bake, cook, hike, eat

Sunday was beautiful, we knew we wanted to be outdoors, but what to do? We also knew we didn’t want to drive far, we didn’t want to spend any money and we wanted to do something different.  So, we decided to take a hike, locally, and we’re so glad we did. It was a trail we’ve been meaning to hike, but just hadn’t yet – today was the perfect day. We live on the tip of a peninsula, in Maine. This peninsula has taken land conservation seriously, thankfully a lot of Maine has… there are miles of scenic and varied hikes here and the beaches are incredible…yet, so are the insects. This is the best time of year to go hiking/walking in the woods, the issue of ticks and mosquitos has waned, the weather is crisp, the light is low and lovely, yet you want to go on a Sunday – it’s hunting season right now…neon orange is a must any other day of the week; Sundays are no hunting days, it’s the law, thus it’s the best day to go for a walk in the woods…so that’s what we did.

But what to make for dinner before we head out?

It’s not as though we can just go out and ‘grab’ something to eat, (there is nowhere to go for 20 miles – at least this time of year) plus, it would just be nice to come home to dinner already prepared… So what to make was the question? Utilize what we have was the only answer. Decision – go with simple comfort food – crispy corn bread in a skillet (if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, then a 9 1/2″ round baking pan may be substituted) and spicy red bean chili. 

Both can be quickly re-heated, the perfect solution after a long day out and about.

Want to know how? It’s pretty easy and you can substitute/increase/decrease ingredients according to needs. Here you go;

Spicy red bean chili

1 large onion

1-2 cloves garlic

2 cups kidney beans (freshly cooked or canned)

2 cups carrots

1 cup celery

2 cups corn (thawed frozen works well)

1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 fresh tomato

1-2 cups fresh greens (swiss chard or spinach)

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

2-3 tablespoon fiesta chili powder or mix cumin, ancho cilii, coriander, and oregano

1/2 +/- cup vegetable/chicken stock

salt to taste

dash of butter

Variations – add one or more of the following; red and green peppers, jalepeneos, cooked beef (organic or local if you can), diced potatoes, black beans, cannelloni beans, shredded pork (organic or local if you can)…go wild. Play with the spices – make it more hot or not.

What to do; Chop onion, garlic, carrots, celery, tomato and greens. Saute onions until translucent, add garlic, carrots, celery.

Add greens and tomato.

Add a dash of butter and then spice.

Mix briefly. Lower heat and add crushed tomatoes, beans and stock.


Add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings. Simmer till all is blended. Meanwhile get the cornbread going…

Crispy cornbread in a skillet

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (organic if you can)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter ( I know!)

In a large bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Add butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet

Place the skillet in a 400F degree oven for about 3 minutes or until the butter is nearly all melted. Remove skillet from oven – be sure to remember to use a rag or oven mitt – and swirl butter in pan to coat sides and bottom of pan.

Then, in a small bowl combine eggs (beaten), milk, and melted butter.

Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened.

Pour batter into hot skillet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm – it’s the best this way!

Top chili with sour cream, plain yogurt, freshly grated parmesan or goat cheese and freshly diced herbs – parsley, cilantro,  or chives…
The fun thing with this combo is that so many things can be added or substituted – use what you have and substitute for what you don’t.


What’s your favorite comfort food?