course I had not one but three lingering cups of coffee and read a hundred pages of The Cursed Child before my husband dragged me off the couch for a dog walk. We meandered through our adorable city park, taking in the lake views while I caught my Carrot up on the lives of Harry’s children before suddenly realizing how starving we were. We walked on home. I jumped into my all-time favorite outfit that involves stripes, well worn jeans and the largest scarf I own (only to realize it was a strange 70-degree November day).

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Breakfast at Lazy Jane’s led to a whole lot more lingering. I rattled on nostalgically about our early romantic days in Madison and the restaurant’s quirky decor. We read through travel books while we waited for our food (because oh did I forget to mention that we are going to Iceland AND Portugal in 8 weeks!!!!!!!) and then filled our hungry bellies with four plates of food. Then there was more resting and digesting and reading of travel books before a quick jaunt across the street to St. Vincent de Paul where we almost bought a $200 hutch that I planned to convert into the world’s most beautiful bookshelf and did buy six Christmas village decorations.

Next came hiking on two different segments of the Ice Age Trail, an impromptu shopping trip where I successfully spent all my birthday money in one fell swoop (thanks Anthropologie sale room!) and one of the most fun meals of my life at Merchant. We stuffed ourselves full of meats, cheeses, honey, mustard and so many pickled vegetables. The waitstaff recognized us as local farmers and spoiled us rotten. There was (as usual) way too much food,  a free birthday cake and the cutest waitress with pigtails. Tummies once again excessively full and legs tired from all the hiking, we headed home by nine like the homebodies we are. I immediately collapsed on the couch, unable to keep my eyes open even for my beloved Gilmore Girls.

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It was (obviously) the most perfect day. As every birthday should be. But then I awoke on Sunday morning, hungover with blissed out birthday happiness only to realize that in my post-election haze followed shortly thereafter by birthday obsession that Thanksgiving was coming and I was not in any way prepared.

I texted my mother-in-law. She approved my bringing of three different vegetables dishes plus pickled beets and cranberry sauce. I set to work thumbing through all three of the new cookbooks my Carrot got me for my birthday seeking inspiration from the less than usual suspects.

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The recipe testing commenced and my kitchen became a bustling place of squash and cauliflower, cornbread and brown butter. There were a lot of victories and not a lot of losses, so for you my friends, there will be three recipes leading up to Thanksgiving so you can make all your own last minute Thanksgiving dreams come true.

We’ll begin with stuffing! Cornbread stuffing with delicata squash and brussels sprouts to be specific. Stuffing is the best part of the whole meal in my opinion. This particular stuffing has pretty much every fall thing I love in it. There is texture from not one or two but four different vegetables, sweetness from the maple syrup and so much Thanksgiving feel in every bite thanks largely to the sage and slowly cooked onion. It’s almost like savory bread pudding meets stuffing. It’s totally divine. Happy finally-feels-like-fall weekend!

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All my love on this blustery, stay-in-your-kitchen-kind-of Satruday,
Leek

P.S. You try taking an attractive photo of stuffing! Not easy.

CORNBREAD STUFFING WITH DELICATA SQUASH & BRUSSELS SPROUTS 
Good stuffing takes a while. There is really nothing you can do about it. The most time intensive part of this recipe comes after you pour everything together and get it roasting in the oven. I stirred my stuffing every 15 minutes to get an even browning, but if you want to run away from the kitchen for the 90 minutes it takes to roast, I’d tack on an extra 30 minutes and just expect the edges and bottom to be a little more browned than the center. Both methods will taste delicious.

Serves 6-8
Takes 2 hours, 30 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups halved Brussels sprouts (quartered if large)
1 large delicata squash, seeded and diced (about 3 cups diced)
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Large pinch red pepper flakes
2 eggs
2 cups whole milk
6 cups dried cornbread cubes* (see note below)

*For the cornbread you can use leftover stuff that you froze from an earlier meal or make it from scratch. No need to get fancy. Jiffy mix or something equally simple works best in my opinion. You can also use store-bought. Regardless of what you decide to use, make sure you cut it into crouton-size pieces the day before you plan to make the stuffing and leave them out on a single layer on a couple baking sheets. You want the cornbread to really dry out. It will still break up a bit when you add the liquid, but don’t distress!

  1. In a large cast-iron skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add onion along with salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes more.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil at this time if the pan appears to be getting dry. Add brussels sprouts, delicata squash and sage to pan along with remaining salt and pepper. Bring back up to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Add wine to pan and reduce until liquid is gone. It will probably be simmering pretty aggressively. Turn down to medium low if there is too much splatter. Add 1 cup of chicken broth and continue to simmer and reduce. This will help make the veggies more tender and flavorful. You want to keep simmering for 5-10 minutes until the liquid is mostly reduced. Add maple syrup and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. It may be a little salty, but that’s alright. You won’t be adding salt to egg mixture.
  5. In a large bowl, combine remaining chicken broth, eggs and milk. Whisk until smooth.
  6. In the a large, deep baking dish (9 x 11-inch recommended), combine cornbread cubes and cooked veggies. Evenly pour egg mixture over cornbread vegetable mixture. Stir gently with a spatula to just combine. The cornbread pieces may fall apart. It may look like a big sloppy wet mess. Okay, it definitely will. Don’t stress. Let the oven work it’s magic!
  7. Bake for 90 minutes, stirring with a spatula every 15 minutes for more even baking and moisture. The cornbread is really going to crumble and breakdown. This is largely due to the amount of mixture which (trust me) will make the flavor totally worth it.
  8. Serve warm with all the turkey and mashed potatoes you can get your hands on! Absolutely delicious reheated in the oven if you need to make it a day or two ahead of time.

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