Oh the Stuffing

Everyone loves the Thanksgiving meal. Even if turkey is not your favorite main dish, the trimmings give you plenty of goodies to choose from and lots of chances to be creative. There are dozens of ways you can use cranberries, sweet potatoes, and green beans to vary the feast from year to year. And if you're talented and/or ambitious, finding new recipes for old favorites can be fun for the whole family.

But when you want to keep the work to a minimum, it's best to keep it simple. Here's an easy sausage stuffing recipe we think you'll like. Since it's made in a baking dish rather than inside the turkey, you can do it in advance and reheat it on the big day. You can also use this with other main courses like chicken or pork at other times of the year.

You'll need:
• One pound mild or breakfast sausage. (Hint: We recommend San Luis Pork Apple Sausage for a hint of sweetness or Chicken Italian which has savory spices.)
• 1/2 cup butter (4 ounces)
• 2 cups of chopped onion
• 1-1/2 to 2 cups chopped celery
• 10 cups cubed white bread
• 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or one teaspoon of dried sage, crumbled
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Dash of fresh ground black pepper
• 1-1/2 to 1/-3/4 cups chicken broth

• Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
• Thoroughly sauté the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up and stirring until fully cooked. Drain on paper towels.
• Wipe out the skillet and melt butter, adding onion and celery. Cook, stirring until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes.
• Separately, in a large mixing bowl, toss the bread with the herbs and seasonings. Add the drained sausage and vegetables with butter.
• Mix in the broth and stir until the ingredients are moist.
• Put the mixture into the baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for about 25 minutes.
• Remove the foil and broil for another 3-4 minutes until nicely browned on top.

The sausage makes this very simple recipe more flavorful. We hope you'll give it a try and let us know how you liked it. And while you're enjoying the meal, look around your table and remember to be thankful for the people you love and the blessings in your life.

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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El NiƱo is Coming!


150813141018 el nino july 2015 large 169That's what weather predictors tell us. But what is El Niño and what does it hold in store for us?

El Niño is a climate cycle of warming surface water that occurs in the Pacific Ocean every two to seven years. We won't burden you with the scientific details except to say that it impacts our weather – typically bringing lots of rain.

We in California expect to see strong effects this winter. El Niño may sound like good news, considering the drought we've been experiencing. But before you start celebrating, remember that frequent downpours also can bring floods, mudslides, damage to homes, and other sorts of havoc. Here are a few things you can do to minimize the negatives while hoping our reservoirs fill up.

Around Your Home:
• Clear gutters of debris so that the water can flow.
• Stock up on sandbags. If storm drains become flooded, stores may run out just when you need them.
• Have waterproof tarps on hand for roof leaks.
• Seal household chemicals securely. You don't want them getting into the water and ending up in the ocean.
• If you have green moss on the pavement around your home, clean it away. Moss becomes slippery in the rain and can cause falls and injuries.

On the Road:
• It's always more hazardous driving in the rain, so stay alert to road conditions.
• Make sure tires have plenty of tread.
• Slow down. In the rain, freeways may become slick with oil. The faster you drive, the more likely you'll experience hydroplaning.
• Make sure windshield wipers are in good working order.
• Keep tires at the correct pressure. In wet weather, the wrong pressure can decrease the amount of contact between tires and the pavement.

Common Sense:

• If you get caught in a sudden storm with flash flooding, get to higher ground.
• Avoid rushing water. Don't try to wade through. Even six inches of water can knock you off your feet.
• Never let children to play around high water, storm drains, or flowing streams.
• Stay away from downed power lines. Water conducts electricity. Electrocution is a common cause of death in floods.
• Help your neighbors. Older people and those with disabilities may need assistance.

El Niño may be in the forecast, but with a little preparation and awareness, we'll all be able to keep our heads above water.

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As Shakespeare wrote, “A roast by any other name...” Well, he didn't exactly say it that way, but he could have.

They call them leftovers. Such an unattractive name! The word makes it sound like we're talking about food that's been hanging around in the fridge and is just being slapped on the plate for the purpose of avoiding waste. What an injustice, when leftovers (or as we'd rather call them, Encore Performances) can often be tastier than the original meal. Our philosophy is this: if you loved it last night, you're gonna love it even better tonight!

Think of it as Act II of a good play or a return engagement of a favorite performer. The reason is this: dishes can gain flavor when ingredients have more time to marry. There's another reason to love leftovers – less work! If you make enough for two or three meals at once, you don't have to cook as often. It's a no-brainer.

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your cooking time takes care of a few days worth of eating is to make extra meat.
• Roast or barbecue twice as many chicken breasts as your family will eat for dinner. The cold meat is perfect in sandwiches, soups, or salads.
• Cook a large pork tenderloin and use some of it the following day for burritos and enchiladas.
• Day two of a beef roast like Tri Tip is delicious on salads or in tacos.

When you have enough meat to create a new main dish, all you have to do is put together a simple salad or cook up some vegetables and there you have it... an inviting meal in minutes.

Certain foods particularly lend themselves to improving overnight in the fridge. Pasta dishes with sauce and all varieties of chili are typical examples. When you have the ambition and time to cook, or when expensive meats are on sale, make enough for three or more meals. Most dishes can also be frozen in individual portions. If you want variety instead of having the same protein two or three nights in a row, you'll be able to choose something different from the freezer. What could be easier?

So raise the banners and sing a song of praise for leftovers... the gift that keeps on giving (if you're a smart cook-ie).

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