STUFF IT. Really?

When I was vegan, I made it a goal to come up with a stuffing for both Thanksgiving as well as for Christmas that would fit the bill. It had to be savory and delicious but not contain the traditional ingredients that wouldn’t suit my eating habits at the time. No pork sausage, no broth, you get the idea.

I came up with using a combination of mushrooms to provide some umami and yes, you guessed it; it was served with some of the awful Tofurky and other vegan versions of items that might grace a holiday table.

Years later, I experimented with a gluten free approach. By then, I was following more of a zone-type regime, so cornmeal-sausage stuffing was in order for a period of time and while it worked insomuch as it tasted the way one would expect, it was still stuffing.

It still resulted in filling people up too much.
Granted, a person can choose how much to put on their plate and subsequently in their mouth, but let’s think about stuffing from a very basic standpoint.

Forget, for a moment, whether you’re vegan or Paleo or gluten-free or a foodie and answer this question: why would you want to stuff yourself?

How did we get started on this stuffing trip anyway?

According to the History Channel’s website[1], whether the Pilgrims actually served stuffing at their original harvest feast is unknown, but given the abundance of both wild game and rice, it’s likely that the first Thanksgiving dinner featured some kind of bird with a wild rice dish alongside it. New Englanders continued to take cues from their environment when it came to stuffing, and chestnuts became a popular addition. Boston cookbooks gave recipes for oyster-based stuffings, with and without breadcrumbs. In other areas, people used up mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, creating filling. And one more variety, ‘filling’ is made of mashed potatoes and stale bread, along with plenty of butter, to create a dish often served as a casserole alongside the bird.

To this day, Northerners call it “stuffing,” Southerners eat “dressing” and a few Pennsylvanians enjoy “filling” on their Turkey Day tables.

So it’s been around for a long time!

But I feel it still begs the same question: why do we purposely want to stuff ourselves with potato or rice or bread?

Grains and starches can fill you up; no one’s arguing about that.

And often, people will state convenience as their primary reason for grabbing an oat-based, packaged energy bar on the go or picking up a quickly eaten sandwich for a fast lunch at work.

But specifically for the Thanksgiving meal, when the feast tends to be just that- a feast- with many dishes in addition to the main course are offered, why would we intentionally want to add one that fills us up so much?

Why not keep the flavor profile- the mirepoix, the sage, the chestnut and so on, but instead of adding day old bread or cornmeal or whatever starch may be in the cards, how about keeping it all veg?

Throw in any and all varieties of local mushrooms from the farmer’s market. Or mix it up with a variety of shredded leafy greens. Or simply serve it as a ‘veggie topping’ in lieu of a flour based gravy or pan jus?

Finding a lighter way to offer all those seasonal flavor favorites without the heavy, ‘stuffed’ feeling that inevitably occurs from eating stuffing is just one way to make the meal healthier and more enjoyable!

Here’s my recipe for my mushroom version, which was published as a sneak peek from my first book, which I wrote with none other than Dr. Cordain, the Paleo Diet Cookbook.

Don’t forget to make your Thanksgiving Day dining and cooking questions known so I can make blog topics out of them.

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[1] “Stuffing, Dressing and Filling: Thanksgiving Across America.” A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.