Easy Everyday Cornbread

I happened to have all the ingredients, and I was hungry, so I decided to mix up some quick cornbread.

I used a good deal of sugar here just because I was in an oddly Yankee kind of mood – you can leave it out completely if you want a more savory cornbread, and please forgive me in the meantime. I also chose to use a baking tin instead of my cast iron skillet today just because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to clean and treat the cast iron after cooking. But if you use one, your cornbread will be tastier thanks to the “seasoning” of the skillet, as well as have a perfect, slightly crisp crust.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can always add different ingredients such as green chiles, cayenne pepper, or grated cheese, too. Cornbread is fairly foolproof, so just have fun with it.

This easy, delicious version can be made from items most people have in their kitchen. It’s fast, it’s filling, it’s fantastic!

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raw sugar (adjust to taste)
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk (or, even better, buttermilk)
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

1. Preheat your oven to 375° and grease an 8 inch baking pan or cast iron skillet with a little butter, olive oil, or leftover bacon drippings (as I did here – I keep a Mason jar of solid bacon grease in my fridge!).

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, prepare other ingredients: cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt can be measured in a large two cup measuring cup and set aside.

3. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in eggs. Then add milk and stir. Finally, add the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly until there are few to no lumps (a few small lumps are okay).

4. Pour mixture into pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Cut immediately and serve with generous pats of butter.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Shown here with black beans and butter.


Perfect Oven-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, when I’m served sweet potatoes, they’re mashed. And for good reason.

But these nutrient-dense, delightfully orange tubers can also be baked. Using this technique will result in warm, soft sweet potatoes with a crispy skin. Just add a little butter and cinnamon, and you have a Southern delicacy with very little clean-up!

2 sweet potatoes, scoured and washed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
butter to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Puncture each potato several times with a fork. Thoroughly coat each potato in olive oil so they are glistening but not dripping oil. Place a pan on the bottom rack of the oven (to catch drippings), and potatoes on top, directly on oven rack.

2. Bake for approximately 45 minutes (or longer if your potatoes are very large or you are cooking a bigger batch).

3. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about five minutes. Slice open with knife, add a few pats of butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Add some brown sugar, too, if you’re so inclined.


Mashed White Yams with Cinnamon

For an alternative to regular, orange sweet potatoes, why not try white yams? They’re a little bit harder to find in the U.S., but they’re delicious, especially dressed up with some butter and cinnamon.

2 large white yams
4 Tbsp sour cream
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Set a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, sour yams and slice off any browned or bad spots, then slice into inch-thick medallions.

2. Boil medallions for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are easy to stab through with a fork. Drain water from pan.

3. Add sour cream, butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup and mash thoroughly until yams are near-smooth (with some pieces of skin mixed in).

4. Serve immediately.

Makes about 4 servings.

Yams pictured (front) with Horseradish Cheese Grits and Crunchy Kale Chips.

Simple Collard Greens with Sausage

In my old age, I’ve grown to love greens, and especially collard and mustard greens. If, like me, you need to incorporate more healthy leafy greens into your diet, start with this simple but satisfying recipe. The addition of the sausage gives this side dish heft and interest. In fact, adding some chopped sausage to side dishes is a little secret of mine. Shh!

1 bunch collard greens, washed and cut into rough triangles
1 sausage (I used half-beef, half-pork, stuffed with apple)
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 clove garlic, minced

1. In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat, stirring together. Cut your sausage into small chunks and mix in. Continue cooking and stirring until sausage begins to brown. Add garlic and red wine and stir; lower heat to medium low and allow to simmer while making any other dishes.

2. About ten minutes before serving time, put greens into skillet with sausage, adding more olive oil or red wine if necessary, and cook on low to medium heat, covered, for about ten minutes.

3. When greens are bright green and lightly cooked, but not yet browned or brittle, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3.

This is a great way to use up a little extra sausage while creating a healthy dish.

Stella’s Southern Sweet Potatoes

I don’t know about you, but sweet potatoes are one of the most evocative comfort foods I know. I don’t eat them that often, but they always take me right back home to East Texas, and bring with their hearty sweetness a rush of memories. My maternal great-grandmother, Tollie, had a huge kitchen garden, and my mother was lucky enough to be raised eating fresh, homegrown produce harvested right out of Granny’s back yard.

Most of the sweet potatoes grown in Texas are of the Beauregard variety, and they’re harvested just when the leaves start to change–in East Texas, that means October or even November. As elsewhere in the United States, mashed sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving delicacy. Though we now eat them year-round, this buttery, sweet, bourbon-infused version is generally only made for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you want to be really authentically Southern, top them with roasted marshmallows!

Does this look familiar?

Does this look familiar?

6 large sweet potatoes
2 heaping Tbsp butter
2 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
~ 1 measure of bourbon
marshmallows (optional)

1. Peel and cut potatoes into small chunks and boil in a large pot until cooked and mushy.

2. Drain pot, leaving potatoes in; mix in remaining ingredients and mash to desired consistency.

3. Spoon mix into a greased, oven-safe glass casserole dish and bake for about a half hour at about 350°.

4. Add top layer of marshmallows if desired, broiling briefly so they are browned and crunchy.

5. Serve with iced tea, collard greens, and a snarky attitude.

Serves at least 4, with leftovers.