Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

I’ve been inspired to do more with cornmeal lately and it has nothing to do with my buying a 5lb bag of freshly ground cornmeal at the farmers market. Nothing at all!

After watching a TV chef add cornmeal instead of semolina to their focaccia, I looked around for more recipes. I found several different versions online of cornbread focaccia (including this one from Southern Living) that I used as a stepping off point.

I love the crust it gets from baking it in a cast iron skillet. While this doesn’t make the best sandwich bread (as it is a little crumbly), it is delicious on its own as an appetizer or snack or with soup.

Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
25 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped (about half cup chopped)

Combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, yeast, eggs, butter and honey in a mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to proof for a five minutes. Stir together until well combined. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and stir to mix. Let stand while the oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

Lightly oil the skillet, using a basting brush to get up the sides as well. Pour dough into hot skillet. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary and the chopped olives.

Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the focaccia to a rack to cool completely before serving.



Shaving Cream Easter Eggs To Deviled Eggs

My sister and I played with shaving cream and food coloring to dye a couple dozen eggs. The first batch was a little light, so we went again and the eggs turned out pretty good.

We used shallow aluminum pans and filled them with shaving cream, then put drops of food coloring over the shaving cream. Then, we dragged a butter knife through the shaving cream and dye to make designs. We added the eggs and used the butter knife to cover them entirely with colored shaving cream and let them sit for twenty minutes. After rinsing and drying, we repeated to darken the designs.

We then made deviled eggs with most of them – who wants to hide eggs, when they make such a delicious dish?

My recipe for deviled eggs is totally to taste. With this dozen eggs, we used about a half cup of mayonnaise, a tablespoon of yellow mustard, a teaspoon of sweet pickle relish juice (no relish, just the juice) and salt and pepper. I smashed all the yolks before adding the condiments and stirred to combine. After tasting, I added more pepper and mayo before filling the egg whites and dusting with paprika.

Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama

For my birthday, we went to lunch at Wolf Bay Lodge in Foley, Alabama. I’ve been here before and written about it (here and here) but it has been several years, so I figured I’d post again. We’ve been going here since it was a private club across Wolf Bay from my folks place.

At lunch we had about a fifteen minute wait for a table, as they were pretty hopping at noon. We spent our wait at the bar and the time passed quite quickly, especially once I received my tea filled alligator cup. Dad enjoyed the house draft and Mom had an ice cold bottle of Budweiser.

Once we were seated and had perused the extensive menu, my mom ordered the coconut shrimp. This is an appetizer but is actually perfectly sized for lunch time. The shrimp were lightly breaded with flour and toasted coconut and it was served with a tasty tropical marmalade.

Dad had the shrimp kabobs – the lunch portion is 2 kabobs of shrimp, coated in a sweet bourbon glaze before being grilled. It is served over rice and comes with a couple of very light and delicious hush puppies.

Michelle had the blackened shrimp tacos with a chipotle tartar sauce. They were very well seasoned and came with cheese and coleslaw on soft tortillas. It was served with chips and a very tasty house made salsa. She really enjoyed the flavor and would definitely order them again.

I ordered the large plate of fried Gulf shrimp. These are some of my favorite fried shrimp ever with lots of shrimp on the plate, covered in a light, crisp breading and fried to perfection. As the sign on the wall states – if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food! It came to the table with a full plate of french fries and a couple of their hush puppies.

I hope you like my alligator cup as much as I do. As a bonus, it also comes with free refills. Crazy to say, they sell it as a kids cup!

Most of the meals came with one trip to the salad bar – they have a pretty extensive selection of items including some pretty darn tasty deviled eggs. I convinced Mom and Michelle to add one for me to both their bowls, so I was happy.

The servers are friendly, even considering how busy the place is. The selection on the menu will satisfy piscivores and carnivores alike and the portion sizes are plentiful. They have a wide selection of seafood but, as you can see from our orders, their shrimp is what brings us back, year after year.

Wolf Bay Restaurant
20801 Miflin Road, County Road 20
Foley, Alabama 36535
(251) 987-5129

Cornbread Sticks

I’m giving one of my cast iron cornbread stick pans to Michelle and I just had to check that it was working properly. I can cheerfully report that it does. It really does!

I inherited this one from my dad’s parents and it is perfectly seasoned after years and years cornbread making.

I like cornbread sticks as they increase the ratio of crunchy to the rest of the bread. Trust me, it makes scientifically better cornbread!

If all you have is fine or medium ground corn meal, use just the one cup. But I like the texture from the crunch of coarse or stoneground corn meal so I add that. I do soften it in milk, as I don’t fancy chipping a tooth!

Soften some butter as the cornbread cooks, to make slathering it on super easy.

Cornbread Sticks

1/4 cup coarse ground corn meal
1/4 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup finely ground corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten into 1 cup of milk
1/4 cup Crisco shortening

Place the coarse ground corn meal in the milk and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes to soften and absorb the liquid.

After 30 minutes, pinch off pieces of the shortening and place dollops in each slot on the cast iron cornbread stick pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with the pans in the oven, melting the shortening.

Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the melted shortening until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter. Pour the mixture into each of the corn sticks in the pans and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Tops will be golden brown. Immediately remove from pans to cool.

Serve with lots of butter or crumble some in a glass with a drizzle honey and plenty of cold milk.

Creole Chicken and Rice

I recently did a Latin American chicken and rice dish (see recipe here) and now I’m going to do a Louisiana Creole version. This one has the Louisiana holy trinity of onion, green bell pepper and celery with a different set of seasonings and long grain rice instead of the short grain of the arroz con pollo.

