Sugarless Cornbread? Pumpkin Chiffon Pie?

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Just-baked cornbread (with a bit of sugar) – which we really needed to taste (topped with a lot of butter).  Let it dry for a few days before crumbling for the dressing

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Here’s the completed cornbread dressing; add gravy and you’ve got YUM!

A BigLittleMeals Lagniappe pre-Thanksgiving edition.  We’re passing along recipes.

First – a recipe from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Austin, Texas, a Best of the Besties Southern Cornbread Dressing, guaranteed to please.  It comes from Becky and her mom, Katie, our special Louisiana neighbors and special friends.

Little did I know that a dressing recipe could be controversial, but apparently it can be.  Sugar vs no sugar is one of the key factors in the debate. You’ll enjoy reading Kim Severson’s “How I Mastered the Art (and Politics) of Cornbread Dressing.

Our second recipe comes from my Colorado Cousin Bill; it’s a Best of the Besties Pumpkin Chiffon Pie recipe from our grandmother, Rachel, aka “Mom Hill,” which she in turn got from Mamie Eisenhower.  (Mamie is a cute name!  Why don’t we ever hear it used any more?)  The story goes that Mamie and Rachel, who knew each other in Washington, D.C., bonded because they both had Colorado roots.  Yea, Colorado! Go Rams! Go Buffs! Go Broncos! Go Rockies (sorry, Joe; you can still love the Dodgers)! Go Nuggets (nope, my heart is with the Warriors)! Go Avalanche! Go CC Tigers?

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I daresay women’s fashion and hairstyles have changed more than men’s over the last 60 years.  Following up on our last post –  the answer to “Where the Wild Things Are” may be “on Mamie’s shoulders”

So if you’re still working on your menu for Turkey Day, here’s Mamie’s recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (which the Washington Post also declared delicious).  Mom Hill also passed along Pumpkin Pie O’Brien, a personal favorite.  For the main course we recommend Super Simple Sage-y Roasted Turkey Breast, and if you want to wow your guests with something unexpected, include the Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (and Sumac).

Of course, a cocktail is in order too.  If you haven’t already read it, we recommend enjoying our Where the Wild Things Are blog – because we consider it our pièce de résistance.  Click on our link, Wild Turkey, for our recommended cocktail.

You need to bake the cornbread a day or so ahead so that it has time to dry out and get crumbly, so quit sitting at your computer and get going!!

Southern Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients

1 large (lasagna size – 9×13) pan of baked cornbread, any recipe, dried and then crumbled (note from Ann: there’s a super-simple cornbread recipe below).

Combine the crumbled cornbread with:
  • 1 cup each onions and celery, diced, and sautéed until softened in a little butter or olive oil
  • 1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-2 cups natural chicken or veggie broth as needed
  • herbs to taste– sage, parsley, thyme, pepper are suggested
  • Add salt if needed; it depends on how much is in your stock and cornbread
 The cornbread mixture should be very moist, so add a little more broth if it’s not.
 Bake until heated through and crusty on the top, about 25-30 minutes.

 Serve with lots of turkey gravy. Celery and onion are the key to the great taste 

from Ann: here’s a good cornbread recipe.  Note:  to have enough cornbread for Becky’s cornbread dressing recipe, I would recommend making a recipe and a half of this.  You can make it gluten free by using 2 c of cornmeal and omitting the flour.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white or yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1 T butter

Heat oven to 400°F.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Stir in buttermilk, 1/3 cup melted butter and eggs just until mixture is moistened.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy cast iron or oven-proof 10-inch skillet. Pour batter immediately into pan and place the pan in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

I would do 1 1/2 recipe to fill a 9″x13″ pan. If you don’t need that much dressing, stick with the original cornbread recipe, and fix the dressing with 1 egg and 1 c broth and bake it in the skillet you used for the cornbread – or an 8″x 8″ pan.  Omit the sugar in the cornbread – if using it makes you uncomfortable – or put in 3 T – if it makes you happy.  I would use finely ground cornmeal, but that’s me. Brought to you by Katie and Becky and BigLittleMeals.com

 

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are: The Movie

This video is a must watch.  Andy, the Sociologist/Entomologist/Photographer, has morphed into Andy the Film Producer.  And do turn your speakers up; Andy chose the perfect soundtrack for his video.  Now – bear with me – we’ll ultimately bring this around to recipes.  Meanwhile, enjoy Andy’s Corner. OMG – it never ends.

