Cast Iron Skillet Savory Southern Cornbread

Cast Iron Skillet Savory Southern Cornbread

Two words: bacon grease. Any southerner knows that these two words are the heart of any good recipe, right? Anyone ever had Southern Wilted Lettuce salad? Ok… you can stop drooling now. If you’ve never had Southern cornbread, you’ve been missing out! I’m here to show you the ways of bacon grease for this savory (and easy!) cornbread recipe. Aunt Jemima does all of the work here, but bacon grease lends a hand to provide flavor in a crumbly cornbread fit for black eyed peas or soup beans. So, after cooking bacon, save the grease in a glass jar and refrigerate until you’re ready for some savory cornbread. This cornbread recipe is also great to customize with soups like white chicken chili by adding chopped jalapeno to the recipe for some extra heat and flavor.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Add bacon grease to a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven to soften. Remove skillet often as bacon grease melts to evenly coat the skillet.
  2. Combine dry ingredients with egg and milk in a mixing bowl until well combined.
  3. Remove the cast iron skillet from the preheating oven and tilt the skillet until the grease evenly coats the skillet. Pour the liquified bacon grease into the mixing bowl with the rest of the combined ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. When the oven is finished preheating, pour the cornbread batter into the greased and preheated cast iron skillet.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until edges turn golden brown.
  6. Allow cornbread to fully cool before removing from skillet.
Easy Manicotti with Italian Sausage

Easy Manicotti with Italian Sausage

Pasta. Sauce. Sausage. Baked. Four of my favorite words. This is my take on a recipe from The Recipe Critic. Manicotti is typically meatless, but I had a pound of Italian sausage and thought why not?! Enjoy some baked comfort food!

Ingredients

  • 10 manicotti
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage (optional)
  • 16 ounce ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 jar (16 oz) marinara sauce
  • fresh basil, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, brown the Italian sausage until thoroughly cooked. Drain grease and add marinara sauce. Mix well and set aside.
  1. Cook the manicotti according to package directions and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta, one cup of mozzarella cheese, parmesan, spinach (optional), Italian seasoning, and egg.
  1. In a 9×13″ pan,  add 1 cup of marinara sauce and sausage mixture to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Stuff the shells with the cheese mixture. Piping bags work great to fill the shells if you have them on hand, but if you don’t, I find that placing the filling in a large Ziploc bag and snipping a small corner of the bag works great to fill the shells. Line the bottom of the pan with the manicotti in an even layer over the sauce mixture. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.
  1. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.
Set and Forget Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Chicken and Vegetables

Set and Forget Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Chicken and Vegetables

It’s fall and the cool weather and busy schedules have me pulling out all of the favorite slow cooker recipes. This one checks all the boxes: full of flavor, total meal in one pot, set and forget. This recipe is adapted from a Crock Pot Creamy Ranch Chicken and Potatoes recipe from Wishes and Dishes.

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs (I use frozen when I’m in a pinch sometimes and this recipe still turns out great!)
  • 1 small bag petite red potatoes, whole
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and cut
  • 3 ribs of celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet dry ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • fresh thyme, for garnish

Directions

  1. Spray a 6-7 quart crock pot/slow cooker with non-stick spray OR use a plastic liner.
  2. Place cut vegetables and potatoes in the bottom of crockpot. Layer chicken on top of the vegetables.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream of chicken and mushroom soups, dry ranch dressing mix, heavy whipping cream, and milk. Pour this mixture evenly over the chicken. Place butter on top.
  1. Cover crock pot and cook on HIGH heat for about 4-5 hours OR on LOW heat for 7-8. All crock pots cook at different rates so be sure the chicken is cooked through.
  2. Top with fresh thyme if desired.
Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

I had a bunch of eggplant left after making ratatouille for the first time and thought what better dinner to make than eggplant parmesan? So here is a great eggplant parmesan recipe from Love & Lemons. The baked eggplant is so good right of the oven some of it didn’t even make it into the baking dish. I just might have to make some for a snack sometime without sauce and cheese!

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplant, cut into ¼-inch thick rounds
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp sea salt, more for sprinkling
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 28 ounces Marinara Sauce (I prefer tomato basil, but any variety will do)
  • 2 large balls fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized shallow dish, whisk the eggs and milk.
  1. In another medium-sized shallow dish, combine the panko, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and several grinds of pepper.
  2. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture and then into the panko mixture. Place onto the baking sheets, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 18 minutes or until tender and golden brown.
  1. In an 8×12 or 9×13-inch baking dish, spread ½ cup marinara, layer half the eggplant, and top with 1 cup of marinara and half the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, the remaining marinara, and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a few more pinches of sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted. Turn the oven to broil and broil for 2 to 4 or until the cheese is browned and bubbling.
  1. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil.
Classic Ratatouille

Classic Ratatouille

Well, you’ve seen the movie, so now it’s time to make the dish. I wasn’t too sure about this one, but decided it was time to finally attempt this one. I’m SO glad I did! I found this recipe from Tasty. I went with this recipe because of the rave reviews and it did not disappoint! Find yourself a little rat chef to place under your hat, chop up these awesome vegetables, and get cooking!

