This week was maybe my hardest yet.
So hard that, earlier in the week, I thought I might be experiencing postpartum depression. Then I slept from 9pm to 4am and realized it was actually just sleep deprivation.
The breastfeeding situation has not improved, unfortunately. I’m doing my best to make peace with it. Full update coming soon – but in the meantime, I bring you this chili.
Sometimes cooking when you’re down feels like too much, except for when you’re really down, at which times I find it to be a welcome reprieve.
Such was the case with this chili. A fairly odd couple, I’ll admit: ground beef and butternut squash. But who knew, when it comes to chili, they’re meant for each other!
It all started with a package of ground beef I had taken out of the freezer (the Costco near us sells excellent organic, grass-fed ground beef). Originally this was going to be for tacos (hard shells!) per Jared’s suggestion; he knew I was having a week and thought it would make me happy, as it was one of my favorite comfort food meals when I was pregnant.
But I had more of a one-pot situation in mind, a soup or maybe… a chili! Something I could make a big batch of and freeze, which is sort of a must these days. Plus I was lazy and wanted to find a way to have our vegetables included in the pot without to cook them separately.
I figured chili seems easy enough to load veggies into, but it’s mostly things like zucchini or red peppers that people tend to add. I had neither. But I did have a big gorgeous butternut squash, which surprisingly turned out to be a perfect addition to our chili.
Chili might not seem like health food off the bat, but let me make a case for it: When you use high-quality organic ingredients, like grass-fed beef and mineral-rich bone broth, plus tons of hearty farmers’ market squash and fiber-packed beans, chili becomes a nourishing, soul-healing meal.
Also you get to have toppings (I used scallions and Greek yogurt, but sharp cheddar and avocado would also be 👌) which we all know makes eating more fun.
And really the most exciting thing about making this chili for me personally was that it was the first time I had Violet with me in the kitchen as sous chef. I wore her in her baby carrier as I loaded my ingredients into the pot, stirring and prodding as I explained to her everything I was doing and why. She loved it! I’m feeling excited about our future together in the kitchen. 👯♀️
Beef Chili with Butternut Squash
I love the sweetness of the squash against the rich, spicy (and a little smoky thanks to the ancho chili powder I used) brothy base. A new go-to, for sure! This recipe makes a big batch so that you can save some to freeze, but you could easily cut it in half if you wanted. Be loose and liberal with the amounts and seasonings; I rarely measure when I cook. Use less tomato paste if you don’t have a full can on hand, more or less garlic, eyeball the spices, etc. Also, the liquid may be a touch too much if you don’t have a lot of squash, so maybe start with a little less if that’s the case. You could also add in sweet potatoes or carrots for a similar vibe. And I think ground turkey would work here, too!
2 onions, diced
2 pounds ground beef (I like grass-fed)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder (*see Note)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 quart beef stock or bone broth*
2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 28-oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (regular is fine, too)
A dash of maple syrup or brown sugar (optional)
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
Ideas for toppings: full-fat Greek yogurt*, scallions or finely diced red onion, sharp white cheddar, chopped avocado
In a large pot or Dutch oven on medium heat, cook ground beef and onions until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste and spices; cook a couple minutes more. Season generously (!) with kosher salt, and a little black pepper. Add stock, beans, tomatoes, maple syrup if using (this just adds a touch of sweetness/depth, but totally works without), and squash. Taste and add salt if necessary (if you’re shy with salt, more than you think – until it tastes good!). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until squash is tender, around 25-30 minutes. Serve with preferred toppings and enjoy.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Chili powder: The spiciness of this dish will depend on your chili powder. The ancho chili powder I used provided the perfect amount of heat for me; if yours is lacking, you could add cayenne pepper.
Beef stock: I get this from my local butcher. The important thing is that it has the gelatin – if you’re buying “bone broth” at the grocery store, make sure it has the gelatin (when you go to use it, it should be gelatinous in texture rather than just liquid). Check the freezer aisle of your grocery store for real stock/bone broth; Brodo is one brand that makes it, and you can also order from them online.
Greek yogurt: I like using organic, full-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. It’s hard to tell the difference, plus it’s much more versatile (add it to granola. eat it with fruit, you know what to do!) making it a no-brainer to always keep on hand.