We love our teeny front yard – where the wild things are. Every evening without fail Andy dutifully arranges his trail camera to focus on our little path.  And every morning, usually in his bathrobe, he retrieves it, in hopes that he’s captured an image of yet another wild one….and didn’t capture some image of a wild AirBnB-er staying next door.

Another wild thing that frequents the Sonoma Valley, if not our front walk-way, is the turkey.  Think Thanksgiving.

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A posse of Sonoma’s wild turkeys, on the prowl just up the hill from us

If you live near our wild turkeys, you may not be a real fan of them (though you may be a fan of Wild Turkey:).  One of our older and very feminine Glen Ellen neighbors has been known to take a few random shots at wild turkeys to get them off her home’s deck (she has also been known to shoot a few rattlesnakes).  While we’re not advocating taking down your own Thanksgiving turkey, we do have a simple recipe for roasting the breast of a domesticated turkey.  And we definitely recommend trying to find a heritage bird (here is why).

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From Andy the Photographer (not Andy the Sociologist or Andy the Entomologist) This Fly Amanita mushroom is definitely NOT edible.

The family’s interest in wild things goes beyond animals. Our grandson, Moss, who is now 12, always thinks a little outside the box (remember last week’s post?).  While our grandson, Silas, wants soccer shoes and jerseys for presents, Moss requests a class in foraging.  So that’s what he got a few years ago: foraging for mushrooms with Grandpa Andy on the Sonoma coast.  And we have the perfect recipe for those wild mushrooms (or everyday button or white mushrooms, if you’re not a forager at heart).  If you’re fixing Thanksgiving dinner and don’t want to do traditional stuffing, this is a great alternative.

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While Andy is stalking wild animals, I’m more interested in Stalking the Wild Asparagus.

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Does this bring back fond memories of the HippyTrippy 60’s?

During Andy’s graduate-school days at Colorado State U, we lived on a farm on South Shields outside Fort Collins.  And every spring along the fence line of that farm, we’d go hunting for an incredible delicacy – which we didn’t adequately appreciate at the time – wild asparagus.  Trust me, nothing store-bought can begin to compare to its flavor.  When spring arrives, seek out your most-locally-grown asparagus – or better yet – go wild asparagus hunting.  We’ve got a great pasta to fix with your fresh asparagus.Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 11.36.29 AM

The only other wild thing I’ve ever scavenged for is blackberries.  Wild blackberries grow in Baton Rouge and in the Sonoma Valley area, so Andy and I consider ourselves seasoned blackberry pickers. We have our favorite spots which we jealously guard, hoping no one else will discover them.  Ask me sometime about the poison ivy rash I had after one such adventure.

Though blackberries, especially combined with other fruits, make great desserts, jam with blackberries is my specialty.  Making jam together was one way my mother and I bonded during my teen years, and I still can’t make a batch without feeling like my mom is watching my every move….affectionately.

After forcing me to do 4-H “Home Ec” rather than just show livestock at the Larimer County Fair, I spent a summer perfecting my jams and jellies, all made without artificial pectin.  My mother was convinced I would get a blue ribbon, because mine would be so much more authentic than those contestants who made jam with pectin.

Of course, I didn’t win.

But I’ve had a lifetime of enjoyment from what I learned that summer.  And Andy’s a pretty lucky man to have an over-supply of homemade jams and jellies, if I do say so myself.

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In or Out of the Box?

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Enclosure for our first batch of Blue Apron meals

While I’m peering into a box of Blue Apron meals, Andy is focused on thinking inside AND outside of the box in Andy’s Corner.

There’s been lots of discussion amongst family and friends about the merits of food delivery services such as Blue Apron. Because Andy and I are always ready to have a few nights without thinking about meal-planning, we jumped at the chance to have three nights of Blue Apron meals. Not only is it fun to see how others are eating, but we really wanted to test it. How delicious are the meals? How clever and compact is the packaging? How time consuming are they to prepare? How appropriate for just one person? How healthy?

