Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: The Cracker Kitchen, Recipe: Mama's Cornbread

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

Let me just say this now: I am NOT a cracker. Actually, I'm not sure I even know any true crackers. However, my closest female friend lives outside of Nashville in a town surely inhabited by people of that persuasion.

Nonetheless, I was curious about The Cracker Kitchen. To tell the truth, I'm really not the right audience for this book. I don't eat a lot of the foods in this book. However, I really enjoyed reading the stories attached to each recipe. Hilarious and authentic, Janis Owens tells a great story and shares a great cornbread recipe. Also, there are plenty of recipes that can be veganized, so I'm going to try that with a few of the classics just for fun.

Because I don't cook with pork (although John is a big fan of pork roll, pork chops, and bacon -- and will cook his own), I took her up on her suggestion to alternately use butter in "Mama's Cornbread" instead of bacon drippings (6 tablespoons, no less!).

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

This is some buttery cornbread. A friend of mine from Rutgers said she wanted to put even more butter on it. I could see jam, but not more butter. In fact, a drizzle of agave nectar would be just the topper this needs.

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

Why show you the butt of the bread? Well, because it's important to understand exactly why you need to bake this in a cast iron skillet. It makes the cornbread especially crispy on the bottom in a pretty uniform way. I love my cast iron skillet. If you don't love yours, just get another one. They're really cheap and worth every penny.

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

You really want to eat this about 20 minutes after it's come out of the oven, while it's still pretty hot from being in the pan while cooling. There's nothing like it. I wasn't ready to down the whole thing, so I cut mine up into quarters and wrapped three of the quarters up tightly in aluminum foil, then bagged them in ziplock bags and froze them right after they cooled. I've been doling them out to my Rutgers friend periodically.

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

I didn't make much of a change to the recipe except that I added 2 tablespoons of agave nectar to it, thinking that would sweeten it up a bit. The butter over-rode the agave, so next time, I'll probably double the amount.

Here's the recipe as I made it.

Mama's Cornbread, from The Cracker Kitchen by Janis Owens (my changes noted)


1 1/2 cups plain yellow cornmeal (I used medium grind because I like the texture)
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (I finally got to use the King Arthur Self-Rising Flour!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used buttermilk powder mixed with water instead of fresh, and it worked just fine.)
6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
(My addition: 2 tablespoons agave nectar -- add more to actually taste it.)


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend well.
3. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir until smooth. (Add the agave here as well.)
4. Heat the remaining butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 1 minute until hot but not smoking. Shake the pan to coat the bottom. (I also coated the sides.)
5. Pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet. Bake for 20 minutes, until brown on top and crispy brown on the bottom.
(My addition: Let cool for 20 minutes in pan, then serve.)

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Six Month Follow-up Mammogram

For those who have been following along since this post about my stereotactic breast biopsy, you will be happy to know that today's 6-month follow-up mammogram came up clean. Yay! They just said, "See you in six months at your routine annual mammogram."

Just about the best news I've heard all week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Catching Up with the Aerogarden

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

After a year and a quarter of enjoying fresh herbs, I decided to try out the salad greens seed pods that were on sale the last time I was out in Utah shopping with my mother-in-law (who gave me the Aerogarden two Christmases ago). So far, so good.

Because I'm a huge fan of fresh basil, I split the difference -- three pods of basil and four pods of salad greens. I can't wait to enjoy the harvest.

By the way, I'm still using the original light bulbs. I bought a few packs of bulbs when I first got the thing because the Aerogarden folks said to replace them every six months. Honestly, I've forgotten, and I can't say the plants know the difference. Either way, I'm still reaping the benefits of having a wee water garden in my dining room.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Adventures in Quinoa -- Tales of Hot and Cold Grain-like Love

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

A few weeks ago, like I've done countless times, I bought a tub of Cedars' tabouli and ate most of it with a pita. And, like countless times before, I thought, "I could make this and save myself lots of $$$."

I was right.

However, I decided to try something different. Lately, I've been (ehem) noodling around with quinoa. The first time I tried making something with it, I sauteed some fresh shallots in a little olive oil in my large Dutch oven until they were golden brown. Then, I added some summer squash (lovely gold squash fresh from the co-op) chopped into tiny bits to the mix. Finally, I added dry quinoa to the pot, sauteed it with the other ingredients for a couple of minutes, then added twice the amount of water to the pot. Right before I put the top on, I added some Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. It was wonderful, and only took 10 minutes to cook. I've been living on it for a week. So tasty!

