Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cornmeal Porridge

Standard

Yesterday I shared the book The Worst Hard Times with you. I’ve been continuing to think about the book a lot. Of course, this led to me thinking about the food that existed during that time period and scenario.

I think that food says a lot about people, cultures, resources available, and history. It’s interesting to look at people’s food preferences, try new dishes, play around with combinations of ingredients that seem outrageous in concept. I also think it can be extremely insightful and useful to be able to adopt a certain perspective or lifestyle by sampling a dish. Which is why I made cornmeal porridge.

So I’ll admit-I’m a fan of the texture of foods that you might find popular with people who eat at Luby’s. I love mashed potatoes, oatmeal, pancakes soggy with maple syrup…you get the point. I like foods that some might term ‘mushy’. When I did a little research on foods available in the 1930′s to residents of the dust bowl and found cornmeal mush, I wasn’t intimidated.

Cornmeal mush or porridge was a food that was versatile in the sense that it could be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And it was utilized for all three meals because in some instances, corn meal and various scraps of food were all that these families had access to. Breakfast might have been cornmeal topped with a dollop of canned fruit or jam, lunch might have been cornmeal topped with a smidgen of meat or a little bit of butter, and dinner may have been cornmeal topped with rabbit. Essentially, people ate what they had access to. Although I love certain foods, I can’t imagine eating something for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day without a choice for months on end.  

I didn’t eat cornmeal porridge for all three meals at any point this week, but I did make the porridge and found myself transported to a time not too far from this one, in a place not far at all from where I live. As I stirred the porridge, I tried to imagine myself as a woman living in the dust bowl, using various home remedies and cleaning solutions in attempts to clean tiny homesteads, stirring porridge for husbands weary from fruitless days out farming and children bedridden with coughs. When I sampled the porridge, I tried to savor the taste in my mouth as one that represented sustenance and nutrition in a world where neighbors starved, animals chewed on salted tumbleweed, and the nation supported a politician that toted the slogan that no man would go without bread, butter, bacon, or beans if he was elected. If that doesn’t show you how hungry the nation was, I don’t know what would.

Overall, I think that this cornmeal porridge represents the resourcefulness, stamina, and grueling lifestyle of those who resided in the dust bowl. After reading The Worst Hard Times,  I found it really interesting to transport myself to the culture present in the book by sampling the food that the citizens of the dust bowl ate for every meal, if they were lucky. So if you find yourself reading the novel, or just want to sample cornmeal porridge in an attempt to immerse yourself in history, here’s the recipe!

Cornmeal Porridge

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal

4 cups water (separated)

How To

1. Pour 2 cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil on the stovetop.

2. In a medium sized bowl, mix one cup of water with one cup of cornmeal.

3. When the water on the stovetop reaches a boil, mix in the cornmeal mixture. Let boil for a couple minutes and then turn heat to low.

4. Stir over low heat until porridge reaches thick consistency. If the porridge becomes too thick, use the extra cup of water in increments to achieve desired consistency. Stir on low for at least ten minutes before serving.

I topped my porridge with strawberry preserves. For breakfast, feel free to top with syrup, jam, or molasses if you really want to emulate a dust bowl meal. For a more savory meal, crumble bacon or ham on top and add a small spoonful of butter to the mixture.

The Worst Hard Times [Book Review]

Standard
The Worst Hard Times [Book Review]

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases! I sure did. I had a relaxing day full of food, family, and really great friends. Even in the days leading up to Christmas, I made special memories; shooting my first .22 under the guidance of my brother and dad (and hitting the bullseye TWICE on my first attempts!), making wreaths with my mom and a good family friend, waking up to the smell of my uncle’s coffee brewing on Christmas morning, taking a Christmas run down my neighborhood street while listening to my favorite holiday songs, sharing cookies and bowls of delicious potato soup with our neighbors that are more like family, and just lounging around on the couch with my family close to me. I hope your day was as great as mine!

And one more detail about my weekend…my light stayed on late this Christmas Eve when we got home from church, and it wasn’t because I was trying to sneak a peek at Santa. My lamp was on because I was up reading a really, really good book. Have you heard of The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s a great historical non-fiction book that centers on key residents of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas during the harsh years of the dust bowl. It chronicles their experiences, challenges, and feelings about the devastating toll that the dust storms had on residents of the area during that time. In addition, the author does an excellent job of putting the anecdotes of the citizens in context to the happenings of the nation as a whole. Not being much of a history buff, I appreciated the simplified and streamlined historical facts about the United States that pertained to the dust bowl.

