Meatless Monday: Autumn Chili

It seems like a while since I’ve posted a Meatless Monday recipe. Between my Grandpa’s passing, the election, health issues, and our vacation…I haven’t really been doing a lot of cooking lately!

Most of my dinners have been anything I can put in the oven, forget about for 20 minutes, then chow down on. Usually this means roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, or the seasonal favorite: squash. (OK and sometimes T-Man and I put tomato sauce, salami, and cheese on a large slice of sourdough and call it “pizza”…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!)

I’ve made my parents and boyfriend try spaghetti squash a couple of times, roasted a butternut squash for a delicious soup, and I finally picked up an acorn squash that is currently sitting on my counter waiting to be made into another soup…or maybe just roasted and stuffed with quinoa. The possibilities are endless!

It was really rainy this weekend. And for a girl who has lived most of her life in California, that means it simply rained for about a day straight. So in a search for comfort food that would get my stomach stretched for the marathon-style 24-hours of Thanksgiving approaching T-Man and I (his birthday is the day before, and we will be braving Bay Area traffic to make it to two different dinners on Turkey Day), but not cause premature Thanksgiving weight gain, I made this healthy, hearty chili.

I had ground turkey in my freezer, but I decided to be festive and added roasted butternut squash instead. This would be great with acorn squash, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, or whatever fall gourd or tuber you find in your grocery store. With plenty of protein from the beans alone, I figured I’d cut out the fat and add more vitamins, nutrients, and fiber by replacing it with squash.

Though I typically love a spicy chili, this recipe has a lot of sweetness from the bell peppers and butternut squash that gives it this interesting sweet-and-savory feel. Of course, me being me, I added cayenne pepper, and if you want it to be even spicier, I’ve added notes on what you can substitute.

This chili has a couple of secret ingredients: instead of tomato paste, I added pumpkin puree (of course always staying in theme!). Next, no chili for me is complete without beer. I really wanted to try making this chili with a seasonal pumpkin ale like Jen does in this recipe, but I couldn’t rationalize buying a whole 6 pack for a single cup of beer, so I used what usually do – a light wheat beer (this time a Hefeweizen). Any kind of seasonal beer would add a delicious touch to this already autumnal chili.

So try it and let me know what you think. And don’t forget the beer 😉

Autumn Chili
makes about five 2-cup servings

3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1/2 of a small to medium squash)
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
cayenne pepper, if desired
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup beer (I used Hefeweizen, but I would’ve LOVED to try a pumpkin ale!)
1/2 cup frozen corn
oil, for cooking
salt and pepper

Ingredient notes: Any kind of fall squash would work. Any combination of beans would work. I prefer a lighter beer for my chili, but as long as you stay away from hoppy, bitter beer, you’re fine. Bell peppers make this chili more sweet than spicy; replace one with a jalapeno or chipotle pepper for some kick.

Preheat oven to 400F. Carefully peel and cube your squash and toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once. You want the squash to cook a little bit, but it doesn’t have to be completely done yet, as it will cook more in the chili.

While the squash is roasting, prepare your peppers, onion, and garlic. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute peppers and onion until soft, about 5 minutes. When the squash is ready, add garlic to the pot and stir, cooking another minute. Stir in roasted squash cubes. {Note: I roasted my squash before to cut down on the cooking time on the stove. You can add uncooked squash at this point, just increase the simmer time so the cubes get cooked.} Add seasonings of your choice: I went heavy on the chile powder, then added paprika, cumin, oregano, and cayenne…plus more salt and pepper.

Stir till everything is coated in the spices, then add canned ingredients: beans and crushed tomatoes. Stir till combined, then add pumpkin puree and beer and stir some more. Let simmer for at least 5-10 minutes {longer if you didn’t roast the squash}. A few minutes before serving, stir in the frozen corn.

The longer you let the chili simmer, the more delicious it will get. I like a thick, hearty chili, so I prefer not to add more beer/water to thin it out.

Serve hot with a side of cornbread!

Meatless Monday: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Quinoa

So we finally got fall weather last week. And it was finally appropriate to make a pot of soup.

Of course, that fall weather went away just in time to do a bit of pre-Halloween celebrating this weekend…it was in the high 70’s, so I didn’t have to worry about being too chilly in my early Halloween costume:

But more on that later!

This soup is a little chunky, a little cheesy, and even a little crunchy (?) from the quinoa. T-Man loved it…even though it didn’t have meat. I made enough to feed a small army. So, in other words, it has fed T-Man and I for 5 individual meals so far, and there’s STILL at least a bowl left in his fridge.

It’s best scooped with a piece of sourdough toast. And then, if you’re like me and run out of soup while you still have toast in your hand…just pour a little more soup and repeat.  No shame.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Quinoa
makes one large pot of soup

1 butternut squash (~3 lbs)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup quinoa, dry
3-4 cups vegetable broth or water (chicken broth is OK for non veg-friendly)
4-5 sage leaves, chopped
1 parmesan rind, or as much parmesan as desired
oil, for roasting
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut squash into quarters. It helps to microwave it for a minute first. The simplest way to do it is to start by separating the neck and the bulbous bottom, and then slicing each half in half. Place quarters, cut side up, onto roasting pan. Slice the onion into wedges, separate two whole garlic cloves (with a layer of peel still on) and add to the roasting pan. Season everything with salt and pepper, then spray with cooking spray or drizzle a bit of oil and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. The squash will not be completely done yet.

