October 25, 2013

The Best Darn Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili Ever : )

This was like a symphony in my mouth ; )
Salaam ya'll! Just wanted you to know that I made THE best chili ever today. Seriously. I don't know what exactly I did differently this time exact possibly add an extra dose of AWESOME, mA! ;) Seriously, this is the first time I ever ventured into the land of non-summer squash. I had been thinking about using butternut squash in a recipe when I found a nice vegetarian recipe at Cookie + Kate's blog. This gave me the idea but from there I just branched out in all kinds of directions!

That's what's nice about having years of experience; you finally know (usually!) what detours you can take and what results to expect. I didn't know it would be this delicious, tho. :D

The players :)
Here is a line-up of my ingredients. I'll be honest, I started heating my pan before I got my stuff out but I totally wanted to do a real-deal recipe photo shoot so I had to turn the heat down while I got it all set up. :) See that pretty squash? It was only $1.29 at Aldi! I just discovered the store and it was really nice! I saved about $4 on my squash alone which I consider a major score. :) If you are wondering if the cocoa powder is an error it is not. It's a very common ingredient in Mexican cooking and I love the depth of color and flavor it gives the chili. :) Also in the bowl with the red lid is pureed chipotles in adobo sauce. A little goes a long way so I just keep it in the fridge to use as necessary.
Hmmm onions...
 Dice your onion and throw it into a pan with a bit of oil. Fry it for about 5 minutes then add in a tbsp of cumin, 2 tbsp of chili powder, about a tbsp of onion powder and a few good shakes of smoked paprika. If you don't have all the ingredients (like smoked paprika) of course go ahead and make it but really, all of these ingredients just add layers to the flavor. :) Add a nice hefty pinch of salt and fry for about 3 minutes to release the full flavor of the spices.

The ground chuck is NOT necessary but we enjoy meat : )
 I added about half a pound of ground chuck; it would be good without it but I decided to go ahead. Next time we'll just make it totally veg and see how we like it. Brown the beef for about 5 minutes on medium heat til cooked through.

The tomatoes look pretty ; )
 Add a can of petite diced tomatoes. I prefer petite dice but of course feel free to use what you have/prefer. It's important to cook this stage well to temper the acidity of the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 more minutes.
The squash was a pain to cut but look at it!
 Then add the squash. Now, butternut squash is NOT easy to cut. I ended up briefly microwaving it (for about 5 minutes) while I was doing the beginning of the recipe. Then I proceeded to peel it while the mixture was simmering. It wasn't easy but not too hard either. I used a knife to peel it as my peeler isn't up to the job. It took several minutes to peel and chop. I only used half of a good-sized squash; we used the leftovers in another recipe.
See how nice it's looking?
 Mix it all together well and cook for about 10-15 minutes to soften the squash. Now if I had my 5 qt pot I would have cooked it all on the stovetop; however I lent it to a friend so while this was simmering I put a can of drained, rinsed black beans in the crock pot to heat up; I put all the mixture in there to finish cooking.
Chipotles, how I love thee!
 Secret ingredient #1: the pureed chipotles in adobo sauce. I added a scant tsp; it's pretty spicy. You can always add more but you can't take it away! Mix it in well.
This stuff is yummy
 Secret ingredient #2: This is super-concentrated beef flavor. It's also salty hence the hefty pinch of salt earlier and no more. I add about a tsp of beef base and stir it in well. It smells sooo good. :)
All happy together
 Carefully add the hot squash mixture to your crock with the black beans in it. Again, use whatever bean you like but the black beans were super tasty! I let it cook on high for about an hour and half; just check the squash for tenderness. :)
The humble cornbread
 I decided to whip up a skillet of cornbread; my cast iron skillet is small so my pan was really full. I prefer it thinner but it was good nonetheless. I added half a tsp of the chipotle puree here too, to carry the flavor through. :)

Baked butternut squash
I had about 2 cups of squash left so I tossed it with 3 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp brown sugar, a pinch of salt and a shake of nutmeg. It cooked alongside the cornbread but it did take longer. It was really good!
Again, the final product. Yes it's good enough to be shown twice!
 I hope ya'll decide to try this sometime. It is so delicious, it will freeze well, and with the squash and black beans it is a guaranteed healthy home run. Aaminah loved it, I obviously enjoyed it, and I'm already looking forward to leftovers! Ma salaama ya'll. :)

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