Chili Cornbread Casserole

Chili Cornbread Casserole

I love recipes that can be improvised.  Most can be, and it’s really about learning a method, and then you can experiment with your own substitutions and additions.  Turkey Chile Cornbread Casserole is one of my favorites to improvise with.  I first saw the recipe on Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show, but I’ve completely changed the recipe to suit my tastes.  And when you make it, you can do the same thing.

Instead of using ground beef, as the original recipe did, I use lean ground turkey because that’s what my family likes.  I also don’t buy chili or taco seasoning.  I prefer to make my own, and I always add cinnamon to mine.  If you don’t like the idea of cinnamon, skip it.  If you don’t want any heat, skip the cayenne. 

Also, instead of using the salsa and taco sauce, you can substitute only salsa, or even a can of Rotel.  I’ve done it all the different ways depending on what I have on hand. 

For the cornbread mix, I like adding the Greek yogurt to mine because it makes it extra creamy and fluffy.  It’s kind of like adding mayonnaise or pudding to a cake.  Again, if you don’t want to add Greek yogurt, don’t.  But I highly recommend it.

[Note:  I wrote this recipe in Sept. 2016.  I held it over because I hated the photos.  Then I re-did the photos with my point-and-shoot and thought they were much better.  Then I finally got a “real” camera, and now I don’t like these photos anymore, but I’m just tired of sitting on this recipe because it IS delicious!]


Total Time:  1 hourgood

Serves:  6

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 onion

20 ounces lean ground turkey

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup Taco sauce

½ cup Salsa

1 can of whole kernel corn, drained

1 box of Jiffy cornbread muffin mix

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

½ cup greek yogurt

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Dice the onion, and sauté over medium heat with a splash of olive oil.  Add the turkey and cook until browned.  Add all the dried dried spices and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add the taco sauce, salsa, and corn.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has begun to absorb into the turkey.
  2. Spread out the meat mixture in a casserole dish and let cool for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Prepare the corn muffin mix. To the box of mix, add the milk, egg, and yogurt. Mix together with an electric hand mixer until combined.  Carefully spread the mixture evenly over the meat mixture.
  4. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

(inspired by Trisha Yearwood)




All Day Turkey Bolognese

All Day Turkey Bolognese

(This is my first post using my “real” camera:  a Canon Rebel with a 50mm lens.  It was originally posted back in 2016 with some godawful pictures, and now I have some I’m proud of!)

Every home cook has a spaghetti dinner recipe.  Spaghetti was one of the first things I really made.  Pasta is so easy and versatile, and if you keep a stocked pantry and freezer, it’s something you can make without going to the grocery store at all.  I’d consider all the ingredients in my spaghetti to be kitchen essentials, with the exception of the wine and mushrooms.

I make my sauce in the slow cooker for several reasons.  First, it’s hands-off.  So you can get it going and then leave for the day.  Second, it keeps the calories lower because the ingredients essentially cook in their own juices, and you don’t need any extra oil.  Third, all ground meat should be cooked for a long time to avoid getting food poisoning.  So the longer the ground turkey cooks, the better.  Speaking of the turkey, it’s just what I always use.  You could always use ground beef or chicken instead.

My spaghetti recipe has developed over time.  Each time I tried adding something different, the flavors just got better and more complex.  Of course every spaghetti sauce has garlic and onion, but I think you’ll like the unexpected ingredients, too.  The red wine enhances the depth of flavor for the dish.  Since I do use turkey, I like to turn up the other flavors, and wine gives it a strong back note.  Worchestire sauce is a “secret” ingredient to lots of savory dishes.  It has umami that you can’t get from anything else.  Then there’s the cinnamon.  It sounds weird, but I got the idea after trying Greek spaghetti, and it tastes so good!

I always use whole wheat pasta.  Not only is it healthier, but I like the nuttiness that’s in the whole wheat.  Last, the basil; I add this only right before serving.  Fresh, delicate herbs like basil should always be added at the end.  Dried herbs should always be added in the beginning to get the most flavor from them. 

Total Time: 6 hours16832279_437085866630055_3889349833823699474_n.jpg

Serves: 8-10

Difficulty Level:  Easy


1 onion

4 garlic cloves

8 ounce box of fresh mushrooms

20 ounce package of lean ground turkey

8 ounces red wine

2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

Fresh basil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese


  1. Dice onion.  Finely chop garlic.  Slice mushrooms.  Add the veggies to the slow cooker.
  2. Add the ground turkey to the slow cooker.
  3. Add the red wine, marinara sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, and cinnamon.
  4. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for at least 5 hours.
  5. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Toss with the sauce and freshly torn basil.
  6. Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

[originally posted 8/9/2016]

Cocktail Meatballs 3 Ways

Cocktail Meatballs 3 Ways

Cocktail Meatballs are something that’s perfect for entertaining.  They are easy to make, have few ingredients, and they are a great appetizer to put in a slow cooker.  There is no chopping or extra dirty dishes.  You can tailor it to your guests’ tastes.  You can eat it with a toothpick.  It’s also high protein and low carb, which I think is a good option for a party since there are usually tons of chips and dip items.  Those are great, but a little protein can make you feel more satisfied when you’re eating finger foods as a meal.

