As cool, rainy days become more frequent, there is nothing like a hot bowl of chili to warm you from the inside out.
As I watch the leaves fall and the trees turn bare, it makes me anxious thinking of the long and potentially difficult winter that lies ahead. Many of us will turn to food for comfort. But now more than ever, it’s so important that food not only be comforting, but nutritious as well. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Diets high in plant foods provide a solid foundation on which we can build an immune system that can help fight viruses such as Covid-19 and other serious illnesses that threaten our health.
Ok, so what is healthy comfort food you ask?
Enter this insanely delicious butternut squash and black bean chili. It’s loaded with flavorful vegetables, hearty beans (so you’ll never miss the meat), spices and fresh herbs. It’s the kind of meal that will lift you up instead of weighing you down.
I start by sautéing onions, garlic and peppers and building upon flavors from there. Once the onions and peppers begin to soften, I add in all the spices (which don’t forget, have amazing health benefits, including cancer prevention and improved digestive and heart health).
I use freshly ground cumin seed (I crush it with a mortar and pestle) and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to grind it yourself. The flavor is so much more intense and complex then pre-ground powder. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle just finely grind the seeds with a sharp knife.
And of course, no chili would be complete without the kick of a good dose of chili powder. A few pinches of smoked paprika give a woodsy, smoked flavor to the dish.
Then comes the star of the show, the butternut squash. The bright orange color of the squash doesn’t just look pretty and taste amazing, it’s got a ton of immune boosting and anti-inflammatory carotenoids (healthy pigments that turn plants orange or yellow) just waiting to do your body good!
Tip: For a time saving shortcut, buy pre-cut butternut squash at your supermarket. If you have the time, buy a whole squash, as I tend to think they’re fresher, which makes them taste better. If you’re buying a whole butternut squash, simply pop it in the microwave for 5 minutes which will make it easier to remove the skin and chop.
I sauté the cubed squash for just a few minutes to soften it a bit before adding in the broth, tomatoes and beans.
The chili needs about 30 minutes on the stove before it’s ready to eat, making it great for weeknight cooking. I like to sprinkle in some corn kernels (fresh or frozen) during the last five minutes of cooking. But to be honest, my favorite part is adding on toppings, such as:
- shredded cheese (vegan or regular)
- sour cream (vegan or regular)
- crunchy radishes
- sliced jalepeno peppers
- fresh cilantro
- lime juice
- tortilla strips
I hope you’ll enjoy adding this recipe to your meal rotation this season! It’s one my family’s favorites!
- 3-4 cups butternut squash
- 2 cups black beans (drained but not rinsed)
- 28 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 red pepper sliced and chopped
- 2 poblano peppers sliced and chopped
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
- 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tsp chili powder (or more if you like heat)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp freshly ground cumin seeds or 1 tsp store cumin powder
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- coarse salt
- favorite chili toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, sliced radishes, sliced jalapeño pepper, sliced avocado, tortilla strips or chips.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium to large soup pot.
- Add the onion and peppers and sauté until soft about 5 min.
- Add the spices and garlic and saute until fragrant about 1 min.
- Add the butternut squash and a good pinch of salt and saute for another 2-3 min.
- Add in the tomatoes, broth, and beans and stir to combine.
- Bring to a gentle boil then simmer for 25 min.
- Add in the corn and simmer for another 5 min.
- Serve in bowls and finish by adding on favorite toppings.