Feelin' Down? Make some Sloppy Joes.

For the first time I won't be earning my usual generous tree-planting checks. It's all part of the plan to live a different life for a while, work a part-time job in an outdoor clothing and equipment store, and worry incessantly about how much money I'm spending. I already obsess enough about money, so I'm not sure if this was the best choice, definitely the more challenging one, but I'm hoping to learn about some different parts of life, like under-paid jobs and over-time hours. Maybe I'll go back to the trees next year....

In the mean time, I'm cooking and sharing food with those I love here in Montreal. Tonight, Libby and I made Sloppy Joes, an easy recipe from the "Joy of Cooking" and one that my dad would make for Katherine and I as kids. I remember complaining about it. You know, I must have complained a lot as a child, because I remember being very demanding, (I still am...) but Dad persevered patiently through my unaccepting antics. Maybe I wanted to make Sloppy Joes again because I've been missing home so much. That damn west coast, always calling you back. And they tasted like I remember, but dad used ground beef (like you're supposed to) and probably let it cook longer so that it was more of a sloppy, stewed mess. I was less patient, but here's what I did (Libb helped chop).

I put onions, garlic, celery, red peper in a pan and let them sizzle up good in olive oil. Then in went my cooked kidney beans, some diced tomatoes, and chili sauce (your choice). Add 1/4 C of water and let it simmer. This is probably the most flexible dish around. You could add whatever you wanted as vegetables or spices. After 15 minutes Libb and I were pacing around the kitchen with hunger and impatience, so when the cornbread muffins came out of the oven, we prematurely dished up the beany goodness and grated tons of cheese on top. The celery was slightly crunchy.

This leads me to the most important part of the dish: cornbread. I love cornbread, it's one of the greatest quick breads I know about. Even though I don't come from down south, my mom's southern upbringing made it's mark in our home cuisine. I usually make mine in a preheated, preoiled cast-iron skillet, but tonight I used extra large muffins tins to make individual servings. I just cut them in half and loaded up both halves with beans.

Here's the cornbread recipe, one that never seems to fail, has a good crumb and is absolutely not too sweet.


Adapted from the Rebar Modernfood Cookbook

Preheat oven to 375 degrees C.
Oil your cast-iron skillet and put it into the oven (the oil helps turn the crust extra crispy and brown).
Or, grease your muffins tins, but these don't need preheating.

1 C cornmeal
1 C spelt/whole wheat flour
2 TBS brown sugar (or honey, or leave it out)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 C buttermilk
1 or 2 eggs beaten
5 TBS melted butter or oil

1 - mix together dry ingredients, make sure there are no lumps of baking powder, soda and sugar.
2 - mix together wet ingredients (if you're using honey, add it here).
3 - add wet to dry and with a few quick strokes, combine.
4 - pour the batter into the hot skillet (careful!) or into muffin tins.
5 - when a knife comes out clean and the top is brown, taker 'er outta there.

It was a serious, much needed spirit lifter.

- chef murph

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