Sweet and Smoky Skillet Cornbread (V)(GF)

IMG_0661This is the second week in a row that I’ve “let my South Carolina show” by giving you some southern-inspired recipes! Though sweet tea, lemonade and cornbread are about as classically down south as flavors come, I wouldn’t dare claim that my creations resemble the real deal culinary classics of my home. You won’t see me throw around words like authentic or traditional–simply because my aim was not to recreate history with these bakes. I did consider that route, but that was before I did a bit of research about old fashioned, southern cornbread and deduced some information that prompted me to pursue a more unorthodox route. Basically, classic southern cornbread is nothing like your well-known Jiffy box mix: it’s often made with white cornmeal instead of yellow, its texture isn’t nearly as aerated, and it’s sometimes made by purists who omit the milk and sugar and eggs entirely. I don’t know about you, but I love milk and sugar and eggs. Plus, I preferred to avoid having dozens of great grandmas rolling in their graves because I horrifically insulted the pure name of cornbread with my wannabe version.IMG_0630

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to decide that trying to make authentic cornbread would actually end up being the least authentic choice I could make. I did, though, in my online digging, get caught in the web of cornbread-making videos. One of my favorites was by a woman who goes by Mamma Cherri, a London YouTuber with a substantial following. I was immediately drawn into her cornbread video, which began with her taking a trip to a market to purchase the ingredients (plus a few random items she needed to grab). It then shifted to her very cluttered kitchen, where she quickly walked through the process of making the cornbread, haphazardly tossing ingredients into bowls and rarely pausing to explain as she worked. What made the video so appealing was just how incredibly natural it was. Mamma Cherri’s kitchen looked like any family kitchen, cramped and cluttered; she didn’t use any real measuring cups; the video had no added effects or even transitions; her daughter simply followed her around with a camera while she shopped and baked, the two of them engaging in comical banter throughout the process. As I chuckled, watching her cut the cornbread with a comically massive knife because that’s what was nearby, I realized how invested I had become in this woman’s life in the span of eight minutes. I wanted to meet her; I felt like I knew her; I trusted her. IMG_0670

Okay, that sounded a tad creepy. But it’s true! And it got me thinking: it’s amazing how attracted we are to authenticity. There are few qualities more instantly magnetizing about people than that of being completely genuine, or “unapologetically themselves,” as reality t.v. loves to put it. But what’s equally amazing, sadly, is how tirelessly we try to adopt characteristics and lifestyles and interests that have nothing to do with who we are–just because we think that our authentic selves can’t measure up to others’ standards unless we add some sort of embellishment. In a culture dominated by fantasy–impossible bodies, impossible experiences, impossible makeup, impossible wealth–it’s often hard to realize what reality even is, let alone understand that your personal reality is 1) normal, and 2) adequate. I promise you, it is both of those things. IMG_0608

On this hump day, then, I want you to remember that nobody remembers someone for being just like someone else; I want you to try loving the parts of you that don’t line up with the manicured photos on your Instagram feed. When it comes to cornbread AND life, you can’t go wrong with real authenticity.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:1

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Sweet and Smoky Skillet Cornbread (V)(GF)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, melted (plus an extra 2 TBSP for skillet)
  • 1/2 flax egg (1/2 TBSP ground flax seed mixed with 1 TBSP plus 1 1/2 tsp water, left to thicken in fridge for at least five minutes)
  • 2/3 cup “buttermilk” (2 tsp vinegar mixed with enough almond milk to make 2/3 cup, left to sit for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1/8 tsp liquid smoke

Instructions

  1. Place a small cast iron skillet in the oven (mine was about 7” across the bottom), and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, smoked paprika, salt and sugar.
  3. Add “buttermilk”, flax egg, and liquid smoke to the dry ingredients, and whisk until incorporated. Then, whisk in the melted butter.
  4. Remove skillet from the oven, and place 2 TBSP of butter into it to coat the bottom.
  5. Carefully pour cornbread batter into the skillet on top of the butter.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the skillet before slicing. Enjoy with a bowl of chili, barbecue, or on its own!

