Kid-friendly Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili + Zucchini Cornbread Muffins Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili + Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

Family Meal Plan: Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili + Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili + Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

by Erin Fletter
Photo by kokofoundit/
prep time
50 minutes
cook time
30 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili

Chocolate Chili! I wanted to do something fun, unexpected, healthy, and vegetarian on an all-American food icon for this recipe. It's a fast recipe with just a little cooking required, and kids should enjoy the traditional flavors. Plus, adding handfuls of chocolate chips to their food will be awesome! The inspiration for this recipe comes from an unexpected memory. Thanks to my parent's rule that we must at least try everything once, I ate a lot of weird stuff as a kid. For example, when I was 11 years old, we took a train from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas via Mazatlan, Mexico. Even though I grew up in California, this was the first time that I ate real Mexican food (no yellow cheese!). One night we had tamales with mole, a sauce made from chocolate and chili peppers. This was something I simply couldn't fathom. Chocolate! With dinner? Really?! Now I'm a sucker for anything rich, sweet, and savory. Every time I reach for the cocoa when making dinner, I smile at the memory of the 11-year-old me. This chili is full-flavored but not spicy. The flavors are rich, mellow, and deep, reminiscent of the first mole I ever ate. Your kids will love it!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Shopping List

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3 zucchini
  • green onions, optional
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 C frozen sweet corn
  • shredded cheese, optional **(see allergy subs below)**
  • sour cream, optional **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 C milk **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 stick (8 T) softened butter **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 eggs, separated **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 3 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 16-oz cans pinto beans (drained)
  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 C yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 C honey
  • paper cupcake liners for muffin pan

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • crack :

    to break open or apart a food to get what's inside, like an egg or a coconut.

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • mix :

    to thoroughly combine two or more ingredients until uniform in texture.

  • separate eggs :

    to remove the egg yolk from the egg white by cracking an egg in the middle and using the shell halves, the palm of the hand, or a device to keep the egg yolk in place while the egg white falls into a separate bowl.

Equipment Checklist

  • Skillet
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • Can opener
  • Strainer
  • Wooden spoon
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Oven
  • Medium mixing bowls (2)
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Citrus juicer (optional)
  • Grater
  • Muffin pan
  • Paper cupcake liners


Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 zucchini
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 16-oz cans pinto beans (drained)
  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips **(for DAIRY/NUT/SOY ALLERGY use Enjoy Life brand, for CHOCOLATE ALLERGY sub carob chips)**
  • 1/2 C frozen sweet corn (thawed)
  • shredded cheese, optional **(omit for DAIRY ALLERGY or sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese)**
  • green onions, optional
  • sour cream, optional **(omit for DAIRY ALLERGY or sub dairy-free/nut-free sour cream)**

Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

  • 3/4 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour)**
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 C yellow cornmeal
  • 1 C milk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1 stick (8 T) softened butter **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free butter, like Earth Balance)**
  • 2 eggs, separated **(for EGG ALLERGY sub 1 C silken tofu)**
  • 1 lime
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • paper cupcake liners for muffin pan

Food Allergen Substitutions

Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili

  • Chocolate: Substitute carob chips for chocolate chips.
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free chocolate chips, like Enjoy Life brand. Omit optional cheese and sour cream toppings or use dairy-free/nut-free cheese and sour cream.
  • Nut: Substitute nut-free chocolate chips, like Enjoy Life brand.
  • Soy: Substitute soy-free chocolate chips, like Enjoy Life brand.

Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free milk and dairy-free/nut-free butter.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour for all-purpose flour.
  • Egg: For 1 egg, substitute 1 C silken tofu.


