Category: Red Meat

Chili in a Homemade Cornbread Bowl

Yes I know, cornbread bowls do not typically exist.  And I imagine because they don’t have a hard exterior like a sourdough bread bowl, but thats just unfair.  I am obsessed with breadbowls, ok maybe that’s a bit extreme but I love clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl or really anything in a sourdough bread bowl, it just has an extra factor that puts the meal over the top.  So when I recently took a trip to disneyland with some friends we decided that for dinner we were going to have gumbo in a bread bowl…yes please! I think that was when this bread bowl kick started because it was the week after that I made this chili and decided to attempt a bread bowl with the cornbread.  Now, presentation wise it looks great and of course it tastes great too but the tricky part is scooping enough out to put the chili in but also leaving enough to enjoy it with the chili.  The other thing is that you have to have pyrex dishes that are small enough to bake the cornbread in so that you can actually make a bowl.  Well I happen to have a few thanks to my roommate so I decided to give it a go.

On another note about chili, everyone has their particular way of loving chili. Some people love big chunks of meat (not for me), others like every type of bean known to man in their chili (I like some variation), some like their chili topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese and green onion (yea that would be nice, but I didnt’t have any). So feel free to modify this recipe as you need to in order to create your chili, I sort of looked at about 10 different chili recipes before I came up with this one.  Essentially the recipe is the same, just the ingredients might differ.

Now, this cornbread recipe that I use is my great grandmothers recipe and let me tell you, she knew her stuff.  It’s the same cornbread that we use in our thanksgiving cornbread dressing (stuffing for all you non-southern familiars), and I absolutely love it.  The smell and taste of fresh cornbread just cannot be beat sometimes.  Now, because 1. this recipe is old and 2. she was from the south there are some variations I have made.  For instance, I just do not stock buttermilk on a regular basis so instead I substitute yogurt (see below).  Also, the original recipe calls for bacon grease in the pie pan.  I also don’t make bacon regularly and do not have bacon grease on hand when the cornbread cravings hit so instead I just regular cooking oil.  I think what I love about this recipe (as you will see) is that it tells you to heat the oil before putting the batter in the pan.  What this does is create a delicious crispy crust to the cornbread when you add the batter.  You can even see the batter instantly cooking when you add it to the hot oil! So my point is…do not skip this step, it really makes or breaks the cornbread. =)

Ground Beef Chili with White Kidney Beans and Black Beans 


  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 3 sticks celery chopped
  • 1 can white kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tbl minced garlic
  • 1 tbl cumin
  • 1 tbl chili powder
  • 1/2 tbl cayenne
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 c water


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat
  2. Chop the onion (see picture below for tips), celery, and garlic. Add to heated oil and stir around until onion is opaque.
  3. Add the seasonings into the pot and stir around.
  4. Add the ground beef and cook until the meat starts to brown, use a wooden spoon to break it up to your liking (less for bigger meat chunks, more for smaller ones)
  5. Add the tomato sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, and water.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes.
  6. Add the beans in and stir.
  7. Check periodically to break up the meat and stir around so that the flavors infuse evenly.
  8. after 40 minutes if the chili is too thick for your taste, you can add a bit of water.  If it is too liquid-y you can just remove some of the liquid from the top with a ladle or large spoon.

Nana’s cornbread recipe 


  • 1c cornmeal
  • 1/2c flour
  • 1tbl baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 1c low fat milk
  • 1/4c plain yogurt (the milk and yogurt is in place of buttermilk which I just don’t regularly stock)
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. In a pie dish, add 1-2 tbl cooking oil and place in oven to heat up while you mix the cornbread batter.
  3. Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl
  4. Add in the milk, yogurt, and egg to the dry mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Pour mixture into pie dish with hot oil (or bacon fat if you happen to have it)
  6. Bake the cornbread for about 20 min.  Check for done-ness with a toothpick. ENJOY

{This is a great onion cutting tip.  Place the onion flat side down, then make cuts across but don’t cut all the way to the end.  Then go back and cut perpendicular to the first cuts to get a good dice.  This way the onion stays together while you are cutting!}

{Post bread bowl making, I just ran a knife around the edge and cut at an angle into the center.  Make sure not to cut so deep that you puncture the bowl and the chili leaks out}

