If you're looking to expand your pantry choices, then you should consider getting some cornmeal. While it's a great ingredient to use for baking, you can also make a variety of other dishes. So, if you only have white flour in your pantry, you should do yourself a favor and get some beautiful yellow, stone-ground, milled cornmeal or some finely milled masa, depending upon what you want to make. Here are three things you can cook with cornmeal.

Cranberry Corn Muffins

Instead of making plain corn muffins from a box, you should find a recipe online that will instruct you on how to make cornmeal and cranberry muffins from scratch. These are great muffins to make during the holiday season. They work great for breakfast and lunch. These muffins are not that difficult to make, and you will be amazed at how much of a difference you see between muffins from a boxed mix and muffins that are fresh and made from scratch. The main ingredients will be milk (sometimes buttermilk), eggs, oil, white flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar (how much depends on how sweet you want the muffins), and cranberries. You can get dried cranberries if you want a raisin-like texture and a sweet bite, or you could choose to use fresh cranberries. These will give the muffins a nice sour taste.

Polenta and Blue Cheese

Not all cornmeal recipes involve making muffins. One of the coolest recipes is an Italian dish called polenta. It involves cooking cornmeal with broth, Parmesan cheese, and herbs. You cook the polenta to a porridge-like texture, or, for some recipes, to a solid texture that can be cut into wedges. Some people like to take the polenta and then fry it in a bit of olive oil and rosemary. You can then serve the polenta with a nice Italian cheese, such as Gorgonzola. This would be really nice served with a red wine, such as a merlot.

Cornmeal Tamales

If you love Mexican food, then you should definitely get some cornmeal. For making tamales, though, you should get a really fine milled cornmeal. The type of cornmeal that is fine for polenta and muffins is a bit too coarse for tamales. When you are making tamales, you want a really fine mix, which is often called masa. You are going to make a dough and then fill it with meats, cheese, or beans and then cook it inside of a banana leaf. This will create a steam heat that cooks the tamale and the filling.