nalohop's blog

Recipe, gluten-free cornbread with corn kernels and flaked coconut

I adapted this recipe from a 100% cornmeal cornbread recipe over on Plan to Eat. I removed the sugar, reduced the salt, added nutmeg/mace, fresh corn, and flaked coconut. Here's my version:

  • 1.75 cup coarse cornmeal (I've also used 1.25 cups cornmeal and half cup ground uncooked rice)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • half teaspoon salt (optional)
  • half teaspoon ground mace or grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ear of corn or half cup corn kernels, frozen or canned (if canned, drain and discard liquid)
  • 1 handful flaked coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 cups milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 2 tablespoons liquid fat (e.g olive oil, melted butter, coconut butter or bacon grease)
  • Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 10″ cast iron skillet or an 8×8″ pan.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine cornmeal, salt, milk and eggs. Whisk well with a fork. Let stand for 15 minutes, to soften cornmeal and allow it to absorb the milk.
  • If using an ear of corn, remove kernels by standing the ear on the stalk end and sliding a sharp knife along the length of the cob.
  • Stir liquid fat, corn kernels, mace/nutmeg and coconut flakes into the batter.
  • Quickly beat in baking powder. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Allow to cool before cutting.
  • Works well with butter, cheese, cold cuts, or marmalade.
  • Green plantain porridge

    Promised I'd post how I make green plantain porridge. You can also make this with green bananas. They both need to be actually unripe.

    Peel the plantains. I generally cut the tops and bottoms off, then score a couple of lengthwise slits in the skin and manually peel them away from the flesh. That doesn't always work with really green fruit. Push come to shove, you can just slice the skins off, sort of like you would with a potato.

    Once you've peeled them, grate them. I use the fine side of the grater.

    Put the grated plantain in a saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn it down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the plantain is cooked. It should be soft, about the texture of a boiled potato.

    Add milk. I use a non-dairy milk, such as almond or coconut.

    Add a pinch of salt and fresh-grated nutmeg and/or ginger to taste.

    Simmer, stirring often, until it has a consistency similar to oatmeal porridge. This part shouldn't take too long.

    To serve, I usually add brown sugar or some other sweetener, vanilla, and a dab of butter.

    Story conference

    Gonna make this brief, because I want to get back to writing. A couple days ago, I had a telephone story conference with my agent, Don Maass, about Blackheart Man, my novel-in-progress. We'd originally planned to do so in person over the course of a few days, but that didn't work out. So Skype it was. Don is one of the best book and writing doctors I know. In the course of a two-hour conversation, he helped me get at the heart of what Blackheart Man is about, diagnosed my writing practice and its strengths and challenges, and suggested a few practical strategies for knitting the story elements together and keeping the goal of each chapter top of mind as I write. I've spent the past couple of days making notes and replotting the novel. A lot is coming clear. I've had a bunch of insights about how to use scenes and plot points that were originally random. I've had ideas for new scenes, and I know why I want them. I can feel the story knitting together like a fractured bone, healing. So exciting! For the first time in a long time, my fingers are twitching to get at the story, rather than my having to force myself through reluctance and lack of volition. My brain chemistry may still make the going tough, but for now, I'm exhilarated. I have to run a few quick errands now -- you know, the usual daily round of self-maintenance stuff -- and then I'll be back to working on my novel. Can't wait.

    Blackheart Man progress

    Had a writing date today with the wonderful Madeleine Robins, who's working on another Sarah Tolerance novel. (Yay!) We ate blueberries and wrote. I did about 1,000 new words in Blackheart Man, and came up with a bunch of exciting new world-building elements. Research over the next few days is going to be fun.

    And, as you might remember, I'm working on Blackheart Man also by way of participating in the write-a-thon to support the Clarion science fiction and fantasy writing workshop, of which I am an alumna. You can read some of my excerpts and/or sponsor me here

    My publisher's discussion questions for Sister Mine

    My publisher, Grand Central Books, is including discussion questions in the trade paperback edition of Sister Mine. They've given me permission to post their suggested questions on my site.

