Friday, 31 October 2014

Sweet Potato Chili - Vegetarian, Vegan, & Delicious

After making the Twice-Baked Mexican Sweet Potatoes, I happened to have a few potatoes left over and no ideas for what to do with them. I remembered seeing a chili involving sweet potatoes but all of the recipes I knew of called for ground beef or turkey and were generally too heavy for what I wanted. Turning to Google, I happened to stumble upon this fabulous recipe that is not only vegetarian but vegan as well! For those of us with plenty of friends with special dietary needs, this is a godsend and I spent the better part of yesterday raving about it to anyone who would listen.

First, scrub and peel the sweet potao(es) (mine look odd because I geeked out and used my apple peeler again). Cut into cubes and place in a 4-6 quart crock pot, dutch oven, or large stockpot. Then cut up and add in two bell peppers (the recipe uses one green and one red but I used 1 1/2 green), along with one chopped up red onion (1 medium or 2 small). Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil, stir to coat evenly, and cook covered. For a crock pot, use high heat, using medium-high heat for the dutch oven and/or stockpot. Stir occasionally until the onions start turning translucent.


 Once the onions start to turn, put the heat on low (crock pot) or medium-low (dutch oven or stockpot) and add the minced garlic, spices: chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt and pepper, and canned ingredients: diced tomatoes, beans, and broth. *The recipe calls for cayenne pepper as well but I prefer a sweeter chili and left it out. I also used canned, diced tomatoes with garlic, in addition to the minced garlic cloves and it didn't overpower the dish at all.

Spice lineup
One of my favorite things about this recipe is the use of cocoa powder!
Spiced and waiting for the canned goods
 Once you have added everything into your chosen cooking device, cover and cook on high for 45 minutes - 2 hours. *Using a crock-pot, I had a few additional cooking options, so I stretched the process out to fit my schedule - simmering the dish all night (6 hours), turning it on high while I got ready in the morning (1 hour), turning it off, and finishing it up on high for 2 more hours that night. I could have left it on high to begin with and been done in 2 hours but I didn't feel like staying up.

No matter how you cook it, once the sweet potatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced down slightly to a more chili-like consistency, it is done. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, scallions, and perhaps some shredded cheese.

Lessons learned: I used two potatoes instead of one and the recipe filled a whole 5 quart crock pot, so halve it if you don't have room to freeze the extra or a house full of hungry people to feed. Normally, I am the person who hovers over a dish, spicing and re-spicing it until I am satisfied but I only spiced this one as everything went in to the pot. Over 6 hours later, it was perfect, without one, single alteration. Don't worry, this is a dish you CAN'T mess up.


- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced, or 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on how spicy you like your chili)
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ground sea salt and black pepper
- 28-ounces canned diced tomatoes, including the liquid*
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (also known as Cannellini if you have a can of those on hand)
- 2 c OR one 14 oz. can vegetable broth

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Apple Crumble

Another way to use up a surplus of apples from your annual apple picking trip is to make a deliciously easy apple crumble. I used this recipe for a basis and my handy apple peeler for all of the hard work.


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, have a large bowl of 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (1-2 lemons) on hand, and get your apple peeler (or someone with a steady hand and good pairing knife) ready, and peel, core, and cut up 6 apples (the recipe calls for 8 cups chopped and the ratio is 1c=1apple but the apples I used were on the larger side). As per my explanation of why lemon juice is important here, immediately coat your apples in lemon juice once cut up or they will turn brown.

Once the apples are insulated in the lemon juice, place them in a large mixing bowl and add in the vanilla, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and flour. Mix together until the spices are combined and the apples are evenly coated. Doing this by hand is easiest. It's also very messy but I think that's part of the fun.

Spiced and ready to go
Thoroughly combined and ready to be put in the baking dish
Set the apple mixture aside and turn your attention to the crumble topping. Again, this is a one bowl job (love it when that happens): add in the remaining flour, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Combine and add in the butter by hand (you can also use a pastry cutter or two knives - crossing the blades in a scissor-like action, in a pinch), mixing until everything starts to stick together in clumps.

Grease a 13x9 baking pan (the original recipe uses a cast iron skillet but I made a bigger batch and put it in a baking pan, which worked well) with a tablespoon of butter and pour the apples into the baking dish. Top with the crumble mixture, sprinkling it evenly over the top, and place in the oven (make sure it is set to 'bake' not 'pre-heat'). Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbling.

Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.


