Gluten-free Crock-pot Cornbread Stuffing (Vegan-Adaptable)

Gluten-free, vegan-adaptable crock-pot cornbread stuffing–that’s yummy enough to serve to your meat-, dairy-, and gluten-eating friends.  Really.

This recipe is the culmination of my search for yummy stuffing (like Stove-Top, but even better!) that is gluten-free, so my husband could enjoy it too.  He’s newly gluten-free, and we’re finding that a lot of the gluten-free items out there–especially store-bought gluten-free bread–are expensive…kinda spongy, stiff, and gross.  Anyway, it’s a bummer to have one member of the family relegated to an “equal-but-not-really” dish of his own while the rest of us eat something different.
Also, as a vegetarian of over 16 years (several of those were vegan), I’m always sensitive to those who wish to avoid dairy (and meat!), so I included that in my searching as well.  The recipe is rather labor-intensive in that you’ve got to bake your own breads, but you can start the day prior, and then just throw it all together very quickly.  OR – you could totally buy a loaf of GF-bread in the store and then cube it and toast it under the broiler.  Then you’d only need to bake the GF-cornbread.

UPDATE for 2012 – Bob’s Red Mill makes a cornbread mix that is so tasty – better than the from-scratch cornbread recipe below.  If you can find that, buy that instead 😉

I can personally attest that your meat- and wheat-loving guests will devour this, ask for the recipe, and be shocked when they realize it’s gluten-free and vegan. 🙂

THE RECIPE (really three recipes–two bread loaves, plus the stuffing):

First, make up a loaf of cornbread:

I’m sure you can use another cornbread recipe if you’ve got one that’s already tried and true–but this is what I used.

Gluten-Free Vegan Cornbread

1 cup white rice flour OR Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix (the orange bag–i used the latter)
3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar (if making cornbread to eat by itself, add another tsp of sugar)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

margarine to coat the baking pan (i used Smart Balance)

2 beaten eggs (or Ener-G egg replacer to equal two eggs)
1 cup milk (or soymilk, or coconut milk)
1/4 cup melted margarine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt) together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Generously grease the sides and bottom of an 8-9 inch round baking pan or dish with margarine.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs or egg replacer, milk, and 1/4 cup margarine. Add this mix to the dry mixture and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into the baking pan or dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

We’ll only be using about 1/2 to 2/3 of this loaf, so you can enjoy part of it now, while you’re working. 🙂
While this loaf cools, we can get started on the next loaf…

Here’s the link to the regular gluten-free bread recipe I used:

http://www.pamelasproducts.com/recipe/Bread_by_Hand_with_Yeast/246.aspx

This recipe is directly from the Pamela’s website, and yes, I use their mix regularly.  If you’re wanting to sub your own bread recipe here, note that the loaf this recipe makes is precisely the size of a regular 9″ loaf pan.  Also notice that even though this is a bread recipe, that it calls for Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix–i.e. the yellow bag, not the orange.

The only difference that you should make to this recipe is to IGNORE the part where it says to add the yeast to the dry mix.  Just trust me.  I’ve followed their instructions to a T and made a yukky, flat, dense little loaf.  Instead, measure out the 1 cup of HOT water as per the instructions, and put the yeast into that–then let it sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast (you know, like a normal bread recipe). When it’s time to add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, just add the eggs, melted butter and yeasted water separately.

If you’re wanting this to be vegan, you would just use Ener-G egg replacer (or flax “eggs”) in lieu of the eggs–but in this case, I would measure to be sure I had approximately 1-1/2 total cups of liquid, since Ener-G is typically smaller in volume as compared to eggs.  After the five minutes had passed for the yeast to activate, then I would pour the melted butter and egg replacer in with the yeasted water to measure the total amount of liquid before combining with the dry ingredients.

Savvy?  Okay, moving on. 🙂

Once this bread is out of the oven and cooling, you can get started on veggie-prep and rounding up the rest of the stuffing ingredients:

First, get out your crock pot.  If it’s a 6 quart, great.  If it’s a 4 quart, it will still work fine–but you’ll need to get out a large mixing bowl as well, because you need room to toss the ingredients together very well before cooking:

1 onion, finely diced (size depends on how much you like onion–i used a medium one)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 ribs of celery, finely diced (or minced, if you’ve got picky eaters)
5-6 fresh*sage leaves, minced (i used variegated sage, from my greenhouse)
1/4 cup fresh* parsley, finely chopped (again, from my greenhouse)
*don’t sub dried herbs, it just won’t taste the same!  Or do–but you’ve been warned.

Prep all veggies and herbs and place into the mixing bowl or large crock pot.

If your loaf of regular bread is cool enough, slice it now. Place 3/4ths of the sliced loaf on a baking sheet, and toast them in a 300 degree oven.  This will take a while, but a slow toasting at a low temperature works better to dry out the bread–which is what we’re going for–so it can absorb flavor better.  You can check on the toast periodically by simply reaching (carefully) into the oven and pressing on a slice.  If it still feels very soft and squishy, it’s not toasty enough.  Oh, and do enjoy the extra few slices of bread.  I put butter and jam on mine. 🙂

Now, add to the mixing bowl or crock pot, along with the veggies and herbs:

1 Tbsp olive oil, margarine or butter (i would melt the margarine or butter before adding it)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or you can sub 1-1/2 tsp fresh, if you have it)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1-1/2 cups vegetable broth, plus a bit more just in case.

Mix all these ingredients together very well, EXCEPT the broth.

Once your bread slices are done toasting, cut them up into 1-inch cubes and add to the mixing bowl or crock pot. Then take the cornbread, and crumble the rest of it by hand (approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the loaf) into the mixing bowl or crock pot.

Now pour the vegetable broth over the bread, herbs and veggies, and toss VERY well!  If it looks a bit dry, add about 1/4 cup more broth.

Transfer mixture to crock pot, cover, and cook on high for approximately two hours.

Enjoy!

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