It had the right amount of heat from the cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes for my palate but you can always put a bottle of hot sauce on the table for those who need more.

I make my own Creole seasoning (see recipe here) as I can more closely monitor the salt content.

Chicken cut off the bone and stirred into the rice for serving

This is a very tasty and comforting meal in a pot. My taste testers, Charlotte and Thomas, both enjoyed seconds and we all were members of the clean plate club.

Creole Chicken and Rice


2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

Chicken and Rice:

2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs or 4 skinless breasts with rib bones
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 cup long-grain rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth

Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl or zip top bag. Add chicken and turn to coat. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Brown chicken about 5 minutes per side.

Transfer chicken to plate and lower heat to medium low. Add in chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Place in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in bell pepper and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes, until softened. Sprinkle on Creole seasoning and stir.

Add rice and stir to toast for 2 minutes. Pour in chicken stock, give it a stir, and bring to a simmer. Nestle chicken on top of the rice (pour in any of the juices that are left on the plate as well). Return to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed into the rice and chicken is done. During this time, cut the chicken off the bones and stir it into the rice for the final moments of cooking.

Chocolate Cornmeal Shortbread

I saw a recipe recently for lemon shortbread cookies that added some cornmeal for a twist. As I’m a fan of corn in almost all its forms, I thought I’d give the concept a try. Of course, I had to make the recipe my own by incorporating a few changes.

I decided to make mine chocolate. As coffee increases the impact of the chocolate, I added some instant espresso powder dissolved in a mix of creme de cacao and vanilla. Of course, if you’re not using the Creme de Cacao liquor, up the amount of vanilla extract to one teaspoon.

The shortbread cookies were crisp, with a depth of chocolate and a bit of nuttiness that was absolutely delicious.

1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons), softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream de cacao liquor, optional
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl.

Put the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Place the espresso powder in the vanilla and creme de cacao and stir to dissolve. Pour into the batter and mix until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough forms moist clumps. Mix in the chopped chocolate.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness, turning, lifting, and repositioning the parchment throughout the rolling. Slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Using a 2 1/2-inch round (or any shape) cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Arrange about 1 inch apart on parchment covered cookie sheets. Stack the scraps, gently press together, reroll, and cut as before. Slide the cookie sheets into the fridge while the oven heats (at least 15 minutes). Bake, one sheet at a time, until the tops look dry and very pale brown, 25 to 28 minutes.

Let the shortbread cool completely on the cookie sheets. Store in an airtight container.

Strawberry Cream Dream

We made gelato (see recipe here) and had a bit of heavy whipping cream, a tad of evaporated milk and smidgen of sweetened condensed milk left over. After pondering and googling, we decided to puree it all with some strawberries. It works as a drink and, after some time in the freezer, as a sorbet like dessert.

Strawberry Cream Dream

1 cup hulled and diced strawberries
1 cup cream (we used half cream and half evaporated milk)
1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk

Place everything in a blender and puree until it is frothy and well mixed. Pour into glasses.

For a pleasant kick to your cocktail add in some banana rum.

Arroz con Pollo

It’s been a hectic week of meetings, errands and driving long distances in the pouring rain. I craved some comfort food and decided to go with arroz con pollo or chicken and rice. There are a number of ways to do this Latin American dish – I have recipes for Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban versions but I’m descended from colonists, so I just took the things I liked from many different recipes.

I’m doing this particular version as I didn’t have any homemade chicken stock on hand. Normally, I would brown/cook the chicken in the Dutch oven about 8-10 minutes per side to start and then remove it to pick it from the bones. Don’t worry if it is a little pink, as it will continue cooking with the rice. Then, I would sauté the onions in the butter and would follow the rest of the directions as written from that point. You need 4 cups broth for this recipe and the seasonings I’ve put in add a ton of flavor to the chicken but feel free to use any good, low salt chicken broth.

Don’t skip rinsing the rice – trust me, it is important. It has a coating of starch that, if left on will make the dish very sticky and gummy. Additionally, by toasting the rice before adding the liquid, it should leave the final result nice and fluffy.

I used Goya Sazón. It is a spice blend common in Latin American cooking. You could make your own blend (see a recipe here) if you want to avoid the monosodium glutamate (MSG) but the Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto (on the package written as con Culantro y Achiote) adds a nice flavor and pretty color to this dish. 1 tablespoon is equivalent to 3 of the individual packets.

I served the arroz con pollo with tortillas and sliced avocados.

Arroz con Pollo

1 whole chicken cut into 6-8 pieces
2 medium onions, 1 quartered and the other diced
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto
1 diced green bell pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
1 – 4 oz jar diced pimentos, drained

Place the chicken in a large pot of Dutch oven with six cups of water. In a blender, add the quartered onion, celery, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Blend on high speed until pureed and then pour into the pot with the chicken. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and boil gently, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.

Remove chicken from the pot and pour the liquid through a strainer to remove the solids. Once the chicken cools enough to handle, remove skin and bones and shred the meat into bite sized pieces. Measure out 4 cups of chicken broth.

Return pot to the stove and melt the butter. Add diced onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in rice and Sazón and cook until rice begin to toast, about 2 minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and stir in the bell pepper, can of tomatoes (with the juice) and reserved chicken. Bring to a low boil. Cook, covered, until the rice has absorbed the liquid, 25 to 30 minutes.

Stir in the pimentos and let stand off the heat for 10 minutes before serving. Scrape the bottom of the pot when portioning out, as the crunchy, caramelized rice has fabulous flavor.