I’ll admit that when I learned about the dust bowl in American History class I kind of glazed over the whole concept. No, not because I was trying to be insensitive to the struggles that these thousands of people went through, but because it seemed like it happened a long time ago and almost as if it happened in a totally different world. In class, I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine thousands of houses covered up by literal dunes of dust, or imagine children choking to death on the dust or dying of dust pneumonia. Needless to say, my high school history class didn’t really pique my interest in the dust bowl.

But a few weeks ago, my grandpa gave me his copy of The Worst Hard Times, telling me how good it was and how I had to read it. And I’m so glad he did because this book has made the historical event that I filed away as irrelevant to my day-to-day life something that I now think about for a number of reasons. One reason is that I lived in Oklahoma my senior year of high school and still go there during some of my breaks. After reading this book, spending time in Oklahoma makes me think about things. It makes me think about the river that runs by my house that I take for granted, the fact that I’m able to open my pantry and it’s always full whereas people were eating canned tumbleweed when times got tough, the fact that I have medicine to take for the nagging cold I brought home with me from school in comparison to people who suffered from dust pneumonia with no cure. I guess what I mean to say is that reading this book puts things into perspective.

Another reason this book causes me to think is that the text doesn’t read like a history book with mere statistics and figures used to illustrate heart wrenching details and sum up stories of citizens of this area. No, this book doesn’t glaze over the personal details at all. In fact, Egan delves deeper than I would have thought possible in such a text, going so far as to include personal diary entries from a man chronicling his experiences in the dust bowl. At times, the book is hard to read because of how specific it is in describing traumatic and gruesome and tragic events that happened during the time, but these events happened so I think it is important to acknowledge, appreciate, and process such history. I find it incredible that Egan was able to compile such varied and personal accounts of the time period in order to write a piece of historical non-fiction that has the potential to drastically change perceptions of the dust bowl. For me, the book made the dust bowl less of a history lesson and more of an event that demonstrated the true heart, grit, determination, and strength of people who existed during the tough times and still can be found now within our culture.

So, what I’m trying to say in my usual, long-winded way is that this book is definitely worth picking up. If you’ve got a few hours to spend each night reading the book and sifting through an abundance of information, I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it if you choose and if not, I hope you’ve had some relaxing time this season to pick up a good book and sit and read for a while.

Comfort

Standard

Today it is gloomy and grey outside. It is a perfect day to snuggle up all day on the couch and watch Christmas movies or read good books (I seem to want to do this a lot…). But instead of curling up on the couch, I’ve been on the go all day. I went to the gym with my brother and mom (and am having a hard time walking as a result of excessive lunging) then to a dentist appointment and now I’m writing a ten page paper. Yuck.

What makes writing the ten pages worse is that it’s only 3 but it feels like nap time because it’s so dark outside. I’m sure you’ve had days like these!

So I came up with a cure for the dreary weather. Comfort food. What could be better? My mom has been making a Mexican Gumbo Soup in the slow-cooker all day and it’s been tempting me since early this morning. I decided to attempt to make something I never have before: cornbread. But of course, I had to make it myself and not really follow a recipe and add a bunch of ingredients. So in my state of comfort-craving and paper-procrastination, I added every ingredient in the fridge that might make the bread even more enticing: bacon, cheese, butter. I usually don’t touch these ingredients but maybe being back in the South is getting to my head because today they sounded delicious. The bread tastes pretty good (but now I’m fresh out of things to do to procrastinate writing my paper and I’m even more excited for dinner than I already was). We’ll see how everyone else likes it later. I for one am ready to slather some butter on my corn bread and sit down with my family to a warming soup.

Hope your day has been more full of sunshine than mine! (Or snow if it’s gonna be this grey out there). Enjoy the comfort of a hearty slice of cornbread and let me know what you think of it.

Bacon-Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients

2 cups corn meal

1 cup milk

1 egg

4 tablespoons butter

3 slices bacon (2 crumbled, mixed into batter/1 crumbled on top of cornbread)

1/4 cup cheese (mixed into batter)

1/2 tablespoon cheese (sprinkled on top of cornbread)

1/2 teaspoon pepper (sprinkled on top of cornbread)

1/2 teaspoon paprika (sprinkled on top of cornbread)

How To

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease an 8×8 casserole pan (or a bread pan, or muffin tins…whatever you’d like to use). Set aside.

2. Pour corn meal into large mixing bowl. Add milk, butter, and egg. Beat for about one minute or until all ingredients are evenly mixed. Add bacon pieces and cheese and mix well.

3. Pour mixture into casserole pan. Pat down and disperse evenly. Sprinkle bacon, cheese and spices on top of the batter. Put into oven for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.

