Fiesta Beef And Cornbread Casserole

My sweet neighbor Margaret passed away this month and I wanted to share her recipe.

Click here to read her obituary.

Margaret grew up in Oklahoma and often shared with me fascinating stories about her childhood. As kids during the depression they were lucky if they got one new pair of shoes each year. She moved with her family to California, then later to Sellwood, and her and her husband raised their kids here. In addition to her biological family, she was known for “adopting” people. She made sure everyone she knew was well taken care of.

We would joke about the very Southern tradition of never returning an empty tupperware (so very rude!) so if I had given her something, and she didn’t have anything to give me in return, she would put an orange, or a cookie or something small in the container before giving it back to me. Most of the time it was her giving me yummy treats, from her famous chocolate chip cookies, to casseroles, cakes, and fresh veggies out of her garden. I rarely went home empty handed.

Here she is posing with me at her 90th birthday party.

Almost right up until her death, she kept up her house, cooking and sharing food with her neighbors and friends. She loved working in her yard, and feeding the squirrels, and crows. One day she shared a funny story about seeing a crow in her birdbath washing off a hot dog. I’m not sure where the hot dog came from, or how the crow dragged in up into the birdbath, but you know how crafty crows can be.

She made pickles every year and gave them away as Christmas gifts. She shared tomatoes and roses from her garden. A few years ago she made this fiesta casserole. I told her how much I liked it and she wrote out the recipe by hand (see photo below). Oh to have this penmanship!

If you’d like to pay your respects, or share stories with her friends and family, a memorial will be held for her February 5th at the Living Room coffee shop 8524 SE 17th from 4-6 pm.

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I made her recipe, with a few changes. I used fresh peppers and tomatoes rather than jarred salsa, and organic beef from Trader Joe’s. I also doubled the peppers and added zucchini so this ended up making two batches of chili. I doubled the cornbread as well (I wanted to make sure there was plenty on cornbread on top). If you are not feeding an army you could easily cut this recipe in half.

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Check it out and let me know what you think.

Fiesta Casserole

Chili Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 2.25 oz can sliced black olives
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or 3-4 cups fresh)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed)
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Cornbread Ingredients:

  • Two boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • two eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or whole milk)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (plus more for garnish if you like)
  • 4 oz can of green chilies
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large, deep, ovenproof skillet, sauté onions, celery, peppers, zucchini, garlic, and beef til meat is no longer pink, and veggies are soft (6-8 min).
  3. Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, olives, tomatoes, corn, broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes.

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Prepare cornbread:

  1. Mix cornbread per package directions (mix + eggs + milk).
  2. Add chopped cilantro and green chilies to cornbread mixture. Stir until just combined (there may be lumps). Spoon cornbread mixture over chili.
  3. Bake 30-35 minutes until cornbread is golden and cooked through.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese, and put under the boiler. Broil on high until the cheese is bubbling (watch it closely so it does not burn).
  5. Let stand for five minutes before serving.

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Anne McCranie is a Portland (Sellwood), Oregon based personal trainer and licensed massage therapist. She offers this recipe to tickle your taste buds. Please see your medical professional for specific dietary advice.

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