Recently, I made it home from work before my wife did. Since she’s such a trooper in dealing with all the things that make most folks look at me in a strange manner (at least living here in town), I thought it would be nice to make something for dinner. Doing a quick poll on what everyone wanted (I asked the only daughter home at the time), I decided that even though it wasn’t on my approved meals fir me personally, if making cornbread and taco soup would make my daughter happy AND just cooking anything that one of the picky eaters (our daughters) liked would make my wife happy, then it was a fine idea.
Until I found that we had no cornmeal.
And no taco seasoning.
Excuse me as I wander a bit off track. As always, I’ll eventually get to the point, and you might learn something. Maybe…
I’ve said time and again in previous posts that bad things happen. And the more close it is to you personally, the more likely it is to occur. A stubbed toe is pretty common for us all, but when you do it, I don’t usually notice. A hurricane is rather infrequent (less likely than a stubbed toe, for sure!), even here in south Florida…but when one does happen…we ALL are affected. And a Zombie Apocalypse will affect the entire planet…but not very likely to EVER happen (unless you count the Oblivions out driving around every day with ZERO clue what goes on around them. At least they don’t crave brains. Or apparently have any of their own.)
That is how it was with no cornmeal or taco seasoning – a bad thing. Very localized, affecting just this house. And rather common. Ever run out of an ingredient? We all do. But by doing a little forward thinking, and some judicial shopping, you can be ready for this type of emergencies, as well as others. Planning ahead is now called “prepping”. I say BS, its just smart living, but I’m just a hillbilly, what do I know. For this emergency, I believed I was ready to resolve the problem with plans I had put in place months ago.
Not an emergency, you say? Without those ingredients, I couldn’t make what I promised for my daughter, and my wife would soon be home to no dinner. Broken promises to children should be a Federal offense. And I’ve said before, “Happy Wife, Happy Life“….and the opposite is absolutely true.
So I went into the pantry to dig around a bit. And found some vacuum sealed popcorn. And all of my vac-sealed bulk spices. Just where I left them. Dry, sealed, and waiting for this moment. And as fresh as the day I sealed them up.
Well, THIS should be an easy recovery!
I grabbed all the dried herbs and spices, along with a vacuum sealed bag of bulk popcorn, along with my VitaMix (purchased mine at a yard sale for $5!) Click the link to see how pricey they are. But AMAZING! My VitaMix is the 3600 with the stainless steel container (not glass). I’m certain I can drop deer antlers into mine and grind them to dust. Corn and wheat are simple to grind into a fine powder.
Why popcorn for bulk storage?
I didn’t have dent or flour corn stored(the typical varieties ground for meal). Since we don’t eat a lot of cornmeal-based foods, I decided to use a double-duty variety instead. Popping corn make passable meal, and doubles as its namesake – popcorn. A campfire, and a hot cast iron pan is all it takes to turn this into a serious comfort food in a crisis. (Plus we were given a 5 gallon bucket of it for free when a local sports team decided to go from a bulk popcorn machine to individual microwave portions in their concession stand.) If you eat a lot of cornmeal goods, it is a better idea to stock dent corn. Plus it doubles as animal feed, and if you go heirloom, can be replanted to produce next year’s crop.
Corn IS a seed, you know…
I tossed the popcorn into the VitaMix, and pulverized the dry popcorn into cornmeal. In less than 5 minutes, I had my main cornbread ingredient. Not the optimal cornmeal, but still cornmeal. Good enough!
I preheated the oven to 450, grabbed an egg, the baking soda, salt, milk and vinegar. My quick and easy cornbread recipe is :
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp vinegar
Mix the dry ingredients together. Whisk the egg into the milk. Add in the vinegar (to simulate buttermilk). Add the wet to dry. Pour into a pre-heated cast iron skillet. (You DO have cast iron cookware, right?)
As the oven continued to heat up, I melted half a stick of butter and drizzled it over the top of the batter in the skillet. I then drizzled the honey on top of that.
Bake for 20 minutes. BAM! Done.
On to the taco seasoning!
As the cornbread baked, I gathered spices I put up back in December of 2012, that can be found in an article I wrote here. I had everything I needed!
The peppercorns were whole, so I had to grind those, being sure to get an even grind. I ground a cup of the peppercorns, sifted it through a coarse sieve, then reground the larger bits. Fresh ground pepper has a better flavor and bite than old, stale ground pepper. HUGE difference.
The rest was simply measure and mix. Pouring the different colored spices into a beaker made for an edible bottle sand art project.
A quick shake fixed all that, though, and allowed me to test out my recipe to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Omit one ingredient and you’ll know. I left cumin out once, and the result was obvious. Amazing how cumin smells like feet, but adds a flavor that tacos simply MUST have!
- 1 1/4 cup plus chili powder
- 5 teaspoons garlic powder
- 5 teaspoons onion powder
- 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes or Cayenne powder
- 5 teaspoons oregano
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 1/2 cup plus cumin
- 3 tablespoons salt (more to taste)
- 6 tablespoons finely ground pepper
Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.
To use for taco meat, add 1/4 cup of seasoning plus a 1/2 cup of water or broth to browned meat. Simmer til the moisture is almost gone.
Yields a little more than 3 1/2 cups – enough to season about 14 pounds of meat.
It is that simple.
(OK, not sure about the eel, but it probably does well with that too.)
As I finished making the spices, the cornbread was ready to come out of the oven. The end result was edible, though would be considered “rustic” cooking. The cornmeal was a bit too coarse to be made into cornbread without any flour for binding. Not a complete fail, but a lesson. I went back later and reground the remainder of the cornmeal onto a finer meal. And vac sealed it and placed it between the coconut flour and the amaranth.
Here is the end result of the “Just In time Rustic Cornbread”:
Good enough for emergency work!
The taco soup was browned ground beef, a large onion (diced), minced garlic, taco seasoning, a packet of ranch dressing mix (yes, I need to make my own, we all have room for improvement), a can of corn, and a can of mild Rotel. We opted for mild because of the daughter.
I served it over crumbled cornbread, with sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced fresh jalapenos, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
But not photogenic. Brown food is rarely visually appealing. No pics, sorry.
In wrapping all this up, when asked, “Why would you store whole, dry grains, or bulk spices?”, the simple answer is:
“Just in case.”OR, if you have a mischievous streak, look at the inquisitor and say,”Tacos! DUH!”
Then walk away. Always leave them guessing….
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