Monday, August 1, 2011

Nancy's Mexican Cornbread and 3-Day for the Cure

Today's post is a special one.  It's about cornbread.  And it's about breast cancer.  I know that cancer isn't as fun to talk about as cornbread.  But life isn't always as simple as cornbread, unfortunately.  Sometimes things like cancer show up on our doorstep one day and things change.

Let's begin the story with the fun stuff...the cornbread. 

This is no ordinary cornbread.  Normally I think of cornbread as a side served with chili or ribs.  Nancy's Mexican Cornbread is no side dish.  It's the main course.  This delicious southern style cornbread is baked in a cast iron skillet and is filled with hearty ground beef, onions, jalapenos and cheese.  It's warm, delicious comfort food.  Serve it with home made salsa (recipe to be posted later this week) and sour cream, chopped cilantro or some avocado slices and you have a seriously tasty dish on your hands. 

It presents beautifully in pie shaped wedges.  And the best part is it's really easy to make.   You mix up the cornbread batter and pour half the batter into a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  Pile on the delicious filling....browned ground beef, onion, jalapenos and cheese and then top with the remaining batter.  Baking it in the iron skillet gives the cornbread a nice crisped outer edge that I love.  No one would ever know what yummy flavors lie inside.  This dish would be great for dinner or brunch and looks great served straight from the skillet.

This Mexican Cornbread recipe is extra special because it comes from my close friend Shannon's Mom, Nancy.  Thanks for sharing Nan!  We met Shannon 10 years ago when Hubby and I were living in Chicago and she has been one of my best pals ever since.   She has a fabulous sense of humor and always makes me laugh.  Even during difficult times, like last year when I fought against breast cancer (and won, by the way)!

At 36 years old I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was scary and confusing.  I had a lump in my left breast and after a number of tests it was determined that I most likely had stage 1 with a slow growing type of cancer.  Which is actually good news in the cancer world!?  But that's when the confusion really set in.  Because of the type of cancer I had, there were a number of options, including removal of both girls (even though only one had cancer!) and reconstruction, removing just the tumor (a.k.a "Fred" as Hubby named it), various radiation treatments, possible chemo and hormone therapy.  It was all very overwhelming and Hubby and I met with umpteen doctors to explore all the options.  Ultimately I ended up having just the tumor removed followed by partial radiation.  I was lucky and did not have to have chemotherapy.  And the best news is I continue to remain cancer free!

What was most impressive about going through this process was the amazing treatment options that were available.  My radiation therapy was a newer advancement in radiation treatment that cut the radiation time down from 30 - 35 treatments to just 5 treatments.  As little as a decade ago, breast cancer was a condition that often resulted in mastectomy as the standard course of treatment.  Today there are a number of possible treatment paths that can be taken depending on the situation.  

These amazing strides have been made possible by so many people, including the wonderful groups out there raising money for breast cancer research and support.  The Susan G. Komen organization is the leading non profit group focused on raising money for this cause.   I am incredibly humbled by all the women that have come before me and battled with this disease as well as the talented medical professionals who have been treating breast cancer over the last several decades.  Their experiences coupled with organizations like Susan G. Komen, have made the advanced treatment options that are available today possible.  

So how does this all tie back to my good friend, Shannon (besides her fabulous sense of humor keeping me smiling during a sucky time)?  She was inspired by my battle with breast cancer and decided to sign up for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, 60 mile walk.  I was so touched that my experience inspired her to commit her time and effort to walk 60 miles in support of breast cancer.  60 miles is a lot of miles!  To quote Shannon's 3-Day for the Cure web page, "3 DAYS (wow), 60 MILES (where's the Ben-Gay?), NO SHOWER......NO PROBLEM." See what I mean about her sense of humor? :)

What Shannon didn't know when she signed up for this great cause, was that just a few months later, her own mother would also be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Nancy's battle with breast cancer has been much more complex and difficult than my own.  Shannon describes her Mom's cancer as being "a lot like the mexican cornbread, simple at first glance then when you cut into it, 'SURPRISE', but in a bad way."  You see initially Nancy's cancer was thought to be similar to my own situation.  But upon getting the pathology results back after her first surgery it was revealed that she actually had two kinds of cancer.  One slow growing and one very aggressive.  Thankfully they caught it early. 

