Friday, September 25, 2009

Southern Cornbread

There are some things that I only love when they're Southern style. Since it's probably best not to get me started on the topic of iced tea, as I may begin to rant, we can stick to cornbread. Like many good Southern foods cornbread must be a bit sweet. It should also be nice and fluffy. Think...delicious smells wafting from the grill, plates filled with barbecue, people sipping down real iced tea. Bad cornbread however, creates an entirely different scene...squatting by a fire, using a stick to pry a dry mass out of a cast iron pan. In short, I want to feel like I'm at a party, not trying to survive the Oregon trail.

modified from the side of the Albers box by the lovely tikimama. I don't think I've ever seen Albers cornmeal, so I am doubly grateful to tikimama.

1 C flour
2/3 C sugar
1 C cornmeal
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 C milk
2 eggs beaten
1/3 C vegetable (or corn etc) oil
3 T melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Mix together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Mix together the milk, the beaten eggs, the oil and the melted butter (let the butter cool a bit before you add it to the eggs please). I would guess that you should add the dry ingredients to the wet, but I did it the other way around with no ill consequences. Either way, mix until fully incorporated. You can make either corn muffins, or corn bread. Grease whatever pan you're using. For muffins, bake 18-20 minutes, for bread in an 9x9 pan, cook for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, but don't over bake. No one likes dry cornbread.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sick Food

I am a relatively slender person. People sometime make comments about this, out of kindness, out of jealousy, out of wonder, out of spite. They express shock, awe, envy at the fact that I do not (generally speaking) need to exercise. And I cook! Yummy things! Desserts even! Oh, things do look so green in this here pasture. What most people don't know, is that this body is sponsored, much like a PBS show. Oh yes. Had I an appropriate place for a sign, I could in fact post:

This body has been brought to you by genetic luck and frequent low-grade nausea.

And if you haven't lived with nausea, then you may not know what a formidable force it can be. If you have, I'm sorry. Please have a ginger ale on me.

When I'm queasy, there's not a whole lot in my whole lovely repertoire of comfort foods that sounds appealing. If I'm only borderline ill, I can manage some pasta with butter and cheese. Or rice. But the thing I crave, more than almost anything else, is Thomas' English Muffins, with a small pat of butter. When I'm finally really on the mend (you know, when you've gone without real food for so long that you are ready to chew off your own arm, but are petrified of actually eating something because the consequences could be dire), I want a turkey burger, seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper, cooked through on an English Muffin bun. Just thinking about it makes me start to feel better.

So what about you? What is the food that cures what ails you?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Raspberry - Walnut Shortbread Bars

Everyone despairs when at the mercy of a repair or delivery person*. You are instructed, in no uncertain terms that you must remain in your home between certain specified hours, which are always representing an unfathomable window of time. Moreover, the moment the clock clicks over to the first minute of your designated window, you are seized with the urge to be anywhere but at home. You remember a million errands you have to run. The dog barks for a walk. You realize you have to shower, but can't, because you won't hear the phone, or doorbell, or you will hear the phone and doorbell and be forced to meet the repair/delivery person in nothing but a towel. It is not good. So here is my handy dandy plan for not going stir-crazy.

Step #1 - An hour before the window commences, make sure you have showered and dressed.
Step #2 - Pick a favorite recipe and check for ingredients.
Step #3 - Run to the store for any ingredients you might be missing.
Step #4 - With 15-20 minutes left before you're ordered inside, walk the dog.
Step #5 - You are trapped. The repair/delivery person could arrive at any moment. (Won't of course, but could).
Step #6 - BAKE!!!

Baking is the perfect occupation for being stuck in the house. Think of how often you put something in the oven, and then think of something that needs doing outside the house. Well, don't worry! This time you know you're stuck! Your house smells delicious, and you will need something to eat as you become more and more agitated. Maybe the sugar will calm you.

If you don't know what to make, try my Nana's raspberry-walnut bars. They have a delicious buttery shortcake base, a sweet jam-y layer and a chewy, sugary top. Yum. The best thing is that you can really pick whatever jam you like, although I strongly recommend picking something higher quality. You can be flexible about the nuts too, I didn't have enough walnuts, so used a combination of walnuts and pecans. Still fabulous.

*In my case, the delivery turned out to be a surprise cake from my best friend! Entirely exciting and not at all anger inducing to wait for. Also, now I have a delicious array of treats to choose from.

RASPBERRY (or other) - WALNUT (or other nut) SHORTBREAD BARS
by my Nana


for the shortbread crust
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter

for the topping

1/3 C jam (I used Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves, which is a mix of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and currants)
2 eggs
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T flour
1/8 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1 C chopped walnuts (or pecans, or a mix of walnuts and pecans, or something else you want)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

For the shortbread crust -
Combine the flour, the 1/2 C sugar and cut in the butter until the mix is like fine meal (sort of sandy). Get a 9" square baking dish and grease it. Press the shortbread mix down into the bottom of the pan to make and even layer - pay special attention to the corners which sometimes don't get quite enough crust. Bake for 20 minutes or just unilt edges become lightly golden.

For the rest -
Spread the jam over the shortbread. Beat the eggs with brown sugar and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the flour mixed with the salt and baking soda. Add the walnuts. Spoon over the jam and spread lightly until completely covered. Return it to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is set (it will be kind of spongey, it will harden on cooling). Cool in pan and then cut into bars. Make sure you go around the edges with a sharp knife before you try to remove it from the pan.


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