Lessons learned: DO NOT pack the crumble on top of the apples. When the recipe says 'sprinkle,' it's not playing around. I made too much of the topping, so I packed it on and while it did form a nice crust, the top was a bit dry. In hind site, I would also have used more butter in the topping, so the consistency is moist but not wet. Even with those notes, this dish was a favorite dessert and will be served again, so don't worry about messing it up because you can't!


- 8 c peeled, cored, and sliced apples
- 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 c granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 c all-purpose flour

For the crumble topping:

- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 1 c old-fashioned oats
- 2/3 c brown sugar
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced

Monday, 27 October 2014

La Marqueta - Spanish Harlem Renaissance

This is the outdoor section of the market
Yesterday, I found myself with some unexpected free time, so I trudged (pre-cofee) over to a local cafe, where I ran into a good friend on her way to a food truck fest in Spanish Harlem. Now, I live on the edges of this area but when she said that she wanted to walk up to 115th and Park, I was skeptical.

However, La Marqueta turned out to be the most awesome discovery of the weekend. It's reminiscent of Borough Market, under London Bridge, or the historic Charleston City Market on King St., with the whole thing built under the train tracks, half indoors, and half out-of-doors for the food trucks that rotate through. While 'under the train tracks' doesn't sound appealing, this burgeoning market (literally translates to La Marqueta) is home to a bevy of promising food trucks and locally grown businesses.

Two of my favorites were Snowday, a Maple Syrup laden Drive Change food truck that uses "locally sourced food...[and] hire[s], teach[es] and empower[s] formerly incarcerated youth," and the Hot Bread Kitchen (indoor section), which "enables immigrant women to leverage skill, passion, and traditional bread-making knowledge to become professional bakers and food business owners." *After 2pm on the weekends, you can get up to $10 worth of bread for whatever you feel like donating.

Maple cupcake and cotton candy from Snowday - amazing sugar rush!
These social justice oriented enterprises not only combine my two favorite things: cooking and social activism, they also serve as part of the movement to revitalize this market and bring more people into the area. With everything from Maple cotton candy and cupcakes, to Korean fare, empanadas, fresh baked bread, and fried plantains, this is the perfect place to chow down on the weekend or grab a beer and hang out while the band plays.

Check it out!

Indoor market hours - go see the Hot Bread Kitchen!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Upside-Down Apple Cake

I recently wrote about going apple picking in Upstate New York but I didn't really talk about what I DID with the apples. The boyfriend and I had around 16 apples in total - half Golden Delicious and half Mutsu, so I put three of the Mutsu to use, making this Upside-Down Apple Cake.

Prior to apple picking, I stocked up on some fun baking contraptions at the Brooklyn Kitchen and this apple peeler was a must. It peels, slices, cores, AND it peel potatoes! (Very handy for Thanksgiving dishes) I have to say that operating this while I prepped the rest of the ingredients was the highlight of my boyfriend's day (he loves power tools and I love baking, so some serious geeking out ensued).

Step One: Stick the apple on to the coring skewer.

Step two: peel, slice, and core apple at the same time!
If you've never worked with apples before, you will notice that most recipes involving them call for lemon juice. This is necessary because apples, once cut up, turn brown very quickly due to rapid oxidization. Bathing the slices in lemon juice stops that process, so your baked goods will look pretty once done (pineapple juice will also stop the oxidization but risks changing the taste of your recipe).

Once my apples were ready, I cut them into slices (it comes out of the corer as one, long spiral - so cool) and put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, mixing them by hand to coat each slice.

Lemon juice coated slices

After you have stopped the apple slice oxidization process, turn your attention to the waiting pie pan. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, coat the inside of the pie pan with a thin, even layer of butter (the recipe says 2 tbsp but it only takes 1), and sprinkle with brown sugar (I used a lot of brown sugar - completely covering the butter). Next, arrange the apple slices in the pan, in two, concentric circles. My slices look different that the recipe's that I based this off of because I used a corer but the basic idea is still the same.

 Next, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. Using an electric egg beater (or a very industrious spoon), whisk the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter (should be at room temperature) together with the granulated sugar until fluffy. Then add in the eggs and vanilla, mixing until everything is incorporated, and carefully mix in the flour concoction and milk. *The original recipe recommends that you do this by adding the flour in three parts and the milk in two, starting and finishing with the flour, and it made things a lot easier.

