chili with a healthy secret

Let’s be honest. There is no replacement for the taste and experience of good old fashioned meat chili, with sour cream, onions, and shredded cheese. But that doesn’t stop me from having fun with the basic chili concept and seeing where it goes with healthier ingredients. One of the “secret” ingredients in traditional chili that makes it thick, and gives it an extra depth of flavor, is the use of cornmeal or polenta. In this recipe, amaranth or teff is used instead, both ancient grains that offer a cleaner, far more nutritious layer of pleasant thickness and texture to your chili. Without this, it would be a mere bowl of vegetable soup! The rest is left to the rainbow of healthy vegetables, herbs, and spices that make this, in my opinion, an awesome and easy regular for your dinner table. It saves well, even tastier the next day!

black & white bean calabaza chili

Makes 4-5 servings
1 small-medium onion
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups (about 8-10 oz.) raw, peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-1 inch squares
1 tsp. ground cumin
 (grind from seeds if possible for better flavor)
1 tsp. chile powder
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1 large (about 3 cups) zucchini, cut into 1 inch squares
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans
1 15-oz. can black beans
2 tbsp. – 1/4 cup amaranth or teff, quantity depends on how thick you want it
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
Cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
Fresh lime for garnish
1 tbsp coconut oil for sautéing

Heat the coconut oil in a medium stock pot. Sautee the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and butternut squash in the oil until they start to become tender. Add the cumin and chile powder, and continue to cook until the spices become fragrant. Add the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Add the broth, both beans, jalapeños, and bring to a simmer again. Add the thickener (amaranth or teff) and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, bring to a simmer, and continue to cook until the thickener is cooked through and the chile has a light porridge consistency (very light, almost translucent). You still want it a little broth-like, so a thickened broth. Taste for salt & pepper. Serve in a bowl topped with the cabbage, cilantro, & lime. Top with a dollop of cashew cream or some sliced avocados.

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