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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Multi-Grain Bread, Pecan, & Dried Fruit "Stuffins"

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nature's Pride Bread. All opinions are 100% mine.
Stuffins (plural noun) \stu-fins\ : Multiple servings of stuffing that have been baked in muffin tins.

Yes.  I just added a word to the dictionary.  I know, that's a little bit Rachael Ray of me, isn't it?  Oh, and also?  I just used Rachael Ray as a verb.  That's just the way I roll.  But it's also beside the point.

What I really wanted to talk about today is planning.  Holiday planning.  In truth, although deep down I know they're coming, the holidays usually sneak up on me.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and though I usually spend at least three weeks planning for it, it's never enough.  Never enough in that I rarely get around to actually testing out any new recipes before using them.  Yes, I'm the kind of girl who makes recipes for the very first time on the holiday.  The day before or the day of the big dinner.  Because, while I've always spent enough time pouring over glossy new magazines as well as trusty worn cookbooks and yellowed clippings looking for new twists on old favorites, I've never actually had the time to try a few of them out to see if we will actually enjoy them.
I mean, nobody's ever complained (out loud), but I've seen a few things go basically untouched over the years.  Sure, my most adventurous eaters will try new dishes, but I also have my fair share of friends and family who don't want "strange" new dishes encroaching on their tried-and-true's.  So this year I've decided to start just a few weeks earlier with my planning.  Get a jump on things, if you will.  I am actually going to be testing out some recipes in advance.  Recipes that just  may make it to the Thanksgiving table.  And since the family will be my "subjects", they won't be surprised if they show up as part of my final menu.

I started with an easy one.  Something that everybody loves.  Stuffing.  Although technically, I suppose I should call it dressing since it is not actually stuffed inside of anything.  But I grew up calling it stuffing.  I think the only person I ever hear call it dressing is my grandma.  The thing is, I like my stuffing with crispy bits.  Wet, mushy bread is just not my thing.  And I figured that portioning the stuffing up into individual servings and baking them in muffin tins would give me plenty of crispy bits.  And I was not wrong.  Every person is guaranteed a little crispy-domed portion that is moist and flavorful on the inside.
I also wanted to experiment with using a good hearty whole-grain bread.  I thought, not only would it hold up well, it would be healthy.  And any chance to slip healthy and delicious into the same sentence is a chance I'm taking.  I used Nature's Pride Healthy Multi-Grain bread, which like all of Nature's Pride breads, is 100% natural.  It doesn't contain any high fructose corn syrup, no trans-fats or artificial colors or preservatives.  Plus, it's delicious.  As in, Nature's Pride bread is both healthy and delicious.  See that?  Same.  Sentence.

Multi-Grain Bread, Pecan, & Dried Fruit "Stuffins"

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Keywords: bake side bread apricots cranberries nuts Christmas Thanksgiving American fall winter

Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 5 slices Nature's Pride Multi-Grain Bread
  • ¼ c. brandy
  • ¼ c. dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery, small dice
  • ⅓ c. pecans, toasted & chopped
  • ¼ c. dried apricots, small dice
  • handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh sage, julienned (or 1 tsp. brushed sage)
  • few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped (or ½ tsp. dried thyme)
  • ½ tsp. whole fennel seeds
  • ~1 c. chicken stock or broth
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • softened butter, for muffin tins
Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Lay bread slices on top of one another, lining them up. Use a bread knife to cut them into ½-inch cubes. You should have ~4 cups of bread cubes.

Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Slide tray into oven and bake for ~ 25 minutes or so, until bread is dry (not toasted). Shake and stir the bread cubes around a few times during cooking.

Place cranberries and brandy in a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit while you get everything else ready.

In the meantime, heat the butter or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery; saute until translucent and just tender, ~5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
Increase oven to 325° F.

Combine bread cubes, apricots, veggie/brandy mixture, pecans, parsley, sage, thyme, and fennel in a large bowl. Gently toss with the broth and the egg. Season with salt and pepper.

Slather 8 compartments of a muffin tin with some softened butter and divide stuffing mixture evenly among them. Slide into oven and bake until deeply golden and crusty, ~30-35 minutes.

As soon as the Stuffins come out of the oven, run a thin-bladed knife around the edges.  Use a large spoon to help you pull the Stuffins out in one piece.
This does not have to be baked into "stuffins". You can just as easily pile it into a well-buttered baking dish and pile it in. Increase cooking time to ~45 minutes. You can also use this as dressing and stuff it inside a bird or pork chops and cook through.

For a change, substitute different types of dried fruits, nuts, or herbs. You can also use different types of Nature's Pride "hearty" breads like 100% Whole Wheat, 12-Grain, Nutty Oat, Hearty Wheat with Flax, or Country Buttermilk to suit your tastes.