Vegan cornbread stuffing

9 February 2009

When my daughter became a vegan, I made a commitment that there would always be food on the family table that she could eat. 

Thanksgiving that first year was a real challenge.  All but a few of our traditional family recipes had animal products in them.  Sure, a vegan can eat a veggie wrap, but who wants to eat a veggie wrap all the time, especially at Thanksgiving or Christmas?  So, I began to experiment.  By stretching my mind and being creative, I gradually developed vegan variations of many of our favorite holiday foods.  Even the most creamy, luscious ones! 

This year, I realized that some of these recipes were turning out pretty good and even, in a few cases, barely distinguishable from or better than the non-vegan variety.  I decided to write down a few of them.  Here is my recipe for Vegan cornbread stuffing. 

First, make a vegan cornbread.  (So, I guess my recipe for vegan cornbread stuffing is going to also include a recipe for vegan cornbread.  Two for the price of one!) 

The easiest way to make a vegan cornbread is to use a vegan cornbread mix.  You may not find a mix that boasts "vegan" on the label, but you can ascertain the ingredients by reading the label.  In place of cow milk, substitute soy milk.  In place of egg, use a product called Egg Replacer.  Here is a photo of the Egg Replacer box:

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The only thing tricky about using this product is that you must measure exactly.  Mix the powder with the water in exact amounts, and then add this to the mixture last (after the other wet ingredients) just before you bake it. 

If you have to make a cornbread from scratch, or if you don’t have access to Egg Replacer product, it’s a bit trickier to make the cornbread but it’s still possible. 

Here’s how to make a vegan cornbread from scratch (without a mix and without Egg Replacer): 

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F.  Take a normal sized (8 inch) skillet, or else a square cake pan that is approximately 8 x 8 x 2 inches, and place 1/4 – 1/3 cup vegan margarine into it.  Then, place the pan in the oven to get hot.  As it melts, the margarine will coat the bottom of the pan. 

Mix together one cup corn meal with one cup white flour.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and about 3 Tablespoons of baking powder.  Many cooks put just a bit of sugar into the mixture, but I do not (especially not if the cornbread is for use as stuffing).

Next, mix 1 teaspoon rice vinegar into 1 and a half (1.5) cups of soy milk.  Then, using a spoon or rubber spatula, quickly mix the liquid into the flour mixture, stirring just until it’s mixed.  Immediately pour the batter into the hot, preheated pan.  When using this recipe, time is of the essence because the reaction between the baking powder and the vinegar is what makes the batter rise.  You want it to get hot and set quickly, while there are still bubbles in the batter. 

Hopefully, the pan will be hot enough that the oil sizzles when you begin to pour the batter into the pan.  This makes for a nice crust on the cornbread bottom.

Once poured, place the batter back into the preheated oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for a 10 inch skillet or 25 – 30 minutes for an 8 inch skillet or pan. 

The way to tell if a cornbread is done, really, is to look at a couple of different clues.  For one, the cornbread should separate a bit from the edge of the pan all the way around.  If it hasn’t shrunk back from the edge of the pan at all, then it’s probably not ready.  Second, it should rise in the middle.  But cornbread (and cakes) will rise before it "sets" in the center, so rising alone is not enough to tell if it’s done enough.  If it rises so that it cracks, then you can peek down into the crack to see if it appears to be firm.  Third, look at the color and see if it has browned.  Fourth, go by the time in terms of having been in the oven for a reasonable amount of time.  Fifth, you can insert a knife into the center of the bread.  If the knife comes out clean, the cornbread has most likely set and you can take it out.  

Whatever you do, however, do not continually open and shut the oven door when you bake.  This lets all the heat rush out.  Not only do you lose your heat so that you set the cooking time back, but also when the bottom burner comes on repeatedly it will cause your pan to overcook on the bottom.  Best to shut the oven door, set the timer, and not look again until the timer goes off. 

Okay, let’s assume now that you have a cornbread in the oven.  While it’s cooking, dice up 1/2 cup onion and 1/2 cup celery, then saute them together in a skillet or wok.  Sauteeing is when you cook something in a little bit of oil at a medium rather than hot temperature, so that it turns translucent but doesn’t turn color.  You want these veggies to get translucent but not burnt. 

After you’ve done sauteeing the veggies, add in 1/2 cup fresh, chopped pecans.  Avoid "last year’s" pecans if at all possible, because pecans do get rancid and it affects their flavor even after a month or two!  Next, remove the crust from and then dice up four slices of vegan white bread, and add to the mixture.  Put this veggie-bread mixture aside, to be mixed with the cornbread after it comes out of the oven.

When the cornbread is done, let it cool, then crumble it into crumbs.  Add 2 teaspoons dried sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and toss it.  Then, add the other ingredients. 

This mixture will be rather dry.  Add vegetable broth to reach a desired level of moistness.  (This is the only flavor difference between this stuffing and non vegan, since the liquid in a traditional stuffing would come from the turkey broth.) 

Finally, place into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F until brown on top.  Considering that you have added an 8 x 8 inch cornbread together with about 2 1/2 cups of other ingredients, this should be enough to fill a fairly large casserole dish!  It serves about 8 people.  Enjoy! 

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