Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And now for something completely different...

What do you do when you are overwhelmed by your knitting 'to do' list (like classes, store knitting, personal projects, fiber arts fair...I could go on)...

You invite friends over and forget about it!  A couple of weeks ago I had my dear friends Barb and Pat over to my house for dinner, drinks, and good conversation.  For several years we had a regular monthly dinner night, along with our friend Kris.  We would meet and take turns hosting.  It was something to look forward to and we hardly missed a month, ever.  For me it was a respite and reprieve from the craziness of daily life.  The comfort of companionship from other women, very wise women I might add, cannot be replaced.

Kris has since moved away and we miss her terribly, but we are so happy for her to be out in her RV, traveling around and enjoying her retirement.  That left the three of us and we certainly had good intentions of continuing our monthly ritual.  Over time though, the dinner dates waned, and now it's only the occasional get together we seem to manage.  That is why I savor the moments even more when we do see each other.

I love cooking and baking almost as much as I love knitting.  My pantry is full of cookbooks and food magazines, boxes of recipe clippings and so on.  I can sit down and read a cook book like a novel.  (same with many knitting books).  These are truly two of life's pleasures for me.

Anyway, I really wanted to make something out of the ordinary for Barb and Pat that night and decided on:

Southern Cornbread Salad

Yep, cornbread salad.  Ever heard of it?  I hadn't until recently.  I ran across the idea while perusing recipes online.  And well, I cook like I knit...I can never just follow a recipe (or pattern) exactly as written.  By the time I am done, it has transformed into something completely different.  This salad was no exception.  Also, I had always wanted to make something, trifle or otherwise, in a trifle bowl...so I promptly went out and bought one!  It makes the prettiest presentation.  All of the colors and textures layered delectably together in one beautiful bowl.  Plus, hey, it's just fun sometimes to eat something out of the ordinary, right?

I started by making my Green Chile Cornbread and letting it cool.  Here's the recipe:

Green Chile Cornbread

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg beaters
1 small can diced green chiles

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray an 8 x 8" or 9 x 9" baking dish with cooking spray.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together honey, buttermilk, oil, and egg.  Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix until moistened.  Fold in green chiles.  Do not over mix.  Pour batter into baking dish.  Bake 20-25 minutes.  Top should be very light golden brown.  Do not overbake.  Let stand 10 mintues.  Turn cornbread out onto cutting board and cool completely.

(This recipe also works well when you add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or colby-jack to the batter.  I do the cheesy version when serving it with a big pot of chili.)

And now for the salad recipe (this is such a great idea for all of those Farmer's Market purchases this time of year!):

Southern Cornbread Salad

1 baked Green Chile Cornbread, cut into 1" cubes, reserving 1 cup or so for "croutons"-which I toasted in the toaster oven
 1-15 oz. can pinto beans with jalepenos or black beans, drained and rinsed
1-15.5 oz jar salsa (or use your own) mixed with one medium tomato, chopped
2 cups fresh, cooked OR frozen, thawed corn
8 cups of greens-I used a mixture of chopped romaine hearts and baby lettuces
1 diced green pepper
1 diced red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken (deli broasted chicken works great and saves time)
1 T chopped fresh parsley, optional
1 T chopped fresh chives, optional
2 cups Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (recipe follows)

Toss chicken with salsa mixture.  In a trifle dish or clear glass bowl, begin layering ingredients in this order, making sure that they go to the edge of the bowl so you can see the layers:

1/2 lettuce mixture
Untoasted cornbread cubes
1/2 lettuce mixture
Red onion, red pepper, green pepper
(press down on everything a little as you get to the top layer)

Chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.  Pour dressing over top of salad just before serving or serve it on the side if you think you will have leftovers. 

Set reserved, toasted cornbread croutons in a dish on the side to sprinkle on top. 

Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1 pkg. buttermilk ranch dressing mix
1 cup mayo (I use a light olive oil mayo, but choose your favorite)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 T chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 T dried
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 T paprika
2 T chopped fresh chives or 1 T dried
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar.  Shake to mix thoroughly.  Chill for several hours before serving.  Works well if made up the night before.


On a related note, I mentioned Farmer's Markets earlier and wanted to tell you about my visit this last weekend to the Scottsbluff Farmer's Market.  I bought many wonderful things including a giant zucchini, which I promptly turned into Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, fresh corn on the cob and tomatoes...
Grass-fed beef for chili from OpenBar2 Ranch...

...and two fun products, a habenero peanut butter (yes, you read that right) from Nuts for You , and an apricot/habenero jam called Blazin' Glory from Beeloved Jams...
Also a cantaloupe and  some goat's milk feta cheese from Victory Hills Farm.  
I spent about an hour or so just browsing and visiting.  Such a great way to start my weekend off!  

My good friend Monique Larsen has started a blog called Prairie Bloom, and you can find many of the Farmer's Markets in the area listed there, as well as resources for many organic, locally grown and/or produced items.  She is continually adding to the lists found there.  

I have in the past complained on occasion about my lack of choices for these kinds of items, and now I find the resources I have always wanted in one convenient location.  I admit it takes more effort to buy, cook, and eat seasonally, organically, when possible, and locally, but oh it is so worth it!

Hope you enjoy the recipes and thanks for the break from my knitting.  Some days it just gets to be a little much.  Never thought I would say that about my knitting, but then if I plan to do this for the rest of my life, I had better pace myself somewhat, don't you think?  

Taking the time to purchase fresh, locally grown ingredients, putting together a meal, baking something delicious, and sharing an evening with friends...I can't think of a better way or a better reason to take a break, decompress, refocus, and re-energize. 

I suddenly have the urge to pick up my needles...

Knit On,



  1. Fun post! Your corn bread salad looks awesome. Thanks for mentioning the website. I've been blown away by the farmers' markets this year.

  2. Thanks! It really was fun to make and eat! The farmer's markets are really making a comeback, don't you think? Just wonderful. Prairie Bloom is great! Keep up the good work!