Tag Archives: cornbread

Weekly Menus: Week of 2/12/2012

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook has finally gotten wise in her old age. When a week calls for multiple “cook and take” moments, make the same thing. Why stress out if you can batch-cook (or at least batch-shop)? This week I’ll be making cornbread twice for special occasions, once in a tractor pan and once as corn muffins. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, same thing. I almost made four different dishes (for four different events), but decided it would be better to actually attend the events as opposed to nap through them.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

But I digress. Here’s how the Weekly Menus shaped up:

Weekly Menus: 2/12/2012

Weekly Menus: 2/12/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/12/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/12/2012

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Cornbread and veggie chili
Two for one here. I’m making Tractor Cornbread by special request, and I am going to test another bean recipe from the Bean by Bean Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon. Winning.

Monday: Breakfast for Dinner
It is cold, windy, and miserable here (I mean hello, get over yourself winter). That says “grits” to me. I’m Southern, what can I say.

Tuesday: Sammies and Soup
One of my favorite ways to repurpose leftovers and clean out the freezer, as you know!

Wednesday: Potluck!
Though my friends in the U.K. are surely shivering at the word and the notion, it’s a school potluck, and we’re taking corn muffins. The students are providing dessert, and rest assured, I’ll report on it.

Thursday: Taco Night!
Simple, festive, is there anything more fun?

Friday: Leftover Surprise
We are continuing our quest to eat down our reserves. I want to go into the weekends (when we often do field research) with a cleaner fridge.

Saturday: Dine Out!
This should be an adventure. More on that upcoming.

What do you take to potlucks, cookouts, etc? Do have a go-to dish?  Post a comment below. It’s fun. I promise.

Food challenges, thoughts, recommendations? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up, just in time for Valentine’s Day: M & M’s Smackdown, Peanut vs Peanut Butter.

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The Great Sweetner Race: Honey vs. Molasses (with video!)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook adores a challenge, particularly if it is one involving a photo finish. Shout out to @bkeepsushonest for this wonderful question: Which is faster, honey or molasses? Full confession, I have a deep and abiding love for molasses, complete with memories of my Grandpa B making it from scratch. The smell of cooking cane, the bees and other stinging insects, not as pleasant, the end result, outrageously good.

Honey vs. Molasses

Honey vs. Molasses

But I digress, let’s find out if molasses is as slow as it’s made out to be. Roll the tape:

As you can see, even at room temperature, sourcing locally, molasses turned out to be the faster, runnier opponent. This was not a fixed race, but I do have a love-hate relationship with honey. I need to try more kinds, but I generally don’t love the taste.

I like honey in the following ways:

1. In desserts. Honey cake, sopapillas, baklava. Yes and yes.

The Practical Cook's Mom's Honeybun Cake

The Practical Cook's Mom's Honeybun Cake

2. In salad dressing. It makes for a lovely honey mustard and tempers a vinaigrette like a dream.

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

3. On a peanut butter banana sandwich. This was as Elvis, RIP, intended. A tip from Dr. Particular: mix the honey and peanut butter BEFORE you apply to the sammie. You can thank me later.

Look at the sheen on that peanut butter! (I think we're alone now . . .)

Look at the sheen on that peanut butter! (I think we're alone now . . .)

If you’ve never sourced local molasses, do it. It is insanely good, and not the same as the commercial product, which I still like. But it the equivalent of aged, expensive balsamic in its smooth character and complexity. I would drink it if permitted.

Ahem, as I was saying, I like molasses in the following ways:

1. On cornbread.With or without butter.

Corn Muffin soaked in molasses.

Corn Muffin soaked in molasses.

2. On pancakes. If you have never tried this, run, don’t walk. Buckwheat and whole grain pancakes are best. It’s pass out good.

Whole Wheat Waffles Transformed into Pancakes!

Whole Wheat Waffles Transformed into Pancakes!

3. On a spoon. It’s for the iron, purely medicinal. Don’t judge.

The Practical Cook Loves Molasses

The Practical Cook Loves Molasses

4. In gingerbread. It’s part of why I love gingerbread, the interplay of sweet and heat.

Lemon Curd on Gingerbread

Lemon Curd on Gingerbread

5. Asian-type sauces. This includes a balancing element for stir-fry, or as an excellent substitute for tamarind in Indian dishes.

