Thursday, March 31, 2011

EMERGENCY DINNER FROM THE PANTRY

Tonight I came home expecting to have stuffed cabbage rolls for my dinner.  I'd thought ahead enough to take the package of rolls out of the freezer where I'd parked them several weeks ago when I made them, but for some had reason totally forgot that they were uncooked.  So when I opened the package while cooking up a potato for mashing, I realized something was terribly wrong.  The cabbage rolls were still raw.  Ooops!

So back in the fridge they went until tomorrow when I may or may not remember to put them into the slow cooker on my way of the house in the morning. The potatoes are cooked so just need reheating and the process of mashing can pick up where it was interupted today. 

The problem then was what to fix for dinner NOW. 

A deep look into the refrigerator netted the chipotle cheddar cheese and a fig spread that I purchased last week from West Point. Along with a few slices of deli ham and some good bread I decided to try a new combination.  The gal behind the cheese counter at the store mentioned that she used the Chipotle Cranberry Cheddar with ham to make a terrific sandwich so I determined to take that a step or two further.  The panini I ended up with turned out wonderfully and I'll remember this in future.  I'm not naive enough to think that anyone reading this will have this same combo of ingredients hanging around, but if you happen to please give this a try.  You won't be sorry.

FANCY HAM AND CHEESE PANINI
The amounts used here are totally up to your tastes.  Just don't get too heavy handed or the sandwich will take too long to heat through.  The fig spread lends a sweetness to this panini and the chipotle cranberry cheddar gives it a bit of a bite. 

2 slices bread
fig spread or fig preserves
chipotle cranberry cheddar cheese
deli ham

Heat a panini press or heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Spread a thin layer of fig spread or preserves over one slice of the bread. Cover with a layer of deli ham. Cover the ham with thin pieces of the cheese. Cover with the other slice of bread. Drizzle the outside of the sandwich with olive oil and cook on the press or skillet until the cheese begins to melt and the bread is toasted golden brown.



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CHOP SHOP

Like most women, I like to shop. I can be driving down the road to some rendezvous, but if I pass certain types of boutique shops, I’m inclined to make a stop whether I truly have the time or not.

Now, I’m not talking about boutique in the classic shopping terms of clothing or shoes. I’m talking about specialty food shops.

Farm markets, butcher shops, smoke houses, bakeries and candy stores all have some strange attraction I find difficult to resist. Entire days have been spent in the pursuit of shoe shopping or clothes shopping with me not making a single purchase. But if I happen to be driving down a country road and see a stand set up that sells honey or eggs or whatever, my car is set to respond immediately. My car can often be found hanging out in butcher shop parking lots while I am inside ogling over the array of fresh meats and fowl. And my pantry is filled with products from little known local purveyors like local maple syrup, wildflower honey, jams and jellies.  I've brought home many gems like this from my travels around the area and surrounding states.

Photo from bloggang.com
One of the best places to hang out if you have an interest in food is West Point Market. This store is like a mini-shopping mall for me – bakery, candy store, butcher case, wine shop, cheese section, seafood case and fresh produce – all under one roof. Their section of canned goods has shrunk dramatically in the past couple of years while their selection of freshly prepared heat-and-eat foods has expanded, which is quite a sign of the times. The Market is always entertaining and always wonderful.

This past weekend I was driving down West Exchange Street and since I was “so” close, drove on up to West Point for a stroll down the aisles. Like a kid in a candy store I stopped to sniff (and taste) the wine selections for the day. A few steps later a dazzling array of cheeses were on display in the brightly lit cases with a few selections on the counter for sampling (I chose the Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar and a small wedge of my favorite Cambozola). Moving on I made mental notes of some of the more intriguing prepared foods giving myself ideas for upcoming meals such as asparagus quiche and stuffed cabbages. Moving on again, I had a quick sample of their famous brownies in the bakery section and still managed to find me with nothing in my cart except the cheese.

The bone-in loin pork chop had my name
on it when I found it at the store.

Then, I found myself at a dead stop in front of the meat case.

One very nice thing about shopping at a place like this is that they seldom snigger when I ask for a single pork chop or one chicken breast or one sausage link. Which I did. The pork chops were looking especially attractive and they all looked so wonderful there was no passing by without a purchase for tonight’s dinner. 