Candy Cane Meringues

Standard

As I explained yesterday in my post, I got a real itch to try making meringues after seeing some recipes in magazines. And not just any magazines. Have you seen the cover of Bon Appetit this month? The meringues look so festive and fun. Who wouldn’t want to make cute cookies?

But again, I was nervous about the meringues. Rather than just mixing together a bunch of types of chocolate (which ALWAYS tastes delicious, well…mostly always) I was going to have to whip up another perfect batch of meringue batter and then form it into a striped, gloriously peppermint cookie? If you know me, you’ll be thinking…what was she thinking? about my attempt to make these meringues. Well, just wait until you see how they turned out. I couldn’t be happier!

Candy Cane Meringues (adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)

Ingredients

2 candy canes

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

15 drops food coloring

How To

1. Crush up the candy canes until they are a mixture of very fine powder and little tiny chunks (my dad went into the backyard with a hammer and a plastic ziploc bag and went to work on them. Thanks, dad!) Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

3. Using your chilled beater and large bowl (just like I explained in my meringue post) beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on medium-high until white and foamy (about one minute). With mixer still running, add sugar in 3 additions (beat for 2 minutes between each addition). After the last addition, beat another 2 minutes until stiff peaks form.

4. Add powdered sugar and crushed candy canes. Beat to blend (about 1 minute).

5. While the meringue is still in the bowl, dot 15 drops of food coloring on top. Don’t mix. Scoop the white and red-splotched meringue into a large freezer bag (try not to stir or mix as you’re scooping) and cut a 1/4 inch hole at the corner of the bag. Pipe 1 inch meringues onto a baking sheet. Try not to ogle over how cute the little, striped meringues look!

6. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven after 45 minutes and let the meringues sit in the oven for at least another 45 minutes (important: DO NOT open oven at all during this time). Remove meringues from oven and let them cool. Then serve and enjoy!

Props to mom on making the photo shoot festive! Thanks, mom!

Meringues with Muffy

Standard
Meringues with Muffy

Who’s Muffy?

Clues: she’s fluffy, really snuggly (sometimes), has a ferocious five-pound bark, two wittle-tiny paws for mixing ingredients, and a button-nose for sniffing out delicious baked goods.

She’s my puppy! Well, I guess she’s more of a grown up now in age, but she still seems like a puppy. And she’s the best darned baking assistant I’ve got.

She’s pretty cute, too.

So as you may know, I flew back home a few days ago. One of the perks of a two hour layover? Reading magazines in the airport stores. I found two recipes for meringue that I was just dying to try once I got home. And once I get an idea in my head, I usually can’t get it out until I do it. Thankfully, my parents are in charge of bringing some cookies to church on Sunday so I used the opportunity to test out over 60 of these crisp, melt-in-your-mouth creations.

I didn’t think meringues would be hard. I mean, I’d never made them before, but I’m a pretty optimistic person. When I told my dad I was making them he looked up from reading and said “Meringues? You’re going to try to make meringues?” I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Until I started finding dozens of websites online dedicated to helping people make successful meringues. Until I called my grandma and she offered a few really, REALLY helpful tips on how to make them correctly. Until I started really reading the recipes, instead of just glazing over the pretty pictures.

Despite all of these signs that indicated that I probably shouldn’t make meringue (I’ve discussed my past baking mishaps before…) I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. We picked up a box of macaroons to bring to church in case my cookies failed.

But I’m proud to report that the meringues were a SUCCESS! They are light, semi-sweet, packed with flavor, and even look pretty. I think it might be Muffy’s help baking that made the meringues work. Maybe I should invite her to help me more often!

Anyway, I’ll post one of the meringue recipes right now and another one tomorrow. I will include all of the tips that I found useful from the internet and my grandma and Muffy of course. Moral of the meringue story? Browse through magazines and find the prettiest picture of food you can find, do a little research, then grab your puppy or your best pal and get to work making a delicious creation!

Mocha-Cocoa Meringues (Adapted from a recipe in Shape magazine)

Important: before assembling ingredients or even thinking about getting to work baking, put a big mixing bowl and beaters in the fridge to cool them off. You’ll want them to be cold before beating eggs and other ingredients.

Ingredients

(For Meringues)

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

6 hershey’s kisses, unwrapped and cut with a knife into the thinnest shavings you can manage

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 large egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of Tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

(For Glaze)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon almond milk (or more if you want a more liquidy drizzle)

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

How To

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with wax paper (I had to line 2 baking sheets).