The meatballs recipes are really just ratios, and you can make sweet ones like the Barbecue Pineapple Meatballs I made for Ben’s party.  Or you can go the other way and make Spicy Cranberry Meatballs.

The ratio is about 1 cup of sauce per pound of meatballs.  And you can use turkey, beef, or pork.  I always use turkey because it’s a little bit lighter.  You can make your own meatballs, but I happen to love Wellsley Farms brand turkey meatballs from BJ’s.

Here are some ratios:54wets

  • So for the Barbecue Pineapple Meatballs, it’s ½ cup crushed pineapple and ½ cup barbecue sauce per pound of meatballs.
  • And for the Spicy Cranberry Meatballs, it’s ½ cup canned cranberry sauce and ½ cup Red Hot sauce, plus 2 tablespoons of sriracha sauce per pound of meatballs.
  • For Honey Ginger Meatballs, it’s ½ cup honey and ½ cup soy sauce, 1.5 teaspoons of granulated ginger, and 1.5 teaspoons of granulated garlic per pound of meatballs.

Here is the Method.  You’ll memorize it quickly and never need a recipe again.  Just like with the Muddy Buddies, the combinations are only limited by your imagination.

  1. Add frozen meatballs to a slow cooker.
  2. Add the sauce on top.
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour.
  4. After everything has come together, turn the slow cooker down to “keep warm” until you’re done for the night.

Beef Short Rib Ragu + Bucatini

Beef Short Rib Ragu + Bucatini

This recipe marks my first time cooking with beef short ribs.  I made a similar ragu last year, but I used stew meat instead. Ragu literally just means a meat sauce that is served with pasta.  That leaves it pretty open to interpretation.

I decided to make this Beef Short Rib Ragu after I ended up with 5 boxes of De Cecco Bucatini after my last girls’ wine night.  I had to order the bucatini online because I couldn’t find it in the grocery store here.  If you haven’t tried it, it’s basically spaghetti that is hollow inside.  It has a texture unlike any other pasta I’ve ever tried– it’s chewy on the outer layer with a good bite on the inside.  It may be my second favorite pasta shape (after rigatoni).  I started looking around to see what other types of sauces go well with bucatini.  The most common ones I found were all’amatriciana (which I love, but I wanted something new, and I just made Linguine All’Amatriciana recently).  Then there’s carbonara (which I make from time to time, but it’s just so fattening!).  And finally, ragu. 14956379_375995076072468_786858947885382994_n

I chose the ragu because it feels different and fun, and because I’ve been in the mood for beef lately.  I rarely serve beef because of the cost, and short ribs are pricier for me, but what the hell?!  I can’t live on chicken thighs all the time.  Sometimes a splurge is a good thing (not to mention we just paid off our last credit card, so I’m feeling pretty smug and rich right now). 

So I didn’t really get this recipe from anywhere, but I was more “inspired” by a few other interpretations I found online.  The recipe on How Sweet Eats was the main inspiration (if you love food, you’ll love her website), but I kinda just looked at the general idea and ran with it.

This recipe takes all day, and it may be best left to a weekend because it does make a big mess in the kitchen.  Now that I think about it, I guess you could prep this all the night before, set it all in the slow cooker, and place the slow cooker in the fridge.  Then early in the morning, pull it out, turn it on, and let it cook all day.  That would actually be perfect if you were craving this on a weeknight.  Let’s just say it’s not a spur-of-the-moment meal.

Total Time:  10 hours

Difficulty Level:  Intermediate

Serves:  6-8


4 to 4 ½ pounds of beef short ribs, at room temperature

Salt and pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 small onions (or one large), small diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced


the unusual shape of Bucatini

16 oz (2 cups) red wine

1- 6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 pound of white mushrooms, sliced thinly

2- 14.5 ounce cans of Italian stewed tomatoes

1- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

8 sprigs of whole fresh thyme

3 bay leaves

2 Tablespoons of fresh rosemary, minced

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound of dried bucatini pasta

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven.
  2. Season each side of the short ribs generously with salt and pepper.
  3. In 2 batches, brown the short ribs on all sides until a light crust has formed.
  4. Remove the short ribs, and set inside a 6 quart slow cooker.
  5. Add a little more olive oil to the Dutch oven if needed. Add the chopped onion, and sauté over medium until softened.
  6. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 more minutes.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the red wine.
  8. Whisk in the tomato paste, and cook for 5 minutes until liquid has reduced a little and the sauce has thickened.
  9. Add the reduced onion and wine mixture on top of the beef in the slow cooker.
  10. Top with the mushrooms, canned stewed tomatoes, and crushed tomatoes.
  11. Add thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, and cinnamon.
  12. Cover and cook on high for 7 hours.
  13. Pull beef ribs out and shred. Remove the bones.
  14. Cook for another hour.
  15. Before serving, cook bucatini according to package instruction. Toss sauce with pasta.  Serve with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper (if you like it spicy).

