Pumpkin and a good helping of spices makes this chili a keeper. Karen Schneider / For the Forecaster

As we begin the countdown to the winter holidays, I want to provide you with some cozy, economical and healthy main dishes that can be made ahead of time. We all know what a busy time of year this can be, and my hope is that we all stay calm while carrying on.

Balancing decorating, shopping, baking, spending quality time with loved ones, taking extra good care of ourselves and our families, and still accomplishing all we regularly do is a tall order, but we can do it. And no one needs to be perfect at it. Let’s just all take it down a notch and keep things simple.

Our family kicked off the holiday season this year with an easy-peasy gathering here at the cove. An enormous pot of this chili was the star of day, made by my sister, Corinne. The warming spices and sustaining ingredients, including ground turkey, colorful peppers, pumpkin, beans, spinach and more, combine for a nutritious, delicious bowlful. As far as chili goes, this is my new favorite.

What’s a bowl of chili without a hunk of warm cornbread alongside? As a born and raised northerner, I like my cornbread to have some interesting add-ins, including just a touch of sweetness. This recipe fits the bill and then some.

I’ve published this shortbread cookie recipe before, given to me by my friend Cindy many moons ago. I’m offering it again because it’s so quick and versatile. This buttery dough can be flavored any way you please and rolls out so smoothly. The resulting cookies, formed into any shape you dream, can then be eaten naked or dipped in chocolate, dusted with powdered or colored sugar, or iced and decorated. I’ll be making a batch soon for our annual cookie swap!

Pumpkin turkey chili

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1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups onions, diced

1 cup colored bell pepper, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/3 pounds lean ground turkey

One (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

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One (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including liquid

1/4 cup tomato paste

One (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

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1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

4 cups baby spinach leaves

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Garnishes

Avocado

Shredded cheese

Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Cilantro, optional

Liberally coat a large pot or Dutch oven with oil and warm over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until onion softens. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

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Add ground turkey, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks. Continue to cook about 6 to 7 minutes.

Add beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, pumpkin puree, broth, chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cumin, salt, black pepper and optional cayenne pepper and stir.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Right before serving, stir in spinach. Serve with garnishes.

Yield: 6 servings

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected] or 504-0545.

Skillet Cornbread

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1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

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1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (15-ounce) can cream-style corn

1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup milk with 1/2 teaspoon vinegar stirred in

3 large eggs

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilis, optional

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and place skillet in oven to preheat.

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together corn, buttermilk, eggs, remaining 1/3 cup oil, and chilis, if using. Stir corn mixture into cornmeal/flour mixture just until combined; stir in cheese. Pour batter into hot skillet.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes; serve warm.

Yield: 8 servings

Little Stars

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1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

A few drops almond or lemon extract, or food-grade essential oil, to taste

2 cups flour

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Sprinkles, icing, powdered sugar for decorating

Cream together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and other flavoring with electric mixer. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut with cookie cutter. (Add sprinkles if using.) Place on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until just browning on the edges. Cool on rack before icing or adding powdered sugar.

Yield: Approximately 46 2×2-inch cookies

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