So Much Leftover Cornbread...What to Do?

Stuffed Peppers
One thing about in-house recipe end up with a lot of leftovers.  I ate so many Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins the other day.  I decided that in an effort to not waste food, I'd better think of a way to repurpose them.  Stuffing seemed obvious.  I wasn't in the mood for a traditional holiday dressing.  Rather, I did a spin on an Italian classic and stuffed green peppers with some revved up cornbread.  How'd you do that, Ashley?  Oh, I'm glad you asked.  I crumbled up some muffins in a bowl just with a fork.  I'm sure I could have thrown the cornbread in a food processor, but the fork seemed simple enough.   I added cranberries, shredded smoked Gouda cheese and extra virgin olive oil.  I didn't add a lot of oil.  Just enough to moisten it up a bit.  About a tablespoon per jumbo muffin.  Once I removed the tops and seeds of the peppers, I seasoned them up with olive oil salt and pepper.  In hindsight, I would have charred the peppers on the stove to soften them up and get some additional depth of flavor.  I hand-packed the stuffing in the peppers.  I did not hold back.  You shouldn't either!  I let them cook in a preheated 350°F oven just until the stuffing heated through...about 20 minutes.
Stuffed Acorn Squash

I applied the same technique to acorn squash.  I cut a squash in half widthwise for 2 servings.  I hallowed out the halves with a spoon.  The squash was hit with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I used my hands to rub the seasoning all over the squash, inside and out.  I allowed the squash to roast in the oven by placing the cut side down on a pan.  I lined my pan with foil, because I'm lazy and cleaning out the pan wasn't something I was feeling at the time.  They roasted in a 350°F oven until the interior was soft and turned golden around the edges...about 30 minutes.  The cooked squash was again hand packed with the stuffing mixture.  I added some leftover broccoli this time.  One of my New Year's Resolutions: waste less food.  Once the stuffing heated through, I was ready to enjoy. 

Fish with Cornbread Stuffing
The fish was another good and quick way to use up the muffins.  I loaded the center of a seasoned fish fillet with the stuffing and simply had rolled the fish around it.  I gave the fish a quick drizzle with some oil and baked it at 325°F until the fish firmed up and cooked through.  Should take 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

So, to wrap up, there are tons of things that you can do to repurpose leftovers.  Get creative in the new year and leave nothing to waste!

Photo Credits: Ashley E. Cummings

Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins

Photo Credit: Ashley E. Cummings

Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins

Traditional components of the Southern New Year's staple, Hoppin' John, work in harmony to create these yummy muffins.  What a way to ring in a year of prosperity!  Serve warm with butter as a brunch feature or hearty on-the-go snack.  You can also serve them with soup to complete the meal.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 jumbo muffins


6 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
½ cup white onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ pound collard greens, finely chopped
  salt to taste
  black pepper to taste
  hot sauce to taste

1 ¼ cup cornmeal
½ cup white flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons, butter melted
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup canned black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and slightly smashed


1.)  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease the inside of a jumbo muffin pan.

2.)  Slowly cook the bacon in a wide skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon and place on paper towel.  Carefully pour off all but a tablespoon of the resulting bacon drippings.  Reserve the drippings for later use.  Sauté the onion in the pan drippings.  Once the onions are tender and begin to brown, add the vinegar to the hot pan with the onions.  Watch out!  The steam from the vinegar is going to hit you in the face!  Stir the onions and vinegar around while removing any brown bits from the pan.  Reduce the vinegar until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the greens to the pan.  Slowly move around the greens with the onion.  The volume will decrease.  Cook down the greens until the stems are soft.  Season the greens with salt, pepper, and hot sauce; set aside to cool.

3.)  Whisk together the cornmeal, white flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, honey,  vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining bacon drippings.

4.)  Combine the contents of both bowls until just incorporated.  The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.  Coarsely chop the cooked bacon and fold into the batter with the beans and cooled greens.

5.)  Evenly distribute the batter into the greased muffin cups.  An ice cream scoop works great for this.

6.)  Bake until tops turn golden brown and a toothpick can be cleanly removed from the center of the muffins.  About 30 minutes.

NOTE:  A standard muffin pan for 12 can also be used for this recipe.  The baking time will go down to about 20 minutes.

