What We Ate: Venison Chili & The Best Cornbread Ever

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m sharing a new recipe and an old standby. :) I tried out the venison chili recipe just this week, but the cornbread recipe has been a favorite with Will and I since our marriage. Let’s start with the chili. I am always looking for new ways to cook venison since Will likes to hunt, but recipes for game are definitely not as plentiful as they are for the usual grocery store staples like beef and chicken. I scrounged up a recipe for venison chili, made a few alterations, and ended up with a meaty chili that was perfect for a chilly, damp spring day.

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Hearty Venison Chili
Recipe adapted from Food.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 red/yellow mini bell peppers, diced (1 normal-sized bell pepper of any color would work, but the red and yellow added some nice color to the chili)
  • 1 14-oz can Ro-tel diced tomatoes (any variety)
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 14-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14-oz can chili beans (black, red, or pinto beans would also work)
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and peppers and saute until the edges begin to brown. Add venison and cook until meat is browned, stirring often.
  2. Add tomatoes, seasonings, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add beans and simmer for 1-2 hours. I left the lid off for the first hour to reduce the liquid a bit, and then put the lid on for the rest of the cook time.

This recipe can obviously be changed up quite a bit and is more of a guideline than actual rules. You could make this with ground beef instead of venison, you could add chopped jalapenos or crushed red pepper, top with green onions and cheese… the sky (or the size of your dutch oven) is the limit. In retrospect, I think this chili could definitely use another can of diced tomatoes and I would use black beans in place of the chili beans.

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Of course, you can’t eat chili without cornbread (well, you could, but why?!). This is a sweeter cornbread (which is more popular in the north) and not the more savory kind I grew up with in the south, but it’s just sweet and moist enough to make Will happy without being too soft or cakey – it still has that hearty, cornmeal crumb. This cornbread is the best of both worlds. Really… you have to try it. I ate a square of it for breakfast this morning with my coffee. It’s that delicious.

Best Ever Buttermilk Cornbread
Original Recipe Here

Yield: One 8″ pan (about 9 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar. Quickly add the eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda in a liquid measuring cup and whisk into the mixture in the pan. Whisk in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mmm, delicious. Have a slice. Or three. I won’t judge. ;)

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So what’s your take on cornbread – southern or northern style (or all of the above)? Also, if you have any good venison recipes, send them my way! :)

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Monday Inspiration: Summer Hairstyles

Ah, spring… when a young woman’s fancy turns to chopping off her hair. Just thinking about it makes me nervous (but excited)! ;) I’ve almost always had long hair, and although I play with the idea of getting it cut shorter every summer, I inevitably chicken out. A few times I’ve been super adventures and gone as high as my collarbones (so reckless! so edgy!), but that’s about it. ;) I enjoy wearing my hair long, and it will probably always be my go-to style. Still, every spring I get that itch that maybe I should try something shorter.

Haircut Collage

This spring, as usual, I’ve been researching shorter cuts, so I thought I’d share some of the styles I’ve been perusing for inspiration. Apparently the long bob (aka “lob”) and blunt-cut hair are actually pretty popular styles this year, so I was able to find plenty of pictures of the length and shaping I’ve had in mind.

Longer bob

Here are a few shoulder-skimming cuts with long layers. I still don’t really understand how to use a blow dryer or curling iron properly (I KNOW), so I like cuts that require minimal styling. If I can scrunch it and go, or (when it’s longer) put it up in a braid or bun, that’s what I’ll do. I like that these cuts look like they require pretty minimal effort if your hair has a natural wave.

Hair cut shaping

I love how the blunt bob and long layers give hair some texture and body. Again, maintenance looks pretty minimal.

Shorter bobs

Slightly shorter bobs I’ve been eyeing… in case I feel extra adventurous. As you can maybe tell from EVERY set of pictures thus far, I have a little bit of Scarlett Johansson hair envy, haha. Every time I looked up a different variation of “long blunt bob”… there she was again. Eventually I gave up and embraced the fact that she just really pulls off this hair style. Now if only my hair was that red, right?

Longer cutsAnd here we have my safety net, in case I don’t have the courage to make the chop. ;) Or if I do, maybe some styles to transition to in the fall and winter as my hair grows out. I love the long layers and loose waves. Gorgeous.

