An All-in-one Meal That Never Disappoints

It’s a crisp fall day. You walk through the front door and you instantly feel like you’ve walked back in time. Something smells amazing. It smells like home.

Then you realize that you’re not a kid again – that someone hasn’t spent the afternoon cooking for you. This is your handy work – and it’s the magic of a crock pot.

My favorite go-to crock pot recipe is chili with a corn bread topping – and it all cooks in the same pot. Who really likes doing dishes anyway? But what I love even more than the efficiency of this dish is the fact that my family can’t get enough of it. I made it tonight (for Gray Cup Sunday) and my six-year old ponytail and my husband had three plates, my three-year old ponytail had two plates, and I’m sorry but I’m just not saying how many helpings I had!

 

The flavor combination in this recipe is a little different than your standard chili. Don’t be alarmed by the olives and cocoa powder in this recipe – the combo really does work. If you do decide to make this, please let me know what you think.

All-in-one Chili & Cornbread

Adapted from recipe by Judith Finlayson (The 150 best Slow Cooker recipes)

  •  2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 onions chopped (or one large onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2-¼ cups tomato sauce
  • ½ cup condensed beef broth
  • 2  cans (10 oz/284 mL) corn kernels, drained or 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 can 19 oz red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup pimento-stuffed olives, sliced
  • 1  red bell pepper, diced

Cornbread Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup finely chopped green onions (optional)
  1. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring and breaking meat up with the back of a spoon, until beef is no longer pink. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Drain off liquid in pan.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and heat remaining oil in pan. Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic, pepper, chili powder, salt, allspice and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add cocoa and cornmeal and stir well. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce and beef broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Pour mixture into slow cooker stoneware. Add corn and beans and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours, until hot and bubbling.
  4. Add olives and red pepper to slow cooker and stir well.
  5. To make Cornbread topping: in a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar and baking powder. Add melted butter, milk or buttermilk and egg and stir well until ingredients are combined. Add grated cheddar cheese and green onions, if using, and stir well.
  6. Drop cornbread batter, by spoonfuls, over the top of the mixture. Cover and cook on High for 30 to 40 minutes, until topping is set.

TIPS:

  • You’ll get two ¼ cups out of a 5.5 oz tin of tomato paste. Measure out your second ¼ cup and freeze in a sandwich bag for the next time you make this.
  • I’ve made this without pre-cooking the meat and sauce before adding to the crock pot, but I find the flavours of the sauce meld much better by pre-cooking.
  • Make sure you rinse the kidney beans, as there’s a lot of sodium in the liquid they are canned in.
  • I often substitute ground turkey for the beef – it’s healthier and tastes great.
  • Be sure to serve with sour cream, grated cheese and chopped green onion.

A Budding Blogger?

My six-year old ponytail came racing home tonight excited to show me the cupcakes that she decorated at school today. The only thing standing between her and eating those cupcakes with her class mates? Her desire to post a picture of them on my blog!!! So here they are. Unfortunately I didn’t do as good a job on the photo as she did on the decorating. Not bad eh?


Itty Bitty Bites

Even though you may end up eating three or more (like 20), there’s something about a bite-sized treat that makes you feel like you’re being really, really good. So if you’ve never made mini muffins or cupcakes, don’t you think that it’s time to try something new? I promise you’ll never look back.

You can convert any muffin or cupcake recipe to “minis” by cutting the baking time. The rule of thumb is 12-15 minutes at 350° for a standard muffin or cupcake recipe.

Here’s a blueberry-banana muffin recipe I just had to try because it’s healthy (can you say fibre?) and because I needed some school snacks for my little Grade One ponytail. Oh, and did I mention that I have about 100 very ripe bananas in my freezer, along with the large haul of blueberries we picked this summer. I need to clear out my freezer in preparation for cookie season, which is just around the corner.

If you’re like me before making this recipe, wheat germ isn’t something sitting in your cupboard. It’s worth getting for this recipe, as you’ll make it again (they really are good) and I have a recipe for healthy granola bars that also calls for wheat germ, so I’ll post it soon.

Tips:

  • Buy a timer! It’ll become your best friend in the kitchen.
  • Always set your timer for the low-end of the baking time listed and check to see if your goodies are done. If not, you can always bake a little longer but over-cooking can’t be undone.
  • When you bake something for the first time, write the final baking time on a post-it note and stick it to the recipe for next time.
  • Invest in a 24-mini muffin pan. It’ll save you time in the long run, as you’ll only need to bake two pans for a standard muffin/cupcake recipe which usually makes about 30 mini muffins/cupcakes. I bought mine for under $10 at HomeSense.

 

Scrumptious Blueberry & Banana Muffins

(Makes about 30 mini muffins or 12 regular)

Janet and Greta Podleski, published in TogetherFamily.ca

  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
  • ½ cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (approx. 3)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray a 24-mini muffin tin and half of a 12-mini muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside (or use your 24-cup muffin tin twice).

Combine oats, both flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together bananas, egg and melted butter. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for approx 13 or 14 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. (Note: If making 12 regular sized muffins, bake for 20 minutes)