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Broccoli Stem Pecan Pesto (V)(GF)

IMG_9607Welcome back to the blog, a.k.a. Allie’s weekly opportunity to embarrass herself! I decided today that I’ve produced far too many sappy, meaningful posts recently and that the only solution is to break the streak with the lastest account of my lack of common sense. I hope you can take this as an opportunity to sit back, relax, and feel the prevalence of your own competence as you read about mine momentarily dwindling–don’t worry, I’m not looking to self-deprecate. It’s only that I realize the strangely therapeutic nature of entertainment that, in it’s ridiculousness, makes you feel better about yourself (I’ve binge watched more Toddlers and Tiaras in my day than I’d care to admit)–and I have plenty of experiences that will do just that. Prepare for the following ego boost.

Lately, I’ve incorporated a news podcast into my morning routine. As I’ve explained in the past, I sometimes struggle to stay as informed as I’d prefer, whether it be from busyness, anxiety, laziness, or occasional apathy. Listening as I get ready for the day has proven to be a manageable source of information and one that interests me, though. My choice podcast is The Daily, a New York Times created audio show that delves into one story of the news for an extended segment and then ends with a summary of other top happenings. I did listen to it for a brief period a while back, and because I subscribed to it then, every day’s episode was saved on my phone for years, leaving me with a bulk of episodes that needed to be deleted when I dove back into the podcast last month. Generally, I deleted a few each time, hoping to one day eliminate the clutter monster that greeted me each time I opened the app. IMG_9567

This morning, I realized I’d missed the show a few days earlier this week and immediately grew excited at the fact that I had a choice of which episode to play. Excited is a strong word–I’ve had a rather emotionally exhausting week, so the fact that I had options simply broke up the monotony of brushing my teeth and blindly pushing play. I quickly reviewed a few titles at the top of the list and chose the one that sounded most intriguing to me.

I’d like to preface this section with two points: 1) Remember that my level of political awareness has experienced much rise and fall, especially in years past. 2) I have a terrible reputation for being unobservant.

I absentmindedly washed my face as the familiar opening tune of the podcast bubbled from my phone’s speaker, followed by the date and introduction of the show. As the host began making his way into the featured story, though, my attention shifted more intently to his words. He described that an op ed had recently been published by the New York Times from an anonymous “senior official” in the Trump administration, and that it essentially spoke to the idea that there were individuals within the White House who were actively working to undermine the president’s unfavorable choices. The author claimed that multiple people in the administration were fully aware of and working to combat Trump’s lack of moral compass and resulting dangers to the nation. The Daily’s host was interviewing a New York Times editor to discuss (and to be blunt, pry for information about) the mysterious article.

As the episode continued, my interest and shock ballooned. My mind swirled with questions: Who published it? How did he or she have the guts to publish this at such a sensitive political time?? How is this affecting the current impeachment trial in the Senate??? Surely this was a publication bomb–how hadn’t I seen it blowing up on social media???? I reeled in my dimly-lit bathroom, confusion and bewilderment clouding my head. Man, I really can’t miss one of these again, I thought. This is crazy.IMG_9614

I rushed out the door to physical therapy, allowing the next episode I’d missed to play in the car as I drove but barely listening because I was still stuck on the previous story. As the kids say these days, I was shook.

At the end of my appointment, I had fifteen minutes of icing before I was finished. Seeing the perfect opportunity to research the dramatic news I’d heard that morning, I found the original op ed online and furiously began scrolling through it. The harsh tone of the writer was equally astonishing and inspiring, and the general sentiment regarding Trump was unfortunately accurate. Reaching the bottom of the article, I noticed a listing of articles written in response to the editorial. Oooo, this should be good, I thought. I clicked on the first one, noticing a detail on the page that I’d managed to, until then, overlook for the entire: the date. The article was written in september of 2018.

