A week or so back, my eyes were opened by Haitian cornmeal porridge. Holy crap, I remember thinking, this is good! Ever since then, I’ve been on a corn products kick. My kitchen has been the site of many batches of cornbread, corn cakes, corn tortillas, and crispy corn “fried” tofu. Lucky for me, corn meal, corn flour, and masa tend to be cheap, about $2.00 a pound, and a little goes a long way. However, all of this corn baking made me wonder, are corn products really good for me? And what are the differences between all of these separate corn products anyway? Good thing I have a blog that motivates me to answer such questions! I’ve done the research, and now I can tell you all about it.
Different Corn Products
Cornmeal is as simple as it gets. Corn is ground up, and the germ (like in flour) is removed to make it more shelf stable. It comes in a variety of textures and grain sizes. If you want all of the nutrition, you have to look for “stone ground” cornmeal, which is more course and will expire if you don’t use it quickly. I’ve definitely found corn meal to be the most flavorful of the dried corn products.
Cornmeal can be made into porridge, used in baked products/casseroles, and used to bread items like tofu or veggies.
Polenta is a dish, not a type of corn product. Dried products labeled polenta in the store are simple coarsely ground cornmeal. Some authentic polenta products are made from a different type of corn, called flint corn as opposed to dent corn, which will have a slightly different flavor and texture than normal course cornmeal. Polenta is delicious, and can be used in a lot of ways!
Corn flour is finely ground cornmeal. For some reason, however, I’ve found corn flour to be the least flavorful of all of my available corn dried products. I bought it once, and won’t do it again.
Masa is corn treated with lime or some other acid. This process is called nixtamalization, and it makes the corn pliable enough to be turned into dough. Along with this helpful trait, nixtamalization frees up the niacin in corn, which is the reason generations of maize dependent farmers didn’t develop niacin deficiency or pellagra. Even crazier, the process of nixtamalization increases calcium by almost 750%! This gives you about 155mg of calcium per 1 cup of masa. Thus, masa is probably the most nutritious of all of these corn product. However, aside from being used for tortillas, I’ve found few recipes that are able to cope with masa’s lime like flavor.
If you would like to make homemade corn tortillas, you can learn by clicking the link here.
Is Corn Good for You?
At its core, corn is a simple carb. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it has fiber, you can bake with it, and thus generations of income challenged people, from Mexico to Italy, have made corn a staple of their diet. If you’re not athletic, like any other carb, you should eat it in relatively small amounts. For you athletes out there, chomp away!
Perhaps the biggest benefit of corn is to vegans. Corn is one of the only naturally occurring vegan sources of B vitamins, especially B-1, also known as thiamine. Thiamine is good for the health of your nerves. Feeling a little stressed? Maybe you just need some chocolate and some corn bread!
I haven’t perfected my cornbread yet, so stay tuned. Other awesome ways to use corn include this week’s recipe, and these delicious looking ideas. I really want to try the pueblo corn pie!
This Week in Updates: Rehab
So 1 years and a half ago I decided to lift something heavy while rotating. Bad idea. I hurt my back, and have been trying to get my medical to pay for physical therapy ever since. The injury left me with a painful aversion to standing (not walking, strangely enough) for long periods of time. Finally, I had an appointment last thusday! Turns out that what I really hurt was not my back, but my hip joint. After the injury, the ligaments healed loose, resulting in my back muscle holding my spine up on one side, not my actual spine. The result? The get tired after awhile. The solution is a weird belt like brace, and no squats, dead lifts, running or boxing kicks for two weeks. You know I am still working up a storm, but with that stupid stationary leg machine and long bike rides.
Hey, it’s nice to be believed though and know I am finally on the road to recovery!
My friend Cherise also got a bad ass tattoo. I was there.
The Recipe: Easy Corn Cakes with Stewed Black Beans
Black beans and corn are simply magic together. In this recipe, these delicious corn cakes are best dipped into the creamy "stewed" black beans. The corn cakes are cheap, the cornmeal was $2, the flour 0.50 cents, spring onions $1, the non dairy milk 0.50 and the applesauce 0.50. The black beans were $2, can of tomatoes and chilles $2, and the onion/garlic $1. Total, the gives $9.50 for 6 very filling servings of corn cakes and beans.
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 6 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup non dairy milk
- 1/2 unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups black beans, soaked and cooked
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 can tomatoes and green chilies
- 2 cloves garlic, diced and smashed
- 1 cup water
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Use some of the olive oil to grease a large baking sheet.
- Combine the cornmeal, flour, a sprinkle of salt, baking powder, non dairy milk, applesauce, spring onions, and 1/2 cup water in a bowl.
- Divide into 6 portions, and place on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, flip, then another 10 minutes.
- While the corn cakes are cooking, saute the garlic with the onion in the rest of the olive oil until soft.
- Place 1/2 of the black beans in a blender with about 1/2-1 cup of water, depending on your blender strength. Blend.
- Put blended black beans, black beans, and tomatoes into pan with the onion/garlic, and let simmer until corn cakes are done.