The inspiration for this recipe came from an old Bon Apetit magazine that I had been browsing through last week. Knowing that today’s pork can be difficult to deal with because it’s bred to be so lean, this method of cooking promised the best choice to coax out a tender, juicy pork chop and choosing a chop with the bone in also allows for more flavor.  While this may sound a bit like a fall menu due to the sweet potato and apple, there isn't a huge choice of new spring vegetables yet in the markets, but these are still readily available at any market. 

PORK CHOP WITH APPLE AND SWEET POTOTES

Use a mandolin to slice your potatoes if you
have one, it ensures even slices.

Make a dry rub of 1 tbls. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to coat the chops with before browning. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the remaining ingredients (no more than 10 minutes.)

1 6-oz. 3/4-inch-thick bone-in pork chops
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium sized red-skinned sweet potato (yam), peeled, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 large unpeeled apple, cored, thickly sliced
3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or apple cider

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; sauté until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate.
Add potato and shallot to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium; sauté until onion is golden, about 7 minutes.

Mix in apple, sage, cinnamon and chili powder; season with salt and pepper. Nestle pork among vegetables. Pour in broth; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until pork and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

The chops are tender and juicy, sweet with a hint of heat from the chili powder.  Tonight I opened a bottle of local Britenbach Red Festival wine that I picked up in Amish country a month or so ago. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

SPRINGTIME PREVIEW

I bring my asparagus home and put it in a
jar of water to keep for 2-3 days - change
the water every day.

This weekend I began seeing bunches of young asparagus in the produce markets.  To me, this means spring has finally arrived.

I am a big fan of asparagus.  Roasted with garlic and olive oil; pureed into soup; steamed and dusted with lemon zest; blanched in a salad; topped with hollandaise; I love it anyway you can fix it as long as it's fresh.

I'm surprised when I take my little bundle of spears up to a checkout counter and the person at the register asks me to name that vegetable.  There are still many youngsters that have not yet been exposed to the wonder that is Asparagus and there are many older adults who's only exposure to it is from a can.  Like many people, I grew up eating the canned version of this and always thought this was a mushy, squishy vegetable and not particularly good. 

I stood in the checkout line this week behind an elderly gentleman who had a can of asparagus in his cart.  We struck up a conversation and he was shocked to learn that there was a fresh alternative to the can.  I showed him my little bundle and with all the righteous indignation I could muster explained that he needed to put the can back on the shelf and go on a fresh veggie adventure.  And I think I could have made a convert right then and there if I'd had an extra 10 minutes to explain how to cook the fresh version.  He politely thanked me for my wisdom, bought his can of mushy asparagus and promised that next time he'd try to go "fresh".  In hind sight he might well have simply been trying to get away from the crazy vegetable lady standing in line behind him.

Two vegs in cans among all the beans, sauces,
peppers, baking supplies, etc.  Beets are great
sliced in salads, warm for a side dish with a
drizzle of maple syrup.  Creamed corn is one
of those things I still love that Mom used to
serve us when I was a kid.  However, you will
NEVER find a can of asparagus here.
In any case....YES I'm a bit wacky when it comes to fresh vegetables.  Fresh is almost always best.  I have a few exceptions and if you want to keep veggies in the house for use year round, these would be good places to start.  In the pantry, I always keep canned beets.  These are wonderful and much easier than buying fresh.  The only other canned veg I buy is the occasional can of creamed corn.  In the freezer I always have peas, corn, lima beans and mixed vegetables that I use in soups.  Other than those, fresh is the absolute way to go.

ANYWAY....
This broth was something new for me to try
and it turned out to be quite good. 
 Mostly chicken broth, this also
contains white wine and herbs.
Back to my fresh asparagus.  Tonight I added it to some risotto and served it alongside a baked fish fillet.  I looked forward to this all day and it didn't disappoint.

The risotto is cooked to a perfect al dente with just a bit of a bite left and the asparagus can be cooked to your liking...I prefer mine with a little crunch left.  Tonight I used a special broth that I found at the discount store for $.50.  You can substitute straight chicken or vegetable broth, either would be just as delicious.  I also baked my fish in orange juice but it would have been equally as good with the broth I used for the risotto. 