Yep. For those of you similarly uninformed people who haven’t been laughing at me for the preceding two paragraphs, I had not listened to a podcast from last week. I’d listened to a podcast from September 6, 2018, the next one in line for deletion. I’d hurled myself into an unnecessary and entirely misinformed agitation over news that happened a year and a half ago. This was just one of the many times I was thankful that I kept my realizations to myself–I can’t imagine the hilarity that would have ensued if I’d been on the phone with my mom and asked “Could you believe that article the New York Times published?”

If I had, though, or if I’d asked my physical therapist or inserted it into conversation with one of my friends, there would have been embarrassment. No doubt about that. Luckily, I refrained from those and chose the much more low-key option of exposing myself on my very public blog on the very permanent internet. You might laugh–you should, actually.IMG_9516

We all have dumb moments. We all have difficult days. We even all have heartbreaking, gut-hollowing, tear-filled experiences. That was quite an escalation, but it’s the truth. And regardless of which of them you’re handling right now, you’re going to come out okay. I recovered rather quickly from this morning’s political upheaval that occurred entirely within the confines of my bathroom and car. But I’ve been through some things recently that will take a lot longer than that. Sometimes it seems like a difficult incident just won’t go away, won’t stop reminding you of how much it hurts. I encourage you to breathe and take each day, each moment, at a time. The last time I had an actual meltdown, my friend lent me some makeup, and I walked out of the room ten minutes later standing a little taller and with a face that looked like it had never seen a tear in its life (or at least that’s what I imagined).

The reality I want you to remember is that you will make it through whatever it is. God will give you the grace to face whatever day and people and situations are threatening to steal your confidence. It will be hard, and you might have to sneak into a bathroom now and then to touch up your makeup, but you’ll do it. Next time you’re tempted to let shame take over your grasp on the day, don’t let it. As my mom once said–on a day where I wanted to keep my eyes down and disappear and the ONLY time she’s ever cursed–“Give ’em hell, Allie.” I like to think God was on her side for that one.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

Proverbs 31:25

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Broccoli Stem Pecan Pesto (V)(GF)

Ingredients

  • 6 broccoli stems (the big stalks, mine were about 4 inches each)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP canola or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor/Nutribullet. Pulse until no large chunks remain.
  2. Continue processing until desired smoothness is reached. (I like to stop it before it’s completely smooth to add a bit of texture from the pecans).
  3. Serve on pasta, sweet potato, sandwiches, veggies….anything your heart desires!
  4. Store extras in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use.

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Mango Rum Donuts (V)(GF)

IMG_9357Because I could fill an entire novel with the ridiculous, unexpected things that I do and experience, I thought I’d just give you the highlights in bullet form today:

  • I ran into the corner of a wall so hard before a company Christmas party that I had a line running through my eyebrow, and it was tender for two weeks afterwards
  • During that Christmas party, I received coffee at the white elephant; I was probably the only person in that room who passionately hates coffee.
  • During my first Nutcracker show of the season, my wig was slowly sliding backwards for half an hour; I didn’t realize it until the third person made a joke about my receding hairline.
  • I did another show without knowing I’d left my very visible hot pink croissant sock on underneath my character shoes.
  • My parents and I were rear ended at the intersection 100 feet in front of the grocery store we were trying to get to (No damage to either car!).
  • I had to light the Advent wreath at church and didn’t realize there was a step in front of me–nearly fell and took the whole wreath down.

