A Wonderful Tex-Mex Meal – Black Bean Chili and Cornbread with a Kick

Today’s back-to-my-roots meal at the understocked household was lovely! Inspired by Tex-Mex creations, the combination of a light black bean and corn chili with a heavy, moist firecracker cornbread was fabulous!

I’ll share one recipe today and save the other for another day  – I don’t want to overwhelm my fair readers!

Cornbread is quite a staple where I’m from, but isn’t something I grew up with. There are as many variations on cornbread as there are people down South, but I really enjoyed this take, a spicy bread with an almost cake-like texture, flecked with tender corn kernels and the orange and green of carrots and chili peppers.

I started off by infusing some butter with the red pepper flakes right in the dish I was eventually going to bake in, which gave me a nice, evenly browned spicy crust. The yogurt and milk made it rich and moist without having to use eggs or any oil or butter in the actual bread. Die-hard Southerners may not like the sweet nature of the bread, but you can omit the sugar and the bread will be just as good, in my opinion.

Egg-free Cornbread with a Kick

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat or white wheat flour
1/2 cup self-rising all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white, cane, or brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter
1 cup yogurt (I used homemade whole milk yogurt, I’m sure you can substitute)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 can of kernel sweet corn
1 cup shredded carrots
1 chili pepper or jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp chopped pimiento olives
1 tsp crushed red peppers
sprinkling of feta cheese
sprinkling of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses

Method

1. Combine the dry ingredients – the cornmeal, two flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and add the butter and chili flakes to the dish you plan on baking in. Place this in the oven to infuse while you are preparing the batter.
3. In a separate dish, combine the yogurt, carrots and corn.
4. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, mixing well.
5. Add milk until it reaches a pourable consistency.
6. Chop up the olives, pimientos and pepper, and stir them, along with a bit of the Colby cheese, into the batter.
7. Pour the batter into your pan – after taking it out of the oven carefully, of course! – and spread the batter if you need to.
8. Sprinkle the top with the feta and the other cheeses.
9. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the edges are nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

This cornbread has a wonderful aroma and an awesome kick. It is also a great canvas for different flavor combinations.

If you want to go traditional with serving the bread, you can slather it with honey-butter. My opinion is that it might become a little too rich if you do that, but it’s an option. Other mix-ins may include sun dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. The initial butter infusion is also a wonderful opportunity to pull in a variety of flavors, including basil, oregano, or sage. The adventurous palate may enjoy a hint of garlic, or a stir-in of dried cranberries.

What would you put in this cornbread to mix it up?

Carrot-Almond Bites

There were a couple of inspirations for today’s baking adventure, one of which was my brother’s gentle hint-dropping. I started out planning to make a carrot cake – banana bread hybrid, but ended up making some sort of cookie-muffin hybrid instead. I’m not 100% satisfied with it, but it’s pretty good. And it’s definitely not that bad for you.

Here was my inspiration, which led me to another, very similar recipe. I modified, basically based on what I have in my kitchen, and came up with a pretty decent result. Enough dillydallying, you say? Okay, here goes!

Ingredients:

1 cup quick oats
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 ripe, mashed banana
1 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup slivered almonds
a sprinkling of allspice
a sprinkling of nutmeg

Method

1. Combine the flour, oats, salt and baking powder together.

2. Melt the butter, and combine with sugar.

3. Stir the butter mixture into the flour-oats mixture.

4. Stir the banana and carrots into the mixture. Add the milk and oil and stir to combine.

5. Add the spices to taste and whip the whole thing together.

6. Combine with almonds.

7. Drop by the teaspoonful onto a buttered sheet or a cookie pan. These do rise so your drops can be small.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, or until you think they’re done! The color doesn’t change much, so you’ll have to gauge by texture.

Enjoy!!!

Some things that I might change if I made them again – A nut like pecan might work better than almonds. Also, I would shred my carrots smaller. I think cinnamon would be lovely, but I left it out because my mother doesn’t like cinnamon.

I do think I like baking with carrots and I will try that carrot loaf tomorrow. I’ll be sure to let you know what comes of it!

What would you do with this cookie-muffin-bite? How would you spice it up?

Scrumptious Banana Nut Bread (from scratch)

There’s very little that is more heart-warming and more capable of giving you a fuzzy feeling inside than the cozy aroma of freshly baked goodies wafting through the house. Things like banana bread, zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies are what I like to think of as comfort food. But I grew up in a household where baking was pretty much non-existent. I have one vague recollection of baking cookies from frozen dough with my cousins. I think I might have been 5 or 6 years old. It’s only after I went to college that I started baking and I really wanted to bake banana bread, because I absolutely love it. If I ever wanted banana bread, I was usually disappointed because eggless banana bread is pretty much nonexistent, as is banana bread without walnuts (I’m allergic). So I searched and searched, and finally managed to put together this recipe, which appears to be working for me.

 I’ve tried different variations on it, and whatever I’ve tried has turned out pretty great. What I love about this particular recipe is that in spite of the eggless-ness, the bread turns out light and fluffy, and sweet but not too sweet. You should definitely try your own variations and let me know what you think.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Ingredients 
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsp applesauce
a handful of raisins
a handful of pecan pieces                                                                                                                                    
Method
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees-
1. Make sure your bananas are mashed until there are very few lumps. Try not to puree though, because that makes the bread less fluffy.
2. Sift together your dry ingredients until they are well mixed.
3. Mix all of the ingredients together except the raisins and pecans.
4. Cover the raisins and pecan pieces with a light dusting of flour to ensure that they don’t sink to the bottom of the pan.
5. Pour the batter into a buttered 9×11 cake pan.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 55-60 minutes or until chocolate brown and cooked all the way through. 
7. Enjoy and try to leave some to share with your family and friends!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 You can try variations with chocolate chips, a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg for a spiced version, or a version with different nuts like almonds or walnuts. Let me know if you have any other good ideas!