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Travis & Hannah’s Blue Apron meal in Brooklyn

Between our Brooklyn kiddos, Travis and Hannah, and us we can report on about 9 Blue Apron meals, and our experiences have been pretty positive – almost everything was tasty; the packaging, though still big and heavy is not as environmentally unfriendly as it originally was; everything looks beautiful and fresh; and I would guess the meals, which include ample vegetarian options, are healthier than what many folks eat.

Travis, our son, who did all the Blue Apron meal-fixing at their place, found that their explicit instructions, including videos, made the meal prep do-able for a even a novice cook.  Now Travis is ready to branch out on his own.  I liked having new meals to try – a pleasant change from our normal dining routine (or shall I say rut? Remember to visit Andy’s Corner).  Plus, the cost seems relatively reasonable; as of November 2017 it was about $10 per meal per person.

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Another Blue Apron meal from Travis & Hannah

As we piled bags from the grocery store into our car the other day, knowing that a high percent would go to waste before we used it up (think wilted parsley, floppy carrots, moldy cheese, stale bread), not having extra seemed like maybe a bright idea.  Plus, without grocery-shopping, we’d have had an extra hour or two to garden or read or bicycle or be annoyed with our two cats or play with Oakley, our Aussie.

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Not only do we get annoyed with our two cats, OnoMoore (on the right) doesn’t tolerate much from ChocoLatte (on the left) .  Oakley, the Aussie, puts up with both of them.

Speaking of Oakley, when Andy was at the dog park with Oakley, he met a Blue Apron fan who says it’s perfect for a single person, because each meal will be enough for two dinners (a footnote: the smallest Blue Apron order you can make will be for 3 different meals, each enough for 2 people – all delivered in one box).

WAIT – am I trying to talk you out of doing it all yourself?  Am I going over to the dark side? Am I being two-faced (no political commentary intended)?   Am I getting paid by Blue Apron for my kind remarks? (Dream on!)

Here’s the downside to BA, as we see it: an ordering system that can result in unexpected meals, if you didn’t “cancel” for a given week; a heavy delivery box with components that need to be cleaned and returned, if you want to really recycle; an occasional missed delivery or missed ingredient; no left-overs – unless you’re cooking for one, and a prep time that might be longer than you want for the easiest of meals.

We still plan to enjoy Blue Apron’s meal delivery now and then – we’ve got another go-around scheduled for this week, but on a regular basis, we generally aim to SIMPLIFY our own meals.  Simple ingredients, simple prep, simple meal, simple clean-up, and simply wonderful left-overs.

Here are a few recipes that I’d would like to propose as an alternative to Blue Apron. There’s not lots of chopping and dicing, not lots of pans or bowls to clean, not lots of shopping for rarely-used ingredients and the meals are quickly prepared.   Plus, you can enjoy the leftovers.  Speaking of leftovers, this very week The Washington Post published an article on how fewer leftovers are being consumed – and why that’s a bad situation.  Read it in Food for Thought.

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Absinthe (makes the heart grow fonder?)

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Our version of a Sazerac calls for one jumbo ice cube

A Lagniappe edition, and how apropos.  We could use a strong drink about now.

I just finished the novel A Gentleman in Moscow, feeling like I’ve revisited my days as a college English major, reading the classics.  But Amor Towles’ novel isn’t one – yet.

I loved the segment where the delightful main character, Count Rostov, requests some absinthe at his hotel’s bar.  And, of course, that made me think of Louisiana and Sazeracs.  And, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know why I’m craving a fennel and clam bouillabaisse.

You might want to sip a Sazerac and watch 1942’s Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman before reading the novel.  And then, just as you’ve finished reading the next-to-last chapter – fix yourself another Sazerac, curl up (maybe by a fire, as long as it’s in a fireplace), and, sipping your Sazerac, read “Afterword,” the final chapter.  It’s a marvelous ending.

Perhaps you should start your evening with Sondra Bernstein’s delicious and simple Pernod-scented Mussels recipe – similar to the Count’s bouillabaisse.  Better yet, come to Sonoma (if you aren’t already here), and enjoy the dish at Sondra’s restaurant, the girl & the fig.

“Keep Sonoma Strong.”

