Friday, January 10, 2014

pumpkin chili

We started a Whole30 on January 8th at Casa De Ealachan - our first ever, in fact! We have been eating mostly Primal (basically, Paleo with dairy) for a few years now...minus vacations and a few, errrm...extended trips off the wagon, shall we say. The holidays this year were one such extended trip off the wagon for us. We pretty much went back to the Standard American Diet from Thanksgiving right through Christmas. My birthday is right after New Years, so I wanted to give us some leeway in terms of being able to celebrate that as well (read: I wanted my damned birthday cake!). Therefore, we decided that January 8th would be a better time to start our Whole30 expedition, and so far it's been good.

While planning menus and grocery lists ahead for my first week of W30-compliant cooking, I looked through a boatload of recipes to get some inspiration. One recipe I found that looked really interesting was one for chili with pumpkin in it, done in the crock pot. I'm all about tossing stuff in the crock pot to cook while we're at work, and I had a can of pumpkin left over from the holidays to use up, so I figured I'd give it a try. The only reservation I had was that the recipe called for the ground beef to be added to the crock pot raw...meaning you can't drain out the fat that renders from it. That seemed like an invitation to an epic grease-fest to me, and I ended up deciding to do the chili on the stove top rather than in the crock pot. I also used the leanest ground beef I could find (which at the time was 90/10), and in the end I didn't have to actually drain it anyway...huzzah!

Here are my recipe and notes. You'll notice the distinct lack of picture, and I apologize for that. We were so hungry and the chili smelled so good that the camera didn't even enter my mind at the time. Plus, chili doesn't exactly have a ton of visual appeal...so there's that.

This recipe is Whole30 compliant the way that I made it. Do your own due diligence - check labels for added sugar, MSG, sulfites and other nasties.

Pumpkin Chili
makes 6-8 servings
2lbs ground meat - I used 90/10 ground beef
2 x 14.5 oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes with juices
2 x 14.5oz cans plain organic pumpkin (don't get pie filling! Bad!)
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic (or to taste), chopped
1 sm. can roasted green chiles
1/2 cup water, stock (or beer, if you're not worried about W30 compliance)
1/4 to 1/2 cup strong coffee (optional, and to taste - I actually used about a tsp of instant decaff coffee granules because it's what I had on hand and it worked just fine)
1 tbsp bacon fat (you can use another fat but bacon fat will lend a bit of smoky flavor)
Spice blend (all subject to taste - measurements are approximate anyway):
1 rounded tbsp chili powder
1 rounded tbsp ground cumin
1 rounded tbsp cocoa
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp oregano

Note: I used a very lean ground beef so I didn't bother draining any fat that rendered. If you are using something with higher fat content, you may want to brown the meat separately, drain the fat, then add it to the pot before you proceed with the recipe. Also, the reason I cook the onions and spices in the fat first rather than just adding the spices to the meat is because the heat and fat help the spices to bloom and cook out a little bit - it just gives better depth of flavor more quickly. If you're planning to simmer your chili for hours (or if you can't be arsed to follow directions, slacker!), feel free to just chuck everything in the pot together.


1. In a large pot over medium heat, sautee chopped onion and garlic in bacon fat until somewhat softened, about 3 minutes.
2. Add spice mixture to pot, stir well, let cook until fragrant, 1 minute or so.
3. Add ground beef to pot, stir well to combine, and cook (stirring frequently) until beef is browned. It doesn't have to be cooked completely through at this point because the chili is going to simmer for a while anyway. You want to brown the beef without burning the onions / garlic, so don't leave this unattended for too long.
4. Add rest of ingredients - chiles, liquid, tomatoes, and pumpkin. Mix well to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or more, depending on how much time you have).
5. Top with your favorite chili fixings and serve. We like chopped avocado, and if you're not worried about dairy then a little shredded jack or cheddar cheese would make this super fine indeed!