Shannon and Nancy
Nancy is kicking cancer's butt and taking names as we speak!  She has had multiple surgeries and continues to endure chemotherapy and weekly IV infusions.  She is 2/3 of the way through her chemotherapy treatment and will be finished in September. She is also on a breakthrough drug called Herceptin which hinders the growth of new cancer cells and will finish with that part of her treatment in Spring of 2012.  Shannon says Nancy is doing fantastic considering everything and that "she's rockin' the bald look" and wears it well! 

Shannon's takeaway message/life lesson that she has has learned from this experience is that if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, get yourself a TEAM of doctors so that the communication and continuity of care is part of your treatment process. 

I concur with Shannon and say to anyone out there who has been diagnosed to not be afraid to ask questions.  Don't be afraid to get a second or even third opinion.  This is a complicated disease and education is key to determining the path of treatment best for you and your circumstance.

Donate to a great cause!

Shannon has been training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure most of the year and she kicks off the first leg of the 60 mile walk this coming Friday, August 5th, in the Chicago area.  Please join me in supporting Shannon on her walk and head over to her donation page by clicking here.  Shannon has raised $2,500 as of the date of this post I'm hoping that we can help her raise even more for this very important cause. 

If you want to learn more about my personal experience, you can head over my blog Gloria vs. Fred that I set up to keep my friends and family informed during my journey last year.  I had previously kept this blog available to friends and family, but I think it's important to share it with a larger audience.  If any part of my story helps just one person with their own journey then it is a success. 

Thank you so much to Shannon and Nancy for letting me share their story with those who read my blog.  You are both amazing and inspirational women!

If you would like to make a contribution to further breast cancer research and support head over to Shannon's donation page.

Oh, and you should totally make this cornbread. It's delicious!

Nancy's Mexican Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal plus 3 tablespoons
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 15 oz can creamed corn
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped (use according to taste)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or oil to grease your baking pan

Preheat oven to 350. 

Brown ground beef in a large skillet and season the meat with salt and pepper.  Drain fat off and set ground beef aside.   

Use butter or oil to grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of cornmeal to coat bottom and sides of the skillet. 

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt and stir until well combined.  Add milk, egg, oil, and creamed corn and stir until well combined.

Pour half of the cornbread mixture into the prepared skillet.  Spread ground beef evenly over the cornbread mixture.  Spread the onions, jalapenos over the top of the beef.  Top with cheese and then pour remaining cornbread mixture over the cheese and spread to cover evenly. 

Place skillet in the oven and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown and springs back to the touch.  Cool for 15 minutes and cut into wedges.  Serve with your favorite salsa, sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Note: If you don't have a 10 inch cast iron skillet you can use a 9x13 baking dish and make 1.5 times the recipe noted above and follow the same baking instructions.


  1. Glad to hear she is fighting and taking names! My neighbor's teenage daughter was just diagnosed with bone cancer and I hope that she has the same fighting spirit. Plenty of prayers to Nancy, and much Bengay to Shannon! (The cornbread looks good too!)

  2. That looks great!

  3. What a heartfelt post Gloria. I hope Nancy is able to beat her cancer just as you did yours!

    I love the idea for this dish - cornbread is one of my favorite things, but I don't make it nearly enough!

  4. Great cornbread and a great cause!

  5. Thank you all for your support and sweet comments!

  6. This is a fabulous dish and I have it slated for Wednesday or Thursday. I love these meal in ones.

    I went through the short radiation treatment also although I think mine was 7 but I could be wrong. I am so thankful for both of us and I pray Nancy will be able to look back with joy.

  7. Wow, what a moving post. Best wishes to Nancy and her struggle. Cancer is such a terrible thing to go through; it's nice that there are so many great resources out there now. I am actually do the Susan G. Komen walk with some co-workers in San Francisco.

    Oh, and the cornbread looks great!