Smells So Good

My husband is cooking and it’s really smelling delicious. Tonight he’s trying out Emeril’s Filipino Adobo-Style Chicken Thighs. This is a wonderful recipe because all we had to buy was the chicken. Everything else is stuff we generally keep on hand.

The dish is supposed to be served over Emeril’s Aromatic Jasmine Rice. My son-in-law got me hooked on jasmine rice a few years ago. I don’t think I’d want to go back to the plain white rice. We don’t have all those ingredients on hand. No fresh lemongrass, no fresh lime leaves, no coconut milk, no crushed peanuts. We’ll be improvising, but jasmine rice is so good, the dish will still be great.

So, what are you eating tonight?

Cornbread, But Not Exactly My Momma’s Cornbread

My Momma never used yellow cornmeal or sugar in her cornbread, but everytime I’ve tried to make cornbread the way she did, it’s been bitter and inedible. Apparently I missed something important…

The closest I’ve ever come to making Momma’s cornbread is using Martha White’s White Cornbread Mix. Dextrose is in the ingredients list of the mix, so maybe Momma was sneaking some sugar in there while I wasn’t looking. It’s still not the same, but close.

 My Dad’s family makes a slightly different cornbread which is almost as good as Momma’s. (sorry Aunt Juanita — you are wonderful, but I still crave Momma’s cornbread.)

As taught to me by my father, who was taught by his sister, Juanita:

1/2 cup white cornmeal
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup flour
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (you can add more if you like it sweeter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (you can use plain milk + 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, but might need 1/2 teaspoon more salt)
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (I generally use canola, but most any fat, except butter, can be used. Butter burns too quickly.)
Heat oven to 425 (I don’t how this would work in a dutch oven, I’ve never tried that) Place oil in your favorite cast iron skillet (10″ or there abouts) and put it in pre-heated oven. (Or you can pre-heat oven and place skillet on burner to heat it quicker.)Mix all dry ingredients in bowl. Whisk egg and buttermilk together.

After the skillet and oil is hot enough – it should be hot enough that the batter will sizzle when poured into the pan – pour the milk and egg into the dry mixture and mix well.

From the hot skillet, pour about 1/2 the oil into the batter and quickly mix it in. The addition of the hot oil will start the batter rising immediately. Pour the batter quickly into hot skillet and bake for 20 minutes.

Do not allow the batter to stand after it’s mixed. You can use cold oil, but it is still best not to let the batter stand after mixing. Mix the oil with the egg and buttermilk if you use cold oil. What you cannot do is pour the batter into a cold pan and expect it not to stick.

For use in a dutch oven – RonF, frequent commenter at Grim’s Hall, recommends:

Make up a double recipe, put 10 coals underneath the oven, 20 coals on top, leave for 20 minutes. Just wonderful.

I suppose this could be made with all yellow meal or all white meal, but I’m pretty sure the sugar amount would need adjusting for all white meal. The two meals have a different texture, I think, and definitely a different flavor.

My pantry holds a container with the mixed cornmeal. I buy two small bags of each and mix them together for every use of cornmeal.

Today’s Reading

First thing I read today was in a doctor’s office waiting room. I was thrilled that he’d put out a recent copy of the Southern Medical Journal. Surely, I didn’t understand some of the terms used, but if I’d chosen Glamour, I wouldn’t have understood why any of the content was important.

One article was about a 17 year old Hispanic male who had a reaction to concurrent treatment for HIV and active TB. I was mainly horrified that one so young led such a life where he was exposed to either. So very, very sad.

Another was about a 61 year old woman who unknowingly aspirated a hazelnut. I think I remember the nut and the age of the woman correctly. My first question was how one could unknowingly do that. Then it noted that other than the breathing problems that prompted her to get treatment, she had no other health problems except schizophrenia. Perhaps that explains the unknowing part.

The take-home message for me from that article was that aspirated foreign objects are relative rare in adults, but quite common in children, especially ages 5 and under. The most commonly aspirated objects are nuts; the most common nut is the peanut. Note to parents: no nuts until after age 5.

