Chris e-mailed asking about cornbread. My personal opinion: If you don't know how to make cornbread from scratch, there's no point in trying to learn before Monday. Martha White and Jiffy are both solid cornbread mixes. You add egg and milk to both and bake in the oven. You can do that in a cast iron skillet or a oven-safe container. I honestly use my black glass pie dishes when I make cornbread. I have six of those. 'You must make a lot of pie!' No. But they were on sale at the outlet mall for a dollar a piece seven years ago. I reached for one, not caring what the price was, because I loved the look of them. I saw the price and grabbed the other five. If they'd had more than six, I would have gotten more.
Here's the thing about new cornbread cookers -- especially those who aren't experienced in cooking -- they cook it and think, 'Hey, this is a little different. Hmm. But I like it.' And they keep making it that way failing to grasp that they aren't fixing it correctly. While, as cook, they're fine with this different taste, the people they serve it to? Usually the cornbread largely goes uneaten. So if you're not used to cooking from scratch, grab one of the packets of instant mix.
You can, and I do, add to the mix. Add whatever the mix calls for (egg and milk). Then I like to add an 8.5 ounce can of creamed corn. I stir that into the mix. It makes the cornbread moist and, when we did our roadtrip to Texas a few years back, it was a trick a woman in Austin showed me (Darla, thank you for that tip). I sometimes also add sliced jalapeno -- not from fresh pepper but from a jar of already sliced jalapeno peppers -- or a 4 ounce can of green chile peppers diced. I stir that in, pop it into the oven and cook it according to the directions on the packet.
Do you know what else is good at a backyard grill? A pasta salad. Yesterday, my granddaughter and I went to Toys R Us, found nothing, and went on to Target. (Every Friday, she gets to pick out a treat -- toy -- for herself.) She found a Barbie with furniture collection. I can't remember if she ended up getting the bedroom suite or the dining. But she got that and we looked around the store some more before I saw that they had Betty Crocker's Suddenly Salad on sale for $1.25.
That's a really good price. (And I grabbed 20 boxes.) It's the only pasta salad mix I like.
Without the mix (maybe you don't have a Target in your area or maybe it's not on sale there), you can (and I do) make pasta salad.
The first thing to decide on is the pasta. The round twirls -- of various color -- are the preferred kind. However, you can make it with straight pasta. If I use straight pasta, I usually go with angel hair because it's not as thick. I generally break the pasta in half before boiling.
Whichever you use, cook pasta according to directions.
You'll need a big bowl. Add a small or large can of black olives to the bowl -- with juice. They must be pitted. They can be whole or slices. I like to use whole. Chop up three sticks of celery. Slice a red onion into rings. Place both in bowl. I like to chop up some radishes as well. Having cooked and drained the pasta, add it to the bowl and stir. I go with about a third of Newman's Own Lite dressing (click here for a list, I use whatever I'm in the mood for). You can then add some cheese if you'd like. Parmesan is an easy choice, especially if you get the grated flakes in the large round shaker. But you can add any shredded cheese you'd like. I usually add fresh ground black pepper and a dash of red pepper. Then I stir again. If you're using croutons, wait and top with croutons as the last step.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday: