This is the time of year when hearty comfort foods like soups, stews, and chili are particularly appreciated: warming and filling, and so easy to make in the slow cooker. Chili on butternut squash (ubiquitous now, too) is a savory-spicy-and slightly sweet taste experience!
I have about fifteen different chili recipes, but I prefer the simple ones where I’m likely to already have most or all of the ingredients on hand. I also give the edge to the recipes that lend themselves to substitution. In this case, I used black beans instead of kidney beans, omitted the tomato paste, and just used one green bell pepper. Why? Because that’s what I had in my pantry and fridge.
In an effort to reduce the amount of meat we eat, we often replace at least part of the meat called for in a recipe with a substitute like Quorn™ Grounds, tofu, or Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP); TVP works particularly well in this recipe because it soaks up the liquid and, with it, the flavor. When cooked, it has a similar texture to ground beef, so even though I only used a half pound of pastured ground beef, the finished chili was still thick and rich.
Per the recipe, the beef and veggies are browned in a skillet before adding them to the crock. I don’t pan-brown the bell pepper because it will cook down on its own, and I don’t drain off any of the fat from the beef because I’m not anti-saturated fat (and I think you lose some of the beefy flavor if you do remove the liquid fat).
The rest of the ingredients are just added to the pot and then I let it cook on low all day. After about 6 hours, the flavors have melded nicely and it’s ready to eat.
I spiralized a large butternut squash and roasted the noodles in the oven, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, for about 10 minutes. They came out tender and sweet – a good foil for the rich chili.
The final touch was adding a generous sprinkle of cheese and onions. A dollop of sour cream would also be a tasty addition. Autumn is definitely chili season!