Remember that rice takes about 20-25 minutes to cook overall.  Because of that I got my fish ready for the oven and got it baking before starting to cook the risotto.  I baked my fish in my favorite mini-oven (my toaster oven) and when it was finished with the 20 minutes, the oven turned off and the fish stayed in the oven warming until the risotto was ready.  You can do the same with a regular oven but you'll have to remember to turn off the oven when the time is up.

SIMPLE BAKED FISH FILLET

4 oz. white fish fillet (tilapia or similar)
1/3 cup orange juice
salt, pepper and garlic parsley powder to taste
drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an ovenproof dish, pour in the orange juice and top with fish fillet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of garlic parsley powder. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in oven for 20 minutes.


When the fish is done, the juice is a bit thickened and can be spooned over the fish on the plate.

SPRINGTIME ASPARAGUS RISOTTO
If you've never made risotto before please give this a try.  It's simple and amazingly delicious.  One secret to keeping the rice cooking throughout the process is to use hot stock or broth.  I simply put mine in a measuring cup and heat it in the microwave.

4 stalks of asparagus, chopped to 1/2 inch pieces, tips set aside
1/4 cup arborio rice
2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbls. minced shallot
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 to 1 cup hot broth
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese


In a heavy 6-inch non-stick skillet heat enough water to cover asparagus to boiling, toss in asparagus (except the tips) and let cook two minutes or until cooked to desired doneness.  Add the tips and cook one minute longer. Strain from skillet and set aside.

In a heavy 6-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat, heat the olive oil till hot, add garlic and shallot and cook till translucent.  Add the rice and stir in hot oil till all grains are covered and glistening.  Add a touch more oil if necessary.  Cook over medium heat until grains begin to turn translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.

Add hot broth to the pan 3-4 tablespoons at a time, stir to combine and let cook over medium heat.  Let cook until the broth is absorbed into the rice, stirring occasionally .  Continue to add broth to the pan a little at a time and continue the cooking process in 3-4 batches. 


Once rice has cooked 20-25 minutes until tests done (tasting is always good for this!) add back in the asparagus and stir while reheating.  Add in most of the grated cheese and stir until melted. 

Plate risotto and fish on a warm plate.  Top the risotto with the remaining grated cheese and spoon some of the sauce in the fish dish over the fillet.  I served my dinner with a glass of  Tesoro Vidal Blanc from Gervasi Vineyard in Canton.  It occurred to me as I sipped my wine the it would have worked just as well as the orange juice for cooking the fish tonight.  Feel free to experiment on your own to see if this works. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

NATIONAL PANCAKE WEEK

Sorry to make this announcement a bit late.  Pancake week was actually last week but in the spirit of better late than never.....

I freely admit that I am a pancake hater.  In recent years I've tried to scour my memory for a reason WHY I don't like them, but have come up blank.  It's not as if it's Oatmeal for goodness sake.....I spent years shying away from oatmeal because Mom served us wormy oatmeal once when I was a very little girl and I haven't been able to stand the sight of it even today. 

But PANCAKES?  They seem so universally loved and they do smell and look so wonderful with all that butter and maple syrup oozing over them.  Now waffles are a different story, I LOVE waffles.  Take the same batter as a pancake and stick it in a hot waffle iron and I can eat it up by the plateful. 

My Grandmother Dessie and her goat (one of
many).  Wonder if she served goat milk with
Buckwheat pancakes to her kids?  ps...
it's said in the family that serving my Mother
goat milk when she was little cured her asthma.
The only exception to my universal dislike of pancakes in a hearty buckwheat pancake.  Heavier in texture and tasting of buckwheat, this was my favorite breakfast when I would stay with my Grandparents overnight.  Granny would serve up bacon, buckwheat cakes that she cooked up in an electric skillet right at the table and smothered with Karo dark syrup and big glasses of ice cold milk served alongside.  Now THERE was a reason to get up in the morning!

I'm not sure of the reason I'll trip over myself to get down the stairs in the morning for a buckwheat cake but roll over and go back to sleep for a stack of buttermilk pancakes but that's the way it is.  So this week, I spent a little time over at my favorite baking website by King Arthur Flour and found a recipe that sounded like it could possibly sway my pancake meter over to the "like" side.  And no buttermilk in site. 