These obviously display the more comical side of unpredictability. But with all the inconsistencies of life–comical or not–I’ve been thinking about our innate desire for reliability. Even the most free-spirited, spontaneous people I know need some sort of constant in their lives, something in which to place secure hope when everything else becomes fragile. The present popularity of mindfulness, self-awareness, and various forms of meditation allude to this universal search for being grounded–further, a craving for a sense of belonging, or a concrete purpose. IMG_9299

Something struck me in the message our priest gave during service this weekend. He was speaking on the story of the Magi coming to visit the infant Jesus and present Him with gifts. These three men, he noted, would have been some of the most intelligent, experienced scholars of their time: with royal education, their knowledge of astrology, geography, and other subjects would have far surpassed that of the majority of the population at the time. His first point was that these men, despite having access to the greatest wealth of information and skills available, embarked on a journey to find a supposed Savior whom they had never actually seen and who wasn’t even old enough to speak yet. They, with all of their abilities, still felt something missing in their lives, an urge that led them to pursue this Jesus and then choose allegiance to God over allegiance to their king.

His second point, though, is the one which I find most moving; and I think it’s something easily forgotten. Yes, the three Magi likely represented the top tier of academia of their people. However, as our priest said, every single person sitting in the church today has knowledge that surpasses the wildest dreams and imaginations of the Magi. Our world has unlocked expanses of information and explored fields of study that didn’t even exist in Biblical times. The most basic level of worldly understanding today is far beyond the most well-versed minds of the time of Jesus’ birth. And yet, we are still searching, still longing for that same “missing piece.” Hundreds of years, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, technological advancements, and social evolutions later, we are still looking for something more. IMG_9325

What a testament to God’s greatness! The reason we will always look for greater truth and purpose is because God Himself is the only perfect, constant source of it; it’s also the reason that we’ll continuously come up empty-handed as long as we go about our search by using our own abilities, by tirelessly attempting to harness the limited powers of the human mind and spirit. God has blessed us with the anatomical tools needed to explore the universe He created–to unfold new pieces of science and mathematics and psychology every day. We’ve still only uncovered a sliver of what is left to be learned. But no matter how advanced our understanding becomes, we will always be left feeling unfinished without God.

Life can be really frustrating, really painful, and really unpredictable. I encourage you, when the events of this world threaten to tear you apart, seek the only true source of stability. You can breathe knowing that He never intended for you to figure out how to find inner peace on your own because if you could, you would never realize your need for His goodness. Like the Magi, take the risky step away from your ever-changing comfort zone and towards that star.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  

Matthew 2:9-10

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Mango Rum Donuts (V) (GF)

Ingredients

DONUTS

  • 2/3 cup vegan butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegan light brown sugar
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP flax mixed with 3 TBSP water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup Malibu rum
  • 2 2/3 plus 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  •  11/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

GLAZE

  • 1/4 cup fresh mango puree
  • 3 TBSP Malibu rum
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • toasted coconut (optional, for topping)

Instructions

DONUTS

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease 12 wells of a donut pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and both sugars. Mix on low-medium speed until completely combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Mix flax egg into butter mixture.
  5. Begin adding flour mixture and rum to butter mixture, alternating between each and mixing after each addition, until all ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Use a bag to pipe batter into donut pan wells, or spoon batter into them (piping is much easier but not necessary).
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 10-11 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed.
  8. Allow to cool in pans for five minutes, then turn donuts out onto a cooling rack.

GLAZE

  1. In a bowl wider than the donuts, whisk together all ingredients except toasted coconut.
  2. When donuts aren’t warm, dip top of each donut into glaze and place back on cooling rack.
  3. Allow glaze to set; then repeat this process, dipping each one again. This time, sprinkle toasted coconut on top immediately after dipping.
  4. Allow glaze to set if you can wait, and enjoy!

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Sriracha Roasted Chickpeas (V)(SF)(GF)

IMG_5941For those of you who don’t quite know the personal significance of this recipe, allow me to enlighten you. I don’t hate many things, especially when it comes to eating. However, one major exception has existed for as long as I can remember. I HATE spicy food. It’s not just a preference, not a loose stance from which I’ll stray on occasion. It’s an “I”ll take a level 0 pad thai please” even when the server laughs at me; an always wary of getting too heavy handed with the pepper shaker; a “mom, try this before I do because it smells hot” kind of hate. Spice and I do not see eye to eye, and we never have. The Avengers : Thanos :: Allie : Spicy Food. I think you get it.

