It’s Chili in Here!

If you are a purist who believes that chili should be made only with ground beef and tomatoes you may wish to stop reading. But, if you have an open mind and are willing to accept that chili might be defined as any hearty stew spiced with chiles in fresh or dried form, then follow me as I broaden your chili horizons.

  • Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
  • Vegetarian Chili Verde

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili

I love the combination of southwestern spices with the sweet flesh of pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato.  I chose to make this chili with butternut squash but it really could be made with any of the three.

Preparing a butternut squash can be daunting.  I usually just split them in half, clean out the seeds, roast the whole thing in the oven, and then scoop out the flesh. For this recipe I wanted to start with raw squash so that required peeling. I started out by trimming each end of the squash with a heavy knife so I had flat surfaces to work with. Set the squash upright with the heavy end at the bottom.  Start the knife at the top and use both hands rock the knife back and forth, working it down the length of the squash. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

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Now you can lay the flat side down on your cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind.  Once that’s done it’s easy to cut into cubes. This was a huge squash so I had more than enough for chili.  I roasted a portion in the oven (about 40 minutes at 375 degrees) for a lunch side, saved another portion that I steamed and mashed later in the week, and still had enough left to stick in the freezer for another time.  What a bonanza from a $2.00 farmer’s market purchase!

Here is the recipe which I adapted from Cookie and Kate, one of my favorite sources:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 banana or bell peppers, chopped (I used a combination of yellow banana peppers and bell peppers from my garden)
  • 1 small butternut squash (1½ pounds or less), peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 small can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (divided)
  • Salt, to taste


In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth until simmering. Add the onion, bell pepper and butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are turning translucent.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic, chili powder, chopped chipotle peppers, cumin and cocoa powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the black beans, tomatoes, and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Taste and add salt if needed. I topped this with some chopped avocado which complemented the heat nicely!


Vegetarian Chili Verde

Remember the green salsa I made back in August? I still had a couple of jars left in the freezer and it gave me an idea. A few years ago I tried a chili recipe that used jarred red salsa in place of tomatoes and I wondered what would happen if I used my stash to create a Chili Verde? I found this recipe at The Washington Post website and adapted it to fit what I had on hand.  Here is my version:

  • 2 large poblano chili peppers; seeded and diced
  • 8 ounces red potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups green salsa (this is where all the heat comes from so choose according to your taste.)
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cans (14 or 15 ounces) no-salt-added white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the poblanos, the potato, onion, green salsa, and garlic, stirring to combine. Cover and cook until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the cornmeal, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, then add the remaining broth, the corn and the beans, stirring to incorporate. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, 10 to 20 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed.


The best thing about these recipes is that they are both made with things that are easy to find and not too scary for the meat eaters in your household.  No tofu or TVP just fresh, frozen, canned vegetables and spices from your pantry.




Is Orange the New Pink?

There’s a whole lot of “pink” going on in October in honor of breast cancer awareness but orange may be a better color choice for women who want to reduce their risk.

Orange is the new

“Orange is the New Pink” is the theme of the breast cancer prevention campaign recently launched by The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. This organization of physicians and other health promoters would like to change the way we treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer by focusing on prevention rather than drugs and surgery. Their goal is to teach people how to take control over their own health through better nutrition.

The “orange” in their message refers to the color of some vegetables and fruits containing carotenoids, specifically beta carotene, which are potent cancer fighters. Beta carotene is found in foods like carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes so it’s easy to see why orange was chosen as the theme color. Beta carotene is also present in in dark, leafy greens (spinach, kale) and in red fruits and vegetables like bell peppers and tomatoes. (Maybe red and green will be the new pink for the holiday season?…)

Research shows that women who consume the most carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables may reduce their risk of breast cancer by about 19 percent. According to The Institute of Medicine consuming just 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene each day reduces the risk of breast cancer. One medium sweet potato contains two to three times the recommended intake.

To decrease the risk of breast cancer even further women can follow the advice of the American Institute for Cancer Research. Breast cancer risk was reduced by 60% in women who met at least 5 of their “Ten Recommendations for Preventing Cancer”.  The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Be as lean as possible without being underweight
  2. Be physically active for 30 minutes every day. Avoid being sedentary.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks.
  4. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans).
  5. Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats.
  6. If you consume alcohol; limit to one drink per day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium.
  8. Don’t rely on dietary supplements to prevent cancer.
  9. New mothers should breast feed exclusively for the first 6 months.
  10. Cancer survivors should follow the recommendations (#1-8) for cancer prevention.


Unfrosting the Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an incredibly healthy source of carotenoids which may help to prevent cancer.  In fact, as we raise awareness about breast cancer during October the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine has declared “Orange is the New Pink” in an effort to educate the public about the cancer protective properties of orange/red/dark green fruits and vegetables.

Orange is the new

But pumpkin is not so healthy for us if we turn it in to pumpkin pies and pumpkin cakes and of course pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Here are some recipes using pumpkin that are savory or naturally sweetened.

  • Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
  • Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
  • Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

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I love adding fruit to my morning oatmeal.  Blueberries, bananas, peaches, apples; they’re all good so it’s not that much of a stretch to consider adding pumpkin.  About 1/3 cup of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) and 1-2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice stirred into cooked oatmeal is a great place to start.  You can also add some chopped pecans, a little maple syrup…you get the idea.

Pumpkin Black Bean (Anti-Oxidant) Soup

I don’t remember where I found this recipe so I can’t give proper credit but it’s one that I make every year at about this time. Because of all the vitamins and minerals present in the beans, pumpkin, tomato, and spices, I’ve rechristened it “Anti-Oxidant Soup”!


  • 2 cans (14-15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 c. fresh diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 c. red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon each kosher salt, cinnamon, allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Baked pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

Place red onion, garlic, and seasonings into large pot. Add about 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth and cook on low-medium heat until red onion and garlic are tender.


In blender, puree the beans and tomatoes with half the remaining broth.  Add to the pot. (Or here is what I do. I add the tomatoes, beans, and broth to the the onion spice mixture and use my stick blender to puree.  Saves on dishes!)



Add pumpkin and remaining broth to pot and stir to combine – a wire whisk works well for this. Simmer uncovered until thick, about 40-45 minutes. Before serving, stir in balsamic vinegar. Garnish with pumpkin seeds if desired. I also like to add some cooked brown rice to make this a complete meal.

Pumpkin Spice Chia Pudding

There are many recipes like this out on the internet. Some have several steps and multiple ingredients, toppings, etc.  I opted for this simple version from Green Evi.  I made it even simpler by combining all of the ingredients together at once and letting them chill together overnight. While this would make a great dessert or snack I opted to eat it for breakfast.

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So skip the sugar and the frost(ing) on the pumpkin to take best advantage of this highly nutritious seasonal food.