Steak + Beer Chili

Steak + Beer Chili

I love chili, all kinds of chili.  I think this is the fourth chili recipe I’ve shared so far, and I have only been blogging actively for 4 months.  And I still have more chili recipes scheduled after this one!  In my house, it’s definitely one of the family favorites in the cold months.  The way I keep all my chili recipes kid-friendly is to not add too much heat.  I stay away from cayenne pepper completely, and I only add a little chili powder.  I usually go heavier on cumin because it’s got a really warm and spicy, but not hot, flavor. 

You could do this in the slow cooker, but I think it’s better done on the stove so you can brown the meat and deglaze the pan with the beer.  I’ve done this with Occulto beer before, which is made with agave and has an almost tequila flavor—really good.  This time I used Corona Familiar.  It’s more authentically Mexican than regular Corona, and I just bought one big bottle instead of a 6 pack.  From what I understand, it is sold in the 32 ounce singles because it’s intended to be enjoyed and shared around the table.  Interesting, huh?  It also tastes better than regular Corona, in my opinion.

I don’t have brand loyalty to too many things I cook with.  Other than Daisy Sour Cream (which I use because it’s the only brand I can find without weird ingredients), the only other thing that comes to mind is Nelly and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice.  It’s the only kind of bottled lime juice I ever buy.  It tastes so tart and fresh, you can even use it in a margarita, and I have done that for big party batches.  If you don’t want to squeeze fresh limes or need a lot, Nelly and Joe’s is a really good substitute.

For the steak, I went with a 3 to 3 ½ pound chuck roast, like the same thing I would use for beef stroganoff.  I just cut it into bite-sized pieces before browning.

A usual, this goes perfectly with all your favorite chili toppings:  tortilla chips, cornbread, sour cream, freshly grated cheddar, hot sauce, and avocado.  Go for it!  It’s actually a pretty nutritious soup, except for some of the toppings.

Total Time:  90 minutesgood

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Serves:  8-10


Olive oil

3 to 3 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 large onion, medium diced

2 green bell pepper, medium diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

24 ounces Mexican beer (such as Corona Familiar or Occulto)

2 cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of corn (do not drain)

1 can diced tomatoes

2 Tablespoons chipotle powder

1 Tablespoon cumin

2 Teaspoons paprika

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

3 Tablespoons of Nelly and Joe’s Key West lime juice

Roughly chopped cilantro
Optional Toppings

Greek yogurt

Sour cream


Freshly grated cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Corn bread


  1. Begin by heating up several tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, brown the steak in batches on all sides without cooking through.  Take the steak out and set aside.
  2. To the olive oil (add more if necessary), add the onion and bell peppers. Saute over medium for about 5-6 minutes, until softened.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the beer, and simmer for 8-10 minutes while scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, chipotle powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, and lime juice.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least 45 minutes before serving, but the longer, the better.
  7. Add the fresh cilantro at the end.
  8. Serve hot with your favorite toppings.

Thai Beef Stir Fry

Thai Beef Stir Frythai beef stir fry - Copy

I lucked out getting this recipe.  My friend subscribes to Hello Fresh, and she gave me a week of free meals!  That was pretty exciting.  I didn’t keep the subscription after the free meals, but I can really see the appeal.  Each week you get three meals with all the ingredients needed to make them.  It forces you outside your comfort zone.  Of the 3 meals I got, Thai Beef Stir Fry was my favorite. 

Until I got this meal kit, I didn’t realize that you could buy “Thai Seasoning.”  But it’s just like getting an Italian seasoning or fajita seasoning.  I couldn’t find Thai seasoning at my local grocery store, but you can order it here on Amazon.

The whole thing took about 30 minutes to make, and I’ve actually made it again quite a few times since.  I usually double the recipe so Jon can take leftovers to work.

This recipe is directly transcribed from my Hello Fresh recipe card.  I actually tried to find it online somewhere so I could pin it and throw the card away, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. 


Total Time:  30 Minutes

Difficulty Level:  Easy

Serves 2



¾ cup basmati rice

¾ cup light coconut milk

6 ounces of fresh green beans, trimmed

Olive oil

1 red bell pepper, ribs removed and sliced thin

1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and thinly sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts kept separate

2 cloves garlic, minced

10 ounces lean ground beef

1 tablespoon of Thai seasoning

½ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges



  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. To make the coconut rice, bring ¾ cup coconut milk, ¾ cup water, and a large pinch of salt to a boil in a small pot.  Add the rice, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Fluff, and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, roast the green beans. First toss them on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a saute pan over medium high heat, add several tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the bell pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Add the scallion whites, garlic, and serrano pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes, watching closely so the garlic doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the beef and Thai seasoning to the saute pan with the peppers, and cook until meat is completely browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat, toss the basil in, and set aside.
  6. To serve, put the rice in the bottom, and top with some of the green beans and the meat mixture.  Garnish with fresh lime, and serve hot.

(recipe from Hello Fresh recipe cards)