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There's a cornbread and chili competition coming up in my office and I've been tinkering with many cornbread recipes, making my husband very happy. Cornbread is quick and easy to make and can have many variations to choose from and hundreds of entrees to pair it with.

Cornbread may be considered an essential component of a Southern meal, but that doesn't mean it's not found in the northern part of the country. The southern settlers created a bread that used ground corn as a substitute for flour since wheat flour was more expensive than corn. This resulted in a coarser and crumblier texture that is still preferred by some. Northern style cornbread, on the other hand, is typically lighter and sweeter because of the addition of flour and sugar, but nowadays this version has creeped into even some southern homes.

Buttermilk and lard make for a rich-tasting, but waist-expanding, cornbread. Substitute non-fat buttermilk for less calories but rich flavor, and oil for healthier fats but still moist. Purchase whole grain medium grind yellow cornmeal for more nutrients and a great texture. The variations of seasonings is up to you and your taste buds. Leave it plain or try a Mexican version like the recipe below. Other variations may include creamed corn or bacon. For a crisp brown crust, bake it in a preheated cast iron skillet.

Besides chili, cornbread pairs well with smothered pork chops, oven fried chicken or a simple chef salad. Whichever variation you choose, cornbread is always a good choice on a warm winter day. I think I have a winner with this jalapeno cheddar cornbread. What do you think?


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Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Printable PDF

1 cup non-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup canola oil

2 eggs

1 cup whole grain cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 scallions, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

1 1/4 cups low-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350?F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix the buttermilk, oil and eggs. In a separate large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just combined. Fold in scallions, peppers and 3/4 cup of the cheese. Pour into pan or skillet. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Yield: 9 servings

Nutrition analysis per serving: 240 calories, 11 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 9 grams protein