Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Comfort Food Dinner - Chili Corn Bread Casserole

"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

That seemed to be the theme last night here in Mobile, when everyone was hunkered down and preparing for one of the worst storms of 2016. Somehow it completely missed us and ended up pummeling Gulf Shores instead, but I still thought it would be a good night to make some comfort food while I cuddled on the couch with my fur babies watching the weather channel all night! 

This meal is actually another throw back to my childhood (I know, I know, I need to stop taking credit for my momma's meals!), but I can vividly remember eating this meal on chilly fall nights, and it brought back a comforting nostalgia last night as the crazy winds swirled around our house. (Also after making this last night, I think this might become a new tailgating favorite, and I have all kinds of ideas about baking it in a muffin tin so it's bite sized... but as always I digress...)

The ingredient list is actually fairly simple but could easily be boosted up to include more veggies if you'd like. Nearly everything came from my "pantry staples" list, which I'll have to share sometime, but you wouldn't believe just how yummy these simple flavors are when combined!

I started by rough chopping the onion and sauteing it in some hot oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. 

I then added the ground beef and cooked it until it was fully browned, another 5 minutes or so. 

While the meat was cooking, I started whipping up the cornbread batter. OH! And speaking of cornbread!!

I have realized this is another area that my upbringing severely impacted my view of food...growing up, anytime my mom made cornbread, she would always add a can of corn to the batter and would sometimes even add chiles or cheese depending on what type of meal we were eating. This obviously makes for SUPER moist cornbread, almost cake-like, so when I moved to the south and they served me dry, no-corn cornbread I wasn't sure what to think!! Turns out, this is a hotly debated topic that I am often forced to lose due to my husband's opinion and my geographic location, but since I grew up eating moist cornbread and this was MY comfort food recipe, I decided to include the can of corn :)

As I was saying though...the box recommends allowing the batter to sit for at least 5 minutes before baking so once it was mixed I went back to my chili mixture.

Once the meat was fully browned, I added the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chili powder, then added salt and pepper to taste. This is the step where you could also add beans or any other type of veggie if you wanted, but I decided to stick with simple.

After letting the mixture simmer for a minute or two, I poured the chili into the bottom of a greased 9x9 square baking pan and then added the cornbread.

Can you tell I was excited by the fact that I took a foodie close-up before it even went into the oven?! :)

To make sure the bread was fully baked, I nearly had to double the cooking time. I also added some shredded cheddar cheese midway through as an afterthought but it would be just fine without it as well. Once it came out of the oven and I let it cool for a couple minutes, I dug in!!

I prefer to garnish this casserole with a little sour cream once it cools, and had I had any chives on hand that would've been included too. I remember my dad adding hot sauce when I used to eat this as a kid, so truly this is one of those recipes that can be changed up however you'd like (even no corn in the cornbread!)

I am happy to report that by resorting to this childhood comfort food, I weathered the "storm" and have a tasty leftover lunch to get me through my hump-day :)

Chili Corn Bread Casserole

- 1 box cornbread mix
- 1 egg, for the cornbread mix
- 1/3 cup milk, for the cornbread mix
- 1 can corn
- 1 small onion
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted for extra flavor)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 Tbs chili powder
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Roughly chop the onion and add it to a pan of hot oil. Lightly salt and pepper. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the ground beef to the onions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. To make the cornbread batter, follow the recipe on the back of the box (aka combine the mix, egg, milk, and can of corn) and let it sit for about 5 minutes
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chili powder to the ground beef. Salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.
5. Pour the chili mixture into a greased 9x9 inch baking pan.
6. Pour the cornbread mixture on top of the chili
7. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then add cheese, lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking for another 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then serve as desired!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Gift Guide: Wedding Invitation Candle

With Valentines Day right around the corner, the craze for gift-buying begins...lucky for me, Andrew and I have never really done the whole V-Day scene other than seeing the night as a convenient excuse to go to a nice dinner. Truth be told, I'm not the overly-romantic type (hence why I reacted with more excitement over a vacuum this Christmas than a homemade blue French horn), but I can still appreciate a holiday dedicated to love, which is why I wanted to share a craft I created for my sister last Valentines Day!

To give some background, my sister IS the romantic type who is also sentimental and loves all things that remind her of the man in her life. So as her matron of honor in her wedding last fall, I thought it would be cute to create a memorable gift that can constantly remind her of their special day. And all it took was a candle from Walmart and a little wax paper! Well...and a wedding invitation of course...

For the candle, I decided cream-colored would look best with their champagne-pink invitation. I wrapped the invitation around the candle using rubber bands and let it sit for a week or so to help it mold better, and then I simply cut a piece of wax paper and ironed it onto the candle!! I used just the end of the iron and made sure there wasn't any steam in it and simply wiped it with a paper towel when I was done! The hardest part was definitely the corners, so if I had to do it again I'd possibly glue them down before adding the wax paper.

With the wax paper over the invitation, it had a neat vintage effect that almost looked like it was part of the candle! And although it wasn't perfect, it was a thoughtful gift she could display on a shelf next to one of their wedding photos. 

For anyone in need of some gift inspiration, I hope this helps! To those of you like me who would rather make fun gifts for your sister, well here ya go too :) 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cheese Poppers - Food Experiment Gone Amazing!

Ok guys...I'm patting myself on the back for this one. Do you ever have one of those recipes where literally all you do is throw together ingredients that are on the verge of going bad, and instead of it being a dreadful concoction it turns into one of your new favorite recipes? Well...this has just happened to me. So much that I'm pretty sure these will be on my list of Super Bowl snacks this weekend. So. Much. Yum.

Let me start by saying that I am slightly a food hoarder. By that I mean I LOVE when my fridge is full, particularly of fresh ingredients, so that I can let my inspiration go wild on what to make for dinner. However, that also leads to many last-minute scrambles where I try and use everything up before it goes bad, which is exactly the mess I was in when I made what I'm calling cheese poppers. 

It started out with a few cheeses we'd bought a couple weeks ago for a wine and cheese night...cheddar, Camembert, and goat cheese. Although I loved each of these little cheeses dearly when we bought them, there are only so many wine and cheese nights for two you can have before you are ready for a change. So, I decided that I would somehow combine them with some canned biscuit dough (also about to go bad!) and see what I could come up with. I had very low expectations for myself but was soon to be pleasantly surprised!

I decided to keep each of the cheeses separate since they had such strong flavors and would simply add some complimentary flavors to add volume. To the cheddar I added a little grated parmesan, to the Camembert I added strawberry jelly, and to the goat cheese I added roasted pineapple and habanero sauce.

WHICH...let me digress...was a Christmas gift from one of my co-workers, and has become my newest condiment addiction. The texture is almost like a salsa, but the flavor is out of this world...the pineapple gives it sweetness with a spicy kick from the habanero. I promise it will be featured in many a future recipe!

But back to my each mixture I also added a couple tablespoons of flour so it would bind a little better. I zapped the cheddar and Camembert in the microwave for about 30 seconds so they would soften, and stirred the mixtures together until they were all fully combined. At this point in my recipe I was still a bit unsure of how good these would be but kept going....

Once I had halved each biscuit onto a sheet of waxed paper, I spooned a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto each one, and then proceeded to simply pick them up and put them in a greased muffin tin. 

I put them in a 375 degree oven for 12 minutes and they came out looking golden and gooey...I was starting to get excited about this recipe since they smelled so good...they just had to taste good too!

And they did not disappoint!! My favorite was the goat cheese popper because when cooked it almost reminded me of cheesecake but with a little bit of a habanero kick! Andrew liked the cheddar one the best and suggested maybe adding some roasted garlic next time (GREAT idea, hubby!). Next time I'd probably also use a crescent roll or maybe puff pastry since the biscuit was a teeny bit heavy, but when you're looking for a great and easy recipe for a crowd, this fits the bill!

Until next time cheese poppers...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Crafting a Desktop Calendar

So I know I say this every month, but SERIOUSLY! How can it be February?!? I feel like the days have just flown by this year, and from the looks of it they're not slowing down! And in saying that, I also realize I'm literally a month late in sharing one of my holiday crafting projects, but I figured better late than never :)

I've recently become obsessed with desktop calendars because they give a desk a unique and modern look, and although my 2015 Purdue wall calendar has sparked some fun conversations when people walk into my office, I thought a new year would be a good time for a new look! So I started the fun job of shopping on Etsy to see what I could find, but quickly became disappointed by the $20-30 price tags, some of which didn't even come with a stand! (and yes, before I have any calligraphers out there get upset by this comment, I do realize many are hand-written so the price is justified...I just didn't want to pay it!) After a few days of not seeing anything that I wanted, I decided to just make one myself, and I'm happy to report it was EXACTLY what I was wanting!

For the materials, I already had card stock, a printer, and an X-Acto wheel at my house, so all I needed was the stand which I found at Dollar Tree.  I decided to keep things simple and use a cream-colored card stock and a gold stand since I have quite a few pictures hanging up and didn't want to busy my work space any more than it already is. I was a little worried about the paper matching the walls too closely, but it seems to stand out with the print on it!

For the font options, I didn't like any of the ones already on Microsoft, so I downloaded the Quickier Demo had a more hand-drawn look that works well for this calendar. I then created a calendar PPT (click to download my template) to easily print out the sheets.

(You'll notice on my template that there are faint lines to help with cutting the pages...those could easily be removed if you have a legit paper cutter!)

To cut the sheets, I started out using the X-Acto wheel, but honestly found it easier to just cut by hand...some of my lines weren't as precise as I would've hoped, so if you're more patient that I am just stick with the ruler and a cutting wheel :) 

Once I cut all the sheets (which measure about 5" x 6") I took them to work where my calendar found a cute little spot on my desk! In love!!

Happy 2016!!! (a month late!)