Whisk the sauce ingredients until the sugar is dissolved completely.

Whisk the sauce ingredients until the sugar is dissolved completely.

Which do you prefer, molasses or honey? Post a comment below, I can hear you hosting your own Pinewood Derby of Sweeteners out there.

Send molasses, challenges, and deep thoughts to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Walnuts Edition.

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Kitchen Tool Talk: An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet

Gentle Readers, is there anything better than a cast iron skillet? Yes, The Practical Cook would argue that one you get as a hand-me-down is better still. My 10-inch cast iron skillet is from my Granny, featured in the header picture. And if you haven’t added a cast-iron skillet to your cooking toolbox, here’s why you should.

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet: 5 Reasons to Own and Love It

1. Cornbread. It creates the perfect shape, the perfect crispness, and has a convenient handle for easy oven removal. And do I really have to defend cornbread? Fry some bacon in it first, then make cornbread. You can say thank you later.

Cornbread with Molasses

Cornbread with Molasses

2. Sauteed greens. Studies have indicated that there is some transfer of iron to food cooked, so I say, why not double down and go all Popeye on the spinach? The high heat tolerance makes it perfect for a quick flash-saute of greens of any stripe, and I use mine for spinach constantly.

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

3. Preheating. You can get a cast iron skillet hotter and keep it hotter than any nonstick I’ve ever tried. I use nonstick pans, but I am not crazy about any kind of serious heat used on them. So when the French toast recipe of my dreams says preheat the cast iron skillet over medium for 5 minutes, I can do just that.

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

4. Easy cleaning. This is the one reason I think people shy away from cast iron. You don’t clean them in the traditional manner using commercial detergent, but they’re not hard to maintain. I use salt or baking soda to scrape off anything stuck, I wipe down with vegetable oil, I re-season on occasion with a bake in the oven, and I cook bacon whenever I can. That really puts a nice patina on the skillet.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

5. Longevity. Yours and the pan’s. I still don’t have my Granny’s strength in either a) wielding the thing or b) touching it with bare hands. Clearly, The Practical Cook’s generation is a soft one in comparison. So we need to toughen up! Oh, and the pan lasts a really long time too.

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Of course, every time I cook with this pan, my Granny is in the kitchen with me. That’s reason enough for near-daily use. Thank you Granny for starting me down this road. Maybe one day the sausage gravy I make in your pan will equal yours.

Are you a cast-iron fan? Share your story in the comments section below! I’m feeling a comments-based giveaway coming on soon. So get some practice now, comment today!

Send your ideas, challenges, and bacon recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Mango and Blackberry Parfait.

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New Year’s Day Menu

Gentle Readers, right now, The Practical Cook should be cleaning. There are dishes to be washed, floors to be mopped, laundry to be done. However, that will have to wait. Tomorrow is going to show up regardless, and you’ll note there was no resolution at all regarding housecleaning. And I’m distracted by an idea I haven’t had the chance to work through just yet, a black-eyed pea croquette. Why do I have peas on the brain?

My New Year's Meal last year, before I started taking pictures of my dinner regularly. Forgive me.

My New Year's Meal last year, before I started taking pictures of my dinner regularly. Forgive me.

Like many a Southerner, I was wheeling a cart full of collards and black eyed peas around the grocery store today. For as long as I can remember, on New Year’s Day, I’ve eaten black eyed peas, collard greens (or greens of some ilk), and pork. Lots of people go with Hoppin’ John as a way to knock most of that out at once, I’ve done every possible combo, except fried.

Unfortunately, I won’t have the recipe for Deep-Fried Hoppin’ John perfected in time to share it before the new year this year. Thanks for your patience. While you wait, here is my menu:

Black-Eyed Peas, made from Bill Smith’s recipe in Seasoned in the South.

Black-Eyed Peas in the RInse Cycle

Black-Eyed Peas in the Rinse Cycle

Collards for Haters, recipe courtesy of Jet magazine by way of a colleague. (I’ve adapted it some, the secret is smoked turkey wings. Will blog about it next week after I make it!)