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What about you all – do you get the itch for a shorter style as summer approaches? Do you have a favorite go-to cut, or are you thinking of trying something new? I’d love to see what styles you all love – feel free to comment with a link to your own blog with some ideas you’d like to try this summer. :)

What We Ate: Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Oatmeal is a great breakfast food, but the other day I was wondering how I could get the nutritious power of oats into a more portable form. Will is often looking for a quick breakfast he can grab on the way to work, and I am always on the hunt for snacks. ;) As I looked for recipes, I also realized we had two very ripe bananas languishing on our counter. Naturally, I bring you the Banana Oatmeal Muffin.

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This muffin is kind of like banana bread in muffin form – very moist and it gets better with age. It tastes healthy in a good way (not “Mm, this tastes like sawdust and flaxseeds,” but more like “Mm, this tastes delicious yet wholesome”), and is surprisingly filling… I can actually eat one for breakfast and not be hungry for an hour or two (for me, that’s a long time). If you’re in the mood for a batch of on-the-go breakfast or wholesome but delicious snacks (or have a few overripe bananas), these might be just the ticket.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Yield: One dozen muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (coconut would work fine too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed overripe banana (about 2 bananas)

Method:

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add sugars and whisk until combined (you will have what looks kind of like a crumbly muesli topping).
  3. In a large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment), beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana and combine thoroughly (If you’re still using the whisk attachment, you can get the mixture nice and smooth and beat out some of the banana lumps). Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined (if you’re using a mixer, switch out the whisk for the paddle attachment, or go old school and just use a spoon).
  4. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups, and divide the batter evenly among them. They might seem dangerously full, but it’s not a mistake.
  5. Bake the muffins in the oven for 18-20 minutes (or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean). Remove from oven and let rest in the tin for a minute or two before popping them out and placing them on a rack to finish cooling.

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There you have it. :) You can store the muffins in a large ziplock bag or container in the fridge for several days. As I mentioned before, the muffins actually get better with age – just like banana bread they become richer and more moist.

All bananas were personally sampled by Beatrice.
All bananas were personally sampled by Beatrice.

I’m sure this recipe could be adapted in any number of different ways – if you click to the original recipe you can find lots of variations and substitutions people have used in the comments section (applesauce instead of oil, less sugar, more spices, soaking the oats, adding nuts, etc.). I used old-fashioned oats because I like the firmer texture, but I’m sure quick oats would work just as well and probably cook down a bit more.

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Let me know if any of you discover a good variation so I can try it out next time. :) Do you have any favorite recipes for make-ahead, portable breakfast foods or snacks?

Sickness Survival Strategies and The Great British Bake Off

Hello Friends!

Well, I meant to put a post out on Wednesday but I was down with fever, chills, and a cracking headache so I’m afraid that didn’t happen. I haven’t been sick for months (unusual for me since I tend to catch every illness I come in contact with, a week after everyone else), so I suppose I was due for it. Normally, I almost enjoy being sick (unless nausea is involved… THE WORST) because as miserable and foggy as it feels, sometimes it’s nice to be able to make a nest of blankets, stock up on water and crackers, and just sleep and recharge in a happy feverish haze without feeling guilty about housework, just for a day or two. In fact, I usually bounce back from illness with more energy than I had before and ready to tackle the postponed chores, so I suppose being sick is often my body’s way of making me take a break.

Things were a bit different this time around. Motherhood doesn’t provide sick days, and it was pretty taxing being awake and engaged for Beatrice all day while my body was doing everything in it’s power to lie down and power off. There was definitely some exhausted crying involved when Will came home Wednesday night, but I actually felt kind of triumphant the next day (after an evening of Baby Back-Up from Will and a good night’s sleep), that even when I was feeling horrible I was able to push through and keep Beatrice fed, clean, and (mostly) entertained.

Since spring colds and seasonal allergies seem to be circulating these days, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite coping strategies that have helped me survive the spring flu season. Most of them are so common-sense they probably don’t even need to be stated but I will anyways so brace yourself for a voyage with Captain Obvious. ;)

1. Naps

This one is probably a no-brainer but if I am able to lay in bed and sleep for a day or two when I get sick, I recover so much faster. Besides, often with a pounding headache or fever it’s difficult to read or even passively watch a show, and closing my eyes is the only remedy. With Beatrice I wasn’t able to utilize this strategy much, so I’ll move on to  my next favorite.

2. Blanket Nest

Make yourself a nest of blankets on a couch or chair where you can curl up and relax, and make sure your essentials are within reach on a nearby table (water, snacks, tea, tissues, books, etc). This will become your home base from which you can make forays to the kitchen, baby’s room, etc., and allows you to rest while still keeping an eye on things.

