People often ask me how to get their kids started in the kitchen. In my opinion, baking is fun for kids because the whole is so different – and so much more delicious – than the sum of its parts. Think of baking as an arts and crafts project, made with items you have in your pantry, that you get to EAT, rather than figure out how to display for a few months before making it disappear. You may have to help with the oven, but other than that, your kids are armed with a bowl and a wooden spoon. Cooking may follow, but don’t skip the lessons learned from baking.
That’s how I got started. Reading the side of a cylinder of cornmeal.
I vividly remember reading the recipes printed on items in our pantry, gathering the listed ingredients and measuring cups and spoons, and mixing away. Recipes on the sides of boxes are generally easy, and I am a huge advocate of trying them out if they sound good. The manufacturers want you to use the product, and therefore want you to succeed. The recipes included with dry staples like cornmeal, flour, and sugar usually call for a few dry ingredients to be mixed into a few wet ingredients. Into the oven, easy as
pie cornbread. My #1 favorite recipe from the side of a box is these Butterscotch Granola Blondies.
But cornbread will always have a place in my heart, front and center.
I started searching for a go-to cornbread recipe when I was on a Turkey Chili Cornbread Casserole kick. I loved how this recipe browned deeper than other cornbread recipes I have made, as if to make sure there is no mistake about when it is READY.
I recently had occasion to meet the kindest Southern gentleman, and as we got to talking, I learned that his parents live on a farm, where they grow modest quantities of a host of crops. When he in turn learned that I am in to food and cooking, he asked if I might be interested in cornmeal and grits, milled from his family’s corn, the seeds of which date back several generations in his family.
What? Are there people who would turn down such a lovely offer?
Perhaps my most unique birthday present ever arrived in the mail a few weeks later, and I have been enjoying the cornmeal and grits since, as well as a few other home-produced items he tucked in the box (I am sure his mom loved him stealing her food).
This cornmeal has made several appearances recently; first at November’s Cooking Club, which attempted to recreate the culinary portions of my club’s 10-year anniversary trip to Charleston a few weeks prior, and then a few days later on my Thanksgiving table, when I shared cornbread and sausage stuffing with my parents.
I have come a long way from the cornmeal at the back of our Indiana pantry.Just a few cooking tips here before I let you go:
- I am not one to mix dry ingredients together first in a separate bowl – who needs to clean ANOTHER large bowl? Instead, I just make sure to smush the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together for a few when I add them to the wet ingredients (before stirring them in), so they can activate (which is the purpose of whisking dry ingredients together in many recipes); and
- This recipe called for plain nonfat yogurt; I substituted Greek, and cut down on the oil a bit. Ergo, these muffins are “healthy” to me!
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 c (8 ounces) fat-free or 2% Greek yogurt
- .5 c skim milk
- 3 T canola oil
- 1 T honey
- 1 c yellow cornmeal
- .25 c flour
- 2 t baking powder
- .5 t kosher salt
- .25 t baking soda
- Heat the oven to 425.
- Spray a dozen muffin cups, or an 8" x 8" pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients (egg - scramble it a bit first, yogurt, skim milk, oil, and honey).
- Add the the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda) and stir just until moistened.
- Using a cookie scooper, portion the batter into the muffin cups (I sometimes only get 11 instead of 12), or fill the 8" pan.
- Bake until golden brown, when the cornbread feels firm to the touch. This will be 16-20 minutes in a square pan, and less time in a muffin pan - check it at 12 minutes and gauge from there.
Adapted from: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/yogurt-corn-bread