Sunday, April 21, 2013

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes and cornbread

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes topped with avocado

Working in the garden on cool days really works up an appetite.  I thought I'd make one last hearty stew before the warm weather brings cravings for lighter fare.  This comforting pot of chili can have any mix of beans you prefer or have on hand.  There is a rich mix of herbs and spices and as much heat as you'd like plus added nutrition from greens added at the end.  If you have a spring garden, this is the perfect chance to use your spring onions, leeks and leafy greens and herbs that are ready for an early harvest.

Veggie chili with sweet potatoes

Veggie Chili with Sweet Potatoes

serves 6

1 leek or onion, finely diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups of vegetable broth or water
1 28 oz can or 3 cups of diced tomatoes

jalapeno or red pepper, chopped or red pepper flakes (optional or to taste)
3 cups or 2 15 oz cans of cooked beans (pintos, black, chickpeas, kidney, lentils or a mix), drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder or more to taste
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 cups of chopped greens (spinach, arugula or chard )
salt to taste

Optional toppings:
avocado wedges or chunks
chopped parsley or cilantro
chopped onions
jalapeno rings
shredded cheese
sour cream or pain yogurt

In a large stock pot on high heat, add the olive oil, leek, sweet pepper, carrot and garlic.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add all the rest of the ingredients except the greens and optional toppings and stir well.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the sweet potatoes and carrots are tender, stirring occasionally.  Add salt if desired and additional  jalapeno or red pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped greens.  Let them wilt into the stew a few minutes, stir again and serve with optional toppings and a wedge of cornbread.  

Notes:  For the broth, I used 1 tablespoon of red miso paste dissolved into 2 cups of water.

And what goes better with chili than cornbread?  

Cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet

I have been making this recipe for cornbread for as long as I can remember.  In its original form, it was on the back of the Indian Head brand corn meal sack.  The recipe has, of course, gone through a few changes to make it a bit more healthy (gone are the shortening and bleached flour).  It is just as tasty and quick to pull together.  I love to make this recipe in a cast iron skillet because it makes the edges crunchy while the inside is tender.  You can also bake this batter in a muffin pan.

Tender crumbed cornbread


makes 12 servings

1 1/2  cups yellow corn meal or flour
1 1/2  cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup honey, agave nectar or raw sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cups dairy or non dairy milk
2 eggs (or 2 tablespoons flaxmeal mixed with 1/4 cup water)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/218 degrees C.  If you are making this in a cast iron skillet, pour the olive oil in the skillet and put the skillet with the oil into the oven while it is preheating.  

Combine the corn meal/flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, raw sugar (if using) and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add in the the milk, applesauce, eggs and honey or agave nectar (if using).  If you are baking in a muffin pan, add the olive oil here.  Mix lightly until the wet and dry ingredients are just barely incorporated.  Less stirring keeps the finished bread more tender and light.  

Baking in a Cast Iron Skillet
Remove the skillet and olive oil from the oven being careful of the hot oil.  Pour the batter into the hot oil in the preheated skillet being careful not to splash.  The batter will start to sizzle right away helping create that crunchy outer crust.   Immediately return the skillet with the batter to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the center is done.  Cool for 5 minutes and cut into wedges and serve.

Baking in a Muffin Pan
Oil or spray the pan and fill the cups 3/4 full with the batter.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the center is done.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

Leftover cornbread is delicious split in half, toasted and topped with butter and jam or a special treat topped with sliced fruit and yogurt or cashew cream.  

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Tree in bloom

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