The original recipe as posted by KAF makes 16 cups of mix and was meant to be a gift jar idea.  I've printed it as posted over on my other blog so if you think you might like to use this as gifts for Mother's Day or to take to friends as hostess gifts with a little jar of fresh maple syrup, feel free.

Do a little shopping for the best price on pure
maple syrup.  Both of these were 8 oz. but the
Treehouse jar was $2 less expensive and
still every bit as tasty.
Here is my scaled down ingredients list and instructions for something a bit more manageable for a single cook.  Making this batter by the 1/2 cup measure is a bit tricky since it's hard to scale down an egg but I think I've got it correctly done here. 

And please, do yourself another favor and toss out that fake maple flavored stuff you may have hidden in your pantry and go out to get some real honest to goodness maple syrup.  After all, we DO live in Ohio and it's readily available here starting again in a month or so.  Frankly, these pancakes were so good that I only used a couple tablespoons of syrup for all three of the cakes I ate.

OATMEAL PANCAKE MIX
Make sure you follow the directions for letting the batter stand.  During this time the oats and flour will absorb the liquids and get thicker.  If you let it stand too long and it gets too thick, feel free to add a drop or two of milk to thin it out.

1 1/2 cups rolled oats, ground in a food processor or blender
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons non-diastatic malt powder, for best malt flavor; OR sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup malted milk powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Drizzle in the vegetable oil and mix until evenly distributed; the mixture will remain dry and crumbly. I did this by hand but if you want to use a mixer, feel free. Using your hands, rub the oil in until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Spoon into jar or airtight container, and the follow cooking instructions below.

Instructions for pancakes: To each 1/2 cup of mix, whisk in 1 egg and 3 tablespoons milk. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken. Cook pancakes as you usually do. Yield: about a six 4-inch pancakes.

Instructions for waffles: Prepare batter as for pancakes or, for crispy waffles, add 1 tablespoon oil when mixing the batter. One half cup of dry mix will make two 6-inch waffles.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

STUFF ON BREAD

Once in a while I take a batch of leftovers and some things out of the pantry and make something so much better than the original meal - tonight was one of those nights. 

In the back of the fridge I rescued a small container of meatballs and sauce that I made a week or so ago.  It was on the verge of hitting the trash since I'd run out of pasta with the last meal and the meatballs were just so-so (I'd purchased a package of frozen ones to try out).  Sitting on the counter was a fresh loaf of 3-Cheese bread that I brought home from Panera over the weekend and it struck me that this combo might make a pretty good sandwich.   I was very, very right.

STUFF ON BREAD?
First, a word about what I lovingly call "stuff on bread".   Sandwiches, tartines, paninis, open-faced - whatever, a good piece or two of bread and some great ingredients will make a meal for a king if treated correctly.  Tonight I decided upon a Panini that would crisp up the bread, melt any cheese inside to an ooey squish and make it all taste wonderful. 

My grill pan and panini press
Basically a Panini is an American take on an Italian Panino, a sandwich-like food item.  Generally on this side of the big pond we tend to heat our Panini and press them semi-flat.  I'm not sure of the science behind this technique, but something about added heat and pressure makes everything between the two pieces of bread just...well, better.  This is an example of the sum being so much better than the total of its parts.  Lots of people have panini presses at home and this would be one time to drag it out from under the counter, but if you don't have one never fear. A heavy skillet and a heavy pan to set on top of the sandwich will generate the same effect. 

I have a grill pan and a heavy panini press that I use for these tasty morsels.  You'll find I make pressed sandwiches a lot - especially in summer when we have fresh tomatoes and basil in the garden and I snag some fresh mozzarella from the local Italian market.  Caprese is wonderful cold as a salad but even better pressed into a hot sandwich.

In any case, if you like meatball subs, this meal is for you.  Not as smothered in red sauce as a sub you might find at the local sub shop, but definitely oozing with cheesy goodness, this was a terrific way to use up these leftovers.

MEATBALL AND MOZZARELLA PANINI
Using leftover meatballs that still have some red sauce clinging to them is really good here.  The sauce lends a good flavor and some moisture to the sandwich.

You may also notice that I seem to have a LOT of meatballs on my sandwich but it's an optical illusion, the meatballs were only about an inch around rather than the typical 2 inch meatballs you find most places.