While that’s roasting, prepare the quinoa according to package instructions. When 30 minutes has passed, remove squash, onion and garlic from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove squash and garlic from skins and give it all a rough chop. Heat more oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium heat, and add the roasted veggies. Saute for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add enough broth or water to cover the roasted veggies by about half an inch. (I’d guess this was 3-4 cups) Turn heat down to medium low, and keep at a simmer for 15 minutes. If you have one, add in a parmesan rind.

When the squash is fork tender, discard parmesan rind and transfer soup to a food processor in several batches. Blend to your desired consistency. I like mine with a little bit of texture. Once finished, return to pot and add cooked quinoa. Add chopped sage and (if you didn’t have a parmesan rind) grated parmesan. Simmer until ready to serve!

Keeps in refrigerator for a week (and counting!)

A Week in Groceries

Today, I was planning an update on my jogging/health/etc, but I decided to put it off because I’ve been too busy working on my darn Halloween costume that I haven’t had much spare time to do what I really want regarding the update (which is make a training plan to run a 5K on Thanksgiving!). So I thought I’d do a little something out of the box:

OK, more like out of the Safeway shopping bag…

I’m sharing my grocery shopping, what I generally like to stock my kitchen with, and what I make with what I buy!

First up, my grocery haul for the week from Safeway. There was a tiny version of this photo included in this week’s Weekend in Photos, but here’s the full thing:

Apples, Swanson’s Flavor Boost (‘cuz I had a coupon), Greek yogurt, multigrain tortilla chips (Food Should Taste Good has the BEST chips!), frozen burritos for lunch, granola, frozen chicken breasts, quick oats, cinnamon – pumpkin pie spice – poppy seeds, a sweet potato, and sage. For a total of $38.26!

The next day, I also picked up a spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and a pack of whole wheat English muffins to add $10.99 to the mix, which made my total just about $50.

Notes: I usually do a full grocery trip every two weeks, with a small trip in between. This was actually a pretty expensive grocery week for me, as I invested a good $10 on the spices and stocked up on a few pricier things (see italicized items above) that will last me a while. I usually buy things like tortilla chips, canned goods, and spices at Grocery Outlet (an extreeeeemely cheap bargain grocery store), but their stock frequently changes, and I didn’t find anything good there this week.

Lest you think I survived on these things alone this week, here is a peek at what was already in my kitchen:

Beans (garbanzo and black beans), several whole grain pastas, quinoa (hiding), brown rice, another sweet potato (never keep them in the fridge!), green chiles, an onion, Pop-Tarts, and there is also a giant bag of fun-sized candy hidden behind the penne. Ahem, I bought it for the trick-or-treaters me me me.

And now I apologize to my roomie in advance for exposing the world to the disaster that is our fridge, but…

Pretty much everything in the bottom two rows is mine. Hummus (I ALWAYS have hummus), tortillas, peanut butter, almond milk, a jar of homemade balsamic dressing, bacon, and a thing of sour cream that has probably gone bad. Also, there are brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce in the crisper drawer. Surprisingly, no wine at the moment.

As for the freezer…pumpkin puree, broccoli, and corn. That’s about it. 😉

With the exception of the two squashes and the sweet potato I bought, I’m pretty low on fresh produce at the moment. I was relying pretty heavily on the Farmer’s Market by my work this summer for produce, and as the summer has left, so has it unfortunately. There’s a big market on Sundays, but for some reason I never find myself with the motivation to wake up early enough!

Anywho, here are some of the things I made this week with the above groceries.

Strawberry greek yogurt + Strawberry vanilla granola = Sooooo yummy. A filling breakfast at only 250 calories. Holla. My breakfast each morning is either this, or oatmeal packets at work.

Spaghetti squash tossed with olive oil, fresh thyme, and basil from my parents’ garden. Notice how I have real spaghetti sitting on stand-by, just in case? Haha. Luckily, the squash (plus Mom’s meat sauce, fresh bread, and salad) was just enough to feed me and my parents. Next up, I think I’ll get T-Man to try it out!

Peanut butter and apple sandwich on an English muffin (if you look real hard, you can see some honey too!). I had this for lunch twice this week! I felt like a 6 year old, but it was totally worth it.

I don’t have a picture of me eating a frozen burrito, haha, but here’s one of my soup cups. I pretty much alternate which one I buy each week, and have at least a couple of each on hand at all times.

I used the butternut squash and sage to make soup! So far, that pot is half gone, and it’s served as dinner for me and a two-bowl lunch for T-Man. He’s been holding it hostage at his house since Tuesday…..I’ve been craving it alllll week.

Other lunches this week included quinoa mixed with whatever veggies & beans I had…Other dinners included a quesadilla, sweet potato fries, and baked chicken with broccoli.

Also, it’s safe to assume that I ingested a lot of chips and hummus. As I do..every week.

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THE TAKEAWAY:

  • My main goal when I’m at the grocery store is to buy things that will either last me a long time, or that I can easily make into single servings, since I’m buying for just myself. Also, to save money, obviously. (I never bought meat in college because I didn’t know how to properly preserve it before it went bad — now, I know how to manage my poultry, haha.)
  • I try to keep my kitchen balanced with carbs, proteins, veggies, and just a couple of snacks and sweets (e.g. chips and hummus, Halloween candy).
  • Quick meals like soup cups and burritos are a must for lunch, but for dinners I like to utilize the season’s produce.
  • You won’t find a lot of store-bought sauces, salsas, or dressings on my side of the fridge- I think it’s cheaper, healthier, and more fun (!) to make them yourself. (In fact, most of the hummus I ate this week was homemade, not the Sabra stuff.)

How much do YOU spend on groceries, and how often do you go? Which things do you always make from scratch, and which do you tend to buy ready-made from the store?