{The finished product}


Sliced Polenta with Bolognese Sauce

It was not until the past couple years that I even knew what polenta was or looked like for that matter.  For whatever reason, I never grew up eating it, and it was never a dish that my parents made.  After figuring out what it was and trying it I have realized that it is one of those types of food that either people love or hate.  I happen to really enjoy it and find it a really nice substitute for pasta.  However I have understand why people would shy away from it, if not cooked correctly it’s just a little slimy.  But DON’T let that deter you! haha, I personally love the polenta log from Trader Joes that is already made and just requires slicing.  I then bake it so that it is slightly crispy on the outside but warm and smooth on the inside.  I’ve also heard of people grilling polenta, however I do not have the pleasure of owning a grill at my apartment so the oven has certainly become my best friend.

Bolognese sauce, as you will probably find it called in Italian restaurants, is simply a meat sauce that is heavier on the meat than the tomatoes or marinara but that is also subject to personal taste if you are making it yourself.  This meal is so simple to make with the premade polenta, har of marinara, and thawed ground beef that I am always shocked how beautiful and filling it tastes.

Sliced Polenta with Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 log premade polenta
  • 1 lb ground beef thawed
  • 1/4 chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 3 tbl olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. slice polenta according to desired thickness but keep in mind that the thicker, the longer they will take to cook and also be sure to keep the slices evenly thick
  3. lay the slices out on baking dish and brush each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  4. bake the polenta for about 20 minutes or until they get crispy (they won’t turn brown but keep checking out firm they have gotten)
  5. While the polenta is baking, add the onions to a nonstick pan and cook over medium heat until they start to turn opaque.
  6. Add ground beef and cook until the meet is crumbled and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  7. add the jar of marinara sauce to the ground beef, lower heat to low and simmer until heated through.  Taste the sauce to make sure it is seasoned well (adjust any salt, pepper, or italian seasoning you wish to add)
  8. Place 3-4 slices of polenta on a plate and top with bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese (if desired) ENJOY!

Luck of the Irish- Corned Beef, Pickled Cabbage, and Irish Soda Bread

I think it would come as no surprise to people that I love to cook full meals.  I love the feeling of planning a complete meal from protein, to starch, to veggie and even to dessert (but lets face it, dessert often just comes in the form of store bought ice cream).  Having just arrived home after 10 weeks of school yesterday (St. Patricks day) was my first full day at home and since it seemed a perfect occasion for a full meal we dove head first into planning a traditional St. patricks day mea– Corned beef, pickled cabbage, irish soda bread, and potato wedges, and drumroll please… chocolate whiskey souffles for dessert.

Now, I have never cooked corned beef in my life, nor have my parents when I was growing up so part of me didn’t have a clue how to go about this meal but the other part of me (the determined cook part) wanted to push through the unknown and come out on the other side with a new checkmark on my cooking bucket list.  And that is exactly what we did– with a little help from Trader Joes of couse.

To me, corned beef exists only in the delicious sandwich shop in my neighborhood as a perfect sandwich on sourdough (or dark rye) with some lettuce, and light mayo and mustard, toasted of course.  Ever since I tried this particular combination when my dad got it when I was a kid I have loved it and have made a point to go back and order it whenever I am in town.  So the thought of eating corned beef other than on a sandwich, or making it myself left me without a game plan.  But true to form, I jumped on my computer and started using good ol’ google to see how to make corned beef and cabbage.

Armed with a grocery list and a menu in mind we headed to Trader Joes to get the ingredients.  Leave it up to TJ’s to have their sample of the day on St. Patricks day be corned beef and potatoes with a sweet and spicy mustard.  They won us over in a heartbeat.  So we purchased the already seasoned and cooked corned beef that merely required us to bake it for 30 min with a little water in the pan, pre-shredded cabbage, some chocolate, buttermilk for the soda bread and a few miscellaneous things (like the first cheap daffodilles of the season) and we were off to make this dinner.

Let me tell you, it was completely satisfying in the end to produce this meal of all new recipes but the road to get there felt like none other than Thanksgiving day.  Between my sister, mom, and I, I felt that were were running racing around that kitchen barely breathing until we sat down to eat.  However, I tend to prefer this to waiting for something to cook and not feeling like you can do anything to make it cook faster.  This meal turned out better than I could imagine, with a familiar taste of corned beef from that sandwich shop paired with the subtle bite of the pickled cabbage and the sweet and sour mustard I’m pretty sure the first half of my plate was devoured with my eyes closed.

