I can't think of a clever title -or- Blue cornmeal spoon bread

I love a meal that can be translated into many different dishes as leftovers with minimal effort. During busy and stressful weeks it is nice to have something in the refrigerator that you can pull out and dress up in any way you like and have a meal in minutes.

I have made a lot of polenta and cornbread in my day. But never spoon bread, even though just a glance in the direction of a spoon bread recipe makes my mouth water. I mean, fluffy, melt in your mouth cornbread? And I get to eat it with a spoon? Sign me up!

There is an alarming amount of blue cornmeal in my pantry considering the only thing I ever make with it are gluten-free crackers. I have always wanted to experiment with and substitute it for regular, yellow cornmeal, but I have been afraid. Afraid of what exactly? I don't know. Just afraid.

However, after being inspired by another blogger who made a whole cake out of blue cornmeal I became determined to get over my fear. And so, I decided to marry the two ideas when I came across a recipe for spoon bread in my new cookbook by Mollie Katzen, Vegetable Heaven, that Mamacita got me for the holidays.

And it was good. I don't know what I have been so afraid of (that the yellow cornmeal zealots would come and picket at my house?, that the Bureau of Proper Cornmeal Usage would investigate me?). Honestly, I think I was just afraid I would somehow ruin it. Which, the way things have been going in my kitchen lately, should not really be something I am afraid of anymore.

So, I say go forth fellow food lovers and substitute blue cornmeal for yellow! Let it be known: It is both beautiful and delicious.

Blue Cornmeal Spoon Bread
serves 6
adapted from Vegetable Heaven

Like I mentioned earlier, one of the best things about this dish is the ease with which you can change it up in minutes. I served mine with cheddar, salsa, and avocado, but the options are limitless. It would be amazing next to enchiladas, covered in fresh fruit and creme fraiche, mushroom gravy, next to a salad, or, well, you get the idea. Get creative with it.

3 cups milk (full-fat, fat free, soy are all fine)

1 cup blue cornmeal (use white or yellow, if you must)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 cup minced scallions (both white and green parts)

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

4 large eggs

1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

oil or butter to grease the baking dish

Grease an 8x8 inch baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the milk in a medium sized sauce pan and bring it to a boil over medium heat.

While the milk is heating up chop the scallions, grate the cheese, and set them aside. Scramble the eggs in a separate bowl and set them aside as well.

Once your milk has just started to boil begin to add the cornmeal slowly while whisking constantly. Continue to cook the mixture, while stirring constantly for another five minutes then remove it from the heat.

Immediately add the scallions, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir. Them add the eggs while stirring (to prevent them from cooking). Lastly, add the cheese and stir one last time.

Place the whole mixture into the baking dish.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes. The center will be firm when it is done.

Serve hot with your choice of toppings.

I love that pretty blue!

Porter & Me (& Mr. Man)

You know the movie Marley & Me? Well, if you don't, no worries because you don't need to have seen the movie to get my point here.

In the movie Owen Wilson's character gets a puppy for his wife, Jennifer Aniston. The reasoning behind this decision for Owen (we are on a first name basis) was to make his wife forget about wanting to make babies for a little while longer. When I first saw this movie I remember thinking that this was a crock of sh**, written by some man somewhere who hasn't a clue about anything. How typical, right? I mean, in this movie a man is trying to manipulate a woman into not wanting children. What woman would fall for that?

Now we have a puppy. Let me be clear that this puppy was not gotten as a substitute for or manipulative move to prevent the wanting of children. We just wanted a dog. Enter Porter.

Before we got Porter I had no immediate plans for children. They were just a twinkle in my eye for some very far off almost unimaginable time. After getting Porter I now realize that the movie was totally right. Sorry future hypothetical children. Porter has effectively squashed that twinkle. No more twinkles for a very long time.

Puppies are a lot of work. It can so worth it to have them and so frustrating all in one moment. To say the least, they are a huge time suck. And they are only a fraction of the work of a small child. Whether or not Owen was trying to manipulate his wife is of no importance. It's just the way it is. Getting a puppy makes you want to rethink the whole children thing.