For National Cookie Day...Almond Shortbread Cookies

I went to one of my favorite quirky discount stores yesterday.  In addition to some interesting combinations of consumer packaged goods, they also have a pretty nice assortment of gluten-free flours.  So, I picked up some coconut flour yesterday.  Also, I've been staring at this package of almond paste for months. I decided to kill 3 birds with one stone by 1) experimenting with coconut flour, 2) getting rid of this almond paste, and 3) paying homage to National Cookie Day. 
Let me know if you give this recipe a try.  It's pretty easy.  The subtle flavor of coconut is pretty nice.  If you decide not to do the sandwich cookies, just take a moment to slather a couple of cookies with cocoa hazelnut  Enjoy ;-)
Almond Shortbread Cookies, inspired by Odense

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Yield: 36 cookies

  • 3.5 ounces of almond paste
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, break up the almond paste into crumbs.  It tends to clump up into a hard mass.

Add the butter, sugar, extract, and salt.  Process until combined.  With the processor still in motion, add the yolk.  Continue to process to incorporate the yolk. 

In another bowl, sift together the flours and baking powder.

Add the flours and baking powder into the food processor with the other ingredients.  Process to combine all the ingredients.  Take a break, and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.  Process a little longer to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag.  Portion the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Greasing the baking sheet with butter works, too.

TIP: You can use a plastic freezer bag if a pastry bag is not available.  Just fill and cut one of the bottom openings.  What? You don't have that either?  Go old school and place the cookies on the paper using a couple of spoons.

Smooth out the top of your dough with a small amount of water on your finger for presentation.

Place the dough in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until the edges have begun to brown.  Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on a cooking rack before enjoying.

OPTIONAL: Create sandwich cookies by placing 1/2 a tablespoon of cocoa hazelnut spread between 2 cookies.  These cookies look great with a quick dusting of powdered sugar.


Save a Step. Don't Wash Your Poultry.

I have always washed my chicken and turkey (pieces or whole) in the sink before cooking them.  The only reasoning I can provide...tradition.  My mom, like so many other cooks, was my first culinary instructor. She would always clear out the sink, rinse, pat dry, and season meat all there.  So, of course, when I started cooking for myself and my family, that's what I did. Never questioned it.  Wait, why am I Baptist?

Anyway,  I recently attended a Penn State Extension workshop where we talked briefly about food safety in commercial kitchens.  The instructor asked, "Who still washes their chicken?".  I joined everyone else in the room who did that slow hand raise while giving everyone else the side-eye.  Yeah.  The instructor quickly let us know that there is no reason for this practice.  In fact, you're really increasing the chances of spreading harmful bacteria, like salmonella, because so few people actually take the time to properly disinfect contaminated surface areas. 

If your argument for continuing to wash your poultry is at all related to smell or a slimy texture, you might want to switch stores.  Raw poultry can safely be held in your fridge for up to 2 days.  After that, you will experience an unpleasant aroma. Don't risk it.  If you find that your poultry is a little too wet right out of the packaging, just pat it dry with a paper towel. Don't forget to take out the trash!

Bottom line, the only proven way to kill bacteria from raw poultry is by ensuring that the internal temperature has reached 165°F.  For the most part, I've had good luck relying on the pop-up timer when roasting a whole bird.  I usually take the temperature of the inner thigh making sure I avoid the bone, too.  The juice should be clear. 

So, by not washing your poultry, I saved you what...5, 10 minutes? You're welcome.


Croissant Donuts at Dunkin' Donuts...It's No Ansel's

Croissant Donut at Dunkin' Donuts-AEC

I took it as a matter of social responsibility to make it to my local Dunkin' Donuts location today and try the new Croissant Donut.  This is no doubt DD's attempt to ride on the success of Dominique Ansel's Cronut™ sensation that one must wait hours to hopefully purchase for $5 in NYC.  I made that journey myself last year.

A description of the cronut...deep fried butter! So rich. I'm glad we got to experience it on our donut tour. Ayla and I preferred the DKA. It's rich but not as crazy as the cronut. The DKA reminds more of a high quality French pastry. Plus, you don't have to wait 90 minutes to get it!

Facebook Post by Ashley E. Cummings, November 2013

No need to wait hours for the Croissant Donut.  I shelled out $2.49 plus tax to get mine in the 8 o'clock hour this morning.  I might have waited 90 seconds for service.  They even put it in a little fancy box. 

The appearance looked promising.  It had more of a golden color than the traditional original glazed donuts.   The shape wasn't all the way round.  It reminded me more of a stop sign. That color lent itself to a crisp outside much like the exterior on a croissant!  How about that! 

Overall, I wasn't overwhelmed by the taste.  The donut was somewhat yeasty.  Bad batch?  Too much yeast?  That was a turn off, because you don't find yeast in traditional croissants. Crazy, usually DD gets the yeast levels right.  I didn't get much of any butter taste although it is listed in the ingredient list.  It was lacking the buttery layers that you expect from a croissant.  In Ansel's version, the butter slaps you in the face.  Perhaps, they could have traded in that box for some artificial butter flavoring.

