Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mashed Taters

[Prettier words to follow this hideous photo, I promise and apologize.]

Comfort food.  That's all well and good, but sometimes it is good to be uncomfortable.  

No, I'm not suggesting that you eat a salad instead of this pot of creamy, buttery, starchy goodness.  By all means, skip green stuff from time to time (although, if you are thinking a salad sounds better than spuds during these hot summer months, might I suggest you try this sweet and tangy Chinese Napa Salad or a creamy, bacon-studded Broccoli Salad?)

When I want to feel numb, I could eat comfort food.  I could also stay put in my comfort zone.  In my comfort zone, I don't have to feel scared or awkward.  I can just bundle up, hunker down, and exist.  

That's what I used to think, anyway.  Except, sometime within the last six months, I realized that existing comfortably is pointless.  Plants exists.  You know, like weeds.  Here are some other things that exist: dust mites and mongooses (mongeese?).

Do I really want my existence to be lumped in with that of a rodent-like mammal?  Not really.

Yet, the days that I choose to exist uncomfortably prove to be the most rewarding days of my existence.  Uncomfortable days are days with stories because they are not of the norm. 

 Harry Potter--for example--his life was so uncomfortable (but awesome) that it was worth seven books of stories.  And then there's Jesus.  Jesus lived upon this earth for a mere thirty-or-so years, and yet his story was so out of the norm each day of the thirty years that he lived that over 2000 years later, it is a story still being told.  A God who became man to die so that all who believe in the truth of this sacrifice for their redemption can know Him personally and live for eternity saved from the results of their sin?  That definitely sounds uncomfortable, but it also sounds extraordinary.  

So, I want to live extraordinarily, abnormally, uncomfortably because then I can actually be alive.  And I will do so while I eat some mashed taters.  Join me?

[And because I feel sorry for you, a pretty taste from my summertime, and a hint at what I'll be discussing next week.]

Mashed Taters

Yields: about 8-10 servings


6 or 7 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-2" sized chunks
1/4 cup butter
about 3 tablespoons milk (add more for thinner potatoes)
salt and pepper to taste, or seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Add chunks of potato to a large pot of salted water (enough to cover the potatoes well with water).  Bring pot to a boil, and allow potatoes to cook for 20 to 25 minutes until easily pierced with a fork.

Drain potatoes and return to the hot pot.  Add in chunks of butter and begin mashing with a potato masher.  Add in milk and desired seasoning.  

Continue mashing until potatoes reach desired consistency.  For creamier potatoes, add milk a tablespoon at a time and alternate between mashing and stirring with the masher.

Serve with extra butter, of course.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Broccoli Salad

There are some things in life that are inherently good, easily appreciated without any frills, exemplary from existence.  Allow me to provide some examples:

A sunny summer's day is wonderfully warm and relaxing.  But, a sunny summer's day with ice cream dripping from its cone down the side of your hand, and not having to care about the sticky trail it leaves as you indulgently lick your skin clean, that is summer perfection.

Reading a long book while curled in bed after noon in your favorite flannel pajamas is a nice treat.  But, reading in bed while a warm kitten sits atop your stomach and kneads the dough of your flabby abs is a lazy morning at its finest.

Getting a new job--and a job you actually love--is like winning the Grown-up Award of the Year Ever.  But, wearing a spiffy new outfit to a new job, feeling like you're moving in the right direction, knowing that you're walking down the life path that you're (probably, hopefully, Lord-willing) meant to take, that's not good, it's great.

And so, broccoli.

Broccoli is good.  Well, broccoli is good for you, at least.  But, Broccoli with bacon is best.

This broccoli salad takes a good vegetable and makes it goooooood.  This transformation easily comes about with some bacon, and other goodies.  But, best of all?  It's ridiculously simple to make and tastes too good to be so easy.  Best just became bestest.

[On a side note, can I just say that I love how Trader Joe's makes me feel like I'm being a classy lady and buying a bottle of red wine instead of, well, vinegar.  That's something good--an adorable bottle--made better--a catalyst to imagine a fantasy life].

Broccoli Salad

Yields:  about 14 side-dish servings


6-7 cups of broccoli florets (about 3 crowns of broccoli, chopped)
1 cup mayonnaise (I like Kraft mayo with olive oil)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup roasted and salted, shelled sunflower kernels 
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, crumbled


Chop and rinse broccoli, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and sugar with a whisk.  Stir in chopped red onion.  Add broccoli to bowl and toss until broccoli is well-coated in the dressing.  Refrigerate bowl for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, cook bacon until crispy and allow to drain.  Stir raisins and sunflower seeds into the salad.  Crumble bacon on top of the broccoli just before serving.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Let's talk about names.  These little cornbread muffins have sparked some thinking about the subject.  

When I was a wee child and people would ask me my name, I would timidly reply, "Courtney."  Only, because of being soft-spoken, I would often get called, "Corny?"


Corny.  Courtney.  Cornbread.  Do you see my train of thought here?

Since my youth, I have learned to enunciate (sort of) and most people now correctly call me Courtney.

Occasionally, I'm called "Court."  I once hated the diminutive, thinking people's usage of it simply showed their laziness in failing to pronounce my entire name.  I've come to find it endearing.  It's a name I respond to only from the mouths of the dearest friends and family members.  If you take the risk of calling me Court and I don't protest, chances are I like you.

At the very least, Court cannot be misconstrued as Corn.

And so, muffins.  Cornbread becomes even more addictive when morphed into cute muffins studded with bits of corn bursting with sweet corn juice.  

Mmm, corny. 

Sweet Cornbread Muffins

Yield: About 15 muffins


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh sweet corn, cut from the cob


Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  With cooking spray, grease about 18 muffin pans (extra just in case).

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a smaller bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and melted butter.  Be careful to add the melted butter last and slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs. 

Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour egg mixture into the center.  Gently stir the mixture until partially wet.  Add in corn, stirring just until all the dry ingredients are completely wet.  Do not over-mix.

Pour batter into muffin pans about 2/3 full.

Bake in an oven heated to 350 deg. F. for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.  

Cool muffins in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes.  Then, remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on the wire rack completely, or serve warm.