So, what does that have to do with the loveliness above? Well, very little except that the grain (or rather not-quite grain) in common is quinoa.

From Feb 2009 Recipes and Product Reviews

Suffice to say, I'm never buying tabouli again. Once I found out how simple and delicious it is this way, I vowed to always make my own. I've already tried it on another quinoa newbie who declared her love for it immediately. Both she and I agreed that it would be a great, colorful dish to bring to a gathering.

Here's my own recipe. Give it a try and let me know how you like it!

Deb's Quinoa Tabouli


2 cups cooked cold quinoa
1 large bunch of parsley, cut in a chiffonade-like fashion
1/2 small red onion, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil (you want the best-tasting stuff here, not just your cooking oil)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (you could use just white vinegar, too)
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Mix all the ingredients together well. You really want to coat all the quinoa with the oil and vinegar.
2. Serve with pitas, chips, or crackers.
3. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Random Things

It's interesting how when you read all these memes (and by the way, this one's been around for a while. In fact, I think I've already done it.), and learn new things about folks whom you only "know" only as much as they allow you to know. Follow?

OK, I only let you know as much as I want you to know, unless, of course, you know me in a context other than this (or my other) blog. That said, here are some 23 random things about me (I'll try really hard not to repeat anything I've every hit on prior to this post).

1. I LOVE Hulu.com. Wish they'd send me a bumper sticker saying that so I could put it on the back of my car.

2. I already have a couple of other stickers on my car: Alta snowflakes on the back and on the driver's side rear window. There are others, but I'm not going to reveal them here. ;D

3. I never thought I'd go back to school for Library and Information Science, but here I am, doing just that. And, so far, I really like it.

4. I used to smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day. It's been 13 years since I stopped. Every once in a while when I watch a movie that shows someone smoking, I have an urge. But it passes. I quit cold turkey.

5. I drive a 12-year-old Honda Accord with more than 150k miles on the odometer.

6. From my house, it's much less expensive to drive into NYC than to take public transportation, and that bugs the poo out of me. It's actually nearly 3x as expensive. Criminal.

7. I have a terrible memory. If I don't write things down, I lose them. Thinking about exams makes me anxious.

8. Don't tell me something cannot be done. It just comes across as a challenge to me.

9. I'm a tool and gadget junkie. Although my favorite kitchen tool is the classic wooden spoon.

10. John and I do not have exactly matching luggage, but both our individual sets are similar in color and come from the same company. Wish I could show you his (complete with space for his fly-fishing rods) luggage, but they don't seem to make John's anymore.

11. I take vitamins, but only because I feel like poo when I don't. Oh, and I take calcium because it keeps Mom in business.

12. I love dancing, but I'm not very good at it. In fact, I'm really klutzy. I won't take gym classes because the last time I did, I knocked a couple of people over and smacked someone in the back of the head.

13. I'd rather hang out in a good stationery store than a Williams-Sonoma.

14. As a child, I spent more time with my brother's Legos and Erector Set than with Barbie dolls (but I did have some Barbies -- always cut their hair off).

15. I used to write in a journal every day -- for many, many years. I don't any more. I'm lucky if I update my journal once a month these days.

16. If it wasn't for cheese, it would be easy for me to go back to being a vegan. There's just nothing that melt or tastes like it. I probably wouldn't miss anything else. Except, maybe butter.

17. My best female friend lives in Tennessee, but we used to be neighbors in Montclair. Some days I wish she still lived down the street. That's really inadequate. On those days, I'd trade all my gadgets (including the stand mixer, and you know how I love my stand mixer) to have Dawn be able to stop by and visit for a few hours. Instead, I get to go to Nashville and eat authentic biscuits. Mmmmmm. Oh and visit Dawn.

18. I once sold a box of snowglobes on EBay. People will buy anything. I guess I'm one of those people, because I'd originally bought some of them (the rest were gifts).

19. I don't wear make-up. I used to, but now it just looks silly. Besides, John prefers my natural coloring, and that's enough for me.

20. I'm one of those people who strikes up conversations with strangers if I'm standing in line for too long. (Your definition of "too long" may just be more generous than mine.)

21. Sometimes I use my Bundt pan just to be able to say "Bundt" pan.

22. I LOVE The Big Bang Theory.

23. I'm really glad people stop by and comment every now and then.

Hope y'all have a great day!