 Side View of the Cronut™-AEC

Overall, I'm not a fan of DD's new Croissant Donut.  If consumers want to have a good croissant donut experience, I would check out a local shop.  If you go to NYC and happen to be by Dominique Ansel's Bakery, laugh at all the jerks waiting in line and walk inside.  Pick up a DKA.  You'll get an experience similar to that of the Cronut™ without the aggravation of waiting in line. 

Hold on, DD.  You might be able to turn this around.  Ansel changes the flavor of his Cronut™ every month.  Play around with some other varieties.  That could keep the Croissant Donut convo going for you...I'm not sure how long your "limited time" is intended to be.  And hey, don't be too hurt by this write-up.   You still rock out the Sour Cream and Traditional Cake donuts.


"Honey, I'm Hangry."

A few days ago, I splurged a little and decided to get my hair styled professionally.  Of course, I had to rush out the door to get to the appointment on time, so I skipped my typical soy sausage patty and egg sandwich for an orange.  Needless to say, about 3 hours later, I was famished!  I guess I needed the world to feel my pain, because my style of conversation became very short.  I heard people speaking to me, but I wasn't really listening. It reached a point where my good friend just decided to take the hint and stop talking to me, too.  Now, in that moment, I knew I was wrong, but when you love food as much as I do, being deprived of it for seemingly forever takes its toll.  Later, after a couple of meals and reflection, I approached my friend with an apology.  Her response, "It's okay.  I knew you were hangry."  NEW WORD!  Like any lifelong student, whenever I'm introduced to a new word, I have to Google it.  Urban Dictionary1 describes hangry as "when you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated, or both".  I started to ponder.  How many angry people have I encountered in life who just really needed a sandwich?  Here are a few tips to help avoid those awkward hangry moments in the future:

Eat breakfast:  With an estimated 31 million Americans skipping breakfast2, can you image all the hangry people walking around in the 11 o'clock hour.  Take time to prepare a high protein, high fiber breakfast.  Avoid high sugar foods like pastries or donuts (Did I say that?), because they don't offer much lasting energy.  You'll end up reaching for more food in a short period of time.  Eggs are a quick protein option.  Whole grain oatmeal is a good source of fiber.  Protein and fiber both aid in achieving a feeling of satiety to help you get to that next meal without turning evil gremlin on anyone within 10 feet.  Just keep any added sugar or fat to a minimum. 

The first step in your recovery..."Honey, I'm hangry.": It may be difficult to accept that simply postponing a meal can have such an impact on your attitude, but it can.  People around us often feel our wrath and may take your mood change personally.  Simply communicate that you feel your mood changing and apologize in advance if you at any point seem disconnected from the conversation.  Chances are that person has been in the same boat.  Hey, they may be game for a quick meal break.

Snack healthy:  Research shows that low blood sugar may correspond to more negative reactions in frustrating situations.  While playing a difficult computer game in one study3, participants who were given a sugary drink were less visibly frustrated.  While it is not recommended to drink the bulk of your calories, giving yourself access to some quick calories in moderation might be just what you need to keep you focused.  If it is not unusual for you to have a busy day where meals are not always planned appropriately, keep healthy snacks-nuts, fruit, or naturally sweetened options- around to get you through the hump.

So, the next time you have the urge to tell some angry person to "Kick rocks." sub in "Get a snack." That's probably all they need.





Good Times-City Cafe (Baltimore)

We had another good experience at City Café today.  Good food, good dessert,..GOOD DRINKS!!!  We've been to City Café on a number of occasions.  For some strange reason, I would always end up with something that featured crab.  I've come to realize that I'm not a big crab fan...don't tell the Baltimoreans.  I opted for the burger while my boo order a beef tenderloin salad.  On both, we didn't quite get the temps that we requested.  I was looking for a medium burger, but Ayla ordered her tenderloin medium.  It came out a little more bloody than anticipated.  However, since we only pretend to be food snobs, we just rolled with it.   

My burger was so flavorful.  The beef patty stole the show unlike a lot of places that feature burgers where the burger needs so many toppings to get good flavor.  I was pleasantly surprised by the macadamia nuts in Ayla's salad.  Macadamia nuts are so pricey. It makes sense that they are not featured everywhere.  But when they make it to the dish, they should be a statement addition.  By leaving them whole, the chef did just that.  Tonight was the first time that Ayla had bread pudding...what have I been doing?!!  City Café's version with blueberry compote and Baltimore's favorite, Taharka Brothers Honey Graham ice cream was a great introduction.  Everything complemented each other so well.  It was a deliciously sweet but not obnoxiously so.  I'm motivated to make some bread pudding with all these leftover doughnuts (yes, I'm back to the original spelling)...sweet...

