Sometimes the recipes I post here are completely out of whack with the time of year (although completely in whack with the southern hemisphere, so it’s not a complete bust). I’m probably more guilty of posting summer recipes in winter than the converse. If I could have my druthers, I’d eat summer food in winter. Is that crazy? Don’t get me wrong, I really do love those slow cooked winter stews, soups, and braises. I like to make those in the dead of winter, when temperatures are cold… very cold. Lately it has been feeling like the dead of winter and yet it’s still technically autumn. We’re a little ahead of the curve here in Colorado, I suppose. Time for some food to warm the soul.
Last month my friend introduced me to her favorite charity The Women’s Bean Project in Denver, Colorado. It’s so much more than a charity. The Women’s Bean Project is a non-profit organization that tackles the issues of poverty and hunger by empowering women with the skills to be self-sufficient. When I inquired about sending a donation in, I had a lovely email exchange with Diana Lachiondo who offered to send me some of their products to sample. The Women’s Bean Project gives participants entry-level training in their gourmet food business, turning out packages of soup, chili, bread, dip, iced teas, or cookie mixes. (They have jewelry now too – great ideas for holiday gifts.) What I got was a beautifully wrapped gift basket with several packaged mixes, each one signed by the individual who made it.
i picked the firehouse chili
I had chili on my brain and gave it a spin. The packet contained a gorgeous assortment of dried beans and spices. I merely followed the recipe instructions and added the fresh ingredients like ground beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers. It had a nice kick and received the thumbs up from both Jeremy and myself. Imagine my delight the other day when we were walking through the grocery store in our little mountain town and saw Women’s Bean Project soup mixes on the shelves! Don’t fret if your grocer doesn’t carry their products – you can order online directly from their website for a very good cause.
Making chili also demands cornbread. A friend of mine recently asked if I had a cornbread recipe I could recommend. I had plenty of cornbread recipes, but none that knocked my socks off (the socks, they were still on my feet). Even though there was a mix included in my WBP packet, I had been itching to test drive a version I had dog-eared long ago.
a little sugar never hurts
Baking… baking is always an adventure at high altitude. I slowly wend my way through failures and disappointments before I can stamp a recipe for approval and add it to my lab notebook. I like my cornbread to be relatively moist and the recipe I settled on trying this time around called for yogurt or sour cream. That’s a good sign for moist crumb. I went with plain Greek yogurt because it’s thicker and I generally substitute it for sour cream (which makes my tum hurt).
makes an 8×8-inch pan
bake until golden (but don’t overbake!)
The cornbread came out of the oven with no signs of craters, volcanoes, disembowelment. It looked perfect. Over the years I’ve learned that minor adjustments, particularly in leavening agents, can make all the difference. It was cohesive without sacrificing moisture or that telltale coarse crumb of a good cornbread. A perfect accompaniment to my bowl of chili! I do believe this recipe will go into the lab notebook. It’s a keeper.
beans and cornbread go together like peanut butter and jelly
I must admit that I like to nosh on cornbread with a little honey too. Recently I received a sample of some Organic Royal Sidr Honey from Yemen Sidr Honey because one of my readers suggested they contact me (thanks, reader!). I’m no honey expert, but my good friend, Kitt, is a bee keeping expert. I asked her to check them out and she was impressed and fascinated with their bee keeping operations which are based on traditional methods and do not use chemicals, drugs, or machinery. When I first sampled the raw honey it tasted like… honey. Sometimes I’m no good like that. I ran to my cupboard and did a taste comparison with some store-bought honey I had on hand (Madhava honey). The difference was obvious. The Madhava was strong in flavor and a little fruity. The Sidr honey had a more delicate floral taste that lingered on the tongue, very pleasant and not overpowering.
organic, raw, chemical-free and drug-free royal sidr honey
sweet, sweet cornbread
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary gift basket containing a chili mix, cookie mix, cornbread mix, and lentil soup mix from The Women’s Bean Project and a free sample (about 4 ounces) of Royal Sidr honey from Yemen Sdir Honey.
Carson’s Corn Bread
from Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy, recipe for sea-level, but high altitude adjustments in parentheses
4 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup milk (1 cup + 2 tbsps @8500 ft.)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (top liquid poured off) or sour cream (I like to use Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup sugar (3 tbsps sugar @8500 ft.)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (1 cup + 3 tbsps @8500 ft.)
1 tbsp baking powder (2 1/2 tsps @8500 ft.)
1/8 tsp baking soda (pinch @8500 ft.)
1/2 tsp salt
Position oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Grease an 8×8-inch square pan with butter or cooking spray and dust with flour. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, egg, milk, yogurt (or sour cream), and sugar. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir together until just blended. Don’t overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes (22 to 25 minutes @8500 ft.) or until the top begins to turn golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Just take care not to overbake or else the cornbread will be too dry. Cool on a wire rack and serve.