2 slices of good bread
meatballs, cut in half or sliced (depending upon their size), enough to cover one slice of your bread and heated till warm
1 teaspoon pesto
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
olive oil to drizzle on the outside of the bread

Heat your skillet or panini press to a medium-high heat.  I don't own the real deal here, my grill pan and press will do the job.  Thus the instructions are for this type of gizmo.  If you have a real press, follow your regular cooking instructions.


Slice the meatballs and cover one slice of bread with them.  Cover with the cheese.  On the other slice of bread, spread the pesto.  Put the sandwich together.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and flip oiled side down onto your panini grill or skillet. Press with heavy pot or panini press and heat until cheese begins to melt and bread is toasted golden brown on the bottom. 


Remove the press, drizzle the top with olive oil and flip to grill the other side.  Top with the press and let heat until the bread is browned and the cheese is beginning to melt. 
Once the cheese is melted and both sides are crispy brown, remove from the pan, slice and serve.


Monday, March 7, 2011

ANYBODY KNOW THIS GUY, AL FORNO?

So, I was browsing through one of my cookbooks the other evening and ran across a recipe for Pasta and Broccoli Al Forno.  Then there were other recipes with this guys name attached.  I began to think, hey this guy must be famous!  Just who is this Al Forno dude and how come everything he makes looks so good?
Only kidding folks....basically anything in the cooking world named "al forno" means baked in an oven - as in "forno" being Italian for oven.

So tonight I pulled out one of "Al's" recipes and made a fantastic version of macaroni and cheese hot out of my very own forno.  Toaster oven, of course.

The original recipe was for four servings so I've done my best to scale it down, however, even at 1/4 of the quantity it was really a bit much for me to eat at one sitting and weighing in at nearly 900 calories for the dish, it's probably not recommended unless you haven't had much else to eat for the day.  Knowing that everyone has appetites of varying degrees, if you eat like I try to, having some leftover for lunch one day is not a bad choice.  For any guys out there trying these recipes, this might be a good meal with nothing left for the fridge. So, take this for what it's worth....eat it all if you wish or save some for later. 

Check out my small individual casserole
sitting inside a normal family sized 9x13 pan

On the good side, it really is delicious and once you've gotten this technique down you can tweek the ingredients to your hearts content.  Add some cooked chicken, swap the broccoli for some cauliflower or some frozen peas and carrots, add a few chopped tomatoes to the mixture.  Whatever you can think of.   

One note about baking casseroles for one. Obviously larger amounts go into a larger pan and will take longer to cook.  I've purchased a couple of small casserole dishes that I use for meals like this.  These run about 8x4 inches oval and about an inch tall and are oven safe.  Because it's much shallower than a 9x13-inch pan suggested for this original recipe it will not take nearly as long to bake.  For the amount below, baking time was cut in half from the original 40 minutes.  Keep this in mind as you might re-size some of your own favorite casserole recipes. 

PASTA AND BROCCOLI AL FORNO


4 ounces pasta (small penne, elbow, anything bite size)
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 cup (4ounces) low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1 egg, slightly beaten
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
a dash freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for 7 minutes. Add broccoli and continue cooking 2 additional minutes. Drain and return the pasta and broccoli to the hot pan.


Add the egg to the milk (I used the measuring cup for this) and lightly beat to combine. To the pasta add 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, the milk and egg mixture, half of the Parmigiano cheese, onion and seasonings.

Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano and mozzarella cheeses.


Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top. Remove and let rest 10 minutes before serving.



Pasta and a salad - a perfect meatless meal.

Friday, March 4, 2011

GRAB THAT SLOW COOKER - THERE'S SOUP FOR DINNER!

One challenge I hear most of my single friends dealing with is making soup for themselves. We all love soup, and cold weather definitely cranks up the comfort factor of a warming bowl for dinner, but "too much work to make soup for one serving" is what I hear constantly.   So, what are you gonna do?  Reach for a can of high sodium soup off the shelf?   Hmmmmm....not for me! With my trusty slow cooker standing ready and a few minutes of slicing and dicing the night before, the heady aromas of fresh soup greet me as I stumble through the back door on a cold evening.

After a foray to Al's Market a couple of weeks ago (click here to see what bounty I brought home to squirrel away for days like today), I've been contemplating the bones I removed from the smoked pork chops.

For me, the logical use for these bones is in bean soup. Last night, I rescued one of the bones from the freezer and grabbed a cup of navy beans and a box of chicken stock from the pantry and set up my dinner for tonight. The following prep work took all of 10 minutes. With a stop at the fridge in the morning to toss everything into the slow cooker, total prep time was about 15 minutes.

I love fresh bread with soup and it seems as though some soup and bread combinations simply go together. Such is this bean soup and cornbread. Slightly sweet and crumbly, you can either eat this out of hand with a bit of butter on it as it emerges from the hot oven, or crumble it into your soup bowl as is tradition in our home.

I bake my cornbread in a 6-inch cast iron skillet that I purchased specifically for baking this bread. I use it for other things as well, but it is the perfect size for this amount of cornbread batter and fits neatly into my toaster oven to bake.
Bean Soup and Cornbread just like Grandma used to make. 
OLD FASHIONED BEAN SOUP
There are many versions of bean soup - bean and bacon, black bean, italian bean, to name a few, but this version is what I grew up eating. In our house it was always served with corn bread which usually ends up being crumbled into the soup bowl over the beans. Yum!

And by the way, this makes enough for two servings, soups of all kinds are good left over for lunch another day so I do not fret over the extra serving here. And if there are two of you in the house, well...this is perfect then, huh?

1 cup dried navy pea beans, rinsed and checked to remove bad beans or stones
2 cups chicken stock
1 small smoked ham or pork bone
1 bay leaf
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 garlic clove, whole but slightly crushed
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Notice that little pork bone I had
saved from the pork chops?
Perfect for this!
Prep time:
The night before, rinse and sort through the dried beans. In a medium sized bowl, put in the beans and about double enough water to cover them completely. Add in 2 teaspoons salt and stir to dissolve the salt. Let beans sit overnight.

Gather up the remaining ingredients, except the stock, and put in the crock of the slow cooker and store in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning:
Remove the crock from the fridge and put in the cooker. Turn to low heat. Rinse your beans thoroughly and add them to the pot along with the 2 cups of stock. Stir around to ensure everything is covered in stock. Leave the pot to cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Test to see that the beans are cooked through. Remove the bone, garlic and bay leaf. Pull off any meat left on the bone and add it back to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

CORNBREAD
makes 4 servings or enough for two meals if you do as I do and eat one for dessert with apple butter on top...YUM!

This recipe is the one my Mom used forever and is best baked in a cast iron skillet to form a deep golden crust. The other family trick is to use bacon drippings as the fat and to melt it in the skillet on the stovetop in order to pre-heat the skillet as well as the fat. Pour out the grease into the batter but make sure you leave a little in the hot pan - when the cool batter hits it, it will begin to form that crust immediately, even before it gets to the oven. Mmmm, mmmmm, good old fashioned magic!

My favorite little skillet and some
golden cornbread!
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (more or less)
2 Tbls. corn oil or bacon grease, melted*

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put your skillet (with an ovenproof handle) on the stove and heat, adding the oil or grease (be careful if you use oil, it will burn very quickly if left too long). The idea here is to heat the pan so be careful, the handle will get hot.

In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add the egg and enough milk to make a loose batter (it will resemble cake batter). Add the melted oil or butter and stir to combine. Immediately pour into the hot skillet and transfer to the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is puffy and golden brown.

My little pot of gold goodness...
Bacon grease stored in the fridge.
*A note about bacon drippings - as the granddaughter of a farm wife, my refrigerator is always home to a jar of bacon drippings. Every time I make bacon, the grease is poured into the container for future use. Although I know my Grandmother used this as her main source of fat for many dishes, in my house it's used as both a fat and a seasoning. It's main use in my kitchen is in cornbread as I've described above.

When I was younger and not as wise, I substituted oil or shortening but the bread never tasted the same. Now, I'm older and somewhat wiser and the little jar of grease is a constant in the fridge. Add a spoonful to things like green beans when they're cooking, use it as the grease for frying potatoes in a skillet, pan fry your eggs in it....use it anywhere that you would use a pat of butter and a hint of bacon flavor would be acceptable.
 And don't say eeeuuuwwww...your great-grandparents were cooking with pork fat long before a can of Crisco or margarine showed up on their pantry shelves. If used sparingly as a seasoning, this still has a place in today's modern kitchen.