My cocktail was superb.  It's a martini that came straight from their cocktail menu.  I can't remember the name for the life of me.  Plus, I'm too lazy to call.  Anyway, it was so good, I made my next one a double...that's probably why the details are escaping me.

City Café is an awesome choice in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore.  I will be sure to frequent it more in the future.  I suggest you do the same.  Checkout the cocktails.

My Crash Course in Propane Grilling

Crash Course in Propane Grilling...My 1st Infographic.  AEC 2014

We're going to start our weekly cookouts at my job.  It was supposed to start a couple of weeks ago, but the grill we had was toast.  Somebody didn't understand the value of a leak-free cover! It was rusted out like crazy.  I got word today that a new propane grill was on the way this Thursday, just in time for me to fire it up this Friday...great :-/

Don't get me wrong.  I like grilling, but I'm more accustomed to charcoal grills.  This whole tank thing is a little intimidating.  Above all, as the acting foodservice director, I'm supposed to be the expert.  I've been boning up on my propane tank knowledge in an attempt to not blow up the building.  You can find everything on YouTube.  First, open lid...turn gas on...crank a burner...hit the ignite button (watch out for flames)...crank all the burners...close the lid for 10 minutes to get everything heated up.  Sounds easy enough.  I will hopefully get the chance to play around with it on Thursday.  Wish my eyebrows good luck.  I'll keep you posted.


Donut Day Recap...All in a Day's Work!

I finished my rounds for National Donut Day around 2pm. 

Donut Tour. AEC 2014

My first stop was Fractured Prune.  They were offering a free donut with purchase.  So, I bought a donut.  I went with the French Toast which I tried's awesome.  I tried the Banana Nut Bread variety for the first time.  (Excuse the bite in the pic.  All of their donuts are made to order, so it's not like I could accurately evaluate it an hour later...yep, that's my story.)  The Banana Nut Bread with the cake donut base and cinnamon topping tasted a lot like the French Toast with the addition of some nuts and faint banana flavor.   Tasty but didn't quite meet my expectations.

My next stop was Dunkin' Donuts.  They ran out of the new Blueberry Cobbler at the location in my neighborhood, so I just stopped at another that had plenty.  It was alright which was a shocker to me.  I was so disappointed with their Brownie Batter and Cake Batter offerings, I really wasn't expecting much.  The blueberry filling was predictable.  It was basically the stuff one might get in a can of blueberry pie filling minus actual blueberries.  The icing wasn't too sweet or heavily coated which was a plus for me.  Yes, you can have too much icing on a donut!  The base was their typical yeast donut.  There were some clumps of cinnamon on top.  The ad had a lot more crumble than mine.  I think more of the crumb topping would have added to the experience.  Overall, I got the concept, so I wouldn't say it was a complete let down.  Just not my thing.

I headed out to Towson to La Cakerie.  They made a bunch of cake donuts with a glaze and sprinkles.  They offered them as freebies.  They seemed to be a little smaller than their normal selection, but how nice is that?  Do something easy, low-cost, and acknowledge the day!  They were tasty, too.  That kind of marketing obviously works for me, because I bought a donut anyway.  They had a few interesting looking types.  Whenever I don't know what to pick, I go to the staff and have them pick for me.  Over the 2 with slices of bacon, one guy recommended the Creme Brulee variety.  It wasn't what I expected.  It was a yeast donut with pastry cream and sugar torch?  I don't know about you, but when I hear 'brulee', something better get burnt!  With that observation, I hesitated to get it, and because there was no fire, it fell short big time.  However, I must say that the quality of the base was better than Dunkin'.  It was more soft and seemed to be fresher with less yeast taste.  I'm going to back for another.  They have another location closer to my place.  Next time, I'm thinking bacon!

Entenmann's teamed up with the Salvation Army for a fundraising initiative. Thinking of the history of National Donut Day, I thought that it was only right that I track down their new Red Velvet donut.  Now, I vowed to myself to stop purchasing Red Velvet varieties of packaged foods, but hey, it's a holiday!  I have to say, I think they nailed it.  The dyed cake donut didn't have a chemical taste from too much dye.  The donut was sweet but not too sweet with a hint of cocoa that is characteristic of traditional Red Velvet Cake.  What I appreciated most?  They stuck with what they know.  To my knowledge, Entenmann's does not offer a donut with white frosting.  So many companies throw on an overly sweet random white topping with no cream cheese taste onto something red and call it Red Velvet.  Thanks for keeping it real, Entenmann's.  I have to give it to them, they were my favorite donut find of the day.  Plus, my local Giant had a buy one get one free deal.  I saved $5.39 ya'll!..winning!

I'm off for a jog.  Happy National Donut Day!