BBQ Chicken Cornbread Casserole

BBQs are a huge part of summer in Sacramento. Sometimes this strikes me as a little ironic, standing in the blazing heat over a blazing fire, but who am I to buck tradition? But sometimes the BBQ doesn’t go exactly as planned. Maybe your mother buys enough food for 50 people when only 20 show, or maybe your brother-in-law chars 15 pounds of chicken… The question becomes: now what?

Repurposing is a modern word used in context with paper bags and glass jars, but it can also refer to leftovers. A little innovation goes a long way. You needn’t be forced to eat leftovers ad nauseum just to avoid waste. Instead, create a new meal with a new flavor out of the surplus ingredients. A casserole is an easy and versatile tool for this endeavor. It’s also a nice dish for those days when you want to eat but don’t want to go outside.

I took my brother-in-laws chicken disaster and turned it into a savory cornbread casserole. First, I peeled the blackened skin off the chicken and threw it away. If you have leftovers that weren’t destroyed in the fire, go ahead and skip this step. Next I pulled the chicken off the bone in strips (a la jerk chicken). While pulling the chicken off the bones remove any undesirable parts and all the bones.

Put the chicken into a sauté pan with green chilies and salsa. I used a tomatillo salsa, but choose any salsa you prefer, hot or mild to suit your taste buds. Sauté the chicken on low heat to let the flavors soak in (and in my case, to fully cook the chicken). This recipe can also be made with other meats, whatever leftovers you may have around. Let the chicken simmer while preparing the cornmeal.

Combine the cornmeal, water, milk, and corn niblets in a sauce pan. If you have leftover corn on the cob, even better, slice some off and add that to the mix in exchange for the can of niblets. Cook over medium heat (so as not to scorch the milk) for about seven minutes, just until the mixture thickens. Then pour two-thirds into a greased baking pan. Bake the cornmeal for about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove the cornbread, pour the chicken mixture on top then top with shredded cheese and the last of the cornmeal on top. Bake again, for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the casserole is heated throughout.

Serve garnished with chives, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, or even more cheese. Save extra servings in single-serve Tupperware for awesome lunches on the go. Make the casserole on Sunday and eat all week long. Avoid the heat and get great use out of leftovers.barbecue-chicken-recipe

When to plant

Wildflowers are in bloom all over Sacramento…that means it’s time to plant! Didn’t have a garden in mind for this summer yet? Well get on it. April is planting season which means that March is digging season. Okay, I know, no one likes to dig holes (well almost no one, no offense hole-digging wierdos) but there is a plus side. Digging a hole is good exercise. Digging during the cooler/rainy month means you won’t be as sweaty and uncomfortable, and the dirt will be softer and easier to manipulate. Now is the exact time to pick out what to plant in the garden too, and to make a map. It’s always better to dig then plant. I’ll say it again: dig first, then plant. Bringing home plants without holes to put them in…that rarely works out. Plus, if you dig now, it will be all done, so you can take a short rest and be refreshed when it’s time to put in the greenery. Even better, if you dig now, you can plant from seed.

Don’t think you have a green thumb? Well, good news people, this is Sacramento, so plant the stuff that likes it hot and it will grow! You’ll surprise yourself. Start with tomatoes (duh) and try basil, rosemary, squash, bell peppers, and green beans. Those plants love the sun and your body will love all the vitamins.


Your Garden, A Female Power Generator


Historically, a garden symbolized a woman’s space, a female domain, and a woman’s virtue. That’s why a garden was always fenced in. An overgrown garden was a feared place, for it meant that the woman had gone wild. The garden became the woman and the woman became the garden.

In the garden, synesthesia is queen. She breeds sensation’s wonders out of her soil. Synesthesia is the phenomenon when you experience one sense in the form of another…for example, if you were to perceive the sounds of bells as floating triangles. Scientists will tell you this is a very rarely occurrence, but I am telling you that those scientists aren’t gardeners.

Plant a jalapeno next to a bell pepper…pick either when ripe…the jalapeno will be mild, almost sweet, but the bell pepper will have a surprising burn in the finish…they crossed in the roots and one quality went to another.

Once it is sunny and things are in bloom the garden is transformed into a sensory paradise. Go into the garden when the tomatoes are plumping and tell me that you cannot taste the color red. Tell me that the corn doesn’t have ears, nor the potatoes eyes. In a garden you can hear the green and taste the moistness of the earth without putting any in your mouth.

The plants that you tend to will also cross with you, becoming imbued with your emotions. Gardens make people tranquil but tranquil people rarely plant gardens. Put your anger into the dirt and make the worms writhe with it. Sob salty tears and dissolve the snails with your lament. Angst and frustration make watermelons juicy and sweet. Just a hint of resentment gives the purple chive flowers bite. One drop of blood will protect against intruders. The big scary spiders and bees with stingers are your allies, your sister’s in arms.  A garden is no paradise…this isn’t the garden…this is your garden. You create it, you tend it, you devour it. You will ingest your own suffering and it will be luscious. Your poison will nourish you, if you first put your poison into the earth.