I don’t know about you, but my alarm went off way too soon this morning after a work dinner at Arturo’s last night (side note: it was deeeelicious!).

While mashed potatoes really have my heart for Thanksgiving, I do have a special love for stuffing - and all side dishes for that matter. And for my pre-Thanksgiving Dinner last weekend, it was my favorite dish on the table. Well, that and the gravy (oooooh the gravy). Part of my love for stuffing is that this is really the only time of the year when it’s eaten. It would never occur to me to eat stuffing in the spring or summer. No, only the Thanksgiving season will suffice. Not to mention that everything about stuffing just screams Thanksgiving. The moist yet toasted bread, the bits of celery (and in this case, apples), and the poultry seasoning all come together to make one delightful combination of stuffing yumminess. And don’t even get me started on the fragrance that permeates the kitchen while it’s cooking. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is.

I changed it up a bit this year. While last year I made a giant batch of Paula Deen’s Country Stuffing, to try out something new and give all of you another stuffing option, I turned to my lady Ina Garten. Since everything she makes is done oh-so-deliciously, I felt confident that with a couple of my own alterations this stuffing would be tops. And it was.

With a base of soft white bread, onions and celery, this recipe also included chopped apples. Though I’m typically always a fan of apples - and any sweet & savory combination for that matter - I was a bit skeptical about this addition since at heart I’m a traditionalist (shocked?). I didn’t ever recal having apples in stuffing, but oh how happy I am that I gave it a try. I also traded traditional sausage for turkey breakfast sausage. The breakfast-style sausage is key here since it gave just the right amount of flavor without being overpoweringly sausagey. Follow me?

 Sausage & Herb Stuffing
*Adapted from Ina Garten
1 ½ loaves white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 stick unsalted butter
2 onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and diced
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb breakfast sausage, casings removed (I used turkey sausage)
1 ½ C chicken stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, cut up the bread into cubes and place on a sheet pan. Cook in oven for 7 minutes until bread just starts to harden. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add onions, celery, apple, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until the veggies are soft and your entire kitchen is flooded with the delightful aroma of Thanksgiving yumminess. Don't be afraid to get right in there and waft that aroma into your face...Shaun and I may have done this multiple times during the process...

Pour over the bread cubes and mix. In the same pan, cook the sausage. Remove the sausage from their casings and saute until browned, breaking up the pieces as it cooks. Add to the bread mixture.

Next, add some chicken broth. While the original recipe only called for a cup, I used about a cup and a half since it seemed to be a bit dry (not to mention that you bake it off in the oven, so I was very weary of not letting it dry out while also not becoming too soggy - use your judgement here!). Place in a baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes. Serve with gravy and be prepared to be smitten with this unbelievably savory and easy stuffing!

Doesn't it look like the ultimate stuffing? Fluffy bread, poultry seasoning, tart apples...mmmm I'm dreaming about this as we speak and hoping that there's still some left for a little dinner appetizer tonight! So what do you think? Are you a stuffing fan? And bonus question: What's your favorite side dish on the big day?

Psst...for more Thanksgiving ideas, check out our Recipes page under the Thanksgiving header!