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Sazerac’s special ingredients: absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters

Sazerac

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
  • Print
A simple syrup is made by combining equal parts water and sugar, popping in the microwave until boiling, then cooling.  It makes sense to make more than 2 teaspoons.  If you combine 1/2 c water and 1/2 c sugar it will provide enough for numerous cocktails – and will keep in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to make the syrup, take either 1 tsp sugar or 1 sugar cube and muddle it very well with the bitters and rye.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp absinthe
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters (or use angostura bitters)
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 1 jumbo ice cube
  • a 2″ long lemon peel

Put the absinthe into an old-fashioned glass and swirl to coat the glass, then discard the absinthe (or use the remaining to swirl in a 2nd glass).

Add the ice cube, simple syrup and the bitters and rye whiskey to the absinthe-coated glass and stir until mixture is well chilled.

Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and then twist it and drop it into the cocktail.  Serve.

You can leave out the ice cube and you’ll get a more-traditional (and more potent) drink.  Just be sure you stir the drink with ice cubes when you mix it and then remove the cubes before serving, since you want it served very cold.  Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

Pass-along

 

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Painting by Marion Perlet, purchased in San Miguel de Allende

Most of you know why we’re a little late with this blog post.  Glen Ellen, where our home is located, was hit hard by the Sonoma County wildfires which broke out on Sunday night, October 8.  The devastation throughout the area is mind-boggling.

Though our house was not burned, Glen Ellen was under mandatory evacuation orders for almost 2 weeks. During that evacuation time we spent one night with a Sonoma friend, Lynne, and then a week in San Francisco with our daughter and son-in-law.  They also took in our 2 Siamese cats, Ono Moore and Choco Latte,  and our Aussie, Oakley.  How fortunate we are to have such supportive friends and family.

When we got ready to leave our house, not knowing what the outcome would be, we opted to take the painting above as the piece of art we most wanted to save.  And it’s not even an original.  But somehow it speaks to the occasion.

And now that we’re home, the blog post that we were almost ready to send out – “Pass-Along” – seems more important than ever.  When push comes to shove, what is it that we most want to preserve and pass-along?  Worth thinking about.  See Andy’s Corner for what he brought with him that Monday morning when the fire was approaching us.

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Butterfly weed – and a Monarch to boot (photo from Missouri Botanical Garden’s wonderful Plant Finder website)

Until the year 2000 I had never heard of the term “Pass-Along.”  But I didn’t grow up in the South.  That summer, in Baton Rouge, my neighbor Katie brought me a butterfly weed – Asclepias tuberosaas I’d have called it in my MiniBlooms days.  It was from her brother Joe’s home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Pass-alongs are plants which thrive in old Southern gardens and, because of their hardiness, are easy to give to others.  They’re usually not sold in nurseries because they may be too common or too weedlike.  Well, that’s not quite true.  In Northern California today everyone is trying their best to help out the Monarchs and you can find butterfly weed almost everywhere.

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Long story short: the only plant I’ve ever had long enough to be considered tough enough to be a pass-along is the hoya, a houseplant, that’s sitting on our back porch. The plant came from my dad’s first law partner, Mortimer Stone – who went on to become chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court – in 1953.  When Judge Stone passed away in 1978, my mom and dad inherited his hoya.  When my dad passed away in 1998, I got it. My brother is demanding a cutting from it as we speak.  And I’m thinking I’d better root a few cuttings for my kids.

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Mortimer Stone’s Hoya

I’ve decided that since Pass-along plants generally seem to elude me, recipes will be my Pass-along – something easy and special to give to others.  Selecting Pass-along recipes to share on BigLittleMeals was a piece of cake (not to say there are going to be cake recipes!). It had to be Swedish Pancakes from my maternal grandmother, Annie Carlson, Pumpkin Pie O’Brien and Cinnamon Bread from Mom Hill, my paternal grandmother, and Sloppy Joe’s from my mother.  Sorry there are no recipes from the men in my family. Until we got to Andy, male cooks in the family were few and far between.  How times have changed.  Moss and Silas, our grandsons, pictured below, started cooking early!

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Moss enjoying Silas’s cooking (though now – 11 years later – it’s more likely that Silas is enjoying Moss’s cooking)

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Pass-along hand-written recipes – even more meaningful in this computer  age.  But what if you can’t read cursive?

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