Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uses For Leftover Cornbread

I had a post planned for today about uses for leftover cornbread. (While this may not be an issue for you, it is for this single, Southern gal.) I mean, what to do with all the sweet, cake-like hunks from yesterday's pan? I had no idea, so I began researching.

Then... a snafu. An emergency errand left the little brown dog home alone. Alone and unhappy. So what did Millie do? She plopped her paws on the counter and scarfed down the leftover cornbread straight from the cast iron pan. I knew something was amiss the moment she greeted me at the door with yellow crumbs under her mouth and on her fur. Bad dog. BAD DOG!

Fortunately I had backup leftover cornbread in baggies in the freezer. But Millie's bad binge set me back. My photos to accompany this post were not going to happen today.


Ah well. Without further ado, here are my new top uses for leftover cornbread, in no particular order:

1. Cornbread Croutons. Cube leftover cornbread into 1 inch cubes. Tumble onto parchment lined or nonstick baking pan and drizzle with 4-5 Tablespoons butter. Stir or turn lightly to coat. Toast at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes, turning once halfway through baking, or until croutons are your favorite shade of browned. Serve in salads, or over soup or chili.

2. Chicken and Cornbread Dressing. This is my favorite use for leftover cornbread. Crumble approximately 4-5 cups of stale cornbread into a large bowl. Add in 4-5 cups of stale bread, pinched or cut to 1 inch cubes. (I save the ends of french bread, all leftover bread, biscuits, rolls, crackers, etc., for this purpose.) Toss the cornbread and bread together. To this mixture, add: 2 stalks celery, chopped; 1 small onion, chopped and sauted in 4 T. butter; 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped; 2 eggs, lightly beaten; 1 can cream of celery soup, 1 can cream of chicken soup; 2 T. dried sage; 2 T. dried parsley; salt and pepper; 4 cups shredded chicken.  Mix together, adding chicken broth or water to thin, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until done and lightly browned. Serve with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

3. Cornbread Salad. I've made this a time or two using variations of this recipe and have gotten rave reviews each time. Easy!

4. Squash Casserole. Crumble leftover cornbread into casserole dish. In a pan over medium high heat, cook 3 sliced yellow squash and 1 small onion, finely chopped, until tender. Drain and add to cornbread. Stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded; 1 egg; salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Stir to combine. Turn into lightly greased baking dish. Dot with 1/2 stick butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Yum.

5. Cornbread Pudding. This recipe is very similar to one my Grandmother has. It's a keeper.

6. Cornbread and Milk. My Great Grandfather, Henry, had the same dinner most every night: cornbread and milk. As a girl, I always thought it looked gross. Now I'm a fan. Crumble 1 cup or a large hunk of cornbread into a tall glass. Pour 1 1/2 cups cold milk over. Sprinkle with sugar. Eat with spoon. A poor, country farmer's dinner for sure.

7. Cornbread Crumbs. Butter cornbread and lightly toast in 450 degree oven. Cool and pulse in food processor (or crumble up) until you have a fine crumb. Use in casseroles and recipes in place of bread crumbs.

If all else fails, feed cornbread to the birds. Birds, not dogs. wink

Do you have any other suggestions for leftover cornbread? I'd be happy to hear them! -Brin

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beautiful, Awe Inspiring Things

There's a tomato shortage right now. Had you heard? Down here in Texas, only folks who request tomatoes on their sandwiches or burgers get them. If then. A friend in the restaurant business tells me their kitchen usually pays $27 for a crate of tomatoes. Right now, they're $51. Ouch.

I have been babying, babying, babying my tomato seedlings the past few weeks. When the light is dim inside, I rush them outdoors. When the wind gusts or the temperature falls or it begins to pound rain, I rush them inside. Back and forth. In and out. This morning, while watering the 'lings, as I've come to call them, I decided: enough of this. They're going in the ground TODAY.

I have seven varities started: Amish Paste and Roma for sauces, Early Girl, Mule Team and Brandywine for slicing, Mortgage Lifters because I love their squatty shape and back story, and the ones shown here. These are San Marzano, the famous Italian tomato that people pay $5 (or more, now) per can. These are superb tomatoes.

There's a soft place in my heart, though, for the Amish Paste 'lings. They grew from seed I saved from my last garden at Freeman House. Three-year old seed, and they germinated. I think I actually teared up when they began hesitantly poking through the soil. Life goes on, they seemed to declare, and beautiful, awe inspiring things continue to happen.

Funny how a tomato can say such things.

Have a beautiful, awe inspiring weekend. -Brin

By the way, folks invariably ask me for gardening help and resource recommendations whenever I post on gardening. Do yourself a favor and grab these books: Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces, and Vegetable Gardening: From Planting to Picking. I've learned so much from them and you will, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dinner From My Memories

My visit to Istanbul back in March 2008 has been on my mind this week. Maybe it's the time of year, but that trip's bobbed to the surface of my memories lately: the salty, cool spray while boating across the Bosphorus Strait, the Greek Oregano spilling from crevices of stone, the ancient streets, the spices, the palaces. 

