Hello dear readers!
I hope you’ve all had a good summer, and that you found time to relax and enjoy the long sunny days and warm nights. As usual - it flew by and once again autumn is here!
The hot weather wanes, brisk breezes begin to blow, and local seasonal produce available in many regions also change. We see the last of the berries, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants giving way to more autumn foods like apples, pumpkins and other hard winter squash.
As the days get shorter, and winter inevitably approaches (especially in cooler climates), we naturally tend to incorporate more cooked foods into our menus. Our bodies begin to crave more warming, hearty dishes.
That's what we'll be focusing on in this issue's versatile and adaptable recipe, but first let's talk about how to save a few bucks while stocking up on great foods...
Good Food and Good Value For Your Money
I like to take advantage of the end of season harvest, and stock up on late summer veggies to freeze.
It may be October, but chances are you’ll see these fruits & veggies making their last appearances at your local farmers until next year, especially in a more northerly climate like where I live. The prices are right, and if you ask your farmer’s market vendors for “seconds” or “culled” produce, you’ll get an even sweeter deal. They might not be the prettiest of the produce, but if you’re willing to cut out soft spots, or discolorations, you can get a lot of food for your money.
Buy from growers you trust. And with that in mind, remember that a farm doesn’t necessarily have to be certified organic to be employing sustainable growing practices.
Here’s a few ideas:
Sliced or diced peppers are great for freezing, and make an easy addition to chili or soups.
Chop fresh green beans and freeze for use in soups, stews, or for a quick steamed vegetable dish
Grate or dice zucchini and freeze in small portions to add to soups, curries, or stews.
Dice or puree fresh tomatoes (peeled or not – I don’t usually peel them) and freeze in small batches for a fresh burst of flavor in your soups or sauces.
Fresh Herbs! – Puree fresh herbs with some olive oil and freeze in single or double portions using the smallest of reusable containers, baby food jars, or ice cube trays.
- Add a basil cube to a white bean soup and melt in just before serving.
- Parsley melted into a bowl of chicken soup is wonderful.
- Melt cilantro into Thai style coconut soup or a bowl of chili – YUM.
Berries – when the prices are reasonable, buy lots and freeze them. (Other fruits are great to freeze too, like peaches, plums, and cherries, for use in cooking, or blending into smoothies later on.)
Easy Vegetable Chili
In this issue I’m sharing one of my favorite autumn foods. It’s great for making in large batches, and then freezing in smaller portions. Also, it’s economical and easy to make.
You'll find the basic recipe below - and here are a number of options to tailor it to the way you want...
Low carb option:
If you’re strictly low carb these days, simply omit the squash, carrot and beans and add more low carb veggies in their place. Diced zucchini, eggplant and/or chopped green beans work well. I’ve substituted diced kohlrabi in place of the squash with delicious results. Feel free to experiment with your own favorite vegetables.The only ones I wouldn’t want in my chilli are cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, and I’d leave out cabbage and Brussels sprouts too.
Crock pot option:
I use the old fashioned stove top method, but for those of you with crock pots – this recipe should be a breeze! You could put everything in the crock pot (minus the beans), skip the sautéing step, and let it all cook for a few hours. Then add the beans, salt & pepper and let it cook one more hour or so. Voila - veggie chili a la crock pot.
Meat Lover's Option
You can add a pound of ground or diced beef, chicken, turkey or pork while you saute the onions etc, then add the rest of the ingredients as directed in the recipe below.
Bean Lovers Option
Use 1 ½ cups dried beans (black beans, pintos, red kidney, blackeyed, chickpea, cannelini – any combination). Soak overnight, drain, cover with fresh water and simmer, covered, 2 hours or until the beans are tender to your liking. Drain excess liquid if there is any, and add them to your chilli as directed below.
I really like lentils in veggie chili too. You might like to try green or French lentils in place of other beans for this recipe.
Short on time option:
In a pinch, use 2 cans of your favorite beans in place of the dried beans. I always prefer to start with dried beans and cook them myself, but I’ve been known to use canned beans when I’m short on time. Just drain and rinse and add them to the pot.
You can also do this recipe in a pressure cooker if you want it to cook really fast. Again, add the beans after the initial cooking phase. I’ve made this recipe in the pressure cooker, but I do prefer the stove top or longer cooking approach, it just tastes better to me.
Spicy Hot Option
If you like it hot, add some chopped or dried hot chiles to the basic recipe below. I love dried chipotle, or even some diced jalapenos added in.
Easy Vegetable Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion – diced
2 stalks celery – diced
1 large carrot – diced (substitute chopped green beans for low carb)
1 (28 oz ) can whole tomatoes
1 large red or yellow pepper – diced (add green pepper too if you like a more pungent flavor)
4 cups cubed winter squash - butternut, kabocha, red kuri, hubbard (substitute small diced kohlrabi, chopped eggplant, chopped zucchini for low carb options)
1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ teaspoon cinnamon or allspice (optional)
sea salt & pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed soup pot. Sautee the onion, carrot and celery for a few minutes, until fragrant and getting a bit tender. Crush the tomatoes through your fingers as you add them to the pot, along with all the liquid from the can. Add the diced peppers, squash, and all remaining seasonings except salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Add just enough water to come up to about 1 inch below the top of veggies. Cover and simmer on low for half an hour, Or until squash is tender enough to easily pierce with a knife.
Add beans, salt & pepper to taste, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings to your liking and you’re done!
Note: This always tastes better after it sits for a few hours. I like to make it in the morning if we’re having it for dinner, or else make it a day ahead.
Let it cool to room temperature before freezing in smaller quantities.
It’s even better with some chopped fresh herbs and sliced scallions or avocado as a garnish when serving.
Chili & Polenta
This has been a staple of mine for over a decade now. If you're eating low carb at the moment, it's not the best recipe for you, as polenta is made from corn. But it's so quick to whip up, you can serve it to your friends and family while you enjoy the low carb chili on it's own.
First step - reheat 2 portions of chili, cover and keep it warm on low heat.
Make life easy, use quick cooking polenta, sometimes called instant polenta. You can find organic versions of this at your natural foods store.
For 2 portions:
2 cups of water
1/2 cup instant polenta (I know it doesn't sound like much, but it really swells up)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt to taste
Bring the water to a boil, add a generous pinch of sea salt and slowly pour the polenta in while whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring for a couple more minutes. That's it, polenta's ready!
Spoon polenta into serving dishes, and top with the warm chili. Add sliced avocado, or chopped scallions, or try melting a cube of your frozen pureed cilantro into the chili before serving!
Quick & Hearty Autumn Breakfast
A large appetite - serves one
Smaller appetites can split this recipe into two servings
Reheat a portion of vegetable chili in one pot while making a couple of poached eggs in another pot. Serve chili in a bowl, topped with your soft poached eggs, add a dash of hot sauce or handful of chopped herbs and eat up!
Enjoy experimenting with different vegetable combinations in the chili recipe. It's so versatile, it's hard to go wrong!
Eat well, and be well.
In health ~ Susan