Monday, September 28, 2015

Basic Cornbread

Last night was a blood moon - it was also the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.  We called and texted family, all of us sitting outside our distant doors, feeling close because our eyes were all seeing the same drama of death and rebirth as the pale pearl of the moon plunged into an eerie blood-bath shadow and then rose again pure and fair into the velvet sky.  

We oohed and ahhed together, although apart, and then those at this address went in and ate cornbread and Full Moon Soup - the food of home.

This moist, dense cornbread is so good with hot spicy soups. No need to slather on butter or honey, it's all baked in already.  I learned this recipe from years of baking a very similar version from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook - some of her optionals (butter, honey) are for me entirely required.  Though I've made this with bacon fat in place of some of the butter and served it up with lots of juicy greens and that's not at all bad.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter a large oven-proof skillet with (obviously)
Whisk together
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
In a separate bowl, combine
2 cups buttermilk, kefir, or plain yogurt
2 eggs
6 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons melted butter
Stir the wet into the dry, mixing just enough to thoroughly combine. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch and a blade into the center comes out clean.

Friday, September 11, 2015

a life of abundance

One of life's little ironies is how cutting back often makes for a richer abundance.  Our former corporate warlord whose annual compensation is 120 times what midrange middle-aged grunters get, decided his coffers would look better if he found younger hungrier grunters to do the job.  Thus we are freed to chase our private unsubsidized rainbows.  Which is a blessing but a hard one.

It looks like we have a couple of years of lean living and fast & furious graduate studies before we can sure-foot our way back onto track.  Meanwhile, I am grateful everyday that we've stocked a storage pantry with wheat and oil, honey, salt and yeast (aka BREAD once you add water and stir) plus shelves of pickles and canned goods, buckets of beans and oats and a freezer with most of a half beef and the last of a whole pork.

It makes my new budget so much more livable.

According to USA Today in 2013, $145 a week was thrifty for food expenses.  That seemed squeaking through on bare beans when I first saw it, but apparently vast numbers of householders claim to live on $200 a MONTH.  (It's even possible some of them are living on that in 2015, rather than 2001).  I'm setting my new budget to squeeze between those two posts.

Since my gardening is still in the developmental stage (we have parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!  and green beans!  and 4 cucumbers so far!)  and since our chickens (those who have survived the depredations of an as of yet unidentified beast with teeth) have not begun to lay, that budget will go for milk, cheese, eggs, fresh or frozen greens and fruit. as well as cleaning supplies, birthday presents, bandaids, toothpaste and other nonperishables of that ilk.  Can we do this?  Two weeks in, I have to say --

I think WE CAN.

But I am aware always how much harder this would be if we didn't have so much to be grateful for.

My Gratitudes
  1. I'm so grateful we have many staples and meat in storage.
  2. I'm glad I've spent the last many years learning how to make bread, stock, beans, and all-veg meals and that my family has been learning to enjoy pretty much everything that shows up on the table.
  3. I'm really glad I've already learned to shop the perimeter and to forgo most packaged glops and mixes. 
  4. I'm grateful for the motivation to avoid bakery items -- better than membership at a fitness club!
  5. I'm glad I recently realized that frozen is better and cheaper than canned, as well as less spendy and nearly as good as fresh.
  6. I'm glad I've got a kitchen garden started where I can step things up and grow more of my salads and herbs.
  7. I'm glad we started keeping chickens this summer and hopeful we'll have our own eggs soon.
  8. I'm grateful for my shelf of excellent cookbooks that focus on nutrient-dense, delicious meals without lots of expensive ingredients with Cook's The Science of Good Cooking; Andrea Chesman's 366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains; Recipes from the Root Cellar; All About Braising leading the pack.
  9. I'm grateful for a stocked spice shelf.
  10. I'm grateful I've already scouted out less-expensive sources for great fruit for canning, bags of onions and garlic, boxes of potatoes and squash to replenish the root cellar I don't have a garden yet to supply.  Living in the rural Pacific Northwest has many benefits and this is just one of them.