Cornstick Cheddar Garlic Cornbread

When I make homemade cornbread, it often turns out much less exciting and tasty than I would like.  However, once I got a Lodge cast iron cornstick pan [thanks, St. Nick ;)], everything changed.  The shape of the pan allows the cornbread to get incredibly crispy on the outside, while maintaining its springy, moist texture on the inside.  Lightly browning the butter with garlic before incorporating into the mixture adds depth of flavor, while sharp cheddar adds a subtle dimension of lactic acidity, pairing perfectly with the garlic.   Using coarse ground cornmeal makes these cornsticks even more crunchy, but I’d recommend using regular cornmeal if you’re sensitive to rough textures.  You’re sure to enjoy this cornbread by itself or as a side dish to chili, salads, roasts, or soups!

cornstick_pan

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped (or 1 tsp minced)

½ tsp salt, or to taste

½ C yellow cornmeal (use coarse-ground if you’re looking for a heartier, crunchier texture)

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup buttermilk (make your own by putting 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 C measuring cup, then fill to top with milk, let stand 5 minutes)

1 large egg

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425*F.  Place 7-stick cast-iron cornstick mold in the oven to pre-heat for at least 15 minutes.  (If you have two pans, pre-heat both).  Melt 4 Tbsp of butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat until it foams.  Add the garlic.  Stir frequently.  Cook for about 2 or 3 more minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk the buttermilk and egg lightly in a small bowl until combined. Punch a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all of the wet mixture.  Stir just until combined, making sure not to over mix.  Add the butter and garlic.  Add the cheese.  Stir.

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Remove the hot pans from the oven and brush with remaining 1 Tbsp melted butter. Divide the batter among the molds.  Return molds to oven.  Cook 10-13 minutes, or just until golden brown and springy.    Remove from mold and place on rack to cool.  Enjoy!

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Yields 14

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Gluten-free, Vegan Pasta Puttanesca

I created my own gluten-free, vegan puttanesca recipe tonight (based on Emeril Lagasse’s recipe found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/puttanesca-sauce-recipe.html), and it turned out absolutely delicious! I will definitely be making this again soon!  (I made Mike his with regular pasta 😉 and he loved it too!)

Ingredients:

*try to use organic when possible*

6 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

1 28oz. can diced tomatoes, cut in half or separated by hand so that the chunks aren’t too large

3 Tbsp. tomato paste (the store I stopped at didn’t have organic, so I got all-natural, which isn’t the same, but at least there are no added sugars)

2 Tbsp. drained capers

1 4.25 oz. jar of kalamata olives, drained and with olives cut in half

zest from 1/2 lemon

juice for 1/2 lemon

1/2 C olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1 small shallot, diced

1 tsp. red chili pepper paste

salt to taste

1 8oz package gluten free multigrain spaghetti with quinoa (or use regular wheat pasta if you like)

4 dried basil leaves, crushed

6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In the meanwhile, prepare fresh ingredients.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, adding about 1-2 Tbsp. of water.  Add onions and salt and cook for about 6 minutes.  Add chopped garlic.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Add more salt to taste if necessary. Lower heat to low. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until tomatoes are reduced.  Serve over cooked, drained, rinsed pasta.  Enjoy!

Super Easy Italian Chicken Salad: Dinner for 4 Under $20

Mike and I had our friends over for dinner the other night, and I thought it’d be nice to share how easy it is to prepare a quality meal at home on the weekend for less than $25!

When I went to the store, I had noticed that Italian chicken stuffed portabella’s were on sale for $2 and 3 each (each couple split one), so I picked up a restaurant-quality appetizer for only $5.

My friend Sarah picked up the chicken breasts, which were $14 for four, and I already had Italian dressing ($3/bottle of Simply Balanced Organic Italian dressing from Target), spinach, and cabbage (which we used about $2 worth of).

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts

Italian dressing

1/4 C rice vinegar

Spinach

Cabbage (green and red)

1/8 C cilantro

Directions:

For the stuffed mushrooms, cook on 365F for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches temp. (which is 165 ).  Take out of oven to cool before enjoying.