At this point, you are supposed to pour the batter over the prepared apples but I wasn't happy with mine, so I improvised. I added another teaspoon of cinnamon and about 1/4 - 1/3 c milk. The original batter was too thick and bland for my taste, so I spiced it up and thinned it out, which resulted in a denser cake. Turn your oven to 'bake,' place the pie pan in the oven (middle rack), and bake for 35 - 45 minutes (rotate the pan halfway through). Let cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan and flip onto a flat, serving surface. *If your serving dish is not flat, place a sheet of parchment or baking paper on a baking sheet, put on top of the pie tin, hold together, and flip over. Your cake should now be resting, face up, on the baking sheet and can easily be transferred to your serving dish.

This is what it will look like when done
As I said, my cake was more of a 'bread,' which is why I christened it the Upside-Down Apple Bread and served it for breakfast, warmed up with some maple syrup and a few slices of bacon (c'mon guys, did you really think i'd get through a whole recipe without mentioning bacon?).

Serve it whichever way you like and feel free to improvise. Bon appetit!


- 9 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
- 3 medium apples, Mutsu or Golden Delicious (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced into  wedges
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 tbsp = about half a lemon)
- 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I added another tsp)
- 1/2 c granulated white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 c whole milk (I added another 1/4 -1/3 c)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Twice Baked Mexican Sweet Potatoes

Cold weather calls for a dish with some serious umph but way too often, involves heavy ingredients that leave you in a food coma. My answer to that, is a Twice Baked, Mexican Sweet Potato. 

I started my cooking adventure with this recipe but quickly went my own way, with the below shortcut to potato baking.

There are two, easy ways to bake a potato: one, involves an oven and waiting around for an hour, the other, involves a fork and 10 minutes in a microwave (I went with the second option). First, wash the potato with a scrub brush (you need to get the dirt out of the crevices, especially if it's from the farmer's market, which will not pre-wash them), under running water. Next, use all of the day's pent-up frustration and stab the potato with a fork - leaving it evenly coated in enough holes to let the steam through so it doesn't explode while cooking. Next, wrap the potato in a paper towel, set on a plate in the microwave, and cook for 5 minutes. Using a potholder (both the plate and potato are hot by now), turn the paper towel wrapped potato over and cook for another 5 minutes. Once done, set aside and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spiced and roasting

While the potato is languishing in the microwave, you can get the roasted corn started. Place a cast iron skillet over high heat (cast iron will have the best effect but you can use a normal pan in a pinch). Let the pan heat up, then add two tablespoons of butter, melting to coat the pan evenly. The recipe I referenced above states that you should not use butter but I think that giving the corn a light coating before roasting helps bring out its flavor. Pour the corn into the pan, shake back and forth until it is coated by the butter, season with the desired spices (I used salt, pepper, and chili powder), and let sit for 2-3 minutes without stirring. The pan will start to smoke - this is a good thing - you want the corn to 'roast,' leaving the sides slightly browned and burnt looking. after 2-3 minutes, stir the corn so the other side roasts equally. Keep doing this until you get the desired color, then remove from heat and set aside.

Turning your attention back to the potato, cut in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the inside, leaving at least 1/2 inch of potato along the shell to help hold its shape. Put the potato shells on a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil and place the scooped out potato in a food processor (you can hand mix too), along with the sour cream, cream cheese, chipotle peppers, and the remaining spices. Combine until thoroughly mixed and stir in the roasted corn and black beans.

Two chipotle peppers, waiting for everything else to go into the food processor

Next, spoon the mixture back into the potato shells, cover with shredded cheese, and place in the oven.

Turn the oven to 'broil' and cook for five minutes. I am of the vain that doesn't quite trust broilers to not fry everything to a crisp as soon as your back is turned, so I left the oven door cracked open, grabbed a chair, and enjoyed a glass of wine while keeping an eye on the broiling cheese. No matter which way you do it, the potatoes will be done when the cheese is bubbling. Take out immediately, turn off the heat, and serve.


The inside of the potato will be hot so take care as your enjoy.



