I love chili, especially this time of year. It is perfect for a warm lunch, snack or light dinner the same way crisp lettuce greens and just-picked berries scream of summer.
I love chili because: it is a brilliant after-school snack for my teenage, growing-taller-than-life sons. I can start a batch mid-afternoon and when they swing open the door and bee-line it to the crock-pot. Sometimes I make chili on Saturday or Sunday. Again: a warm lunch after working in the yard—or staying cozy inside to avoid the chill.
It brings smiles and happy bellies to the men in my life.
I love chili because I can freeze it. Some nights, when I am teaching at the cooking school, I am not home to make dinner for my family. They know to look in the freezer: a bag of chili? Perfect. A quick warming, grab a bowl and dinner is served.
My affection for chili is a bit of function, a seasonal choice and familiarity. Chili is practical, reliable and a solid dish of protein for my athletic boys. Then, my friend brought this chili to a game/potluck night we hosted; THIS chili made me think outside the crock-pot. I was excited to see quinoa tucked into the bowl, along with pumpkin and yellow bells. A fantastic vegetarian chili, that I might even like more than our usual, carnivorous version. Hear me say it: beef is out, quinoa is in. (Actually, I now make my meat-version of chili with chorizo and grass-fed beef. It is quite lovely, and I will share that recipe soon). Spoons up:
Adopted from Oprah magazine/site:
Quinoa Pumpkin Chili
2 T olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped (or 2/3 cup shallots)
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic)
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (or fresh, roasted, pureed)
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa*
2 Serrano chili peppers, seeded & chopped (Anaheim or jalapenos have less heat and can be substituted)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed/drained (or fresh cut off cob)
1 T ancho chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
big grinds of coarse salt, TT
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and sauté 3-4 minutes; add all peppers and spices and saute another 3-4 minutes. Add cans, corn, quinoa and 4 cups water and stir to combine. Simmer 30 minutes until quinoa is soft; serve warm with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.
*can substitute 1 cup bulgur.