Skillful Skillet Chocolate Chili

chop + measure + sauté

Have kids chop 1 eggplant, 1 onion, 1 bell pepper, and 2 zucchini. Grownups: Add these to a skillet over medium-high heat with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the veggies until soft, about 5 minutes. Then have kids measure 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, 3 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Add to the skillet, and cook until fragrant.

open + add + simmer

Open up 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of tomato paste, and 2 cans of pinto beans (drained) and add their contents to the skillet. Simmer over low heat, occasionally stirring, for at least 20 minutes, until desired consistency (and up to 2 hours for best flavor).

stir + top + serve

Just before serving, stir in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of sweet corn. Top with shredded cheese, chopped green onions, and sour cream if using. Serve with Zucchini Cornbread Muffins (see recipe) or tortilla chips.

Zucchini Cornbread Muffins

dry bowl: measure + mix

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Have kids measure 3/4 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal into a medium bowl. Mix together and set to the side.

wet bowl: measure + mix

In another medium bowl, have kids measure and mix together 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup honey, and 1 stick softened butter.

crack + grate

Crack 2 eggs, separating the yolks from the whites and adding the egg yolks to the wet bowl. Discard egg whites (or save them for another recipe). Cut 1 lime in half and squeeze the juice into the wet bowl. Next, have kids grate 1 zucchini into the bowl.

mix + bake

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined—don’t over mix! Pour the muffin batter halfway up in a paper-lined muffin pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when stuck in the center of a muffin. Eat these yummy cornbread muffins with your Skillet Chocolate Chili. Muy delicioso!

Surprise Ingredient: Zucchini!

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Photo by BearFotos/

Hi! I'm Zucchini!

“I'm very fond of summer, aren't you? After all, I'm a summer squash! I have beautiful, tender green skin, so don't peel it off before cooking, or you'll lose some of my fiber and nutrients. I may be a small gourd, but you wouldn't like my taste as much if I got too big. You can do all sorts of things with me to fit your recipes: slicing, dicing, grating, and even making spaghetti-like noodles out of me using a vegetable peeler or a fancy device called a spiralizer!"


  • Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is a summer squash of the same family that includes cucumbers and melons. Summer squash is a squash that is picked when immature, while its peel is still tender. 
  • Like many other veggies we've seen, zucchini is technically a fruit, not a vegetable! 
  • Central and South American people have been eating zucchini for several thousand years. However, the zucchini we know today is an Italian variety of summer squash developed from those of native Central and South America. 
  • Christopher Columbus brought squash seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa. 
  • The Native American word for zucchini is "skutasquash," which means "green thing eaten raw." 

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Zucchini grow on vines just like cucumbers do.  
  • Zucchini plants produce male and female flowers on the same plant, with the female flowers directly attached to the fruit and the male flowers attached to a long stem on the plant. Therefore, insects must pollinate the plants for the fruit to grow. 
  • Zucchini can rapidly grow to several feet long, but the smaller ones taste sweeter. 
  • The record for the longest zucchini is 8 feet 3.3 inches. The heaviest zucchini was 64 pounds 8 ounces!
  • It's "zucchini" in the US, Canada, and a few other countries. The word is a plural of the Italian "zucchino" (masculine form—the feminine form, "zucchina" is preferred), which is a diminutive (smaller version) of "zucca" or "gourd." 
  • In France, they say "courgette" (koor-ZHET), which the British also use. It's a diminutive of the French "courge," which also means "gourd."

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Harvesting zucchini when they're between 6 to 8 inches long and 3 to 4 inches in diameter ensures they will be more tender and sweet.
  • A "bumper crop" of zucchini is an overload of zucchini that grows faster than a home gardener can cook and eat it! 
  • When buying zucchini, choose firm and heavy ones for their size. In addition, fresh zucchini should have bright, glossy skin free of bruises or nicks. Zucchini stay fresh for up to a week when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. 
  • Zucchini is very versatile, and you can use them in both savory and sweet dishes, like ratatouille and zucchini bread.
  • Fresh zucchini blossoms can be cooked and eaten raw. You can remove the pistils from the female flower blossoms and the stamens from male flower blossoms, but you don't have to. Both have flavor and are edible.