- 1 medium-large sweet potato (1 will serve two people)
- 1/2 can yellow corn
- 1/2 can black beans
- 2-4 INDIVIDUAL chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce(2 was spicy enough for me)
- 1 ounce sour cream
- 1/4 c cream cheese
- shredded cheese (any variety is fine. I used a four cheese blend.)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 c cilantro, freshly chopped
- chili powder (to taste)
- salt (to taste)
- pepper (to taste)
- onion powder (to taste or caramelize and add 1/2 chopped onion)

Monday, 20 October 2014

Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Rice Krispie Treats

Something about Halloween always has me reaching for a nostalgia-laden rice krispie treat. My version however, is founded upon a love of rice krispies, rolled in peanut butter - a quick, simple process that left a trail of crumbs through the peanut butter and produced a perfect amount of crunch to balance out the saltiness. This may explain my life-long love of puppy chow and mini-Krackel candy bars, though nothing ever truly satisfied my inner-5 year old's craving until I stumbled upon this recipe.

For a super easy dessert, mix the corn syrup (Karo is a standard brand and works well) and sugar in a pot on the stove and turn the heat on medium-high. Stir the mixture to help the sugar dissolve instead of sticking to the bottom of the pan and remove from heat when it starts to boil. Add your peanut butter (there is a long-standing debate on what kind of PB to use when baking/cooking and I find this article helpful) and stir until combined.

Next, pour the mixture over the rice krispies (a large mixing bowl will give you enough room to mix comfortably), stir until the pieces are evenly coated, and let cool for a few minutes (if you add the chocolate and marshmallows now, they will melt).

Once the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the marshmallows, waiting until the last minute to add the chocolate chips (stir quickly as some of them will melt in the process).


Now comes the easy part (because the rest was SO hard, right?!). Butter a 13 x 9 pan (either glass or metal will work), pour the mass of peanut buttery goodness into the pan, and press flat.  At this point, the recipe suggests you sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top of the treats. I did this but also added more marshmallows, pressing them into the top of the treats with a piece of aluminum foil (didn't want them sticking to me).


Let cool, cut into 2" squares, and serve! For a more Halloween-ish look, you can use orange and black colored chocolate chips.


- 6 c Rice Krispie cereal
- 1 c corn syrup (I use Karo)
- 1 c white sugar
- 1 c creamy peanut butter
- 1 1/2 -2 c marshmallows (I used 2 c, plus additional for the topping)
- 1/2 c mini-chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is my go-to)

Friday, 17 October 2014

Café M

About a month ago, a tiny slice of Paris opened up on 32nd, between 5th and Madison...and no one seems to know about it. This little gem is known simply as Café M, needing no further explanation as the promising smell of coffee and rows of pastries draw you and and keep you coming back.

 Admittedly, it took me until about two weeks ago to wander in. The perfect Autumn day gave me over to feelings of nostalgia for Paris and the devout wish that I could wander into a tiny pâtisserie, pick up a croissant, and wander over to le Jardin des Tuileriess . Low and behold, Café M happened to be on my way to work, upon the discovery of which, I gleefully ducked in for a spinach and ricotta turnover and a fantastic café mocha (I swear, they put real melted chocolate in it).

Friday morning mocha
It may not be a real pâtisserie and NYC is a long way from Paris but it's a welcome hint of nostalgia that is quickly becoming a Friday morning ritual.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Apple-Picking in New York

This past weekend was a long one (thank you Indigenous People's Day). To celebrate, the boyfriend and I went Upstate to Fishkill Farms for some much anticipated apple picking! The farm itself is quite impressive and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good day in the countryside (kids and dogs are very welcome). We went specifically for apples but the farm also offers pumpkin and kale picking.

Walking past some of the developing orchards
The apple orchards are a short jaunt beyond the farm store and there are several different types, mapped out on a handy sheet of paper that marks which ones are currently in season. When you drive (or walk) to the orchards, you stop to choose the size of picking bag you want first (large = $30, medium = $20, small = $10) but you pay on your way out (my medium bag wasn't full enough to be charged $20 and came out to $11 instead). From there, you park and walk into the orchards. 

I did a quick bit of research on what type of apples I should pick for the ridiculous amounts of baking to follow and made a beeline for the Golden Delicious and Mutsu (a slightly sweeter version of the Golden Delicious and my new favorite for baking). We had to walk back a bit into each section before we saw trees with apples still on them and the ripest ones were of course sunning themselves at the top of each tree. This is where the boyfriend became my hero for jubilantly (he didn't have to be asked twice...or at all) climbing to the top of each tree to nab the apples I pointed to. I stayed on the ground and tried to catch the apples he tossed down *Note - I can't catch, so this didn't end well. 

No, you're not supposed to climb the trees, so if you want a more compliant alternative, we saw a group who had sidled their truck up to a bunch of trees and climbed on the roof - inventive, right?

