Bravery Beyond Belief (featuring Sausage and Sage Stuffing with Maple Cornbread)

Meals and I sat on the couch focused on the television.  Well, I should clarify; I was stuck in the tractor beam of wildfire coverage on CNN, Meals was chewing on her feet.

Get up, Alison.  Go do something else.  This isn’t helping you.

But I couldn’t.

The extent of the tragedy was so far beyond my comprehension that I felt addicted to the news feed, as though I could force myself to have an epiphany if I could make sense out of a natural disaster.  Depression finds me easily on a light news day, so it pulled up a chair and made itself at home the second I turned on the television.

Meals started to get off the couch.

“No, my love, don’t get down. I need you close.”

Meals by Sharon Alagna

She squirmed as I held her next to me.  I watched people in melting cars drive away from their burning homes into flames, praying to make it out alive.  Would we know what to do in that situation?  Amelia is afraid of everything from vacuums to cardboard boxes, Grace is brave but impossible to wrangle. While it’s beyond my capacity to imagine that horror, it’s all I can think of some days.


I am amazed by the human spirit.  I am astonished by the heroism of every person and animal in and around those hundreds of thousands of acres that have burned.  I am in awe of you.  And the firefighters?  How can we even begin to repay you for your courage?  I don’t know, but I will try.

Maybe for the first time ever, I can embrace this time of year with honest thanks and compassion.  We need to stick together.  Our metamorphosing planet needs us to.  Please follow the links at the bottom of this blog to donate to nonprofits helping California right now.

And, just in case you find yourself in need of a stuffing recipe next week, here’s my favorite:

Thank you and happy Thanksgiving to you and all your loved ones.  Hold em close… even if they’re squirmy!

Sausage and Sage Stuffing with Maple Cornbread


Maple Cornbread

Makes 6 servings or enough for the stuffing below

Make it one day before you make the stuffing.

  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 9x9x2-inch baking pan.
  2. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in food processor; pulse for 5 seconds. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and maple syrup in large bowl. Add cornmeal mixture; stir just until evenly moistened (do not over-blend). Transfer to prepared pan.
  4. Bake bread 45 minutes or until golden and cracked on top. Cool bread in pan on rack, loosely cover, and leave on counter until the following day.

Sausage and Sage Stuffing

Makes 8 Thanksgiving-size (generous) servings

  • 1 1/2 pounds breakfast-style bulk sausage (I like to mix it up with 1 pound sweet Italian or breakfast sausage and 1/2 pound maple breakfast sausage)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3 large celery stalks, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2-3 apples, depending on their size (I like to do one sweet and one tart apple), peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces making about 2 1/2 cups chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 5 cups cubed day-old cornbread (recipe above)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and then add the sausage.  Saute, breaking the sausage up with back of fork, for about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl, but leave the rendered fat in the pan.  Add the butter and melt on medium heat until bubbling subsides.
  3. Add onions and celery stalks, sprinkling with a pinch of salt, and saute until very tender and translucent over medium heat, about 15 minutes.  Add apples and saute another 10 minutes.  Add celery leaves and stir 30 seconds to wilt. Add mixture into the bowl with the sausage. Stir the cubed corn bread into sausage mixture. Whisk eggs with the chicken broth, herbs and spices in another bowl, and then combine with corn bread and sausage.
  4. Generously butter a large casserole or baking dish and fill with the stuffing.  Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.
  5. Uncover and bake until top is slightly crisp and golden, about 20 minutes longer.

And here’s me making this stuffing on KATU’s Afternoon Live.  As I always say, follow the recipe, not the crazy redhead on live television.  Sometimes I alter a recipe after I’ve shot the show and sometimes I forget to mention an amount or an ingredient.  Live tv is harder than you think!




  • Butte Humane Societyis now accepting animal donations to create the BHS Animal Food and Supply Pantry for displaced pet owners as well as those who have taken in family and friends with pets. Donations can be made at warehouse (across the street from the shelter) every day from 9 am – 5 pm. The pantry is available to anyone affected by the fire in need of food and supplies for their pets – including those who are housing evacuees.
  • California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund:For 15 years, the foundation has offered aid to those affected by wildfires. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.
  • Caring Choices: This nonprofit, which is in Chico, Calif., has turned into a hub for organizing volunteers to help those affected by the Camp Fire. Volunteers are assigned a variety of duties, including caring for displaced animals and, for those who are certified doctors or nurses, offering medical care. The organization has paused taking on new volunteers for the next few days but still encourages applications. It said it will need extra hands in the coming weeks. Caring Choices is also seeking monetary donations for its operations.
  • Enloe Medical Center: This 298-bed hospital is in Chico, the site of multiple evacuation centers for the Camp Fire. It is accepting donations for patients and families who have been displaced.
  • Entertainment Industry Foundation: This nonprofit, started by Hollywood stars, has a fund that helps firefightersand other emergency workers battling California wildfires. One of its beneficiaries is the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, which provides hydration backpacks and night vision goggles for helicopter pilots. Another beneficiary provides meals for emergency workers and evacuees staying in shelters.
  • Golden Valley Bank: Golden Valley Bank created sub accounts within their Foundation for businesses, employees, individuals or groups to accept contributions and self-direct funding for Camp Fire relief. The Foundation will pay interest on these accounts, and every penny donated will go directly to those in need.
  • Humane Society of Ventura County: This nonprofit is accepting donations to help animals displaced by the Woolsey and Hill Fires. It is taking in domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and birds, as well as livestock.
  • North Valley Community Foundation: This nonprofit in Chico is raising money to support organizations that are sheltering evacuees of the Camp Fire. These could include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, said Logan Todd, a foundation spokesman.
  • Red Cross – for California Wildfires: The Red Cross works 24/7 to be ready to respond to disasters like wildfires and other countless crises. Please donate to the Red Cross now to help. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Salvation Army: At both ends of the state, the Salvation Army is providing meals to shelters in local churches, fairgrounds and a community college.
  • United Way of Greater Los Angeles: This local branch of the national organization is raising money for those affected by the Woolsey and Hill Fires, specifically to help low-income residents.
  • United Way of Northern California: This local chapter of the national nonprofit has established a disaster relief fund to offer emergency cash and help to people who have lost their homes, according to a news release.
  • Crowdfunding:There are multiple crowdfunding efforts for victims of the California fires. GoFundMe has organized a page that catalogs the relief efforts in Northern and Southern California. It includes links to donate to families who have lost their homes.


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