3. Hot Showers

The steam helps you breathe better and I always feel a bit less groggy and more relaxed after a hot shower, especially if I have aches or the chills. Even though I’m going to feel gross no matter what when I have a cold, taking a shower in the morning makes me feel a little less gross. Changing out of pajamas into some loose, comfy day clothes helps too (or at least fresh pjs).

4. Copious Amounts of Crackers and Hot Tea

I’ve devoured several sleeves of Ritz crackers and at least a gallon of chamomile tea with honey so far. Don’t skimp on the honey – William taught me this. I used to put probably 1/2 a teaspoon in my tea and was appalled when I saw Will scoop a huge heaping tablespoon into the mug, but I’ve since come to my senses. When you’re sick, there’s no such thing as too much honey. Adding a squeeze of lemon to your chamomile tea with honey is just the ticket if you have a sore throat.

And now I come to my favorite.

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5. The Great British Bake Off

Beatrice and I have been watching probably way too much of this show in the past 48 hours, but it’s so much fun. For one thing, it’s about baking (enough said). But even better, they’re baking in a beautiful outdoor tent, and you get to listen to a lot of lovely accents. ;) There are three baking challenges per episode – a signature recipe, a technical challenge, and a “show-stopper,” and there’s a side piece about baking in history at some point in each episode. The show has a peaceful, cheery pace, it’s entertaining, and I’ve learned a lot of tidbits about baking techniques as well.

paul and mary

Most American cooking competition shows like Top Chef or Cutthroat Kitchen tend to wear on me a bit because as interesting as the cooking may be, the chefs are often a bit foul and half of the things they say are getting bleeped out… and there’s always so much drama! In Great British Bake Off the competitors are mostly very likable and range from grandmas to dads to students. I like that they cheer one another on and seem to be having so much fun (aside from the occasional time-crunch panic), and that the judges are fair without being mean-spirited or overly critical. They enjoy the food and really seem to want to see the competitors succeed.

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The main problem with the show is that it makes me want to get in the kitchen and try some of the methods and recipes (aside from sponge cakes soaked in syrup… no thanks), so it was very frustrating being sick yesterday. Also, it is now one of my life goals to get my hands on one of their baking stations – wouldn’t that be amazing to have in your kitchen, with the wood counter-top and the little proofing drawer and oven? So cool. And wouldn’t it be fun to get together and bake with all your friends outside on a nice day? ;)

rivals

I’ve only watched Season 5 and I’m only about halfway through, but I’m rooting for Martha, Richard, and Nancy. :) You can watch the show for free on YouTube (just search for “Great British Bake Off”), and there are a lot of extra videos about the techniques and recipes on the Great British Bake Off YouTube channel. I definitely feel inspired to do some baking once I’m feeling better. Just one caution: if you enjoy baking, this show is addictive, so make sure you have some time on your hands. ;)

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Do any of you all have a favorite cooking show, or a good series you recommend when stuck in bed with a fever? How do you like to kick a cold (or cope with one)?

Catching Up

IMG_20150404_134814 Hello again! I apologize for dropping off the face of the map for the past two weeks with no warning or explanation. I offer this quick catch-up post as a token of my remorse and future good intentions. :)

On second thought, this is me, and I’ve never been known for my summarizing skillz, so buckle up and get ready for some rambling and rabbit trailing. Or bail out now before it’s too late – save yourself!

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The lovely drive when dropping Will off to work in the morning.

Two weeks ago I visited my parents in North Carolina. It was my first time flying alone with Beatrice but we only had one short flight each way and no layovers, so it was very quick and B was a gem.