After you have gathered enough apples to get yourself through a potential apocalypse and realized that apples are heavy and maybe you should have left some of those on the tree, you can head for the farm store, grill, doughnut stand, and ice creamery, passing through check out on your way. While apple-picking was an adventure in and of itself, my favorite part was the farm store and community of food stalls and musicians surrounding it. The store offers everything from apple cider (so good), to locally sourced cheese, meats, vegetables, and pies. I picked up cider, sea salt caramel popcorn, and locally made Kielbasa sausage, multi-colored baby potatoes, and 5 Cipollini onions. The last three were an in-store burst of enlightenment that saved us from having to go out to dinner after an exhausting day and resulted in the most delicious herb-baked potatoes and Kielbasa with an apple cider reduction, which you can see here.

For lunch, the boyfriend volunteered to stand in line for the grill while I geeked out in the farm store. *The lines for the grill, doughnuts, and ice cream (these last two start as the same line and branch out) were quite long but well worth the wait. After obtaining cheeseburgers and freshly grilled corn on the cob (yum), we settled down on the hill beside the store to listen to the band that set up around 2:30pm.

All in all, it was a perfectly wonderful day and my only piece of advice is one that was passed on to me: arrive early, around or slightly before noon if possible. When we left around 3:30/4pm, it was getting very crowded and the kids were getting tired. So come for the vegetable/fruit picking, stay for the shopping, food, and music, and leave before it gets too late/filled with the sobs of tired children who don't understand why the line for the doughnuts is too long.

Ps. stay tuned for apple recipes galore!

Kielbasa and Baby Potatoes in an Apple Cider Reduction

After an exhausting day of apple-picking at Fishkill Farms, I was glad that I had provisions from the farm's store (Kielbasa, baby potatoes, and 5 Cipollini onions) sufficient to cook a hearty, restorative dinner.

First, I turned the oven up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to pre-heat while I washed the baby potatoes and prepped them in a deep pan (think cake, pie, or square, heat-proof dish). This process was super easy and consisted of drizzling the potatoes with olive oil and dusting them with dried Thyme and Rosemary (some fresh Rosemary would have been great but I didn't have any, so use whatever you have), a bit of freshly ground salt and pepper, and mixing in 2 of my 5 onions (chopped). Mix these ingredients so that the potatoes are evenly coated, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and set in the oven (now on the 'bake' setting) for 30-40 minutes. *My oven runs cold, so I turned the heat up to 450 degrees for the last 10 minutes and they came out just fine. You'll know that they are done when the skin is wrinkly and they can be easily pierced with a fork.

After the potatoes are under way, you can turn your attention to the Kielbasa, onions, and apple cider (they should be room temperature before you start). Chop up your three remaining onions, heat up a skillet over a medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of butter, and slowly cook the onions until they are caramelized. Now add in about a cup of cider, turn the heat on high until the cider is boiling, then bring the heat back down to medium-high (depending on how hot your stove runs, you may need to lower it to a medium heat), and let simmer until the cider has reduced. *Reductions sound complicated but it's just the burning off of extra sugars and liquid until the medium you are working with 'reduces' to a more sticky, syrupy-like version of itself.

Fresh apple cider

Once this is done, add in your Kielbasa (any white sausage would taste great), cover, and let simmer, turning the sausage links occassionally, until they are cooked.


My final touch was a toasted demi-baguette for the sausage. This is, again, super easy. I put a cast iron grill pan (you can use a hot skillet or an actual grill too) over high heat, cut each demi-baguette in half, lengthwise, brushed the cut side with olive oil, and placed it face-down on the pan. After a minute or two, the edges of the bread should start to smoke - this is good! It means that the bread is grilling, which is how you get a crispy inside and those lovely grill marks. If you want to lightly crisp up the outside, you can turn the bread over on the pan but do this for no more than 30 seconds (the outside should still be soft, so you don't risk injuring your mouth with overly-crisped bread).

Once the bread if finished, plate up your potatoes, Kielbasa, and enjoy!

Ingredients: (serves 2)

- 4 links Kielbasa 
- 5 Cipollini onions
- 15-20 multi-colored baby potatoes
- Apple cider (fresh, not the store bought kind with tons or preservatives in it)
- Rosemary (dried or fresh)
- Thyme (dried or fresh and chopped)
- Olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp butter (unsalted)

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Best Thing About Cornbread

Is that you can literally put anything in it and it will taste amazing. Think of cornbread batter as a blank canvas, just begging to be spiced up with vegetables, meat, cheese, and whatever herbs are about to go bad whilst sitting in your fridge.