It is a joke to try to stuff collards into little grocery store bags. No one puts collards in the corner.

It is a joke to try to stuff collards into little grocery store bags. No one puts collards in the corner.

Pork, sometimes ribs, sometimes pork chops, sometimes ham. This year it will be sausage.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Cornbread, because it’s cornbread.

Cornbread is the Southern staff of life.

Cornbread is the Southern staff of life.

For those not familiar with the traditions, each item stands for prosperity in the new year. I’m always getting them confused, but I think (or at least was raised to believe, yeah, I’m tossing this one back to The Practical Cook’s Mom) the peas symbolize money (like coins, but I’ve also heard luck for them), the collards luck (I’ve heard money for greens, too, like green), and the pork health. Cornbread is again just because I like to make and eat cornbread and it goes with everything. I really like the part where pork = health.

What are your culinary traditions around New Year’s? Send a picture, post a comment, Tweet! Look forward to hearing from you, because I feel certain several Gentle Readers have resolved to comment in 2o12.

What would you like to see covered in the blog in 2012? Email questions and requests to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, the first Weekly Menus of 2012!

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An Ode to Bread or Bite Me Atkins

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is not usually so vigorous in her titling, but alas, she feels she must take a stand. You see, I am deeply Southern, and bread  on the table is a requirement. Especially if you’re feeding my father, or anyone of his generation. Recently, I found myself tapping those roots when challenged to serve a meal that not everyone wanted to eat. There is an answer.

Bread, it's what's for dinner Dr. Atkins.

Bread, it's what's for dinner Dr. Atkins.

It’s bread. I dare you to find a picky eater who won’t go for it in some form. I have the makings for cornbread on hand all the time (and I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, if you want THE resource for cornbread, for you or as a fabulous holiday gift, get The Cornbread Gospels [yes, I worked for the company in a past life, and swear by this cookbook]). Cornbread is great for bean-based meals, chili, stew, and anything vaguely Mexican.

Cornbread is the Southern staff of life.

Cornbread is the Southern staff of life.

When I want something soft and squishy, my current fave is the Whole Wheat Mom’s Dinner Roll from Whole Foods. These are perfect for sliders, lunch box variety, or anything else really. They just rock.

Buy this bread, and not just for the festive imagery.

Buy this bread, and not just for the festive imagery.

For those who swear by the Atkins diet, I will say that for me personally, bread is not an extreme weakness. I’m already a protein and veg fan. When I’m hungry and service is delayed however, I will eat my weight in the breadbasket and butter category. All that aside, serving bread with a meal can save you extreme headache if you’ve got kids, hungry people, or picky eaters (or triple threats).

Hot Bread Calling Out for Butter

Hot Bread Calling Out for Butter

Alternative bread ideas:

1. Sandwich bread: Toast it, add garlic to it, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, etc. Instant interesting.

Pimento Cheese and Toasted Bread

Pimento Cheese and Toasted Bread

2. Corn tortillas: These are filling, and you can make little tacos out of practically anything. Look for these coming soon in a dish I managed to save.

3. Crackers: This is a family tradition, though my tastes tend to run to the Trader Joe’s Rosemary Raisin over soda crackers. However, I’m sure you have some crackers in your house, put a bowl on the table and let the picky eaters stop complaining.

Tractor Cornbread, Just Because I Can

Tractor Cornbread, Just Because I Can

House rules stand, I don’t permit bread-only to avoid tasting what’s on the table. I often suggest putting the food on the bread and trying it that way. And if the meal is going to be challenging, I often serve with cut-up fruit and cheese, providing options. But it’s not called the staff of life for nothing. Bread works, and has for hundreds of years.

Cornbread with Molasses

Cornbread with Molasses

Do you serve bread with your meals? Post a comment or suggestion below (click through if you’re reading this as email). Or Tweet my way with #bread as your hashtag.

Cookie samples, deep thoughts, queries? Email me at practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, the last of the Ben and Jerry’s Taste tests for awhile (famous last words): Late Night Smackdown.

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