In an effort to recreate one of my favorite meals ever, I started searching the internet. What Turkish menus called Stuffed Lamb, apparently other recipes call Lamb and Rice. Hmm. Nothing seemed close... seemed right... until I hit upon a Rice Pilaf dish in the stupendous Bake Until Bubbly, the bible of casserole cooking. (You have to get that book.) Could this be it- my version of a favorite meal half the world away?

It is. If you're looking for something a little different to add to your chicken/rice/vegetable repertoire, may I present:

Brin's Turkish Palace Stuffed Chicken
Loosely adapted from Bake Until Bubbly, and my memory

3 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded or diced
(Leftover chicken is great here, but you could use turkey or lamb, too.)
5 T. butter, divided
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 t. turmeric
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (Really. Just go with it.)
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 t. coarsely ground black pepper
2 t. kosher salt, divided
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock (or water)
1 cup baby lima beans (butter beans), fresh or frozen

Okay. Preheat your oven to 350.

Measure out rice into small bowl. Cover with cool water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. (Or, rinse in cool water for several minutes and set aside.)

Step 1- In a small skillet with heat off, mix chicken with spices, 1 t. kosher salt, and pepper. Add 2 T. butter to skillet and turn heat on medium high, stirring often until butter melts and chicken heats through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 2- In a dutch oven, melt remaining (3 T.) butter. Add carrots, drained rice, and the white parts of the green onion, reserving the green part for garnish. Stir for 3-4 minutes or until rice absorbs butter. Add spiced chicken mixture and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in chicken stock (or water) and baby lima beans. Add bay leaf and reserved 1 t. kosher salt to pot. Stir well.

Step 3- Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, place a paper towel or flour sack towel over pot, and cover again. Leave covered for 20 minutes or until rice has absorbed all the liquid.

Stir to fluff rice, garnish with reserved green onion, and serve immediately.

You can make this without a dutch oven if you'd like. Finish Steps 1 and 2 on the stove, then pour into a large casserole dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake as directed. Leave foil in place until ready to serve.

While Turkish dishes and memories might not be haunting you, I hope you'll try this exotic take on chicken and rice. Who knows... it may have you feeling like an Ottoman princess in no time, too.  -Brin

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Waters Cannot Quench

My brother, a student at a respected Bible college, and I got to talking over the weekend about God and Japan. God and disaster. God and bad things happening. We debated: "does God cause disaster or allow disaster?" The age old question. I quoted Nahum 1 and emphasized God's righteousness and zeal; he argued Job and God's love.

But for a year... or even longer, now... this one phrase from Song of Solomon  won't let me go: that many waters cannot quench love.

Over the weekend I pulled out pictures I took took sailing the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, thought about that verse, and listened to this song. I love this song.

And the words are still with me this morning...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts of Jelly (Resources Included)

Jellies and jams, it appears, were the delight of country homestead kitchens a hundred years ago. After all, what brown bread, hot biscuit, or simple dessert isn't improved with a dollop of glittering fruit? But today, jellies, jams and fruit spreads are missing from cabinets in many households. Too much sugar, we say. Too expensive when the cost of groceries we have to buy is skyrocketing.

As I continue to stock up on extras of things family members and I (do or will) need, I've been encouraged to consider jelly again. As I pour over old homesteading books and turn-of-the-century cookbooks, I'm reminded: jelly and jam is important. It's variety in an otherwise boring diet of breads and grains. It's a great calorie source. It's turning foraged or carelessly cultivated finds into substance for a family. Really, the more I read, and the more I make, the more I'm convinced:

Jelly is wonderful.

If you're one of the many who's contacted me for food storage tips, or if you're one of the many looking to preserve locally grown produce and get a handle on what's actually in your food, don't forget about jelly, jam, preserves, fruit spreads, and fruit butters. I echo the urging of farm wives and daughters from bygone eras.

Here are some resources I've found that, in my humble jam opinion, can't be beat. Want to learn to make your own jarred jewels? Start here. Looking for old favorites? They have you covered. Looking for something cool and exotic? Done. Whether you're stocking up, eating creatively, or looking to broaden your culinary horizon, I'd start here. (There are superb gift ideas here, too!) It's great to have paper copies of these on hand in case internet access becomes... troublesome, but you can certainly buy electronic copies or borrow them from folks or libraries, too:

There. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I'd like to share recipes and tips this summer as jelly and jam season gets underway, but I thought now may be a good time to start considering things and throwing some thoughts toward getting prepared.

Getting prepared. My new middle names. :) Happy jamming. -Brin

Sunday, March 20, 2011

They Draw & Cook

Recipe Photo Credit: They Draw & Cook

I've been on such a veggie kick lately. Legumes, carrots, spinach, avocado. Today I even planted a second variety of radishes in the garden. Hmm. My body must be telling me something.

