Wow! It’s hard to believe how fast the summer went. Among moving, readjusting, and starting a new semester, this month’s Secret Recipe Club was a lovely break from life. Amy, at A Little Nosh, is an active woman managing a family and household. I’m happy to say she seems choose plenty of “real food” ingredients, and to like chocolate, especially with peanut butter (yum). Check out some of her dessert recipes if you have a few minutes. My pick for this month was, sadly, not the triple awesome doughnuts but instead a seriously kid-friendly main dish imbued with the nostalgia of childhood. My grandmother often bakes cornbread on top of meat chili, and it reminds me of many happy summer vacations with them.

Amy’s version of cornbread-topped chili (aka Cowboy Cornbread) uses chicken, frozen corn, and tomato sauce but I switched it up to beans, sweet potato, and salsa to make it vegetarian as well as to match what I had in stock (welcome back, grad student budget). Feel free to skip the cheese if you’re not a dairy fan– I honestly barely noticed it and added some sharp cheddar when I reheated leftovers when I wanted that kick. (Yes, it reheats very nicely.)

While the multi-step recipe might seem like a lot of work, if you double the chili recipe, you have at least two meals. One for the table, and one for the freezer. The chili reheats very well, and you can always serve it with crackers or rice. FYI, you can use a cornbread mix of your choice as a shortcut or use your classic from-scratch recipe. Typically, a homemade cornbread will be lower in sugar and possibly salt, and, if you follow the recipe below, can be part or all whole grain. A fluffier cornbread is pobably a better choice, as the bottom can be a little bogged down from the chili.

Cowboy Cornbread

2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic (keep forgetting to buy garlic, I used dried)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 1/3″ cubes)
Chili powder (to taste, whether you like spicy-spicy or just a hint of flavor)
1 T cumin
1 t oregano
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz salsa of your choice
1 c grated cheddar

1 c whole grain cornmeal
1 c corn flour (for whole grain flour, use 3/4 c + 2 T)
1 T baking powder
2 T sugar
1 c milk
2 eggs
3 T melted butter or oil

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and stir for a few minutes. Add the garlic, spices, and sweet potatoes. Continue to cook, over medium heat, until the sweet potato is cooked. Covering it speeds the cooking time, but remember to stir occasionally. Add the beans and salsa, then heat through.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a large casserole dish or two smaller ones. (Custard cups are fun for individual servings.) Pour the “chili” into the baking pans, as shown. Top with the cheese.

Mix the dry cornbread ingredients thoroughly. Add the milk and egg, stirring lightly just until well mixed. Stir in the oil or melted butter. Pour over the chili and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

For the uninitiated, Secret Recipe Club is a group of bloggers who play Secret Santa with each other’s recipes. It’s a good way to stretch your boundaries, and explore recipes you might not otherwise encounter or remember. For more of this month’s posts, click on the blue frog below: