Thursday, January 19, 2012

This One's Really Corny

Welcome to "Ordinary Time". 

We're eating well at home, and often, but truthfully, if I plan 5 meals each 7 days, we need only three.  I can shop and chef and create all I wish, but we only need new meals three out of five days.  Our schedules are so crazy that "heat and eat" is often the best we can do.

On a good Saturday, I'll prep and prepare meals for the seven-day stretch ahead.  When I'm chauffeuring on Saturday, it'll be my Sunday project.  When I'm busy BOTH days, we're not eating any sort of way I'm pleased with.  Our schedules have made "family meal time" an unusual experience.  Woe to us.

That said, after more craziness claiming our "free" time to create meals for the days ahead, I turned to my slow-cooker and my go-to recipe collection for a nutritious, made-from-scratch meal for our family on a busy, busy day.

We've finally had a cold stretch which tells us it's Winter.  Winter means soups, stews, and chowdahs.  I've been in the mood for a good chowdah (corn chowdah is the only one I care for).  We have ingredients in our refrigerator and freezer just waiting to be used up, and I have a fantastic recipe.  Didn't pass up the two-for-one 5# bags of potatoes at the grocery yesterday.  Hooray!

While I'm at it, I'll include a from-scratch recipe for corn muffins I've adopted recently.  We grew up with the blue-boxed Jiffy Baking Mix, a less-expensive version of another popular mix in a yellow box.  We used it a LOT, mostly for pancakes.  We also used the little blue boxes of corn muffin mix, prepared with simple ingredients (egg, milk) from the refrigerator and baked in the cast iron muffin pan.  Crunchy outside, soft and sweet, but a bit dry on the inside, just asking for a tiny bit of melting butter.  Leftover Jiffy corn muffins were great "grilled" - cut in half and toasted with butter on the griddle until slightly brown and crisp.

My food kitchen friends, two lovely old southwest VA ladies, detest Jiffy corn muffins.  TOO sweet for them.  They prefer a savory, somewhat dry buttermilk cornbread baked in a cast iron pan laced with hot oil.  I've made this a few times myself, and I love it too.  My offspring, though, prefer the sweeter muffins from the mix.

SO, I found a recipe for "cheater" mix on the internet.  Basic ingredients, excellent results, no preservatives.  It's here, with Substitution Queen's influence.

Crock Pot Corn Chowdah
based on a recipe from Fix it and Forget it Lightly by Phyllis Pellman Good

1/4 lb. turkey bacon, cut into 1/4" strips
2 c. potatoes, diced (about 3 fist-sized potatoes) - a little extra is better.
1 c. onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 c. plain yogurt
3/4 c. skim milk
1 recipe homemade cream of chicken soup* (link below)
1 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels
Ground pepper and salt, to taste

*Prepare homemade soup mix according to previous post.

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet until brown and crispy.
Place bacon, potatoes, bay leaf, and onions into slow-cooker.  Add a generous grinding of black pepper.  Cover with water.  Add the homemade soup mix and corn.
Cook on LOW 6-8 hours, until the vegetables are done to your liking.
Thirty minutes before serving, stir in yogurt and milk.  Continue cooking on LOW.
When soup is heated through, remove bay leaf.  Place 1/2 of the chowder mixture in a blender and puree until smooth.  Return blended ingredients to crock pot and stir thoroughly.  Add salt and additional ground pepper, to taste.

Skip the blending step if you wish; I find it thickens the chowdah up a little and I like it that way.

Serve with a dash of nutmeg or paprika on top and boiled hot dogs with toasted Yankee buns OR Janet's Mixed-Up Corn Muffins (see below).

Janet's Mixed-Up Corn Muffins
makes 2-dozen mini-muffins or 1-dozen regular muffins

This muffin recipe is REALLY flexible.  Add any sort of cheese and relatively dry vegetable you wish to the mix, and it'll be fine, as long as you don't add too much additional liquid.  Try muenster and leeks, cream cheese and chives, pecans and bleu cheese.  YUM.

Start with Faux-Jiffy-Muffin-Mix (my non-preservative version):
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
3 T. sugar (less if you prefer your corn muffins less-sweet)
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. oil (if you plan to store this mixture, otherwise, substitute 2 T. yogurt with the wet ingredients)

Note:  You can make this recipe in triplicate (up to this point) and store it for later if you wish.  If you do, add the vegetable oil per the recipe and mix until it's completely incorporated.

Add to dry ingredients:
1 c. cheese, shredded (I used cheddar)
1/4 c. jalapeno peppers, diced (from one of DH's experiments)
1 c. frozen corn
If you have them, add a few diced pimentos as well.  Nice color!

Mix thoroughly.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Add:
1 egg
1/3 c. milk

Mix ingredients lightly, until most everything is incorporated.  Scoop into greased muffin tins.

Bake at 375 degF for 8-10 minutes (mini-muffins) or 15-20 minutes (regular sized muffins), until muffins are lightly browned and crusty on top.  Let cool for a few minutes (until cool enough to handle) before unmolding, but be sure to get them out of the tins before they cool completely (and stick to even the best non-stick muffin pan).

* See previous post

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