a little comfort, part II

go make your own! this is mine!!!

Things have been looking up lately, health-wise.  It’s amazing what a little antibiotic action will do for a sinus infection.  And a little nasal rinsing, but that is perhaps too much information.

We had a terrific evening with Mr. Fresh Scratch’s wonderful parents this past weekend.  They came back from Hawaii bearing trinkets, the “People” magazine Oscar issue, and lots of fun videos of whale watching.  Plus, Grandma put the kids to bed, so what more can you ask for, right?? Since they had left sunny Maui and returned to dreary Olympia, I figured they could use some comfort, too, so I made them the cornbread, taco soup, and some lemon cupcakes with lemon icing:

so sweet

More on those another time.  Just trying to tantalize you and keep you coming back!

Another way in which things always start looking up for me is getting together with my book club, which I did last week.  My friend Amanda hosted for the book This is Where I Leave You, and she cooked us up a fab meal of red wine {is that a food group?  No?  It should be!}, lentils with breaded goat cheese, fennel salad, and fresh pasta in a light olive oil sauce {at least I think it was that kind of sauce. I was kind of…sauced….at that point.}.  It was filling in all the ways good food and good friends and good wine can be.  And good dessert: lemon gelato {I’d die for you, lemon gelato!} and her rosemary shortbread cookies.  Oh, man, and we had some red wine.  I keep forgetting to mention that!

Amanda was the first friend I made in Olympia, and she really is one of the reasons why I came to love all things food and cooking-related.  She was always so electrically excited about it and knew about so many foodie things I’d never dreamed of.  Before we had kids, when I stopped by her house she was often baking granola, baking cookies, or using her immersion blender on some fresh tomato sauce. She’s sort of like Obi-Wan to my Luke Skywalker self when it comes to lots of things, but definitely when it comes to food.  And wine. It also doesn’t hurt that her hubby is an owner of four local restaurants which are all delish and successful.  He made our rehearsal dinner!  Anyway, I love those guys.  And I love that, even though they know tons about food, they are always so down-to-earth about it.  There is nothing like Amanda saying, “Oh, my god!  I have the best recipe!” and then rattling off something as cinchy as this taco soup recipe.  I love that she is a real, working mom who needs to get dinner on the table fast {unless it’s for book club} and has lots of these recipes up her sleeves.

This takes about 20-25 minutes from start to finish.  And everyone will adore it and think it took longer and was more difficult.  All you need is a big soup pot, a big cooking spoon, and:

1 pkg. ground turkey

1 can black beans

1 can pinto beans

1 can corn (I use frozen and then add 1/3 c. water)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 pkg. taco seasoning

1 pkg. ranch dressing mix

Tip: dump all the canned stuff into bowls if you’re having people over who may linger in the kitchen while you’re cooking if you want to fool them impress them.  I felt like sort of a fraud while my mother-in-law was helping me open cans and watching me just dump a bunch of stuff together!

1.  Brown the turkey in the pot.

2.  Dump in everything else.

3. Stir.

4.  Simmer 15 minutes.

5. Dish up into bowls and top with any number of things.  We like shredded cheddar {ooh, and my pal Stacee at the dwellings blog I recommend says no to pre-shredded because they use some type of filler to keep the cheese from clumping.  Gross!}, sour cream, and corn tortilla chips.  Diced avocado is also fantastic!

This usually serves about 4 with room for seconds.  We have doubled and tripled this recipe when having groups over, and there’s never any left.  And if you have kids like I do who are a bit on the picky side, this is a winner at my house.  And that’s saying something!

Throw some corn bread onto the plate and, voila!, perfect winter comfort in a bowl.  This is perfect for the chilly weather we still have to endure before spring arrives in about two weeks {things magically just get warm then, duh!}.  I find it a great way to entice people to come over and help you on some yard work or to tear out your old deck….that’s right friends, wait for that call.  It’s coming.


A Little Comfort….

It may feel and look like winter where you are, and it may not.  We have family in Florida who just went to the beach!  But…where we live, we still have snow melting from last week’s storm that blessed us with two snow days, making for a four-day weekend {right after a previous 4-day weekend: holla!}.  My daughters somehow got our front yard to be the happenin’ spot in the neighborhood during all the snowy shenanigans, partly because my husband is goofy and was right out there with them!  So we still have the remnants of a snow-volcano (“Don’t worry!  It’s extinct,” said my kindergartener…so smart!) and a snow fort.  The man down the street was happily out there making a snow man in a rain storm with the melting snow today.  It was sort of weird but also really cute and funny and oh-so-Olympia.  We make do with all this rain in the Pacific Northwest!

my neighbor’s snowman

Anyway, I can feel spring in the air with all our crazy rain-sun-rain combinations fifty times a day lately; I can hear it in the song of the little birdie outside my bathroom window while I’m getting ready for work; I can see it in the little leaves trying to bust out of the plants in the woods I walk through on my way to my teaching job and home again each day.  I am excited {okay, it means my birthday is coming, so that contributes to some of the excitement!}!  And yet, I still feel the weight of winter.  I feel it when I see all the snow still out there, I feel it in my cold that is now a screaming sinus infection….and I know it’s still winter because I keep wanting soup and cornbread!!!

Are those your comfort foods, too?

Good.  We are so alike!

So as not to overwhelm you {oh, come on!  it’s because I’m too busy and don’t have all the pics I need yet!}, I am giving you the perfect late-winter comfort food recipes in two parts. Right now you’ll get the cornbread recipe, and in a few days I’ll shoot you the soup recipe.  These are both going to be really fast recipes that require little prep or weird ingredients, so this meal is ideal for a busy weeknight or when you suddenly have dinner guests or when your in-laws are coming home from their winter’s stay in MAUI and you have a sinus infection but still want to have them over for dinner. Oh, wait! That may be just my situation.  Huh.

So, the cornbread….

This recipe is from our wacky neighbor Sharon growing up in Connecticut.  When my mom shared the recipe with me, she said to be sure I wrote that it was her recipe, not Sharon’s.  They had a notable falling out, and it just makes me laugh that my mom wanted me to forget this came from Sharon.  Like, “Sharon contributed nothing good to our lives!” Oh, but she did!  I love this stuff.  It’s the best!  Plus Sharon would take us to the beach and let us listen to “The Bangles” in her car and get sand everywhere and not wear seat belts, which I would never condone myself as a parent.

And note: if you are gluten-free, just totally swap the flour for Gluten Free Mama’s Almond Blend, equal measurement!  It’s just as good!


Makes an 8×8 pan or one cast-iron skillet (that’s how I like it).

Mix dry ingredients:

1 1/4 c. cornmeal

3/4 c. flour

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 T baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

Make a cute little well in it, sort of like the extinct volcano top I mentioned above.  Add the wet ingredients right into the well:

1 c. milk

1 egg (beat it with a fork right after putting it in)

2 T oil (I use olive, but you can use whatever floats your boat)

Whisk all this up.  Pour it into the pan {no need to grease it}.  Bake it at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Do the toothpick test.  Enjoy!  I love it with butter and honey.  Mmmm.

Let me get past a little bit of this sinus infection,

a little bit of this melting snow,

and my dinner with my in-laws where I’ll take photos of the soup….

and then I’ll catch  you here….. same bat-time, same bat-channel (I love old “Batman”!)!