Winter Vegetable Whey Chili and Skillet Whey Cornbread

Winter chili with skillet cornbread

January is one of those months where making hearty food is in high demand, and New Year’s resolutions are looming over our heads.  How do we stay healthy while making meals that protect us from the bitter cold air?  It’s a challenge, as I hear my fellow New Yorkers groaning and moaning over eating rich foods and decreasing their exercise routine.  I’m a firm believer that it is important to eat nutrient dense foods and have an active lifestyle that supports these whole food decisions.  And it is important to get those veggies in, too.

This month, with New Year’s Resolutions in mind, I’ve adapted a Winter Lentil, Bean, Carrot, and Tomato Chili to include Cheese Whey as a broth alternative. Cheese Whey is filled with minerals such as calcium phosphate and whey protein.  It is the water content produced during cheese making, when the fats and casein proteins in milk coalesce to form the curd. The Cheese Whey is slightly tangy, buttery, and light in body, so it’s a great alternative that counters the rich lentil and bean texture and flavor.  Often times, Cheese Whey is discarded during the cheese making process.  In large quantities, whey disposal can be a a huge environmental issue.  Whey acidifies over time, and like fertilizer, can disturb the equilibrium of the soil and the water and become toxic.  In smaller quantities, however, Cheese Whey is an amazingly powerful, nutrient rich liquid that energizes and nourishes plants, animals, and humans.  The most powerful, nutritious whey comes from raw milk cheese or yogurt.  But the pasteurized, heat treated milk also holds onto many of the benefits. Since it is difficult to get your hands on raw milk these days, I encourage you to make a batch of Homemade Buttermilk Ricotta, and reserve the whey for cooking and baking. I strain and pour the large quantity of whey produced from Ricotta into quart containers, let them cool, and then place them in the freezer for future use.

For the Skillet Whey Cornbread, I substitute the milk for Cheese Whey, which results in a fluffier cornbread.  The nice thing about using the whey from Homemade Buttermilk Ricotta, is that is has those delicious traces of buttermilk so it maintains its leavening properties when used for baking. Try it. You won’t be disappointed!

winter chili recipe with cornbread

Skillet Whey Cornbread

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

  • 1 1/3 cups (6 2/3 ounces) stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (2 1/4 cups)
  • 6 T unsalted butter (3oz), cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup whey
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
  2. Process corn kernels in blender until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer puree to medium saucepan (you should have about 1B= cups). Cook puree over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick and deep yellow and it measures 3/4 cup, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat. Add 5 tablespoons butter and whisk until melted and incorporated. Add whey and whisk until incorporated. Add eggs and yolk and whisk until incorporated. Transfer corn mixture to bowl with cornmeal mixture and, using rubber spatula, fold together until just combined.
  4. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Scrape batter into skillet and spread into even layer. Bake until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 23 to 28 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cornbread from skillet and let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Winter Vegetable Whey Chili

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 - 6 cups whey
  • 2 cups lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 29 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 29 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use pure maple syrup to keep this vegan)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large heavy pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil, then the onion, celery and carrots. Sauté until the onions have softened, then add the garlic and continue to cook for just one minute.
  2. Add the spices next through the bay leaf. Cook for about two more minutes to get them fragrant.
  3. Add the whey (start with 5 cups first, you may need an additional cup later to thin the sauce out), lentils and tomato sauce and raise the heat to high, bringing the broth to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes to get the lentils tender.
  4. Add the black beans, corn, red peppers, Tabasco and honey and continue to cook for about 20 more minutes. Add the extra cup of broth, if needed.
  5. Serve in bowls with the toppings of your choice.

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