    Sister Mine Reading Group Guide: Discussion Questions

  • Makeda and Abby are twins, yet they have very different personalities. In what ways are they similar and in what ways are they different? How do you think their individual challenges and experiences have affected their personalities, and their relationship with each other? How do you think Abby’s physical dependence on Makeda during their early years shaped their relationship?
  • What do you think of the bargain Cora made for the lives of her daughters? Did she make the right choice? Would you have done the same, in her place?
  • If you were born conjoined to a twin, would you want the doctors to try to separate you, even if it might mean one of you could die? Or would you rather not take the risk, and live permanently connected?
  • Do you like Uncle John? Do you think he knew what he was doing to Makeda? Why does he insist that Makeda’s rug isn’t her mojo. Is he lying to her?
  • This book is full of unconventional relationships: Abby/Makeda; Cora/Boysie/Uncle John; Abby/Makeda/the Bejis. Do these relationships feel realistic and true to you?
  • How do you think the poem extracts sprinkled throughout the book relate to the text? Do they deepen to your understanding of it?
  • I wrote today!

    To sponsor me in the write-a-thon to raise money for the Clarion writing workshop, click on this link.

    Some of today's draft, unpolished:

    "Why you asking folk for the tale of the three witches? All will recite you the same story, nah true? Everyone in Chynchin know it."

    "Not exactly. Look like every s'maddy, every compong, every town have its own version. I trying to discover as many versions as I can."

    "I don't mean to vex you, Maas', but I still wondering; why?"

    I had rolled him a stick of tabac. He took it with a grunt of thanks. I struck a match and lit both our sticks. We kept silent a little space, through the companionable ritual of taking the first few pulls of smoke. Then I answered him: "To ferret out the truth of what happened that day. We may need to find the trick of it again."

    He nodded. "Abiodun dey-come. I mark."

    Trashion; upcycled crocheted doilies into dress

    Seems like I need to always be making something. Since I realized a few weeks ago that I don't need to be able to read a pattern in order to crochet clothing, I've been doing that pretty much nonstop. I mostly use cheap cotton twine from Kmart, and combine it with old crocheted pieces I find in second-hand stores. In this case, I first followed simple instructions I found on Youtube for crocheting bra cups tailored to one's bust. That worked pretty nicely, so then I had to figure out what to do with the resulting cups. I rummaged around in my doily stash, and came up with: a y-shaped doily with raised flowers on it in strategic places; a flouncy circular doily; and a lovely rectangular rayon shawl in a pineapple stitch (I love pineapple stitch, even though I've never done it).

    I used freeform crochet to attach the pieces. There was much trying on and pulling out and starting over and muttering before I had something dress-shaped. By then, I had combined seven different colours and many different gauges of yarn. This is where dye is a blessing. I bought blue dye and stuck the whole dress into a hot dye batch. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't shrink.

    The weave of the cups was dense enough that it didn't need lining, and I was okay with leaving the midriff and the upper back unlined. But I wanted to line the skirt. It would have been easy enough to sew a tube of cloth to fit, but I already had a light cotton skirt lining that I'd removed from a skirt that didn't need one. I tossed that into the dye bath, too.

    The dress didn't shrink. Whew. Of course, it came out all different shades of blue, but I didn't mind that. There were enough tones in common to unify the look of the dress:

    Sponsor me in the Clarion write-a-thon?

    So, I've decided to participate in the Write-a-Thon to raise funds for the Clarion Writing Workshop, of which I am a graduate.

    Clarion is an annual writing workshop for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy. 17-19 students live on campus (currently the U. of Cali San Diego) for six weeks in the summer. Every week there is a different writer in residence, and one weekend there's a visit from a professional editor. Under the guidance of the writer-in-residence, students write and write, and take part in workshop critiques every day. Clarion was an amazing experience for me. I learned in six weeks what it would have taken me six years to figure out on my own. It was tough and scary and humbling, and some of the best fun I've ever had.

    Clarion is not part of UCSD. The workshop pays its own way, and raises its own funds. The write-a-thon helps to subsidize the costs of running Clarion. If you'd like to sponsor me, just click on the image below for details.

    Clarion West Writing Workshop, based in Seattle, Washington. It operates on the same principles as Clarion, but is a different organization than Clarion. I've taught at both Clarion and Clarion West a number of times. Both do great work, so by all means feel free to support Clarion West in its own write-a-thon as well. (Note that if you sponsor me, the funds go to Clarion only, not to Clarion West. I had to pick one, so I went with my alma mater

    Blackheart Man; 507 words

    507 new words in Blackheart Man this morning. I'm trying to build a sense of the everyday imaginative life of the world of Chynchin. It's a little stuttery for now:

    I nearly went flying as an idle camel nosed me hard in the small of the back. I emerged from the land of kings and crocodile’s bellies, and found myself in another place; home.