Before the first daffodils there comes a kind of non-season when menus are likely to suffer from monotony. A change is welcome at the dinner table, but it should be one that taxes neither time nor budget.
Consider an old friend, the stuffing, usually thought of in connection with turkey and prepared in some households only at holiday time. It is capable of giving favorite foods a new personality year-round.
A wide range of foods benefit from this tasty addition. The list includes fish, chicken, duckling, pork, Cornish hen, flank steak, and vegetables such as cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, and celery.
Stuffings are like leftovers. You can work wonders with just about any group of ingredients as long as you taste along the way, but in most cases, a little guidance is a big help.
Apples and pork sausage, always compatible, are the principal ingredients in an all-purpose stuffing that is especially good with roast pork, thick pork chops with pockets, or roast Cornish hens. Apple Sausage Stuffing 1/2 pound ground pork sausage 1 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped celery 3 cups chopped apples 8 cups white-bread cubes, about 3/4-inch 1/4 cup chopped parsley 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rubbed sage 1/4 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed Chicken or turkey broth
In a large skillet, brown sausage. Drain and reserve drippings. Set sausage aside. Add onion and celery to drippings in skillet and saute lightly. Stir in sausage, apples, bread cubes, parsley and seasonings. Toss thoroughly. Stir in just enough broth to moisten stuffing, about 1 1/3 cups.
Turn stuffing into greased 2-quart casserole. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour. For moist stuffing, cover before baking.
If preparing stuffing in a food processor, when chopping onion, celery, and apple, reduce liquid to about 1/3 cup and decrease baking time in casserole to 30 minutes. Makes about 7 cups.
The next two stuffings add flavor to chicken and other poultry. The recipe for apple stuffing includes an orange, which adds a fresh citrus taste. The oyster stuffing is a favorite in many parts of the country. Apple Bread Stuffing 3 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/4 cup chopped fresh onion 1/2 cup chopped celery 2 tablespoons chopped nuts 2 cups chopped, pared cooking apples 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon dried sage leaf 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon sugar 1 orange, sectioned (save juice) 1 cup toasted bread cubes
In medium skillet, melt butter or margarine and add onion and celery; cook until tender. Add nuts, apples, salt, sage, cinnamon, and sugar. Continue cooking until apples can be pierced with a fork but are not soft, about 10 minutes.
Combine orange sections and juice with bread cubes and add to apple mixture. Makes enough stuffing for a 3- to 5-pound chicken. Oyster Stuffing 1/2 pint shucked oysters with liquid 1/2 cup butter or margarine 3/4 cup chopped celery 1/4 cup chopped onion
6 cups white-bread cubes, about 1/4 inch
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Drain oysters, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Coarsely chop oysters and set aside. In large saucepan, place butter or margarine and heat to medium temperature. Add celery, onion, chopped oysters, and liquid. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Stir in bread cubes, parsley, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.
Use as stuffing for poultry, or bake separately and use as a side dish. Makes about 6 cups.
Stuffed vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, offer a change of pace at the dinner table. These stuffed green peppers are cooked on the top of the stove , and their savory aroma awakens appetites. Stuffed Peppers 6 to 8 large green peppers 1 pound ground beef 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon each pepper and thyme 1/3 cup chopped Brazil nuts 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1 tablespoon minced onion 1/2 cup evaporated milk 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs 1 egg 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce 1/2 teaspoon basil
Cut crosswise slice from stem end of peppers and discard. Remove seeds from peppers. Sprinkle beef with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add remaining ingredients, except tomato sauce and basil. Toss gently with fork to blend. Stuff mixture into peppers. Place close together in deep saucepan.
Combine tomato sauce, basil, and 1/2 cup water; blend. Pour over stuffed peppers. Place over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Cover with tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat and simmer until peppers are crisp but tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.