Cooking with ADHD: Easy Maize Pudding, Coming Up!
Just a quick heads-up: I’ll be putting together a much briefer version of this recipe with step-by-step pictures (this post is too long to fit the Cooking with ADHD model!) and probably a video version as well.
It should be up soon.
I should probably also try to come up with a semi-standard, ADHD-friendly format for these posts if I don’t get distracted bef— SQUIRREL!
Anyway, yesterday, I woke up with a random craving for hasty pudding/Indian pudding/maize pudding/whatever you want to call it.
I looked up a bunch of recipes and became more and more discouraged: most of them involved a bazillion steps, required ingredients that I didn’t have, served 30, and/or took at least two hours* to cook.
That’s hasty, my friends — hasty like a sloth.
Finally, I thought, “Screw it, entire peoples who didn’t even have recipes have been making cornmeal mush ever since cornmeal was invented. I’m just going to do that, add some brown sugar and vanilla, and throw a little whipped topping on**.”
So I marched into the kitchen, grabbed the cornmeal from our giant Lazy Susan cabinet thingy, and … hesitated.
Perhaps, I thought, Perhaps I should consult Betty Crocker … just in case.
So I did, and right there on page 354***, was a recipe for polenta, conveniently labeled fast, which in cooking parlance usually also means easy.
It was also labeled low-fat, I didn’t really care about that, but if you’re on a low-fat diet, you’re covered. Those on low-carb diets, on the other hand … um, maybe this isn’t the optimal recipe for you guys.
I didn’t make polenta (though basic polenta will definitely be covered win a Cooking with ADHD post).
I did make a really easy maize pudding — the polenta recipe just gave me confidence that my intuition about ingredient proportions was pretty much on track.
So, without further ado, here’s the basic idea:
Easy Maize Pudding — Makes 4 Portions
- A double boiler (Don’t worry! You can improvise one! see notes below) or a medium-sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom
- A wooden or nylon stirring spoon
- 1 cup (about .25 liter) cornmeal — yellow, white, red, blue — whatever color you have on hand)
- 2 cups (about .5 liter) milk (I used 2%; I’ll try this again with almond milk for vegan version)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar (this is just for flavor, it’s okay to use less or even to substitute honey, molasses, white sugar, Splenda, or whatever you like)
- 1 teaspoon (10 ml) vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
…That’s it. That’s all you need. You could probably even use water instead of milk, though the end product might not be as creamy.
- Turn on your favorite streaming radio, a YouTube documentary, or whatever you like.
- The next step can be done two ways:
- If you have a double-boiler: fill the bottom part with water and the top part with the milk; heat over medium-high flame* until the milk steams.
- If you don’t have a double-boiler: pour the milk into a medium-sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom over medium-low flame* until the milk steams. It might take a while.
- Add the brown sugar and vanilla to the milk.
- Add the cornmeal, stirring while you pour it in. You don’t need a fancy whisk or anything; a plain old wooden or nylon spoon is fine.
- Stir until everything is well-blended, then cover the double-boiler or sauce pan, reduce the flame* to very low — like, as low as possible without actually turning off your burner — and set a timer for ten minutes.
- While the pudding heats, stir it once in a while to prevent sticking or scorching, but for the most part, leave it alone.
- After 10 minutes, remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool for a bit so you don’t blister the roof of your mouth off like I did that one time.
- Serve hot with whatever suits your fancy.
If you’re using the heavy-bottomed sauce-pan method, you’ll have to pay closer attention than you will with a double boiler, since milk scorches pretty easily. You might also want to throw in a little butter or cooking oil to prevent sticking.
You’ll notice that the metric equivalents above aren’t exact. Don’t worry about it — in this recipe, all you need to know is that you want a ratio of 1 part cornmeal to 2 parts milk, and even there you’ve got some wiggle room. The rest you can fiddle with according to your personal taste. For example, I’d probably like less sugar, but 2 TBSP was a sound guess for dessert applications.
About That Double Boiler…
A lot of people don’t have double-boilers. They’re finicky specialized kitchen things that take up a bunch of space, and most of us don’t use them very often.
If you’re among the many, though, don’t worry!
You can improvise a double boiler from of a sauce pan (or even, in a pinch, a deep frying pan) and a metal bowl that’s just big enough to rest on top of it or inside of it without touching the bottom of the pan. I used to do it this way back before I had access to a double boiler.
Here’s a link to an article on improvised double boilers: http://bakingbites.com/2009/09/how-to-make-a-double-boiler/.
If you don’t have lids for your sauce pans or improvised double boiler, you can make do by resting a stoneware or Corelle plate, a cookie sheet, a metal mixing-bowl lid, the glass lid from a suitably-sized casserole dish, or any similar flattish, heat-resistant object atop the pan of pudding-in-progress.
Just make sure to balance it carefully if you’re using an improvised setup and to use potholders when you lift it off (seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone, “Herp de derp, think I’ll just lift this metal bowl lid off with my bare fingEAAAGGHHHHEHEHEH!!!”).
In fact, even if you do have lids for your pant, you may find yourself doing this if, for example, they’re all in a disorganized overhead rack and you don’t feel like fighting with them.
Um, not that I would ever do that. Ahem. :::quietly tucks metal mixing-bowl lid back into the cupboard:::
Other Ways To Enjoy Maize Pudding or Cornmeal Mush
This dish makes a pretty decent breakfast on a cold morning. For that purpose, I’d recommend making it with less or even no sugar. I like it without any at all for breakfast (that said, I’m not into sweets for breakfast, so your mileage may vary).
You can also add things like raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, or chopped dates for a sweet, fruity kick (you might want to increase the liquid just a little bit; I’ll report back in my updated recipe post).
For a quick and easy savory side-dish, substitute a little garlic and/or onion powder for the sugar and adjust the salt to taste. You can also brown some chopped onions (you can even get them in the freezer section already chopped) in butter before you add the milk or water. For a one-bowl meal, add salty kalamata olives, feta cheese, some fresh baby spinach, and cooked chicken or lamb once the mush cools.
Like standard cornmeal mush or polenta, you can even chill this pudding in a loaf pan (or, if you’re me, a plastic container lined with plastic wrap), slice it, and pan-fry it. Pan-seared maize pudding topped with vanilla ice cream sounds pretty good to me.
It’s also really very good with real maple syrup.
Speaking of maple syrup, don’t be afraid to try the less expensive, darker grades. Darker maple syrup bears a stronger maple flavor, so a little can really go a long way. It’s absolutely delicious on mild-flavored desserts like vanilla or sweet-cream ice cream — or like maize pudding.
If I remember correctly, most systems for grading maple syrup in the maple-syrup producing regions of North America date back to a time when maple syrup was used as a substitute for regular cane sugar, which had to be imported at great expense from the tropics.
The paler syrups (which are not more processed, but rather are collected early in the “sugaring” season) earned monikers like “fancy” and “Grade A” and commanded higher prices because their subtler maple flavor made them better substitutes for cane sugar.
However, the darker grades are absolutely delicious and perfect for those of us who really like a lot of maple flavor but don’t want to have to swamp our food in liquid sugar to get it.
Though I grew up in easy reach of the famous Vermont sugaring grounds and their storied produce, I’ve become quite enamored of a local, very dark maple syrup that hails from a nearby part of Indiana. It’s perfect on maize pudding.