Birthdays and Cornbread

My dad turned fifty last week. It’s a day I knew was coming, but it surprised me all the same. Fifty? For some reason I think he should be eternally forty-five.
When I think about my dad, the first memories that come to mind involve food. In our family, there were certain foods that only dad made. Cheese sandwiches, pancakes, and cornbread. 
Cheese sandwiches were a staple on Monday afternoons while Mom taught music classes at the Christian school. Since we were homeschooled and dad was a pastor, he oversaw our education on Mondays. That usually meant a trip to the library, and cheese sandwiches. This delicacy consisted of two slices of bread spread with mayo, or my favorite, miracle whip, with two slices of American cheese inside. 
Pancakes were a much bigger affair. This was not a breakfast food as you might suppose, in fact, I don’t remember ever having pancakes for breakfast. Dad usually made pancakes for dinner, and I always got to help. 
Donning aprons and wielding spatulas, we’d get creative with cloves, cinnamon, bananas, or chocolate chips. And the spatulas were perfect for practicing our racket ball serves. 

Pancakes were, and still are, my favorite food.

But a close second would be cornbread. Dad would make cornbread and baked beans, and with the addition of syrup, we had a balanced meal.

When I first began stocking my pantry as a newlywed, I bought a big bag of cornmeal, intending to continue the mealtime traditions. But then, every time I started craving the golden bread soaked in syrup, I chickened out. I’d tried to make cornbread once before when I still lived at home, and it was a colossal failure- full of tunnels, salty, and gross.

But last week, I made a second attempt. I used this basic recipe from culinaryarts.about.com:

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
¼ cup melted butter or shortening
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Combine the half and half, eggs, fat, honey and sugar.
Thoroughly grease and flour a 9″ × 9″ baking pan (or use a nonstick baking pan or a flexible silicone pan).
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix just until the flour is moistened, no more than ten seconds. The batter should be visibly lumpy — leave it that way! It’s extremely important not to overmix the batter.
Once the liquid and dry ingredients have been combined, pan and bake the cornbread immediately.
TIP: The dry and wet ingredients, respectively, can be mixed in advance, but as soon as the wet and dry ingredients have been combined with each other, the liquid will activate the baking powder and the batter must be baked right away.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean and the edge of the bread starts to separate from the pan.

And I’d give this cornbread a four out of five star rating. It’s a little overcooked. But look dad, no tunnels!

Happy Birthday Dad! I love you!

Catching up on Gratitude

I know I’ve gotten way behind on my grateful posts. Last week was pretty hectic, I had a huge project for school to do that occupied most of my time. And then there was Thanksgiving! So, because I have so much catching up to do, this post is full of things I’m grateful for.

I’m grateful for leaves changing color…finally!

I’m grateful for some savy finds. These curtain valance panels were 50 cents each. The sweet shoes were around $4. 
And my favorite find was this little bird candle holder. It was half off, so it was $2. 
And, I’m grateful for a fireplace that disposes of our newpaper and keeps us warm and cozy.
And I’m grateful for cozy pajamas and slippers. 
I’m grateful for pumpkin pie!
And I’m grateful for good food. 
This was my own recipe. It’s very simple: I chopped some red potatoes and a sweet potato and coated them in oil, then generously sprinkled them with garlic salt. I added crumbled cooked bacon, and baked them for around 20 minutes. It was delicious! As I’ve said before, Brian doesn’t like sweet potatoes, and my other sweet potato recipe didn’t appeal to him. But he loved this one!
I’m also grateful for our pastor’s family. They graciously invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We went to our pastor’s parents home for dinner. They had invited two other older couples. We had a delicious dinner, and enjoyed relaxing for a while afterward. I sat in the kitchen with the ladies, all of whom were at least twice my age, and I loved it! I so enjoyed conversing with them. Later we went to Pastor Joel’s house. We played games, ate dinner, watched a little Pirates of the Caribbean, and enjoyed a bonfire outside. 
I’m grateful for the blessing of talking to my family on Thanksgiving. After watching the first part of Pirates I called my family and got to talk to my dad and siblings. I really miss my brothers; they are just too cute. I miss my other siblings too, but at least they have texting and facebook, so I talk to them a lot more. I’m so looking forward to seeing them all when we go home for Christmas! 
So there’s eight things I’m grateful for to make up for the days I’ve missed. I hope you had a content and worshipful thanksgiving! 
And now I can officially say it: Merry Christmas!

I’m grateful for…sweet potatoes!

Yes, I really am. Sweet potatoes and yams (if there really is a difference) and squash have always been my favorite fall foods. I look forward to them all year! And, now I’ve come up with my own way of cooking them, based on this recipe. 
From good old Better Homes and Gardens. But, I didn’t have any dried rigatoni and I wasn’t too sure about the peanut butter, Asian chili sauce, and cream cheese combo in the sauce. So I just made the sweet potato part.  

I started by peeling the potato and slicing it into large chunks. 

Then I mixed the oil and spices. Unfortunately, I didn’t have olive oil, so I substituted with vegetable. And I didn’t have table sugar, so I substituted brown. I mixed 1 teaspoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of chili powder, and poured in some oil. I dipped each piece and coated both sides, and placed in the baking dish. I baked them at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until they were soft.  

I loved them! They had a sweet and savory flavor. My hope was that Brian would like them too, since he doesn’t like sweet potatoes usually. I thought the chili powder would make them spicy, and Brian loves spicy things. Unfortunately, they still tasted like sweet potatoes, and they surprisingly weren’t spicy at all. So, if you aren’t grateful for sweet potatoes, this is not one to try. 
If anyone has a recipe for sweet potato fries, would you like to share?