Online, I’ve been reading mostly health or science topics too. Crooked Timber has a great post, Fat Hominid, on fad diets and evolutionary psychology. The comments are good too. If you can stomach reading about eating rodents and insects. :-)

Then I surfed on over to ScienceBlogs where I eventually found a link to Encephalon #49 at Neuroscientifically Challenged. It’s always amused me that we must use what we’re studying to learn about the brain. And yes, I’m easily amused.

The Darwin Diet

From the inimitable Dr. Boli:

Now observe that we could, without altering the lists at all, change the headings above the lists to “Things That Are Healthy to Eat” and “Things That Are Not Healthy to Eat.” The correspondence is perfect. Things that taste good are things that are healthy to eat. It follows, of course, that the things that taste best are the healthiest to eat.

Red Beans, White Rice, and the Blues

Because it’s Monday. And I’m in Louisiana, though I’m not doing laundry today.

•2 cups dry small red beans
•16+ cups water
•4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled, reserve drippings
•1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (or too taste)
•2 cloves garlic, minced fine
•1 bay leaf
•3 cups Trinity*
•3 medium carrots, minced
•More water
•2 teaspoons beef base
•2 pounds polish, link, or cajun sausage
•4 cups cooked white rice** (I prefer Jasmine Rice)

“Look & Pick” the beans, removing any trash, rocks, or severely discolored and deformed beans. Rinse beans well, changing water at least 3 times. This step reduces the flatulence-making property of beans. Cover with 8 cups of the water and let them soak overnight in refrigerator. The next day, remove any “floaters” and drain the water off the beans.

In a large heavy pot, cover the beans with 8 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low and simmer beans for at least one hour. In the meantime, sauté the Trinity*, garlic, and carrots in the reserved bacon drippings. Add the crumbled bacon, the Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, then add the entire seasoning mixture to the partially cooked beans.

Bring back to a rolling boil, then reduce heat and simmer for several hours, adding water as necessary. The beans are done when they begin to “pop” or split and are tender all the way through. (For this step, I use a pressure cooker, even though it’s only 300 or so ft. above sea level here. I like for the carrots and trinity to “dissolve” and thicken the soup.)

High altitudes require using a pressure cooker. If you’re at 4000 ft, you can boil beans for a week and they won’t get done.

Check seasoning and adjust to taste, keeping in mind that the rice is somewhat bland. If the bean soup is not as thick as you like, smash some of the beans to a paste for thickening. Do not use a roux to thicken.

Slice and brown sausages, or grill them whole or in serving size pieces. Your taste, your choice. Serve the beans ladled over cooked white rice, the sausage on the side and a wedge of cornbread, all accompanied by some blues, of course.***

*Trinity – equal parts chopped celery, chopped green pepper, chopped onions. I prefer green bell peppers and red onions, and chop the inner tender celery leaves as well as the stalk.

**Rice – Cover 2 cups uncooked white rice with 4 cups water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and simmer over lowest heat for 20 minutes, then “fluff” with fork. Do not stir rice during cooking or standing time.

Variations:
•Substitute finely chopped pancetta, ham, or sausage for bacon
•Eliminate the bacon, slice & saute the sausage and vegetables, adding all to beans. •Skip the side serving of sausage. For a lower fat version, use less sausage.
•Substitute grilled pork chops or chicken for the side of sausage.
•Use pinto or black beans. You could also use kidney beans, I suppose. I don’t like kidney beans, but if you do… use them.
 
Now for the blues***

Click here to listen to (or download) a sampling of the music of Huddy Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly. Click here to hear more snippets of some of his songs and Woodie Guthrie’s performed by Little Richard, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Sweet Honey in the Rock. That CD — Folkways: A Vision Shared – A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly — is one of my favorites.An updated recipe from the one I originally posted at Pajama Pundits.