2. In a small bowl, combine cocoa, espresso, hershey’s shavings, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. In the large bowl (taken out from the fridge) beat egg whites until frothy using an electric mixer set to medium speed (about one minute). Add cream of Tartar, salt, and vanilla; increase speed to high, and continue beating until soft peaks form (about two minutes). Slowly add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes glossy (about four minutes). Gently fold in cocoa mixture and then beat on medium for thirty seconds, or until all ingredients are mixed. Don’t beat too long in this step.

4. Spoon the mixture into a large ziploc bag (or a pastry bag if you’re fancy). Cut a little 1/4 inch hole in the corner of the bag and pipe 1 1/2 inch meringues onto prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake for 45 minutes at 250 degrees. Turn off oven and leave cookies in there for at least 45 minutes longer. Important: Do not open oven this ENTIRE TIME! (I know, it seems impossible to resist, but turn on the oven light to check on the cookies. I took Muff-puff for a walk while I had to wait to keep myself from checking on them). Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack (BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK COOKIES) and let them cool completely.

6. While cookies are cooling, make the drizzle. Mix all ingredients listed in a small bowl and then drizzle on top of meringues once they are completely cool. Then, give Muffy a high-five and pop a few meringues into your mouth. Give her a treat for being such a good helper in the kitchen! :)

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did! (And hopefully, as much as the whole congregation does at church tomorrow!)

Do you have any great tips for making meringues? What fun variations have you made?

Make sure to check back tomorrow for a Peppermint-swirl Meringue recipe. These meringues are the CUTEST!

Planes, cars, and new donut pans

Standard
Planes, cars, and new donut pans

Alright, so the first two are pretty self-explanatory. Said goodbye to my friends at school. Said goodbye to my grandparents at the airport. Got on a plane. Came home. I LOVE being home! I miss my friends and apartment a lot but there’s nothing like waking up to Mom’s homemade oatmeal cake and a furry little five pound dog that wants to curl up on my lap and a day schedule that has NOTHING written all over it. It’s been a while since I could just sleep in, lounge around in my pj’s, turn on the tv for hours and sit on the couch. These are all things I see myself doing today.

Donut pans. We had Christmas in our apartment before we left. It was great having all of my friends around our tiny, Charlie-Brown Christmas tree, giving each other gifts from the heart. Which is where the donut pan comes in. After all the presents were unwrapped, we decided to cap off the night with a test-run of some homemade donuts. Yum.

I’ve told you before that I’m not the best baker (cough, cough…I’m still not really sure why baking soda is necessary or what the stuff even is) but I made up my own donut recipe! And they were DELICIOUS! Let’s just say that maybe the magic of Christmas was with me while I was making the donuts because honestly, I don’t know how they turned out so perfectly. I hope that this post leads you to buy a donut pan (for yourself or someone else) and then impulsively try out this recipe at maybe ten o’clock at night with your best friends. Because that’s when donuts taste best. Oh, and turn on some Christmas tunes and plug in a string of lights to make the experience extra-special. Enjoy! :)

 

Apple Cider Pumpkin Donuts

Ingredients (makes 6 donuts)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup almond milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

How To

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Now most recipe sites are going to tell you to mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls and then gently fold in one set of ingredients to the other or something like that. But not here. In my recipe, all ingredients get added to one big bowl where they happily meet one another and get mixed into a delicious tasting batter. So go ahead, just dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them up!

3. Lightly grease donut pan (I sprayed mine with coconut oil) and then scoop the batter into the compartments. Ideally, each donut-compartment should be about 2/3 full, but if they are a little more or less full, don’t sweat it. A donut’s a donut.

4. Once your pan is filled to the brim with yummy, donut-deliciousness, pop the pan into the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Take donuts out of oven, carefully take them out of the pan, and then eat to your heart’s content.

Note: I whipped up a quick chocolate glaze to drizzle on top of these, but I didn’t write down the amounts used of any of the ingredients. Next time I’ll measure so I can share the goodness!

{Link Love}

Standard
{Link Love}

I got invited to participate in a blog hop, which is a compilation of recipes from other great bloggers around the web! If you’d like to check out my coffee infused sweet potato casserole and VOTE FOR MY RECIPE(!), please click on the Fave Diets blog hop logo below and click ‘like’ on #21 (that’s me!!). Thanks for your support and be sure to check out the other great recipes featured on the site. I know everyone who submits puts a lot of work into their recipes!

FD blog hop6 December Blog Hop and Giveaway: Favorite Holiday Recipes

Also, I’d like to share with you a recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog for a recipe for some amazing frozen hot chocolate! YUM! Here’s a couple pictures from when I made it for myself…

Please vote if you have the chance and enjoy the frozen hot cocoa! :)

P.S. Today is my beautiful friend Andrea’s 20th birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Happy birthday!!!!!!