Starting with Priscilla. We exchanged e-mails. She's never made cornbread before. So my advice was for her to forget making it from scratch. There are packets in every grocery store. Are they expensive? In 2003, my local grocery store of choice had them for 39 cents a packet. They're now up to 69 to 79 cents but usually on sale for 59 cents or less. The packets are fine. If you want to move beyond them, consider them a a training set for now. But there's no reason not to use the mix. I can make corn bread from scratch. Most of the time I'm using the prepared mix. I usually do it from scratch only if I want corn bread and don't have the prepared mix.
Each packet generally calls for one egg and 2/3 cup of milk. You can make corn muffins if you prefer. If you're making cornbread, you can use a pie dish or a castiron skillet or something similar. If eight light pieces are fine with you, use 1 package. If you like more or need more, I'd suggest you use 2 packages. (I used much more than that if it's a family dinner due to having so many kids.) When you use 2 packages, cook them in one skillet or one pie dish. You'll have more than enough room.
The dish or skillet needs to be greased and this is the only place you can make a mistake. Grease with butter or a butter substitute. In the cooking, you can sometimes discover that you overgreased. What do you do? When the cornbread's done, take the pan or skillet out of the stove and then tilt the pan so the (hot) butter runs along the edge of the bread. That way you don't end up with a soft and soggy spot.
Now for the stove top cold day issue. Dried beans and peas.
Basics, soak the beans the day before. Or the peas. You'll be told -- on the package -- about a quick soak. Don't go for that. You'll most likely end up with gas and/or stomach discomfort. Soak the beans in six to eight cups of water for six to eight hours. (Or longer. If you soak overnight and manage to actually sleep eight hours, enjoy your sleep. You can go several hours over eight without any problems.) After you've soaked the required hours, you need to drain the beans -- like you would pasta. Then you need to repeatedly rinse the beans. After they are well rinsed, you can rinse the pan you were soaking them in as well. Then fill the pan with six to eight cups of water and begin cooking. Simmer is confusing for some people with dried beans/peas. You need to cover them. If you don't have lid for the pan, you can use a metal pizza pan or anything like that. But if you don't cover, they're not cooking, even if you let them boil. They have to be covered (with a little, tiny gap to let out steam) for an hour and a half to two hours or they're not going to cook.
Now the directions are on every package of dried beans or peas and you'll just follow those directions.
You can season the beans. You can chop up some garlic and put it in the pan to cook while the beans simmer. You can do the same with onions. You don't have to, you can. You can simply use your favorite spice or salt and pepper. I'm just saying that you can cook the beans with onions or garlic if you want to.
After they've cooked, you can leave the beans simmering. You will need to check the water to make sure it doesn't boil down (which would burn the beans). You've got beans or peas for the day. If your kids aren't teenagers, you're going to need to put them on a plate for them because it's too dangerous for them to serve themselves.
If you have beans and cornbread, you've got a satisfying meal. They can also crumble their cornbread up and eat it in the beans or peas.
I like all kinds of dried beans and peas. Black eyed peas are a favorite. I also like black beans, garbanzo, cranberry beans, etc. Don't pick up green split peas. We'll do them next week.
That's great for your kids or great for you (whether you have kids or not). And we're talking $3.50 for a pot of beans and some cornbread. (If that.)
And it's a bad economy. And do you know who's got it the worst? I keep thinking, "Okay, it's this group." Then I a few days go by and I find another group that has it worst. The worst I've found it so far, 70% unemployment, is for the disabled and you can click here for that story.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday: