Sweet honey cornbread paired with my simple crockpot chili is a quintessential combination that can be enjoyed year-round. Everyone seems to have their go-to chili recipe but when it comes to cornbread there are many that have disappointed.  Allow me to change that for you.  (dang iPhone photo is a bit blurry…but can you see how thick and awesome this cornbread is?)

sweet honey cornbread

There’s only 2 ways to enjoy cornbread with chili: on the the side, warm with melted butter overtop eaten like a piece of cake  or broken into chunks a few at a time placed in the bowl of chili.

how does one make such difficult life decisions? You do both.  

When I was a kid I would mix my cake with ice-cream sometimes into an unrecognizable concoction.  I would start with a few spoonfuls of equal parts ice cream and cake, but eventually smoosh and stir it all together. It’s how I roll I guess.  Cornbread and chili just carries on my childhood methods in a more sophisticated way.  I think.

honey cornbread

This cornbread recipe makes 9 large squares because anything smaller would be a disgrace.  It cuts beautifully and is perfectly fluffy yet dense.  This is NOT a dry cornbread that requires a drink to help get it all down.  You with me…

lighter cornbread

So enough about the cornbread.

Everyone seems to have their go-to chili recipe and there are some that require elaborate ingredients at an award-winning level.  Move right on along if you’re expecting fancy.  (I’m blogging this wearing mismatched pajamas and socks.  Fancy does not describe my style, anywhere!)

Anyways my chili is simple because simple wins.  It’s really about the toppings anyways.  Chili is just the base for things like shredded cheddar cheese, jalapeños, fritos, and obviously we’re back to that sweet honey cornbread again.

Here’s my Simple Crockpot Chili Recipe:
1lb. lean turkey (or beef, wadever)
1 chopped onion
1 24oz. can plum peeled tomatoes, cut into large chunks (with juices)
1 can Bush’s chili seasoned kidney beans, undrained! (I use mild)
1 can water (I like to keep ours thick and add water as needed)
1 packet chili seasoning
1-2 TB chili powder
*Cook meat and onion together, drain and toss in crockpot with remaining ingredients. Cook on low 4 hours or more.

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla cashew milk (or any milk/buttermilk will be fine too)
  • 1 TB. vinegar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB. honey
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, soda, sugar and set aside.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl add cornmeal, cashew milk and vinegar. (If using buttermilk no need to add vinegar.) Add melted butter, applesauce, honey and sugar to cornmeal mixture and gently whisk to combine. Add eggs and whisk again.
  3. Stir in dry ingredients and whisk until it's smooth and free of lumps.
  4. Pour mixture in a greased 8x8 pan.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes. Check it with a toothpick in the center at 30 minutes and bake longer if needed. I like to err on the side of caution and not risk over baking...
  6. Each slice comes in at 176 calories 6.9grams fat, 26.3 carbs, 3.1 protein.
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*recipe slightly adapted from www.cookingclassy.com

Baked Goods Soup

 Seriously, who doesn’t love garlic mashed red potatoes?
Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes period?!

garlic mashed red potatoes

There was a time instant potatoes were my staple pantry item.  True story.  No real brain power needed to make those babies unless you’re really uncertain if you need 2 servings or 4 or should you just go for it and make 6? #realworldproblems

My family loves mashed potatoes and I serve them quite often.  IN FACT…I served these two nights in a row with two different main courses.

#winning

First, there was garlic mashed red potatoes + Perfect Dutch Oven Pork Roast.  Next dinner was garlic mashed red potatoes + Italian Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers.  Delicious with both meals and a huge time saver.

mashed red potatoes

While gravy is a primary food group these mashed potatoes need nothing more.  

 

Enjoy…

Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes – the ultimate side dish

Ingredients

  • 10-15 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup fat free sour cream ( I love Trader Joe's brand!)
  • 2 splashes milk, more if needed (about 1/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TB fresh parsley (optional) finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add quartered red potatoes. (if you like less peel you can remove a little from a few potatoes prior to boiling). Allow to boil 10-15 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
  2. Drain and add to mixer bowl.
  3. In the same pot used to boil the potatoes add 2 TB butter and allow to melt. Add diced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes stirring continually to avoid burning. Use a spatula to scrape butter and garlic into mixer bowl with potatoes.
  4. Add sour cream, milk, salt and pepper. Mix on low until incorporated then whip on medium speed 1-2 minutes or until desired consistency. More milk can be added if desired. Finish with some parsley and mix just to lightly incorporate.
  5. Serve with Perfect Dutch Oven Pork Roast or Italian Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Peppers!
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Side Dish

Building a strong core is not synonymous with building a 6 pack.  In fact a 6 pack is not necessary to have a strong core!  If you’re looking for another article on obtaining a “flat belly” or how to “shrink your belly fast” then proceed to your nearest checkout and have your pick.  Otherwise, read on…

Our core refers to more than just the muscles in our abdomen (or the elusive 6-pack.)  It also involves the muscles of our lumbo-pelvic region, hips and low back.  It’s important to realize that our core is responsible for stabilization of our spine during loading (lifting) and movement and should be trained in such a way.

Therefore to properly train/build our core we’re not looking to isolate it with only crunches.

Your core serves to prevent three things in regards to stabilizing the spine: 1. anti-rotation (to keep your spine from spinning all the way around), 2. anti-flexion (to keep it from bending backwards), and anti lateral-flexion (to keep from flexing to the side). Endless crunches doesn’t train your core in the manner it was designed for.  Crunches assume our core is a prime mover, when in fact it’s a prime stabilizer.

