Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Butternut Squash? In Chili?

Tim was craving chili and cornbread last week. Some one told him they were having it for dinner, and he immediately wanted some for himself. That same night, I talked to my sister on the phone and she said that she had just made her favorite chili recipe. She didn't know where it came from but that it was scribbled on a piece of notebook paper with a recipe for meatloaf on the other side. Those are the best kinds of recipes. So, she e-mailed it to me, and I used her base recipe to create a colorful, veggie-packed chili that was hearty but not overly meat-filled. I am not a huge fan of ground beef, so I usually make turkey chili but this one had enough other flavors in it that the beef was more of a compliment than a focal point. It helped that I had a lot of vegetables in my fridge begging to be eaten, but from now on, I will purposely buy them when I am making chili. Feel free to sub-in any veggies that you have, chili can be an experiment, that way it won't get boring!

1 lb Ground Beef (I used just under a pound which worked well when I added in all the extras) cooked, drained
2 (15 Oz.) cans of chili beans
2 large Green Peppers, Chopped
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
4 Celery Ribs, Chopped
3-4 large cherry tomatoes or small roma tomatoes, diced
1 Red Pepper, Chopped
1 Small Butternut Squash, peeled, cubed, pre-cooked (directions in recipe)
1 (8 Oz) Can of Tomato Sauce
1 envelope Chili Seasoning
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 (8 oz) package of Macaroni Noodles, cooked and drained
Cheddar Cheese, grated
Salt, Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Start with your butternut squash because this is the most time consuming part of the whole process. Cut off the top and the bottom with a sharp knife. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to get all of the skin off. Cut up the squash into small cubes. Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil, or other cooking spray. lay squash in the cookie sheet in a single layer and season with salt. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Set aside.

While the squash is cooking, brown your meat and prepare all of your other veggies. Throw everything (squash last) except the macaroni, cheese, and salt and pepper into the crock pot. Add the squash last so that you can see how much you think you need. I probably added half of a pretty large squash. That was a perfect amount, but I just eye-balled it until it looked like it had a good ratio of ingredients. You can keep the rest of the squash in your fridge and use it with another meal because all the hard work is already done! Hurray!

Now that you have everything in the pot, turn it to low and let it cook for 6 hours. If you are using macaroni, stir it in after the cooking time is complete. I decided to leave the macaroni out just because there were already so many other things in this chili, I thought it may be too heavy. But, I do love chili mac, maybe I will try it next time. Season it with salt and pepper, and grate some sharp cheddar (or regular cheddar if you prefer) over the top of each bowl. Serve it by itself or with some good bread. Tim always needs to have cornbread with honey if he is having chili, but any hearty bread with some soft butter would do. Hope you enjoy it!

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