Chili Cornbread

I took dozens of photos of this Chili Cornbread. I tried shots of the entire casserole dish, individual portions and a variety of angles. I finally accepted I would not get the picture this dish deserves. This is not an attractive meal, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for with warmth and comfort. Sweet cornbread cooked over spicy chili makes for a delicious contrast of flavors. When feeling ambitious I make cornbread from scratch, and on busy school nights I use Trader Joe’s chili for a quick pantry meal disguised as slow-cooked Tex-Mex.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 can black beans
1 jalapeño, chopped (or more if you like spice)
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chili powder (we like extra heat, so we add a little more)
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
1 package cornbread mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and brown well. Add the chili pepper, bell pepper, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper, cumin, coriander and chili powder. Stir and cook to soften the pepper and onion, 10 minutes.
Add a splash of water, then stir together the vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce in a small bowl. Pour over the turkey and reduce the heat to a simmer to thicken and combine the flavors, 15 minutes. Pour chili in a casserole dish.
Prepare cornbread batter according to package directions. Carefully spoon over chili mixture. Smooth out to cover. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly brown and filling is bubbling.

Spinach Walnut Pesto

February’s issue of the Food Network magazine came with an insert entitled, “50 Things to Make with Pesto.” As a huge fan, I am always looking for new ways to use pesto. This week I have experimented with pesto, making a pesto roasted chicken, pesto roasted tomatoes, and more pesto paninis. Despite green things getting stuck in my teeth, it has been pesto-licious! One thing, however, that annoys me about making pesto at home is the expense. Pine nuts are $8 for a tiny container, and getting enough basil, olive oil and Parmesan makes the cost add up. It’s cheaper to just buy ready-made pesto, but something about buying pesto in a jar bothers me. In search of a less expensive pesto, I was pleasantly surprised by this spinach walnut version. Using spinach and walnuts helped me justify making homemade pesto. It was perfect topped over grilled chicken breasts and roasted vegetables, but for more ideas check out this link.

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine the spinach, walnuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Transfer the spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is no gift giving stress, just good food and good people. What I love most about Thanksgiving is the pie. I absolutely love pie, especially pumpkin pie. Pumpkin products are a little harder to find overseas, so eating pumpkin pie was always a special treat. On Thanksgiving I would eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I know it might seem strange expressing my love for a November holiday in February, and even stranger that this is not a post for pumpkin pie, however these pumpkin muffins allow me to enjoy the flavor of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie all year. Just like I freeze my banana muffins, I bake these muffins in bulk, and then stored in the freezer for lunches. I have also given two versions of the recipe so that you can decide whether you would like to make a healthier muffin, or more of a dessert.

1 1/2 cups whole white wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15 ounce can)
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce ( or 1/3 cup vegetable oil)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/2 cup sugar plus one tablespoon (or 1 cup sugar)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
As many chocolate chips as you like

Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups.
Whisk together pumpkin, apple sauce, eggs, pumpkin pie spice,  sugar, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.