Don’t let me lose you…

it’s really not that complicated!

If you’re at all familiar with the standard or side plank, then you’ve seen/felt anti-flexion and anti-lateral flexion at work.  Planks have long been exclaimed to be the best ab exercise because they really engage your core.  Of course this means doing them properly and keeping your back flat and not flexing or arching while you maintain the hold.

But there’s more to developing your core than a plank. 

Planks are a foundational exercise.  Bird Dogs are too and help make that mind-to-muscle connection while tapping into anti-rotation work.  Learning to brace your abs and recruit your transverse abdominals (TVA) is critical when lifting well… anything…especially during heavy compound moves (squats, deadlifts)!  Beginners should all start with foundational work and keep in mind this is not an all inclusive list. 

Like with any exercise, whether it’s cardio or weight training, the key is progression. Once the foundation is built then it’s time to advance.

TEST YOURSELF! Can you plank for a minute or longer? Then it’s time to advance!

Here’s an example of progressions over time with the plank:

Plank hold 20-30 seconds –>plank hold 30 seconds-1 minute –>plank hold 1 minute or longer –>plank hold with alternating release of one hand stretched out–>plank with one arm twisting to reach the ceiling –> same as before now reaching under the body

There’s a general rule in the fitness industry that we seek to straighten before we strengthen. This is especially important for our core since we should be learning to train primarily for stability not strength. It’s empowering to be able to cable crunch an entire weight stack but that isn’t or shouldn’t be the primary goal.

Let me put it another way..it’s not about how much you can lift in regards to the core, but about effectively activating and recruiting the abs to stabilize through various movement and load training.

Let’s wrap this up by looking at two examples below (both upper and lower body home and gym based workout) that illustrate how often our core is at work even when it’s not the primary focus. 

Example Upper Body at home workout:

Dumbbell Chest Press 3 x 8-12 (can use a bench or stability ball for added core and glute activation)
One Arm Bent Over Row 3 x 8-12 (stabilize core throughout to keep a flat back)
Overhead Shoulder Press 3 x 8-12 (engage core to avoid arching back when pressing overhead)
Tricep Kickbacks 2 x 8-12
Bicep Curls 2 x 8-12

Core circuit (can be performed as a warm up or finisher to the above):

Mountain Climbers  30 sec – 1 minute
Hollow Hold Progressions 20 sec – 1 minute (around 1:35)
plank slide tucks 20 sec – 1 minute (can be modified if needed)
repeat 1x

Example Lower Body gym workout:

Barbell Squats 3 x 6-8 (deep breath, engage core, lower and exhale on way up)
Deadlifts 3 x 6-8 (works entire posterior chain)
Dumbbell Step Ups 3 x 10-12 (engage core to maintain balance)
Calf Raises 4 x 10-12

Core circuit (can be performed as a warm up or finisher to the above):

Pallof Press x 12-15
Hanging Leg Raise x 12-15 (around 1:24)
Back Extensions x12-15
repeat 1x

 

So are you effectively training your core?  What limitations do you have to overcome? Hit me up.

STRENGTH TRAINING

You can’t go wrong with Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken for dinner!
It comes together easier than one might think and is ready in under 30 minutes!

pepperoni stuffed chicken

One thing I really miss about making dinner in the summer is grilling chicken.  Grilled anything really.  So when it comes time to put a little chicken in the menu rotation stuffing it with pepperoni makes me miss grilling season a little less.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is difficult to throw together.  It starts with just a chicken breast sliced in half length wise and pounded thin.  Each chicken breast gets a few pepperoni slices, pinch of mozzarella, a dash of italian seasoning and rolled up before gently tossing in a tray of egg and breadcrumbs.

pizza stuffed chicken

You could serve these to guests straight from the oven or slice them like I did above making it a little easier for the kiddos.  Served with a simple green salad, this dinner is here to stay!

I saw this recipe first from one of my favorite bloggers  who got it out of the Skinnytaste Fast and Slow cookbook.  They HAVE NOT resorted to using their iPhone for photos like someone I know.  Ahem.  Clearly they’re more awesome and dedicated than I am lately (or ever). I like to think they keep beautiful, I keep it real. So I tell myself.

Anyways…

I left out the mushrooms (though I LOVE them) just to make it easier to roll-up and keep everything together when going to slice.  I also omitted adding diced peppers on top but you could certainly include whatever favorite toppings you like.  Personally, you can’t wrong with keeping it simple. 

Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 12-18 slices pepperoni
  • 1/3 cup garlic and herb seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 TB parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c egg whites or 1 egg
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup marinara or pizza sauce
  • finely diced red onion

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use non stick spray and set aside.
  2. In a small tray or plate add the egg and fresh lemon juice and in another the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Set each aside.
  3. Start by pounding your chicken breasts, that have been sliced in half, to about 1/4 in thick. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.
  4. Assemble each chicken breast with 3 pepperoni's on one end topped with a bit of mozzarella. Roll up the chicken and gently coat with the egg mixture then into the breadcrumbs.
  5. Place each chicken roll up seam side down on your prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven.
  7. Top each chicken roll-up with a spoonful of pizza sauce, more mozzarella cheese and your diced red onion. Return to the oven for 2-5 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through.
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Chicken