Cornbread Salad

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Since my last post was about something I hate, I need to refocus.  Find my happy place.  You know what makes me happy?  Paula Deen.  I know, I know.  I've heard all the butter jokes, okay?  And guess what?  I've gotten into actual cyber-fights with women on the internet who make cracks about my Mrs. Paula.  Seriously.  I was nearly banned from a very popular website full of hormonal pregnant women who have very strong opinions on everything.  Let me say in my defense of Mrs. Paula, I was neither pregnant nor hormonal.  I was just right.

What I was looking for on Mrs. Paula's site was some kind of super special dessert for a friend - a friend who would, of course, share it with me so I wouldn't feel like some kind of sloth baking up desserts on a random Thursday while all my friends are posting on Facebook about their multi-mile uphill runs at 6 a.m.

Of course there are dessert recipes everywhere, but I have a special cooking issue.  I hate to measure.  When I start reading a recipe and it requires multiple little measuring spoons, some of them heaping and some of them leveled, I panic.  It just seems like so much, um, exactness.  If you know me, you know that exactness is not something I do well with.  I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.  Recipes that call for leveling, heaping or packing conjure up images of my 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Heiney (who, for the record, was super serious even for a science teacher) and his dire warnings about the danger of making mercury over a Bunsen burner.  Mrs. Paula never seems serious.  Read some Julia Child or Martha Stewart recipes.  Their "exactness" feels kind of, I don't know, like they might show up at your house and yell at you if you don't do it exactly right.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like Mrs. Paula would be gentle and would laugh sweetly if you mixed up your leveling with your heaping and she'd have an answer to how to fix it and everything would just be okay.

So how did my search for a dessert end up as a Corn Bread Salad?  Well, I found the dessert and I can't wait to make it.  But this salad just spoke to me.  I had to have it.  So what if Mr. Dinner Bell has had enough of my salad experiments lately to last him a lifetime?  One more won't kill him.  And here it is.

Corn Bread Salad
Recipe from I-love-her-so Paula Deen

1 batch cornbread, cut into 1-inch cubes, recipe follows
1 (14.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can niblet corn, drained
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1 (8-ounce) bottle ranch dressing*
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 1/4 cup for greasing pan
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1 cup cream-style corn
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar, optional
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional


In the bottom of a large glass bowl, place cornbread cubes. Layer beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, and cheese on top of cornbread. Spread ranch dressing evenly over cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Generously season a cast iron skillet with up to 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Preheat the pan either in the oven or on the stove over medium-high heat.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Pour batter into the preheated cast iron skillet. Place skillet in the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. If making individual size cornbreads in smaller pans, they will require a shorter cooking time.
Yield: 8 servings
*Never would I dare question a recipe from my lovely Mrs. Paula, but when I made this, I used my own ranch dressing because, well, in case you hadn't heard, I hate mayonnaise and most commercial dressings are prepared with a god-awful lot of it.  I am sure, however, my Mrs. Paula would approve of my substitution.
Oh and you may have noticed I borrowed her picture for the recipe.  I just didn't feel like mine did the recipe justice because along with my exactness issues, my food isn't always the prettiest.  
Cornbread Salad & Shredded Beef Flautas

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