Corned Beef


  • 1 purchased package seasoned corned beef, already cooked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • aluminum foil


  1. place beef into shallow baking dish with 1/2 cup of water.  cover with aluminum foil and cook according to package instructions
  2. (right before the beef was done I took it out and slathered some of the sweet and spicy mustard onto the top of the meat)

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

I have never made irish soda bread, I have heard of people making it but never really looked into it myself.  Let me tell you, it is the easiest recipe with so few ingredients and a perfect addition to a meal like this.  Add spices or anything you want to personalize this bread to your meal, but all I wanted to add were raisins and it was phenomenal.  Find this recipe and other irish soda bread recipes Here

Pickled cabbage

The thought of pickled cabbage just sounded so Irish to me when I found it while planning this meal that I new I had to try it, if only for the sake of it being St. Patricks day.  Low and behold it actually turned out delicious and not pickled in the sense of eating a pickle but more that it just had the perfect tangy bite to it.  They didn’t have white wine vinegar at TJ’s so we got rice vinegar and it turned out great (although having never made it with white wine vinegar I don’t know how different it would taste).  This recipe paired the pickled cabbage with a corned beef sandwich which as you can imagine, brought be right back to that sandwich shop.  I would have stuck to the sandwich idea had this not been a dinner but a lunch.

Traditions make the year go by faster: Nana’s Beef Stew

Ever since I was little I remember one specific tradition that happened christmas eve of the year and that was Grandma’s Beef Stew for dinner.  So long as it was winter, stew always tasted good but something about it being the holiday always made it taste better,  I think because it takes 4 hours to cook there were few occasions that my parents would be around the house long enough with work and everything in order to make it, and of course, this was before my days of making up recipes and cooking so it was out of the question for my sister or I to make it.

I never knew my grandma, she passed away when I was a baby but if there is one thing I truly enjoy now that I have come to love cooking, is to look through her old recipes.  Granted the stew recipe is not an unfamiliar one, but it is fascinating looking through her recipe box and seeing old magazine clippings of recipes that she thought looked good or seeing recipes written in her handwriting.  I can only imagine what she was thinking as she wrote out each one but it’s fascinating to think that recipes that I am writing right now in my recipe books will be read decades from now by my own grandchildren.

I have talked about this before in previous posts but stew is one of those recipes that tastes so much more impressive than the amount of effort that actually goes into it.  There is nothing simpler than throwing all ingredients together, placing a lid on top of the pot and letting it sit in the oven for 4 hours.  It is amazing how it has such a distinct taste and smell no matter what oven or place or time you make it, it will always be my grandmothers beef stew.

Now, for this recipe I made slight changes.  I love beef stew hands down, but I also love beef bourguignon.  The one ingredient that the bourguignon has that stew generally does not are those delicious, one of a kind, pearl onions.  So, like my addition, if there are any vegetables that can hold up to 4 hours of cooking that you would like to add to this recipe, feel free .  Some of us just cannot live without those pearl onions!

Nana’s Beef Stew


  • 2 lbs beef stew meat
  • 2.5 lb can of tomatoes
  • 2 cups carrots (chopped into small chunks)
  • 1 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tbl salt
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 2-3 potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup pearl onions peeled


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. combine all ingredients but the pearl onions and potatoes
  3. cover and place in oven for 4 hours.  Add the potatoes in the last hour.
  4. before the beef is done, cook the pearl onions by sauteing them in a pan with 1 tbl olive oil until they begin to brown.  add to stew with 20 minutes remaining.
  5. Enjoy!

* I served this by itself with fingerling potatoes on the side but it is good over rice too so that the rice soaks up some of that delicious juice!

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup With Sausage Pesto Phyllo Cups

Everyone has their favorite soup, the one they turn to when they are sick or feeling bad, it’s cold outside, or that certain craving kicks in…well, mine is not tomato.  In fact, I didn’t even really like tomato soup for most of my life which is strange because I am a huge fan of tomatoes, like could eat a tomato like an apple fan.  But for some reason, I never developed that taste for warm, tomato flavor usually seasoned with basil until I tried it one day with grilled cheese and the flavors melded together so well those feel good taste buds on my tongue couldn’t help but respond.