My Trip to Arizona

What I didn’t expect from my trip to Arizona was Green. Compared to Louisiana, Phoenix is green this time of year. Green grass (if it’s watered) and, of course, all colors of green cactus (including blue-green). And sun…

The day I got back to Louisiana was overcast, all the deciduous trees were nothing but grey limbs… it was dreary. Birthday GirlBirthday Girl

But… the brightest thing about Arizona was my granddaughter. Here she is finishing off her first birthday cake. Ain’t she cute?

Birthday Girl

No, her Nonna is not biased at all. I’m not sure she actually ate any of the cake, but she had a grand time squishing it and rubbing it into her hair. It was a lot of fun seeing her play will all her pals from Gymboree and the local Mom’s group.

Other highlights of the trip were The Temper Tantrum – Nonna spent almost an hour laughing at the sweet angel as she threw a big one, then finally sighed loudly and decided to play with her toys and books. She has earned her nickname “Stinkerbelle” honestly.

Then there was the raw tuna. My favorite son-in-law (don’t confuse him with my other favorite sons-in-law) will eat almost anything. I got him a sushi kit for Christmas, but this was a sort of raw tuna salad. His mom and dad loved it. I tried it. I didn’t love it. It didn’t really taste bad, but raw tuna is very, very chewy. Very.

At the last minute, I decided to fly rather than drive. I had a nightmare about my car (10 years old, 150,000+ miles) breaking down between Pecos and Van Horn, where I know my cell phone does not work… and then there’s that long stretch between Van Horn and El Paso, where I can’t remember if my cell phone works, or not.

The bad part about that is that I did not get to try the traditional Chile Relleno at Dos Compadres in Midland, or Odessa. That means that, so far, the best Chile Relleno I’ve ever eaten is at Papa Poblanos in DeQueen AR. That’s right… Arkansas. I was born and raised in SW Colorado and NW New Mexico, but Papa Poblanos, well… it’s one hell of a Chile Relleno.

Great Choices

Bill Jempty of Wizbang has chosen Mississippi State Representatives W. T. Mayhall Jr, Bobby Show, and John Read to receive his Knucklehead of the Day award.

These three morons have sponsoring the following legislation:

An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the state department of health; to direct the department to prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese and to provide those materials to the food establishments; to direct the department to monitor the food establishments for compliance with the provisions of this act; and for related purposes.*****

(2) Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management established under Section 41-101-1 or its successor. The State Department of Health shall prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese, and shall provide those materials to all food establishments to which this section applies. A food establishment shall be entitled to rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person.

House Bill 282 was introduced Friday, Feb. 1.

Sandy Szwarc, of Junkfood Science fame asks:

Is this a tongue-in-cheek bill, meant to point out how absurd the war on obesity has become? Or do lawmakers actually believe the myths that gluttony is the cause for obesity and that it is the government’s role to force people to eat and live how it deems best?

Rep. Mayhall answered her question that the bill was serious, though regrettably (hallalujah!) he doesn’t believe it will pass. He hopes it will call attention to the problem and what obesity is costing the Medicare system.

What is obesity causing the Medicare system? Someone want to give me some hard figures on that? I don’t want “but it must be costing because fat people are unhealthy!”

Potatoes Au Gratin for two

My husband loves this and so do I. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having a lot of leftovers. Who has the storage space? If we don’t eat all of this at one sitting, I have a nice lunch item the next day. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to have no leftovers older than 3 days in the fridge. This has been harder than I thought!

Ingredients:

2 medium sized potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 medium onion, sliced, or diced
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use some (no more than 1/2 Tablespoon) to butter a small casserole dish (one with a lid, preferably).

Layer half the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with about 3/4 of the onion. Add remaining potatoes, then remaining onion. Sprinkle each layer with a bit of salt and pepper (not too much salt, as the cheese is salty.)

In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter over low heat. Mix in flour, up the heat to medium and stir in milk with a wire whisk until mixture thickens. Add cheese, stir until it’s melted. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and onions, cover dish (a foil tent works just fine) and bake approx. 1 1/4 hours.