IMG_20150330_114554IMG_20150413_124853IMG_20150331_115438IMG_20150402_090003 Beatrice has just recently decided she is nervous about strangers so it took her a few hours to warm up to Pop and Gammy, but once she did it was so much fun to see my parents holding and playing with her, and my brother making her smile. So sweet. :) Pop Gammy and B Besides seeing my parents and brother (and getting my fill of Bojangles biscuits, NC barbecue, coffee, and Bananagrams), the other highlight of the visit was getting to meet Anne girl, my best friend Laura’s new baby! Even before they were born Laura and I hoped our babies would be friends someday, and when we both had girls, well… now they are destined to be friends. ;) They even share a name and have the same first two initials reversed (AB and BA) completely unplanned, I promise. As you can tell, I’ve thought about this maybe a little too much. ;) In any case, Anne is adorable and it was such a joy to meet the sweet daughter of my dearest friend, who is such a wonderful, loving mama. IMG_20150402_085713 Besides getting my fill of Bojangles biscuits, NC barbecue, coffee, chatting, and Bananagrams, another highlight was going to the movies to see Cinderella with my Mom and Beatrice. I’m glad there were only 5 other people in the theater at 1pm because Beatrice spent half the movie babbling, singing, or fussing by turn. I can’t say it was the most relaxing experience, and I was a little distracted with walking up and down the steps to amuse B, but I absolutely loved the movie. It was so sweet and genuine, and had this lovely innocence and kindness about it. I thought it was a cute first movie for Beatrice (even if she doesn’t remember it… so much for raising a low-media child, haha). My first movie theater experience was also a Disney film – my Dad took me to see Beauty and the Beast (we’ve been movie buddies ever since). :) If you have a little girl, or know a little girl, or were once a little girl, you should definitely go see it. It’s a beautiful, classic-fairy-tale film, and has a great message. I haven’t fallen so much in love with a movie for a very long time. I don’t have space to review it further but you can read a short review by a friend here. :) courage and kindness After 5 fun days in North Carolina I was ready to return home to Will, and he was definitely missing his girls (and not having to make dinner, teehee). ;) When Beatrice saw her Daddy the night our plane got back into Nashville, she startled and stared at him, and then her eyes just LIT up and her whole face split into the most adoring smile… and she laughed for the first time! Beatrice and her Daddy definitely have a special bond, and it just melts my heart to see how much they adore one another. :) IMG_20150405_091213 The rest of the week was spent catching up on laundry and housework and planting some lettuce and kale in my little patio garden. Will and I visited the Franklin Farmer’s Market again over the weekend and got some of the fresh micro greens (baby lettuce and arugula… YUM), and they were every bit as delicious as they looked. :) We got a bag of them for $2 and it lasted us all week. For that price and freshness, I’ll definitely purchase them there again. When I buy a tub of greens at the grocery store they always go bad before we can finish them and they’re definitely not as fresh, whereas at the Market we can buy exactly the amount we want, very fresh, and pay by the pound. :) IMG_20150413_123200 We celebrated Easter over the weekend with a festive breakfast before the Sunday service. Since a kind family from church had invited us over for lunch, I made a coffee cake for breakfast instead of a ham for dinner. :) IMG_20150413_123456 It was a joy to worship with our brothers and sisters on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. During the services our friend Josh kept coming to my mind and I almost cried with hope and joy to think of him singing praises in the presence of our Lord and Savior, celebrating Christ’s victory over death, and what a joyful feast he would be sitting down to that day with all the saints at the table of our King. It made me long for heaven with a sharp, intense, tugging sort of hope and joy in a way that I’ve never experienced. I’m so happy to live the life God has me in, and I feel like there is so much to see and do and love and rejoice in here on earth, but I also hope and trust that the adventure that waits when God calls each of us home is going to be even fuller, even richer, even more glorious. He is so good! IMG_20150405_235440IMG_20150405_233257 I know I’m biased, but Beatrice was pretty cute in her little Easter dress. She brings us so much joy. :) Following Easter weekend, Will and I celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary last Monday. I can’t believe it’s been two years! Sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday, but at the same time it feels like we’ve always been together, and I can hardly remember or imagine life without Will! Weird. :) erin and william-411 A very kind co-worker of Will’s offered to watch Beatrice for a few hours and we were able to go out to dinner (I requested burgers at Red Robin because I’m classy like that) followed by ice cream for Will and a coffee for me. It was SO refreshing to be out together and to talk and listen and really focus on one other without distractions. We had so much fun laughing and catching up. :)

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Anniversary flowers from Will. He’s the best. :)

We celebrated all week in little ways and had a lot of fun talking about our courtship, engagement, wedding, and the past two years, reminiscing and laughing over funny stories or moments. William really is my best friend and true love, and the past two years have been the best years of my life. In fact, every day is better than the last, as we grow to love and understand each other more deeply. I treasure the past two years and am so excited for the years ahead. :) erin and william-491 Other than that, not too much of interest to report. Beatrice and I had a minor cold, and two days of caring for a sad baby while combating vertigo and a sore throat myself were pretty consuming but thankfully went by quickly. Laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, cleaning, gardening, cooking, baking, taking care of Beatrice… the days are just packed! I should be back to my regularly scheduled posting though, now that things have settled back down to normal, so stay tuned. :)

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What have you all been up to? Did you have a good Easter holiday?