Cornmeal: Fresh Ideas for a Frugal Family Staple
Looking for bulk buying opportunities that don't require a refrigerator or freezer? When it comes to affordability, cornmeal is tough to beat. Looking for some out of the box ways to incorporate this little thrift gem into your regular meal plans? I've got your back.
Let's face it. When it comes to cheapies, this stuff is up there with frozen spinach and raisins all the way. It also has tons of flexibility as to how you can use it, including homemade dog food ingredient and natural gardening product. Here are a few categories to get you started.
APPETIZERS AND SNACKS
There were several interesting finds in this combined category. Scallion and cornmeal fritters, steamed Indian cornmeal dumplings for dipping (these look REALLY interesting), baked corn chips from scratch, spicy cornmeal crisps and Ceasar polenta bruschetta. Another couple of note were Mediterranean polenta cups broiled in a tartlet pan, and these broiled polenta square appetizers.
Also, nearly a category unto itself was homemade crackers. Lots of recipes are out there for special wine and cheese nights, but for the purposes of this piece, I chose only those that used cornmeal as a featured ingredient. Making the cut were these cornmeal and chedder crackers, a cheesy blue cornmeal version, this one from FoodAndWine.Com using pumpkin seeds, a cornmeal and sesame variety and this slice and bake icebox version courtesy of Martha Stewart. For those who like a little kick, these spicy cheese ones look interesting.
ENTREES AND SIDES
There were definitely some interesting and diverse options here. To start off with, we have Sante Fe and basic cornmeal pizzas, butternut squash and goat cheese quiche with a cornmeal crust, and South American hallacas. Also of note were these braised buffalo short ribs with sage polenta and these breaded polenta cutlets served with various toppings, including a velvety tomato wine sauce. Still hungry? Check out these polenta stuffed peppers or this vegan polenta lasagna. Those looking for something more rustic might try this simple layered Mexican polenta casserole, a cornmeal and chili casserole or this sausage and mushroom polenta pie. A few others that made the list?
- Vegetable and Mexican polenta pies.
- Fish batter for a catch of the day dinner party. Mixing it with lemon pepper and flour for a basic breading on halibut is also a tasty way to go.
- Crepes. I found several links of interest, including a ricotta ham, peaches and caramel and a blue cornmeal version that would be great stuffed with affordable seafood.
- Polenta wedges topped with a hearty sausage sauce.
- Cornmeal dumplings served as an entree combo with various items such as turnip greens, southwest bean and chicken soups, or a hearty bean ragout.
The list of side dish options turned out to be a treasure trove as well. This recipe for molded polenta has loads of possibilities for shaping and slicing. Interesting as well are these recipes for regular and parmesan crusted polenta steak fries, cornmeal flatbread and polenta squash and cheese loaf. Plain polenta was a popular side dish when we lived in Italy. Here are some additional variations using sage and gorgonzola. This cornmeal based twist on traditional grilled cheese was interesting, as was this high prep side dish from Trinidad.
Several biscuit recipes made the cut, including drop, orange, basic and cheddar-chipotle. Other individual serving dinner breads are available as well, including these savory pumpkin corn muffins, cornmeal rolls, and a couple of affordable versions of dipping dumplings from Africa and Dominica. Also from the Caribbean was this savory Jamaican cornmeal pudding. A few more of interest were this cornmeal crunch casserole, a seafood cornbread , scones, spoonbread and fresh corn cakes. For those who just like to have plain old home spun cornbread on tap, here's a bulk dry mix we use quite a bit at our house.
TRADITIONALS AND SWEETS
It's hard to talk about cornmeal without addressing all of the traditional favorites we've come to know and love. Additionally, sweets are one of the more popular ways to use this product when it comes to “out of the box” ways to incorporate it.
Making the cut for the sweets category were peach blueberry cobbler, steamed pumpkin and cornmeal puddings, polenta biscotti and Italian polenta cookies. In fact, cornmeal cookie recipes were in abundance and included such varieties as ginger, sparkle, blackberry sage thumb print, this affordable African version, cornmeal almond biscotti and apricot sage. Cake recipes were also prevalent. Check out this rosemary cornmeal version with a balsamic glaze, try a rustic peach upside down cake or this recipe with rhubarb. Looking for a few more ideas? How about shortbread, orange crisps, sugar cookies, upside down berry cake or this fresh fig tart with a cornmeal and rosemary crust.
When it comes to traditional, muffins, mush and pancakes would be hard to leave off the list. Speaking of pancakes, I found cornmeal versions for blueberry, pumpkin and banana. Other homespun cornmeal recipes include pizza dough, waffles, English muffins and pilgrim bread. Finally, in the just plain helpful category I'd like to include this gift version of cornbread mix in a jar, yeast bread and other blue cornmeal recipes, and a basic slow cooker polenta recipe that I think would come in seriously handy if you were planning some of the shaped polenta appetizers for a party. You could put the cornmeal into cook when going to bed, put it in the pan or molds before going to work, and be ready to top and broil when you got home from work.
That's my best shot, folks. If you have another one you feel is unique, super yummy or just plain cheap, feel free to sound off below and share the link. I figure with everyone trying to save every dime they can, another recipe compilation for a traditionally cheap ingredient was in order. Related readings include these posts on cabbage recipes and using canned corn. Happy saving!