Ingredients

Vegetables

  • 2 eggplants
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchini

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves

Herb Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  2. Slice the eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini into approximately ¹⁄₁₆-inch (1-mm) rounds, then set aside.
  1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove from heat, then add the basil. Stir once more, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.
  1. Arrange the sliced veggies in alternating patterns, (for example, eggplant, tomato, squash, zucchini) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Make the herb seasoning: In a small bowl, mix together the basil, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Spoon the herb seasoning over the vegetables.
  2. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  3. Serve while hot as a main dish or side. The ratatouille is also excellent the next day–cover with foil and reheat in a 350˚F oven for 15 minutes, or simply microwave to desired temperature.
Nugget Dupe Just in Time for Christmas!

Nugget Dupe Just in Time for Christmas!

If you’re a mom of a child of any age, you’ve likely heard this, “Mom! Mom! Can I PLEASE have a Nugget?! They’re SO fun!”. I’m all for toys that use their imagination, let them climb and play, can be used for multiple things, and don’t take batteries, but $300 for cushions is hard to justify or wrap my mind around.

I searched and searched for several years for great dupes, but all of them were nearly the cost of a Nugget with horrible reviews or the colors were just so awful they would look terrible in any space, so I gave up. I was adding something to my Kohl’s cart one day when an ad popped up for the Yourigami Folding Convertible Kids and Toddler Play Couch. I was shocked that the colors would go great in any space and the cushions looked very similar to the style and size of the Nugget. But, what were the reviews like? The reviews were great and the cushions have removable covers. SCORE! The price? $259 (the price of an original Nugget), but there was a 40% off sale using a Kohl’s card and an extra $10 off a Home purchase. This brought the total down to $149.40 before tax with free shipping. Done deal!

The package arrived right to our door in a compact package and when left out the cushions bounce back and reshape over a few days. This price I can live with! The kids will love this for Christmas and we’ll get a lot of use with much less guilt than the hefty price of a Nugget.

While the 40% off sale is over, they’re bound to have one again and there is currently a Black Friday sale making the sale price of this convertible couch $169.99 and a code may be used for an additional 15% off (SAVE15), $5 off in store pickup option, as well as receiving $30 Kohl’s cash making the total $110.24.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Another top recipe straight from the mind of my brilliant should-have-been-a-chef friend. Seriously, girl, quit your day job and don your apron! Again, this girl COOKS, so this recipe isn’t the quick, throw it in and forget it weeknight meals I typically use, but if you’re hungry for the most amazing chicken soup with rice of your life, this one’s worth the work you put in!

Ingredients

  • Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice (with packet)
  • shredded rotisserie chicken or diced chicken breast
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves minced garlic, more or less to taste
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, divided
  • 1 32 oz carton of chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp chicken bullion powder or 2 bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, as needed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (or lemon pepper)

Directions

  1. Saute onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in 2-3 Tbsp of butter in large pot or dutch oven on medium-high until soft and fragrant.
  1. Add chicken stock and 2 cups of water to skillet. Add seasonings and bay leaves and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium or medium low to simmer.
  2. While simmering, cook Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice according to package directions and set aside.
  3. Once rice is nearly finished, make a rue in a small pot with the remaining butter, flour, milk, and cream. Melt the butter slowly on medium, then slowly add the dairy products. Slowly mix flour into the melted butter, cream, and milk, and allow to thicken.
  4. Add thickened rue to simmering soup pot and stir well until combined. If your rue creates lumps in the simmering soup, stir well until lumps dissolve.
  1. Add cooked rice and chicken to the simmering pot until everything is well combined.
  2. Remove bay leaves and add lemon zest or lemon pepper.
  3. Simmer until ready to serve and ejoy!
Copycat Crumbl Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Copycat Crumbl Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

While we’re pumpkining all the things (yes, I just created a new word and made pumpkin a verb simultaneously… just roll with it), let’s throw in some amazing Crumbl cookies without the million dollar markup and insane lines. I adapted this recipe from Cooking with Karli. I modified the recipe a bit to make the dough a little thicker so they wouldn’t spread so much and added suggestions if you don’t want gigantic Crumbl-sized cookies. But, who DOESN’T want a giant Crumbl-sized cookie, really?

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. Whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla, pumpkin, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.
  1. Use a wooden spoon to add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  2. Mix all ingredients until well combined. The batter will have a thin consistency, don’t be alarmed!
  1. Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed through the batter.
  2. Refrigerate the batter for approximately 10-15 minutes. This will thicken the batter and create cookies that spread a little less and will puff up nicely.
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon slightly less than 1/2 cup of cookie dough onto the sheet. Place only 6 spoonfuls of dough per sheet, as these cookies tend to spread. **Note**: If you prefer smaller cookies, use less dough per spoonful and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  2. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-17 minutes. Cookies should bounce back when tapped in the center.
  1. Allow the cookies to cool completely before transferring to a place or container.
  2. Serve warm or store in air tight container, although, I’m sure there won’t be any left to store for later! Enjoy!
Caraway who? You’ll LOVE this Caraway dupe that’s a fraction of the price!

Caraway who? You’ll LOVE this Caraway dupe that’s a fraction of the price!

Gorgeous Caraway ceramic cookware set, isn’t it? Or IS it???? Nope! Member’s Mark, people. No, I’m not kidding. You can pick this set up from *drumroll*… SAM’S CLUB! Yes, really.

Let’s compare, shall we? I have a fantastic cookware set my mom bought me for a wedding shower gift that I love. The only problem is it won’t die. No, seriously. This set is fantastic, but I see Caraway everywhere I look. It is absolutely gorgeous and I get skillet envy every time I see the modern ceramic sets. Well, of course I do what any good Instagram user does and click the ads. Boy, was that a mistake!

Caraway Cookware Set

$395 ON SALE for 2 pots and 2 skillets. In a color I don’t want. The color I do want? $595 on sale also for 2 pots and 2 skillets. Ok, the dream bubble has burst. Back to my tried and true Circulon that just won’t quit. Or maybe not…

Member’s Mark Ceramic Cookware Set

As I’m scrolling I see a set on Google, but wait… it’s $159 and there are WAY more pieces in this set. What is it? Member’s Mark. Member’s Mark? Like Sam’s Club? Yes. Sam’s Club. You guys, I had to do a double take to make sure this wasn’t the same set! This set comes with 2 skillets, 1 deep skillet with a lid, 3 pots with lids, and one calendar. That’s 11 pieces. ELEVEN. For $160. Here, I’ll do the math for you: that is 17% of the cost of Caraway. For that price I can use this set every day and not worry about what happens to it!

The Member’s Mark set is GORGEOUS and in a side by side comparison I can’t tell the difference! I can’t wait to test it out. It was beautiful right out of the box.

I’ll keep you posted on how well it wears, but out of the box I am completely sold on this beautiful set. If you’re not a huge fan of black they have other modern colors to choose from: pink, lavender, green, red, coral, gray, and navy. Run to your nearest Sam’s Club or choose to have it shipped, but hurry… I don’t think these sets will last long!

Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

Anything with a crust just seems daunting to me, so I avoid it at all cost for some reason. This recipe uses puff pastry, so it’s a win-win in my book. My very talented friend came up with this recipe and IT ROCKS! This entire skillet full of chicken pot pie was gone in one evening. I suggest using a 12″ or larger cast iron skillet so the ingredients don’t bubble over while baking in the oven. Don’t have a large cast iron skillet? No problem! Use a regular large skillet and transfer into a baking pan to bake.

I’m not going to lie… this recipe is pretty involved, so it’s not my typical easy weeknight meal. However, it’s worth the effort-trust me! Enjoy the comfort food goodness, all!

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (I used diced, baked chicken breast this time since I had some on hand-either work great!)
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley (dried is also great if you don’t have fresh on hand!)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 2 puff pastry sheets, thawed and cut into rectangles
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large (12″ or larger) cast iron skillet (if you don’t have a large cast iron skillet, you can use a normal skillet and transfer contents to a pie or baking pan for baking later). Add shallots, garlic, carrots, and celery and saute about 5 minutes or until they begin to soften and brown slightly. Season with a pinch of coarse salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the vegetables and place on a plate and cover to keep warm for later.
  1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Once it’s foaming, add the flour and whisk until it’s smooth and becomes a golden brown color, about 30 seconds to one minute. Add fresh thyme and let bubble another 30 seconds or until fragrant. Season with a pinch of salt and gently pour in the chicken stock, whisking as it becomes a smooth sauce.
  1. Once all stock has been added to the skillet, pour in the heavy cream and whisk another 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer and gently bubble for ten minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Allow to simmer about 10 minutes to thicken.
  2. While simmering, cut puff pastry into rectangle strips to use later.
  1. After about ten minutes of simmering, place the vegetables back into the pan along with shredded chicken, frozen peas and corn, carrots, and fresh parsley. Stir until everything is well covered in sauce.
  1. Arrange the puff pastry shapes on top of the pot pie, overlapping in places. Be sure to have some gaps to avoid contents overflowing out the sides. Brush the tops of the puff pastry with a very thin layer of the beaten egg. Bake 30-40 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown and lightly puffed.
  1. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving. Add a sprig of fresh thyme for garnish. Enjoy!