See where I am going with this? Yup, you guessed it. Puppies should be given to teenagers to prevent teen pregnancy.

Making up the new diet craze -or- Everything Free Almond Cookies

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In case you haven't figured it out already, I am a vegetarian. Not the "preachy" kind. Just the "I don't eat meat and as long as you don't give me a hard time about my food choices I will respect your food choices too" kind.

As such I don't make much of a big deal about it. I don't ask people to make concessions when I am around. However, I do appreciate more than the average person when someone keeps me in mind when planning a meal. I don't need to be able to eat the entire menu, just one thing is nice.

Therefore, I take special care to try to remember my friends with certain food allergies when inviting them over. Of course, I can't make everything-free (you know wheat, dairy, gluten, soy, the list goes on) entire menu's all the time (I am not that talented of a chef). But, I do like to keep them in mind. I know it makes all the difference to me when people keep me in mind so I like to return the favor. Good karma and all.

Plus, I like a challenge. And baking gluten and dairy free is a challenge (at least for me...the friend I had in mind when preparing these has become quite good at this task).

This is another recipe from Veganonmicon. I find that it lends itself quite well to the non-dairy aspects and I can substitute the rest to make it gluten free. The only flaw in this master plan I have developed is that I often forget that neither B or I are vegan, so technically I could use eggs. Something I have found to be very helpful when trying to hold flour together. However, I am usually done by the time I remember this. Hence these cookies are also vegan and therefore what I am now calling everything-free (dairy, gluten, and egg). If you are allergic to rice or soy I am sorry. Obviously, there is some fine print included in the new "everything free," patent pending, craze.

Almond Cookies
Makes 20-24 cookies
adapted from Veganomicon

These cookies are surprisingly moist, crumbly, and delicious. I had to make some substitutions to the original recipe. Rice flour for regular, agave syrup for brown rice syrup, extra vanilla in place of almond extract, and some proportions to get the right consistency in order to meet the everything free qualifications and the ingredients on hand. Just wanted to let you know in case you want to stay true to the original recipe.

2 1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola, vegetable, or peanut oil or a mixture
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup rice or soy milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or use 2 tsp. if you do not have almond extract
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup sliced, blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two baking sheets.

In a medium sized bowl sift or whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl beat together the oil, agave nectar, soy or rice milk, sugar, extracts, and sesame oil. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir until a firm dough forms. Add more flour and almond meal if the consistency of the dough is too watery.

Spread the almond in a thing layer onto a plate, cutting board or counter top. take approximately two tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball in you hands. Place the ball onto the almond and flatten it out. Veganomicon has made the amazing discovery that a flat-bottomed one cup measuring cup works terrifically for this. You should write them a letter of thanks. Then place the cookie, almond slice side up onto the baking sheet.

Once you baking sheets are full place them in the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes. The cookies should be slightly golden/brown on the edges when they are done. Allow the cookies to cook for a few minutes on the cookies sheets (but just a few, they are hard to get off if you let them sit there for too long, trust me) and then place them onto a wire rack to finish cooking. If you are having trouble getting them off the sheet without breaking allow them to cook for another minute and then try again.

The puppy ate my blog

So, you might or might not have noticed a very long silence around here. I have had a tendency lately to be making up excuses for why I am not writing here as much as I would like to. And today I have a treat for you. A brand new excuse. It is by far the cutest excuse yet.

World, meet Porter. Porter, meet the world. You two are going to be getting to know each other a lot better.

Of course that was the first day we had him when he was just over 7 weeks old. He is a just a little bit bigger now that he is a whole 15 weeks. He has lost some of that scrunched up puppy look for a much more sleek (in a very manly way, of course) look.

So, that is my excuse for being absentee. My puppy has eaten my blog, my brain, my sanity, my sleep, and my pants.

He has been a lot of work and a lot of fun to have in our lives. And you can bet, there will be some good blog posts coming up about him. And of course, there will be some foodie posts as well...as soon as Porter gives me my brain back that is. There has been a series of mishaps in the culinary area of my life.

And just in case you haven't had your daily dose of cute yet. Here is a video of our new addition for your viewing pleasure.

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