The Thanksgiving Stuffing Story

by Jonathan on 16 November 2017

Hi all. So it’s a rare entry (these days) from Jonathan tonight! Our family has been “team cooking” for holidays for the past several years. There used to be time and people enough to get everything done in one place, but as the years went on, that became more and more difficult. My Mom had become the coordinator and main cook for the big family holidays, and it was just getting to be too much, so we all started to volunteer to handle a dish or at least prep for a dish. Jenny and I started to host Wigilia (Christmas Eve dinner) several years ago, and Marissa and Jack began to host Thanksgiving pretty recently. Well, we’re getting close to Thanksgiving time, and my Dad is making the stuffing this year. He couldn’t find the recipe at home, so he asked the Family Hive Mind (a.k.a. the giant group text message where we all share our daily happenings) if anyone had the family recipe. I didn’t think I did, but a quick search of my email proved me wrong, and also reminded me of a fun family story that I had forgotten.

I had asked my Mom for the recipe back in 2010, when Jenny and I were going to be spending Thanksgiving with her family at the cottage at Shawnee State Park. She sent the recipe, along with this gem of a story from our family’s past:

“This was your Great-grandmother Portka’s recipe (Dziadzia’s mother).  Your Great-grandmother Pilat [my Babcia’s mother -jdw] made a different kind of stuffing but she liked Babcia Portka’s stuffing, too.  After your Dziadzia and Babcia got married, she told Babcia to make Dziadzia’s mother’s stuffing because it was the one Dziadzia liked and it was the one to which he was accustomed.  It has been the family stuffing ever since.”

As I’m sure happened (and continues to happen) in families all over the world, this particular family recipe prevailed over the other options when families were joined. A lot of our family recipes have similar stories, I’m sure (I know our pierogi recipe has a similar story). Maybe you are reading this and don’t have a family recipe for stuffing? Well, you’re in luck: I’m going to share ours, and hope that maybe some people will dump the box this year and start your own “family recipe” tradition for a staple side dish.

Note: This recipe is completely meatless and does not use any eggs, so it is a great candidate to prepare ahead of time and refrigerate or even freeze, then thaw and bake when ready. This recipe will make a quantity sufficient to fill a foil half-roaster (like those used in steam tables). For reference, we make TWO of these for Thanksgiving, so as to make sure there are leftovers available. 🙂 Also note that all of the asides and comments here are from my Mom. This is exactly the recipe she gave me, and I am leaving the comments as-is for posterity. Cook’s tip: After sauteeing the vegetables, it is a good idea to use one slice of bread as a taste test. Spread it with some sour cream and top with some of the vegetable mixture. This taste test will ensure a good product. 🙂


Woytek Family Stuffing

To fill one of those small aluminum foil roaster inserts for the buffet server:

  • 2 loaves of regular, sliced white bread (like the store brand from Giant Eagle, or Stroehmans, etc.)
  • 1 stick of butter or margarine
  • A little less than half of a full stalk of celery, chopped (I’m not talking one rib, or stick, but the stalk)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped (or shredded)
  • 2 – 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 envelope George Washington instant broth (gold) – I buy this in the instant bouillon section at Community Market.  It is meatless so it works for Babcia
  • 1 bunch of parsley, leafy tops, chopped
  • 1 can of condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1 can of condensed cream of onion soup

Cube the bread, heels included, and place the cubes in a bowl or pot that will be big enough for mixing.  Melt the butter in a big frying pan and sauté the chopped onions, celery and carrots.  When the veggies are soft, stir in the chopped parsley and the George Washington mix.  I don’t add any more liquid to this mixture because, between the melted butter and the veggies, it will be pretty wet.

Add the veggies and their cooking liquid to the bread cubes, along with the undiluted cream soups.  Mix thoroughly.  The stuffing will reduce in volume as the liquid is absorbed.  Grease a small roaster or large casserole and lightly pack the stuffing into it.  Cover with greased foil.

At this point, you can bake the stuffing right away or refrigerate it overnight.  For longer storage, you may freeze it but be sure to let it begin to thaw before baking because it will take a long time to heat through otherwise.

