One of My Favorite Fall Meals

Last weekend autumn started blowing into my little corner of the world. The humidity is tapering off. Driving with the windows down is once again a feasible non-sweaty option. And I found these leaves starting to change:
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I’m kinda excited about fall, in case you couldn’t tell. Last week I was house/cat-sitting for this cat named Ellie:

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In this photo she has stolen my class notes and when I tried to retrieve them, she hissed at me. I let her keep them as long as she wanted because sometimes when she hisses, she is saying that she will definitely bite me. She’s a bit temperamental but she eventually curled up on my lap so we’re still pals. Besides, subliminally I was begging her for a study break.

I invited my friend Naomi over for dinner, one night while invading Ellie’s territory. With the evenings being cooler, I decided to make her one of my favorite fall meals: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili, Cheddar Corn Muffins, and The Best Fudgy Brownies. We happily chatted while we ate and then I introduced her to Call the Midwife, a seriously great show on BBC. Oh, BBC, how do you manage to make such fantastic television?

So, since I can’t make you all dinner (even though I’d love to), I thought I’d share the recipes and then you could make it yourself sometime.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili

IMG_0691Adapted from EatingWell
Serves 4-6 people*

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice

Preparation:
Combine chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and salt in a Dutch oven or whatever you normally make soup in over medium heat. Stir frequently so the spices don’t burn. The goal is to just toast the spices to draw out their flavors.
Once your kitchen begins to smell wonderful, you can add olive oil and turn the heat up to medium-high.
Add onion once the oil gets hot and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
Then add sweet potatoes and stir occasionally for four minutes.
Add water and bring to a simmer.
Cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the sweet potato is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Add beans, tomatoes and lime juice; increase heat to high and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. At this point, it is ready to serve but I’ve found if you let the ingredients marry for a half hour or so it just tastes better. Top with cilantro, sour cream, or whatever you’s like.

*It can stretch to feed 6. But if you use big bowls, want seconds, or have hallow stomachs it serves 4 people.

Cheddar Corn Muffins

IMG_0690
Adapted from Miss Petite Sweets
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk*
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top of muffins

Preparation:
In a large bowl, place Jiffy cornbread mix and paprika and mix well.
Separate egg, placing egg white in a separate bowl and egg yolk in cornbread & paprika mixture.
Beat egg white with electric mixer until light & fluffy, set aside.
Add buttermilk to cornbread mixture and mix well.
Lightly fold egg white into cornbread mixture.
Fold in in shredded cheddar.
Divide batter into 12 muffin liners and sprinkle extra shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

*If you do not have buttermilk simply add two teaspoons of either white vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and allow it to stand for 5 minutes.

I’m not sure if these are the “best” fudgy brownies but they come very close. I’ve made them on a few occasions and while they don’t look glamorous, people seem to really like them- like make happy sounds while eating them, like them. I am a firm believer that every great meal needs to end on a sweet note, so if you’re into chocolate mix up a batch- you won’t regret it.

The Best Fudgy Brownies

IMG_0693Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Makes an 8×8 pan but can be doubled for a 9×13 one

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar + more to taste
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Chocolate chips to sprinkle on top- about a 1/4+ cup (I highly recommend that you use Ghirardelli® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips)

Preparations:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray and set aside.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly (is warm to the touch not hot). It will look gritty but it will become smooth once the other ingredients are added. At this point I sample the batter to see how it tastes. I found when I first made this that it was a bit too bitter/salty for my taste so I usually add a bit more sugar a tablespoon at a time until it has more of the brownie batter taste I like.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely and lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares and serve.

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