I’ve learned to appreciate different kinds of soup depending on different conditions.  When I want a really hearty soup that will for sure fill me up I usually turn to clam chowder, when I want a lighter soup I turn to split pea, and now, with grilled cheese I turn to tomato.  The particular day that I chose to tackle tomato soup for the first time I knew I would not be satisfied with canned soup, nope, it had to be homemade with roasted tomatoes and appropriate amounts of basil to create the perfect combination.  Instead of making grilled cheese to compliment this soup however, I scavenged the fridge and found phyllo dough, sausage, and pesto and decided to tackle phyllo cups.  Let me tell you, phyllo dough is NOT my favorite thing to work with by far.  It keeps best when frozen but then you have to wait for it to thaw otherwise it just flakes apart.  However, I was determined to create this phyllo cup addition to the meal so I kept going with it.

Once you get past the annoying breakage of the phyllo dough it is actually quite simple and any combination of filling works well.  This particular filling ended up being pretty salty but was balanced well with the soup (and my salt loving sister devoured them).

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup


  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  2. In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
  4. Place contents in a food processor or blender and pulse until desired consistency.  Taste for seasonings.
  5. top with cheese if desired

Phyllo Cups with Sausage, Pesto, and Feta


  • Phyllo dough cut into 27 squares
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 3 tbl feta cheese crumbled
  • 2 sausage (whatever sausage you have or want to add, spicy or not)
  • olive oil
  • sundried tomato cream cheese to top (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Coat the 9 muffin tin with cooking spray
  3. layer 3 phyllo squares at a time, brushing olive oil in between so they stick.  Place each set of 3 in each muffin hole
  4. in a separate bowl combine pesto, sausage (cut into bite size pieces), and feta
  5. add pesto mixture to fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full
  6. cook phyllo cups about 12 minutes or until edges of dough start to brown
  7. top with cream cheese if desire, ENJOY!

pasghetti and meatballs (also known as spaghetti and meatballs)

From my experience, personally, spaghetti and meatballs is a meal that flies under the radar.  While I sit in class every day thinking about what I want to make for dinner and how I can outdo my last meal spaghetti and meatballs do not generally come to mind.  However it is fantastic comfort food, a meal that will never disappoint.

Growing up spaghetti was a staple in my family, I remember coming home after soccer practices just in time for that weekly TV show and my parents dishing me up some leftover spaghetti and meatsauce from that nights dinner and shoveling it down, enjoying every bite.  Meatsauce was the variation my parents like the best, that was easy yet filling and always a hit.  But now, I prefer to make meatballs.  meatballs allow for hidden surprises, the ability to include ingredients no one would expect until they take that bite and enjoy it too much to opt out.

One great thing about spaghetti and meatballs is that everyone can alter it to make it just perfect for their taste.  Some people like very little pasta but heaps of meat and sauce, others like a lot of pasta and very little sauce.  If I had my way I would drench the pasta in as much sauce as I could get my hands on and then sop up all the extra sauce with good french bread.  But…that is in an ideal world, I dont always have enough sauce or the right bread.

This particular recipe for spaghetti and meatballs is one that I found in a healthy eating cookbook that I have and was pleasently surprised at each surprise I found as I ate the delicious meal.

Spaghetti with Turkey meatballs

ingredients for meatballs: 1 lb ground turkey (can be ground beef), 1/2 c grated carrot, 1/2 c chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic (smashed and chopped fine), 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (or dried if you dont have fresh), 1 egg, 1/2 c dried bread crumbs, 1/4c parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste

other ingredients: spaghetti (half a package), sauce to taste.


1. preheat oven to 400 degrees.  combine all ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl until well mixed.

2. form 1″ balls with the mixture and place on a baking try sprayed with nonstick spray.  ( if you want the meatballs larger go for it! that’s another personal preference type of deal).  place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

3. boil water in  large pot for the pasta and add the pasta when the water is boiling.  Cook the pasta until desired done-ness.  (yet another personal preference deal– i personally like my pasta a little al dente)

4. while pasta is cooking place the sauce in a pot on the stove on low heat to warm up.  Add the meatballs to the sauce after 20 minutes in the oven to finish cooking.  Turn up heat on the sauce once the meatballs are added and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

5. serve up and enjoy!

* I served the pasta and meatballs with a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing along with scalloped potatoes (but that is another post all together)

** I have also made these meatballs in advance and frozen them and they thaw out great when added to sauce.  I actually made them before a camping trip and they turned out quite well (even on a camping stove)