Locavore Pumpkin Ale Chili

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Chili is a great fall staple that everyone in my family loves. My usual strategy for chili involves ground turkey, a packet of chili seasoning, some organic canned beans and some chopped tomatoes–nothing fancy, but it’s quick and good. Last year, I ventured out of my safety zone and made a pumpkin chili that was super good. If you have visited your local farmer’s markets lately, you have probably seen a proliferation of peppers. Our markets are chock full of sweet peppers, hot peppers, super hot peppers, stuffing peppers and more. They are everywhere and are so pretty. My only trouble was making up my mind! I took all my beautiful chilis home, roasted them on the grill, and added the chopped peppers to the chili. Wow, what a difference a roasted fresh chili pepper makes!

This chili is rich, spicy and a bit sweet from the pumpkin and the beer. It is definitely not a five alarm chili, but I actually like it better than searingly hot chili. The cinnamon adds a lovely depth to the flavor.

A note about the beans in this chili. I used organic, dried heirloom beans from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and rehydrated them by soaking them overnight. You can of course substitute canned beans–they are a lot easier and quicker. I love the flavor of the (formerly) dried beans, especially when I can use several different kinds, but using canned beans can be a life saver!

Locavore Pumpkin Chili (makes 8-10 servings)

  • 2 pounds local, grass fed ground beef
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, minced
  •  1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  •  2 large, sweet Italian peppers, 3 poblano peppers, 2 green bell peppers and 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 15-ounce can organic pumpkin puree
  • 1 bottle pumpkin ale
  • 4 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped
  • 3 heaping cups of rehydrated, organic dried beans (I used ½ cup each of dried black beans, Anasazi beans, and adzuki beans, soaked overnight in water)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Heat your grill or a grill pan to medium high. Toss the whole peppers with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Grill the peppers, turning frequently, until peppers are charred on the outside (about 4-5 minutes total). Put all the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl with a plate. Let the peppers steam for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel and seed the peppers. Chop the roasted pepper flesh and set aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and saute for about 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the peppers and saute for about 5 minutes more.
  4. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, and brown. Stir often.
  5. Add the spices and tomatoes and stir well.
  6. Add the beer and stir again. Let simmer about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the pumpkin puree and beans. Season to taste.
  8. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about an hour. Your house will smell truly amazing.
  9. Drink the remaining beer. Marvel at your domestic skills. Remember to be thankful for the farmers who produced your food!

NOTE: If you have the time, make this chili a day or two before you need it. It is even better after the flavors have a chance to blend!

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Bison Chili

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When football season rolls around, I do love making a big pot of chili! Chili stews are quick to put together, tasty, and often economical. I love vegetarian chili, too, although this is decidedly not a vegetarian recipe. This recipe replaces beef with ground bison. Several North Carolina farmers are raising bison now, so we have some terrific local sources. If you’ve never had bison, it is very similar to beef, with a definite meaty flavor. Bison is lower in fat, higher in protein and richer in nutrients than beef, and it is very high in iron. Using ground bison in chili or tacos is a good way to test it out without spending a fortune (and really, your family will probably not notice the difference).

This chili uses up a lot of late summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, onions, kale and pumpkin. Yes, I said pumpkin! It also incorporates Anasazi beans, an heirloom variety of bean that is very meaty and holds up well in a stewed dish like this. I prefer them to kidney beans, which to me don’t taste like anything, but you could substitute any kind of canned canned bean if you like. While this chili is a bit spicy, it is not super hot. Instead, we used cumin, smoked paprika and cinnamon to add spice without so much heat. So it is a bit on the cozy side and not so much on the hot side. While we love hot and spicy food, this more soothing chili was still a hit.

This recipe makes quite a bit of food–we liked that because we wanted leftovers for a busy week. If you are feeding more people, you could easily reduce the amount of everything by half or just reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of beans to stretch things out a bit. This dish also freezes very well. Leave off the cheese and/or sour cream and freeze the chili in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Bison Chili (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 1 lb. ground bison meat
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large, organic sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, washed and chopped
  • 3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers, trimmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small bunch of kale, washed,stemmed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups organic, canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups rehydrated anasazi beans (1cup of dry beans soaked in water overnight)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Shredded cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream for garnish (optional).
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño and kale. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  4. Add contents of skillet to a large pot or dutch oven and wipe skillet clean.
  5. Put skillet back on medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground bison and cook, stirring often, until browned. Sprinkle the spices over the meat and stir well. Add the meat to the pot.
  6. Add the beans, pumpkin and tomato to the pot and mix well.
  7. Simmer the chili over medium low heat for an hour or more. Or add all ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for several hours.

Anasazi Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

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Aren’t these beans beautiful? I fell in love with their beautiful color and pattern and thought I would give them a try. Anasazi beans are an heirloom variety bean that maintains great texture and flavor throughout some long cooking times. Sadly, they don’t keep their lovely color when cooked, but their flavor made up for it.

Beans are pretty miraculous as a food product. In addition to being chock full of protein, they are low in fat, high in fiber, and incredibly affordable. Cooking a big pot of beans also makes the most of a small amount of meat. I used locally produced, smoked bacon from pasture-raised hogs when cooking these beans. Totally yum. And I caramelized one onion in the bacon grease. Even more yum.

I don’t know why I haven’t made beans more in the past. They are so good and so filling. All it took was a pretty little bean to get my attention!

You could easily eliminate the bacon and caramelize the onions in olive oil for a vegan dish.

Anasazi Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions (makes about 8 servings)

  • 1 lb. dried Anasazi beans or other organic, non-GMO bean
  • 4 strips pasture-raised, pasture fed, smoked bacon
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 cup cooked rice per person (optional)
  1. Rinse beans well and soak in water to cover + 3″ overnight.
  2. Drain beans and set aside.
  3. In a saute pan, cook bacon until barely crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve 2 Tbsp. of bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Heat the pan to medium and add the sliced onions. Cook over medium for about 45 minutes or until caramelized.
  5. Add bacon, onions and beans to the bowl of a slow cooker. Add water to cover + 2″. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until beans are tender. Serve in bowls as-is or serve over rice.

HINT: If you have the time, cook these beans and then store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. They are best when reheated.

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