For the chicken, place the four chicken breasts in a glass plan.  Pour the rice vinegar over the chicken first, and then pour the Italian dressing over the chicken until it is conservatively covered (you should use about 1/4-1/2C).  Let the chicken sit and marinate while you prepare your grill, covering it with foil after you have started and cleaned it.  After about 20 minutes of marinating, take the chicken out of the marinade and place it on the foil on the grill, cooking for about 25-40 minutes, or until it reaches temperature (165F).  Take the chicken off of the grill.

For the salad, chop up 1/4 of a red cabbage and 1/4 of a green cabbage and mix with about 4C of spinach (or more for a bigger salad) and cilantro.  Add Italian dressing to your liking.  (Try 1/4C over the entire salad, and gradually add more if you need too, or add rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar for a lighter dressing with more flavor) Mix the salad.  Plate the chicken and salad.  Serve and enjoy!

(I also served some of the hummus that I made and pita chips with the meal.)

Roasted Turmeric Curry Chickpeas, Greens, and Rice

Tonight for dinner I decided to roast chickpeas (a good source of protein and fiber) and serve them over a bed of rice, spinach, and kale, and topped with mushrooms sauteed in coconut oil (which has healthy fat).  As I do with many things, I added turmeric, which is a particularly potent plant part of the ginger family.  Since ancient times, turmeric has been renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (just to name a few), and can even be used as a natural dye-so be aware that it will stain your hands, your dish rags, your pots and pans, and anything else that it gets on.  Turmeric also supposedly possesses the power of opening up the third eye-which is perfect for today’s theme of detox Monday.  With a slightly sharp taste resembling, but still dissimilar to, mustard and ginger, turmeric is an incredibly versatile seasoning to use in every day cooking, so don’t be afraid to try it in different things!

Here is my recipe for tonight’s turmeric-inspired meal:

Ingredients:

1 25-oz. can of organic chickpeas (or two smaller cans, it really doesn’t matter), rinsed (canned non-GMO/organic beans can be expensive, so buy them when they’re on sale and stock up)

1/2-1 1/2 tsp. (depending on how much you love it) Turmeric (powder)

1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper (powder)

1 1/2-2 tsp. Balti Curry Seasoning (or any curry that you wish)

(seasoning measurements are estimates, as I season to taste and appearance)

Cooked white basmati rice or rice of your choice (organic white basmati rice cooks for about 20 minutes covered on low-heat after boiling, and the water:rice ratio is 2:1) (cook extra if you want to save time and use leftovers to make lunch or dinner the next day!) (As a reference point, I made 2 cups of rice uncooked, I ate about 1 1/2-2 cups with my dinner and Mike the same, and I have about 5 cups left over)

2 C Spinach

2 C Kale

1 C Mushrooms

1-2 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 Tbsp. Coconut oil

Pink Himalayan salt to taste (you won’t need much, as Himalayan salt is quite flavorful)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (for crispier chickpeas that are great for snacking, cook at 425 or 450 for 30-40 minutes). Line a baking sheet with foil (I use foil made with recycled aluminum to help support the reuse and elimination of waste, but it is just fine to use the normal stuff).  After rinsing and drying the chickpeas, lay them out on the foil and drizzle them with the olive oil.  Sprinkle the seasonings and salt on the chickpeas and shake the chickpeas around on the pan until they are coated.  Put the chickpeas in the oven and cook for 20-35 minutes, agitating them a few times as they cook in order to roast them evenly.

In the meantime, you can cook your rice if you haven’t already, and it should be done around the same time as your chickpeas are!

In a pre-heated saute pan, add about 1/4-1/2 C of water and the spinach and kale.  Cook on medium heat until ready, about 4 minutes (the greens will be much smaller, flat, and dark green).

In a different pre-heated pan (or the same pan, if you want to save time), add the coconut oil, and then the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms become soft, about 3 or 4 minutes.

After taking the chickpeas out of the oven, top a bed of rice with some of the spinach, kale, and mushrooms (I made this recipe to make 2-3 servings of the veggies), and then some chickpeas (1/2 C-1 C is a reasonable serving of the chickpeas), or just put it all together in a bowl and you’re good to go!