Such was the case last night, when I realized that I had an onion, a tomato, and a bunch of broccoli about to turn, along with half a bag of mixed shredded cheese...What's a girl to do you ask? In Texas (my home state), the answer to that is either quiche (we'll address this later) or cornbread. Given a bit of cornmeal, flour, two eggs, and milk (i've used oil when I ran out of milk and it's do-able), you've got the makings of cornbread.

From here, I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, gathered my ingredients together, and settled down to chop some serious onion. *During my French cooking class at ICE, I learned the correct way to do this: 1) cut the onion in half, lengthwise (your knife should be connecting with the root) 2) cut off the ends 3) setting the onion half on it's side, use your knife to cut the onion into layers, going against the grain (**don't cut all the way through - everything should still be connected at the end of the onion (root side) you are slicing towards) 4) now set the onion half flat and slice thinly in the same direction, being careful not to cut all the way through the end (everything should still be connected) 5) ok, by now you should have two sets of cuts, intersecting each other - take your knife and cut across the onion (from side to side, not cutting towards the root) and your onion should fall away in neat, diced sections (you'll lose a few of the outside pieces along the way - throw those out).

Phew! Now you can sauté your expertly chopped onion in a skillet on medium-high heat, with a tablespoon or two of butter, until they are nicely caramelized.

Once the onions are caramelized, remove from heat and turn your attention back to the other vegetables (tomatoes and broccoli in my case). I chopped the tomato up and put it in the batter uncooked (I don't like using fried tomatoes because they get mushy and don't hold their shape as well). For the broccoli, I disconnected the florets from the stem, getting as close to the floret as I could, so it broke into smaller bunches, instead of leaving all of them all on one stem.

Using the same pan you caramelized the onions in (you might have noticed by now that I am a big fan of using the same pan for multiple ingredients as the fat residue helps to flavor the next ingredient being cooked - everyone has a different take on this, so feel free to disagree and clean the pan), turn the heat back up to medium-high, add a tablespoon of butter, and quickly sauté the broccoli florets. Take care that they don't fully cook. You want broccoli that holds its shape, avoiding the mushy, re-heated texture. Once it's turned a bright green (think cooked asparagus green), remove from heat. 

Now, you can mix your cornbread batter and add in the waiting vegetables.

For the batter: a technical baker will tell you that the order of ingredients (dry to wet in this case) is necessary for the proper chemical reaction to achieve maximum height and fluffiness in the bread as it bakes and rises. This is true but no one in Texas has ever cared when it comes to this dish, so i'm going to tell you to dump everything, in whatever order you wish, into the same, medium mixing bowl and stir until the batter is thoroughly mixed. Once it's slightly thicker than pancake batter (not runny but still easily pour-able), mix in your vegetables and cheese (I added in 2 cups of cheese, which looks like too much but once it bakes, it's amazing). Coat the sides of your pan or muffin tin (I used a metal 13 x 9) in butter and pour the batter in.

My pre-baked cornbread. Yours will look different, according to what you
put in it but the color of the batter should be relatively similar.
Turn your oven setting to 'bake' and place the cornbread in the oven, on the middle rack. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until the top is golden-brown and a knife stuck into the middle (quick readiness test) comes out clean. Remove from heat and let cool.

I prefer my cornbread served with chili but I have a roommate who insists on eating it straight from the pan by itself (and sneaking it cold when she thinks i'm not looking - so it must be good!).

My favorite thing about using broccoli or any colorful vegetable is that you
can see it when you slice up the bread. It's an instant diagram of what
you put in the batter.
Other suggestions for cornbread concoctions include: 2 tablespoons of honey (I usually add in a touch of vanilla extract if I'm making a sweet one); creamed corn to add density and moisture; bacon and scallions - be adventurous and have fun!


- 1 1/2 c cornmeal
- 1/2 c flour 
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 c milk (whole or skim)
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tblsp unsalted butter, plus additional for coating the pan

Add ins
- 1 tomato (heirloom or on-the-vine are my go to's)
- 1 onion (vidalia is my favorite when I want a soft sweetness)
- Broccoli (I used baby sprouts instead of a giant head of the stuff - you can get this at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)
- Mixed, shredded cheese (any cheese that melts will work)