Simple Chili with Butternut Squash

Ah, chili.  Is there anything more warming than a hot bowl of chili on a frosty day?  I love it.

Lately I’ve been throwing butternut squash cubes into my chili.  I’ve found that this adds a bit of thickening, as the squash cooks down and incorporates into the chili, as well as adding a nice velvety texture to the chili.

The list of ingredients may look long, but it’s mostly spices.  This dish comes together quite easily and quickly.  It also makes a nice big batch so you’ll have leftovers for a couple of meals.

My favourite way to serve chili is with a big ol’ green salad.  The one pictured above featured pomegranate seeds and a pomegranate vinaigrette.  Maybe I’ll post that recipe soon, if I don’t forget about this blog again…

For slight flavour variations, try out different combos of chili powders – hot, mild, ancho, chipotle.  Or try tossing in some fresh chopped chili peppers too!

Chili with Butternut Squash (Oh Yeah, Bacon Too!)

  • 1/2 lb bacon*, chopped
  • 2 lbs ground meat (beef or bison is best)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) onion, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tbsp mild chili powder
  • 1 tbsp hot chili powder (for less heat, make this a second tbsp of mild instead)
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • About 10-12 twists of the pepper mill (or shakes of the shaker)
  • 1 tbsp Mexican oregano (regular oregano would also work)
  • 20 oz can of diced tomatoes**, drained
  • 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes**
  • 14 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes** (or fire roasted tomato salsa for more kick)
  • 3 cups frozen butternut squash cubes (or fresh, but frozen is super convenient)

Heat your soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped bacon and cook until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pot, leaving the bacon grease behind.  Set the cooked bacon aside and try not to eat it all while you carry out the next few steps.

Add the ground meat to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  While the meat is cooking, measure out all the spices into a small bowl so they’re ready to add later.  Go ahead and open up your cans while you wait for the meat to cook so they’re ready for duty later too.

When the meat is mostly cooked through, add the onions and garlic and continue cooking for about 3-6 minutes.  (I like my onions on the crunchy side for chili, so I usually only cook for 3 minutes.)

Add all the spices plus the cooked bacon, stir it in really well and let that all hang out for about a minute.

Add the three cans of tomatoes plus the squash cubes to the pot and mix it all up.  Bring it up to a nice simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the chili simmer for at least an hour or up to two hours (more simmering time equals more deliciousness when it comes to chili), stirring regularly.  Don’t forget to taste your chili to check on the spice/seasoning.  If it’s not spicy enough for you, add some more chili powder or cayenne and keep simmering.

*For the cleanest eats, get some pastured bacon and skip the conventionally produced stuff, especially since we’re keeping the bacon fat in the dish.

**Always check your labels on canned goods!  It is possible to find clean canned goods free of the creepy preservatives or added sugar (yes, added sugar in canned tomatoes).  I’ve had the best luck with organic canned goods, though “organic” doesn’t automatically mean “crap free”.  Do your homework!

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