Alas, perhaps now–after you’ve had your laugh at my wimpiness– you can grasp the absurdity of this post. I, Allie Durand, used Sriracha in something I made. That I consumed. With my own mouth.  And I lived to tell the tale. In fact, I ate all of the chickpeas that I made for this recipe, and–this is the part that still doesn’t like to be heard–I liked them. IMG_5913

I certainly didn’t plan for the sole nemesis of my culinary life (aside from coffee, which I’ve already endured once on this blog) to become the center of my recipe. I had a much sweeter, much less frightening, much more me-friendly concoction prepared; but I ran out of time to get it done for this post. My next plan soon became to roast chickpeas, a favorite snack of mine and one that I’d kept on my mental back-burner in case of a pinch for time such as that. But it wasn’t until I opened the spice cabinet and found I was out of my beloved cumin (a fabulously delicious and heat-free spice), that I, with shaking hands, opened the fridge and took out the very bottle I’d nearly pawned off to a friend two days before.

Yet here we are. You’re reading my Sriracha recipe, the recipe I wrote having consumed dozens of the fiery snacks. Everyone survived (sans chickpeas), and I’m proud of myself for stepping beyond the bounds of comfortable food. Though an arguably trivial example, this ordeal really brought to mind my struggle with boldness. Though I am undoubtedly an extrovert, someone who loves attention, and a sucker for a good counter-cultural act, there’s a sense of timidity in me that loves to tighten its grip on my interactions, especially as I get older.

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Maybe it’s a result of simple evolution in my personality; maybe it’s the fear of being condemned the way so many people are for expressing anything unpopular about themselves; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent my life in ballet studios, where you do exactly what you’re supposed to do and look exactly the way you’re supposed to look and fix yourself when you don’t do exactly what you’re supposed to do and speak exactly zero times. All I know is that starting conversations with strangers and stating my opinion confidently and simply being as “me” as it gets comes with a small twinge of apprehension that used to be nonexistent.

I’m not saying that I’d be better off as my elementary school self–a gal with a lot of opinions, not much of a verbal filter, and an overwhelming notion that everyone around her needed to know that–she’s left in the past for a reason. But, I am saddened by the fact that I no longer feel that childhood ease of unapologetic being. Speaking. I may have been naive as a child; let’s rephrase: I WAS naive as a child, but maybe being naive isn’t the worst thing if it erases the fear of being judged, hated, seen as inferior. IMG_5964

But here’s where the chickpeas come in. I know that despite what events in my life have worked to suppress the carefree, loud-mouthed gal in me, I ultimately get to choose every day to fight them. To approach a stranger on the bus and begin conversation because why not. To talk about how freaking amazing God is when the world tells me I should keep it to myself. To be myself always and around everyone, no matter how much more intelligent, attractive, witty, or popular than me I’m convinced they are.

Friends, life can be heavy. It can be scary and uncomfortable and downright hurtful. Let’s do each other a favor and support the daunting practice of boldness. Let’s get a little spicy.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

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Sriracha Roasted Chickpeas (V)(SF)(GF)

This is just one flavor option out of the endless possibilities for roasted chickpeas, a delicious and sinfully easy snack. This recipe, though, is especially tasty for lovers of Sriracha and spice in general!

Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas (mine were 15.5 oz., but it doesn’t have to be exact)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP sriracha
  • 1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (plus more for sprinkling)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet or two small baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Drain chickpeas, and dry them with paper towels.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, sriracha, soy sauce, and ginger.
  4. Add chickpeas, and stir to coat.
  5. Spread chickpeas on baking sheet(s), making sure there’s space between them.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until crispy as desired, stirring a few times as they bake to ensure even cooking and avoid burning.
  7. Turn off the oven, and prop the door just open with an oven mitt. Leave the chickpeas in for about 10 minutes.
  8. Remove, dust with more ginger as desired, and enjoy! Keep at room temperature in sealed containers/baggies.

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