If, like me, you grew up on a farm and couldn’t afford to eat many store-bought foods, you may have grown up eating beans and cornbread daily.

If, like me, you grew up on a farm and couldn’t afford to eat many store-bought foods, you may have grown up eating beans and cornbread daily.  Beans were dried and didn’t cost much (same today) and we raised the corn and took it to be ground at the mill in town on Saturdays.  
Today, delicious fresh ground corn is a rare commodity.  Once you have eaten cornbread made with freshly ground corn, it is doubtful you will appreciate cornmeal off the store shelves.  Not only is freshly ground whole corn tastier, it contains the germ of the corn kernel, which holds the most nutrition.  It is the part that will nourish a new stalk of corn if planted.  Corn is another example where processing removes most of the nutrition that nature provides as well as flavor.  
Little did we know we were eating “health foods” when we were on our little farm, eking out a living off the land. Today, I purchase whole organic whole corn, store in the freezer, and the Vitamix grinds it fresh each time I make cornbread.
Beans and cornbread are still two of my very favorite foods and I will share some of the ways I prepare them.  Since I have had more than a few favorable comments on my cornbread, I happily share the recipe:
Country Cornbread
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Combine in large mixing bowl:
2 cups fresh cornmeal
1 teaspoon each of salt, baking powder, and baking soda
 In Medium bowl combine:
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk (I use Bulgarian)
About 2 Tablespoons oil (I used melted coconut oil)
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and mix just until combined.  Don’t overmix.  Grease cast iron skillet (or pyrex dish may be used).   Watch cornbread closely after about 20 minutes to assure that it does not burn.  Take out of oven when golden brown.  If you like butter on your cornbread, I highly recommend the fresh butter from Ozark Country Market.  It is good whipped in a food processor with a little oil (I like grape seed oil for this).  It is then easy to spread and delicious.  
Most people mistakenly assume beans must be made with ham, bacon, or some kind of pork to taste good.  This is simply not true!  You can get creative with beans and the following recipe illustrates many ingredients that can be used.  You can put this into the crockpot at night and in the morning it is done.  I like the addition of vegetables and ground cumin is a must with beans.  Sometimes I simply use some salsa along with cumin, sautéed onions, and Braggs Liquid Aminos (If you haven’t tried this, you have missed a taste treat).
Even though the recipe says remove the vegetables, I prefer leaving them in—except for the bay leaf.  You can vary this recipe all over the place – most everything is optional.
Bean Crock Pot recipe
 (Please use Organic ingredients whenever possible!)
2 cups dry beans (whatever kind you like)
1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
2-3 bay leaves
2 large Carrots
2 large stalks of celery
1 red potato, peeled and cut into 4 large chunks
1 can Rotel Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil and Vinegar (Optional)
 Tabasco Sauce (Optional)
Sort beans and remove stones and discolored bad beans. Rinse well in colander. Put beans in pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Soak from 6-10:30 p.m. (or at least a good 4-5 hours).
After soaking beans, drain and rinse well in colander. Add to large crockpot. Add 4.5 to 5 cups of fresh water, depending on your taste and how soupy you want your beans. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, carrots, celery, potato and Rotel. Do not add salt at this point (it makes the beans tough). Cook on low setting in Crock-Pot overnight for at least 8 hours.
In the morning, remove carrots, celery, garlic, potato and bay leaves. Throw out bay leaves and celery. Take carrots, garlic, potato and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the beans. Mash well with fork and return to pot, stirring to incorporate. Then add lots of salt (to your taste) and pepper. Rinse and chop cilantro and add (I usually chop almost the entire bunch). Cook at least another hour or so, depending on how “done” you like your beans.
If you want it thicker, mash more beans. If you don’t want it thicker, don’t mash the beans. If you want to add a little splash of Olive Oil and Vinegar, you can — it’s totally personal preference but adds a smoothness and a little twang! Also, sometimes I add a little bit of Tabasco Sauce for a little kick.
You just completed the perfect winter meal!

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)