You can make the corn bread croutons a day ahead (place them in an air-tight container) or up to a week in advance (keep them in the freezer).
2/3 cup fat-free milk
2 large eggs
2 (8 1/2-ounce) packages corn muffin mix
6 bacon slices
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups diced carrot
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine milk and eggs in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in muffin mix; let stand 2 minutes. Pour corn bread mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cubes on a baking sheet; bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add onion, carrot, and celery to pan; sauté 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in cherries and broth; cook 5 minutes.
Combine corn bread cubes, bacon, onion mixture, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; stirring until well-blended. Spoon corn bread mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring after 10 minutes.
I made this and it was a huge hit at Thanksgiving. Even the guests who don't typically like stuffing tried it (interested by the bacon and dried fruit), loved it, and asked for the recipe. I substituted dried cranberries for the cherries (still used half a cup)....they were much cheaper than the dried cherries and still seemed festive for Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly (though I may have reserved a bit more than a tsp of the bacon drippings) and it was absolutely delicious...the only downside was it was the only thing we did not have any leftovers of!!!
This was a definite hit at our Thanksgiving dinner! I used half of the celery called for and it didn't seem to make a difference. I also shredded rather than diced the carrots so the little kids wouldn't notice the "healthy" food as much, and used a bit more cherries. The cherries added a lot of flavor and interest--and not one turned-up nose from the kids!
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