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!