Whole Grain Cornbread

The “-ber” months are some of my favorite and least favorite months of the year. September, October, November, December: four months of cold-to-freezing weather, shorter days, and a return to “normal life” from the paradisiacal days of summer. But they are also four months of comfy sweaters, family gatherings, and perhaps most enticingly, soup! As much as I want to complain about the fall blues, I’m just too easy to win over. Fall, you had me at soup.

Given that I’ll be eating a lot of soups this season, I guess I should also be prepared to make some perfect accompaniments to these bowls of joy. This whole grain cornbread is something I made to go with that turkey and black bean chili I wrote about the other day. I love cornbread, but I always feel a pinch of guilt eating it, knowing that it’s loaded with oils and sugar and flour and basically, things that can really take away from that healthy vibe I was aiming for with my lean, protein-packed chili. So the fact that this stuff is made with whole wheat flour and corn meal definitely sits well with me. 

Keep in mind that this skillet cornbread is made specifically to be dunked in chili. It’s not as moist as it could be if I had used a ton of butter, or as soft as it could be if I had used white flour instead of whole wheat. But in the soup, all of that sweet corn flavor really comes out, and it adds a delicious bit of crumbly cornbread texture to your chili without much added guilt. Healthy and tasty–it almost goes without saying that this is a very welcome addition to this season of soups. 

Continued after the jump →

Turkey Black Bean Chili

Hello, soup season. As much as I don’t love the shorter days or the ever-chillier nights, the end of the summer still holds a little joy for me in the form of a warm bowl of liquid comfort. Soup is one of the top reasons that I appreciate fall. 

The only tricky thing about soup is that different people tend to have pretty different reactions to it. I tend to feel really full after I drink warm soup, so for me, soup is usually a satisfying meal all by itself. But my husband tends to think of soup as an appetizer, so even after downing a large bowl of soup, he’s anticipating the next course–which isn’t always on the way. I crave the comfort of that hot liquid, while he craves something a little heartier.

But if there’s any soup that just screams “meal,” it’s chili. It’s one of the soups we can agree upon as being enough for dinner all on its own: it’s hearty and satisfying, meaty and comforting. The best of both worlds. 

This turkey black bean chili is one of my favorite chili recipes. I love me a great tomato-based soup: the way sweet-salty-slightly tangy mix of flavors plays on your tongue, the satisfaction that comes swallow after swallow. The spices add the signature bite and smoke of chili, which to me is what makes this stuff irresistible. 

But what I really love about this chili is that it doesn’t need a whole lot of rich ingredients to make it delicious. Health-wise, this is something I can feel good about serving to my family. There’s tons of lean protein from the turkey and black beans, and a lot of flavor without a ton of added salt or sugar. Served with a little whole grain cornbread and greens on the side, this is a wholesome meal that everyone can enjoy. 

Continued after the jump →

I don’t know what makes me love Chinese chives so much. These skinny herbs are pungent bordering on stinky, but I just can’t get enough of them. Is it their spicy, slightly garlicky flavor? Is it the way they kind of just melt into whatever you cook them with? Is it just in my genes?

Let me tell you what it isn’t: It’s not the fact that they demand super-careful washing because they’re so thin and long. And it definitely is not the way these things make my fridge smell. It’s certainly less than pleasant to get a whiff of these every time you open the refrigerator. In fact, perhaps best advice I can give regarding Chinese chives is to cook them soon after you buy them. Your refrigerator and its other tenants will thank you. 

These Chinese chive pockets are one of my favorite ways to eat Chinese chives. The basic filling is comprised of a ton of chives with a little bit of egg and vermicelli, but there are many delicious variations out there. If you’re not against seafood, a few dried shrimp or fresh shirasu are great for adding little salty bits to the filling. And if you’re looking for a little more protein, I’ve seen these made with bits of baked tofu or ground pork. In any case, all these additions are only meant to enhance the flavor of the chives, which are the real star of this dish.

And finally, see that sauce on the plate? If you think it’s soy sauce, guess again. There’s only one thing that goes on our chive pockets, and that’s vinegar. Black vinegar is a favorite, but sometimes we mix in a little white rice vinegar too. As I write this, I’m realizing that chives + vinegar does not sound necessarily sound like the most appealing combination. But trust me, it’s basically a flavor explosion that tickles your tongue with all 5 basic tastes at once. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

Continued after the jump →

Pumpkin Soft Pretzel Bites

Is there anything more “fall” than pumpkin? The deep orange shade of its flesh. The rich, velvety texture of freshly roasted pumpkin pulp. The cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices that customarily grace pumpkin-flavored treats. The scrumptiousness of said pumpkin-flavored treats. The weight gain… no, then again, let’s not go there. 

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say pumpkin is the ultimate sensory experience of the season. Then again, maybe I’m just trying to justify the dearth of pumpkin-related baking that is going on in my house right now. 

These pumpkin soft pretzel bites combine two of my favorite things: pumpkin and soft pretzels. (Pretty self-explanatory, right?) The soft pretzel bread is infused with just a hint of pumpkin and those amazing fall spices, all encased in that signature pretzel-y coating and a bit of caramelized cinnamon sugar. Fall in a bite, am I right?

These are best eaten fresh on the day they were baked. You can eat them as-is, straight out of the oven, or with an extra coating of butter, cinnamon and sugar–you know, just for kicks. If you need an excuse, just blame it on the season.

Continued after the jump →

Hawaiian Dinner Rolls

I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t know and love Hawaiian bread. My parents used to buy it while we were growing up–always the rolls, never a whole loaf–and I distinctly remember getting excited at the sight of the orange packaging, inside of which were hiding tidy rows of golden-brown rolls, each a neat, rounded square.

The bread itself was not just bread–it was definitely a treat, and one of my favorites at that. The rolls were soft and pillowy, just sweet enough to be delicious, but not so sweet that my parents considered them dessert. And believe me, I took advantage of that fact: requesting rolls at odd hours of the day, snacking on them before dinner. The only problem with the Hawaiian rolls was that they always disappeared too fast.

These Hawaiian dinner rolls are the closest I’ve gotten to matching the deliciousness of the original. In a lot of ways, they embody what I love best about my childhood favorites: they’re sweet, buttery, and soft, with a light and fluffy texture that pulls away beautifully when you separate them from one another. 

But I’ll be honest–this is not a perfect copy. I’m not sure if any home recipe can really match the fine texture and moisture of the store-bought rolls. For one thing, these rolls are great the day they are baked, but they’re not as moist the next day. And while I don’t usually like to post unperfected recipes here, in this case, I think I’m sharing a recipe that’s good in its own right, while also asking for help in making them even better. 

So tell me: have you ever made Hawaiian bread? What’s your favorite recipe, and how does it stack up against the prepackaged stuff?

Continued after the jump →