Bake the stuffing on a middle rack of the oven at 350° for about an hour, or until heated through.  I usually test it in a very unscientific way by inserting a butter knife into the center of the stuffing and (very carefully) feeling the blade of the knife.  It should be REALLY hot.  You may also check the temperature with a thermometer stuck into the center of the stuffing.  A reading of 160° will ensure a safe product.


Dance With Me On the Dark Side

by Jenny on 10 November 2017






Hi, I’m back!


I have to recommend two more podcasts that I liked so much that I listened to them multiple times.

I downloaded both of these from iTunes, but I’m linking here to each podcast’s actual website.

Here’s the first: Tales of Terror Vol. 8 from “The Dirtbag Diaries. “

“The Dirtbag Diaries” is podcast about real life outdoor adventures. Every year for Halloween, they do a scary story episode. These Halloween stories are all still outdoor adventures. However, in each of the Halloween stories, the narrator ends up terrified in the course of said adventure. This year’s Halloween episode – Vol. 8 – is much better than last year’s episode.

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 includes five stories. The very first story takes place in Western Pennsylvania! This first story is about a ghost town (Livermore) on the banks of the Conemaugh River – and its cemetery.  This story also refers to the Johnstown Flood and an urban legend about a witch, as well as a trigger happy old man.

The other four stories in Tales of Terror Vol. 8 are also fun to hear.

Here’s the second one that I want to mention: The Game Night episode of “The Truth” podcast. This episode is made up of several short, very dark comedy sketches, each one based on a party game. (One of the comedy sketches features a violent clown.)



“Do You Like My Little Lie?”

by Jenny 16 October 2017 Podcasts

Here is a podcast episode that I listened to yesterday during the storm. The story haunted me all night. The story is “Do You Like My Little Lie?” from the podcast “Strangers,” which is from KCRW. I found it by searching on iTunes through the list of Radiotopia podcasts. To be clear, this is a […]

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“Kinnikinnick Nick VS The Bear”

by Jenny 11 October 2017 Outdoors

  Bears. I think of a few family members when I think of bears.  Some of them loved bears, and some just remind me of bears. Today at lunch, I listed to a podcast from KCRW’s “Here Be Monsters” and I enjoyed it so much that I had to blog about it. You really, really […]

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Pre-Halloween Horrors

by Jenny 21 September 2017 Podcasts

  A few weeks into my junior year of college, one of my classmates, “Gwen,” passed away alone in her dorm room. Natural causes, from a longtime medical condition. On the same floor where I also lived. Our R.A., “Nan,” found Gwen during a welfare check after Gwen’s closest friends hadn’t seen her for a […]

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by Jenny 13 September 2017 History

  Jonathan gave me his camera last night. He came into the possession of his own new-to-him camera.  So, Jonathan and I both have “new” cameras. I hope that the rain holds off this coming Saturday, because I intend to try out my own “new” camera at the New Kensington Corridor of Innovation Art & […]

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

by Jenny 12 September 2017 New Kensington

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Hurricane Podcast Recommendation

by Jenny 3 September 2017 History

  Since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are current events, I wanted to recommend a podcast episode that I really enjoyed this summer. I’m talking about the podcast “Undiscovered,” by Science Friday, and this particualar 30 minute episode: Kurt Vonnegut and the Rainmakers. The novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s older brother, Dr. Bernard Vonnegut, was a famous atmospheric […]

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Tecumseh and the Prophet . . . and the Eclipse

by Jenny 23 August 2017 History

  Did you know that a solar eclipse darkened the Ohio and Pennsylvania sky in June 1806? (The path of totality ran through the Pittsburgh region!) This eclipse is an important character in one of my favorite stories about the early 1800’s. During these years, the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh allied Native American tribes against the […]

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I Didn’t Ask About the Serial Killer (But I Wanted To)

by Jenny 1 July 2017 History

  When Jonathan and I visited Chicago in June, I took a boat tour through the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). Several groups provide architecture boat tours in Chicago. I found no large difference in the ticket prices. I googled the reviews for 3 of these operators, and they all had high marks. To be honest, […]

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