But I know what my "this is super amazing" instinct is telling me: They Draw & Cook is one of the coolest cooking websites. Ever. I'd go on about it, but you can head over there and see for yourself.

Besides, I have Chick Pea Dip to make. (And serve with carrots? Woohoo!)

Happy Monday.  -Brin

Friday, March 11, 2011

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace,
so sure and certain that a man could stake
 his life on it a thousand times.
-Martin Luther

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feed Store Day

The garden is going in. The garden is going in! After months of dog-earing seed catalogues, sending away for heirloom and organic seeds, and studying seed charts and soil pH mumbo jumbo, the actual planting has begun. So far I have onions, garlic, radishes, spinach, lettuces, broccoli and green peas planted. Everything looks good. (But I don't want to start bragging yet. A garden is nothing if not humbling.)

Yesterday I ventured to the town's Feed Store in search of more seed potatoes. Purple potatoes, baking potatoes, and regular potatoes weren't enough. Actually, my Dad, second generation gardener and Knower Of All Things Gardening, gave me ten dollars and told me to run and buy red potatoes. I did.

The Feed Store here is something from a story book. First off, it's ancient. Its rusty tin roof and creaking wooden steps bid you to an era you only see in movies. I get the feeling sometimes, as I'm climbing the worn steps, that I'll push open the door and, instead of finding old men in overalls cursing Obama and the Economy, I'll find men in coats and tall hats, arguing about President Lincoln and the War.

Once inside the long, slanting building, these are the things you notice first: an enormous black wood stove with a tin pan of peanuts roasting on top. Always. Since I was a girl. The men stand around the stove, shelling peanuts and tossing the shells on the knotted wooden floor. Near the stove, kittens tumble and mew from a basket. I've always wanted one. Since I was a girl.

Horse tack, field corn, chicken feed, dog collars and cattle medicine fill every nook. But along the wall by the door, steps away from the kittens, is what gets me teary eyed: Every Kind of Seed Imaginable. There's pre-packaged seed for (sniff) "town" people and bins of bulk seed for the country folk. The scale by the tower of brown paper sacks groans whenever you weigh your bags. Even if you only have two pounds. Even if it seems the old thing should have accepted her lot in life by now.

I walk the wall, slowly, reading the names of seeds and dreaming. Candy Corn. Louisiana Pink Purple Hulls. Christmas Limas. Big Boy Tomatoes. Red Heart Peppers. Zipper Cream Peas. (Those are my favorite. I bought 4 dollars of "Zippers" as we all call them here. They go for 30 dollars a bushel at market.) And when I get to the seed potatoes, I'm relieved to see nearly 20 potatoes left. RED PONDEROSA is scrawled on the box in pencil. 50 CENTS/POUND. I fill my brown paper sack, weigh it on the groaner, and take my five-plus pounds of good eating and assorted seeds to the counter.

There's a corgi in a dog bed to the left of the register. She's always in the same spot. I have no idea how she gets up there and never ask. She watches you without raising her nose. It used to be appreciated when you'd buy her a Milkbone, but not these days. She doesn't even chase the kittens anymore, I'm told. I shake my head and offer a "bless her heart" as if on cue. The cashier, with her Too Much Lipstick, nods approval.

You pay with cash. Or checks. I can't believe people still write checks, but they do in here. Oh, the Feed Store has a credit card machine, but you get a withering stare whenever you pull out your Bank of America card. Cash is king. Pay, get your change, and pet the kittens on your way out, nodding to the men who nod at you on your way down the stairs.

I got my seed potatoes cut and quartered like you're supposed to do before planting. They're withering now, fanned out on brown paper on the table. But you know, I got to thinking last night: I don't have any good mashing potatoes. Think I'll go back this morning and get the YUKON GOLD- 75 CENTS/POUND.

That and pet the kittens one more time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Contrite to Consumed

I'm driving to my storage building some 30 miles away and emptying it, load by load, day by day. Saturday the "movers" (my brother and his friends) officially deliver the final load to the house. I can't wait!

In one of the first loads, I found my sculpture. My Women of the Way sculpture. She's called Contrite. I'll never forget the day I got it... it was the time I realized I'd probably lose Freeman House. It just felt like too much, you know? I remember praying, "God, the Bible promises that a broken and contrite spirit You won't despise. You say that you're near to the brokenhearted. Remind me." And He did. He did! And this sculpture helped.

So, almost two years later, I unwrapped the sculpture, stood her up on the table, and looked at her. It choked me up to realize that she's more a symbol - a testimony of overcoming victory and God's faithfulness - than a reminder. That Contrite season is over.

You know, so many Christians are spouting health, wealth, and safety nowdays. It's crap. God isn't glorified by what we have, He's glorified by who we are. When we can go through struggles and loss proclaiming that God is enough, that God is our gift and our giver, that God will satisfy when nothing else does, then He is honored.

"Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You." God, I'll lose it all for that testimony. ...

Now I guess I'd appreciate the sculpture Consumed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's the second day. Again. The dove is back.