  • Potassium: helps reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow to and from our hearts. 
  • Manganese: helps wounds heal and bones grow.
  • Antioxidants: help keep us healthy and healing faster when we're sick.
  • Fiber: helps us digest our food and absorb nutrients from our food.


History of Chili!

Photo by Brent Hofacker/
  • Chili, like apple pie, is an American icon. And although you may think it's Mexican, it isn't. Chili, as we know it, is not served in Mexico except in areas that cater to tourists. Instead, chili was invented in Texas! Several stories make up chili's history. 
  • For example, one story is that chuck wagon cooks invented chili when traveling with cowboys on cattle drives in the Southwest. The story goes that, as they traveled in one direction, the cooks planted oregano, chiles, and onions among patches of mesquite to give them protection from extreme sun, foraging cattle, and other critters. Then, on their way back along the same trail, they would collect the spices, combine them with chopped beef and call it "Trail Stew" or "Trail Drive Chili." 
  • According to What's Cooking America, the first recorded batch of "Chili con Carne" (chili with meat) in the US was made in 1731 by women who had emigrated from the Spanish Canary Islands. Historians called the dish "spicy Spanish stew."
  • In the 1880s, a market in San Antonio, Texas began setting up chili stands from which chili, or Bowls o'Red as they called it, were sold by women known as "Chili Queens." 
  • In 1967, the first chili cook-off happened in Terlingua, Texas, a border town about 400 miles west of chili's alleged birthplace, San Antonio. The cook-off ended in a tie between a native Texan and a New Yorker. They still hold chili cook-offs there today!

Let's Learn About Texas!

Photo by Joe Belanger/
  • Texas is in the south-central part of the United States. Its size is 268,596 square miles, the second-largest state in area after Alaska, and it is the second most populated state after California, with over 29 million people. 
  • Austin is the capital city of Texas and is known for its music scene. However, Houston has the most people. The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is the largest in the state and the fourth largest in the country.
  • Texas' nickname is "The Lone Star State," and "The Lone Star" is on its state flag and seal. Once belonging to Mexico, it became an independent republic in 1836. It joined the union in 1845 as the 28th state.
  • The top industries in Texas are oil and petroleum, agriculture (including cattle and cotton), aeronautics, defense, technology, and tourism. Texas has more than 16 million heads of cattle, the most in the US.
  • The Rio Grande River is the largest in Texas. It is 1,896 miles long, starting in south-central Colorado, then through New Mexico, running along the Texas and Mexico border, and then into Texas, where it eventually flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The phrase "Everything is bigger in Texas" was first used in 1913. Texas had been the biggest state until Alaska became part of the United States in 1959.
  • Several dishes got their start in Texas, some with influences from Mexico, immigrants from other countries, or neighboring states. These include Tex-Mex cuisine, chili con carne, chicken fried steak, corn dogs, and Texas-style barbecued beef brisket.
  • Pecan pie is the Texas state pie. Although historians are unsure whether pecan pie got its start in Texas or another southern state, we do know that archaeologists found evidence in Texas of indigenous people using pecans more than 8,000 years ago.

That's Berry Funny

What does a vegetable wear to the beach? 

A zoo-kini!

The Yolk's On You

Where do you find chili beans? 

At the North Pole, of course!

THYME for a Laugh

What do you call stolen cocoa? 

Hot chocolate!

Lettuce Joke Around

What do you call a sheep covered in chocolate? 

A Candy Baa!

THYME for a Laugh

What kind of vegetable likes to look at animals? 

A zoo-chini!

THYME for a Laugh

A man grabbed a bowl and a spoon and ran outside. Then one of his friends who saw him came over and asked him why he had a bowl and a spoon outside.

The man answered, ”Because the weatherman said it's chili today!"

Lettuce Joke Around

What is the most mythical vegetable?

The uni-CORN.

That's Berry Funny

Why didn't anyone laugh at the gardener's jokes?

Because they were too corny!

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