The reason I was going to protest? Recipes and processed cheese.
From time to time here, I'll note a recipe from Nabisco or some company. I note it because I like the recipe and I've been cooking for many, many years. Sierra e-mailed because she had the most disgusting sandwich Wednesday.
It's called "1-2-3 Grilled Cheese." She bought some processed cheese (a huge block) to use in a queso recipe. However, she had a little bit left over and saw that, inside the cheese box cover, there were recipes. She likes grilled cheese so she figured she'd make that. She was instructed to slice a piece of processed cheese 1/4 inch thick for it.
The sandwich made her feel bloated and sick to her stomach. I'm not surprised. I wouldn't make a grilled cheese sandwich with a block of processed cheese (like Velvetta or store brand) to begin with. If I was forced to, I'd cut up some small pieces and arrange them on the bread with plenty of space between them because you don't need a slice to cover the bread. That stuff melts quick and spreads. Sierra wrote that when she finished making it that the cheese was almost as thick as a slice of bread.
Many products you buy in boxes or cans or sleeves at the grocery store have recipes on them. A lot of times, you can trust the recipes enough to try them out and see if you'd like them. Block pasturized cheese is really Cheese Whiz. It is good for chips, you could probably use it sparingly in a casserole and kids would love it on mac & cheese. That's about it for its uses.
Another e-mail I wanted to note was from Howard who is trying to figure out his late grandmother's cornbread recipe. (New Year's Day, some traditions believe, can set the stage for future good luck. You eat black eyed peas because they will bring coin -- supposedly they resemble pennies, I don't see it; you eat greens -- mustard, turnip, kale, etc, even cabbage -- because they will bring paper cash -- green money -- in the new year; and you eat cornbread because it will bring gold in the new year. I am not telling you any of that will happen. I doubt it will. But if it will get some people to eat some greens and some black eyed peas, hey, we're all better off when we eat more vegetables.)
Howard's not the first person to write me with questions like that and I never mind them and try to help. But I should have said something about this long ago.
Here goes. Our loved ones? Whether they're old or young could die tomorrow. Life can be very short and people are very precious. Howard can't ask his own grandmother because she's passed away. If there's a recipe (or really anything) that a loved one does that you'd like to carry on, let them know. Ask them how they make it or do it. There are some silly fools who will swear it's a secret and not help you but most people will gladly share with you. And they will all -- even the silly fools -- be flattered to have been asked. So if you've got a family member or friend who makes a dish you love, tell them that and ask them how to make it. Not only will they know that a dish they've made means something to you, you'll know how to make it yourself.
As opposed to asking someone else after the loved one's gone and we stumble together trying to figure out how the dish was made.
Now for Howard's issue, we're not going to meaasure out flour and cornmeal and all that nonsense. Cornbread packages are readily available at grocery stores around the country. There's no reaosn to pretend this is olden times and we're the Wilders of Little House fame. Buy a package of cornbread mix. Read the back of the sleeve before you leave the store. That way you'll buy the egg and milk (if you don't have them at home) and whatever else you need before you leave the store.
In addition to what's on the back of the sleeve, buy (and mix in) one small can (six to ten ounces) of creamed corn. Before you bake, when you're stirring the mix, you'll add the corn. You'll then bake as described in the instructions on the package.
My initial question for Howard about the "sweet" cornbread he remembered was whether it had corn in it or not? If it did, that'll give you what he's talking about.
However, if you had sweet cornbread and it didn't have corn in it, you need to leave out the can of creamed corn and add 1 cup of sour cream (low fat, non-fat or regular is up to you). That is all you do. Take the recipe on the back of the sleeve and follow it exactly except add 1 cup of sour cream to the mix.
Quickly on the folklore. If you're doing it for the first time -- black eyed peas, greens and cornbread, a few tips.
1) Black eyed peas can be bought in cans or in the frozen food section. You can use them if you're nervous about cooking dry black peas. If you're not nervous, go for the dried peas. They're by the rice, inexpensive and can produce an entire large pot of black eyed peas. Some folkore says you need to add ham pieces or bacon pieces to the beans while they're cooking. (If you want to follow that and are buying in the can, there are canned brands of black eyed peas that have bacon pieces in them.)
2) Greens. Cooking them is not difficult. But if you're nervous, you can buy them in cans or in the frozen section. If you go with cans, I'd recommend turnip greens with chopped up pieces of turnips in them. If you're doing fresh, remember first to wash them. After you wash them? You will probably want to trim them, cut off stalks and some edges. You may not want to. That's your choice. I always wash my greens twice and then trime them. You can pair them with some tomatoes and eat it as a salad if you're nervous about cooking. You can boil them. If you're wanting to season them with ham, you'll add the ham first. Start by bringing water to a boil in a large pot. If using ham, after the water is boiling, add it (or a piece of pork) to the water and then some salt if you use salt. Boil for 15 minutes. Then add greens, cover, reduce heat to simmer and allow to simmer for five to eight minutes. If you're not using ham (or pork), bring water to a boil, add greens, cover, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for five to eight minutes.
3) When do you eat for luck? Most believe you do it on New Year's Day. Some believe you do it on New Year's Eve. If you're a parent discovering this folklore for the first time and thinking, "I can get my kid to eat greens and black eyed peas with this!", why not tell them that they need to eat it on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
4) Remember that some use cabbage (not red cabbage) for the green. If you want to use cabbage, remember that in addition to boiling it, you can use it many other ways. You can make cole slaw and serve that for the "green." You can make cabbage rolls. There are many, many ways you can use cabbage.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday: