Pumpkin Chili Reenactment

I’m pretty excited for fall. In my family, fall is full of birthdays and milestones. Some are happy, some are pretty sad, but I still love it. Don’t get me wrong. I will miss sunbathing and outdoor showers more than anything. But as the weather cools, I’m find I really am ready to get back to the business of cooking well and eating right. And being able to turn the oven on again without sweating to death.

In preparation, I went to Trader Joe’s this week with my friend Kathrin to stock up on all things pumpkin. I remembered making some sort of pumpkin and black bean chili last year, so I bought a few cans of pumpkin puree, a few cans of beans and a 1lb of ground turkey figuring that seemed like about the right ingredients.

When I got home I started searching for recipes, but they all had something in them I didn’t have in the house or didn’t like. So, I made up my own version based on what we I had and the veggies from the farm this week.

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It came out delicious! But I forgot to take any pictures or write anything down. So, in the interest of full disclosure, the recipe below is a staged reenactment of that chili.

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients
*makes 6 servings
(the recipe is doubled in the pictures if you are wondering why the pot is so full!)

1-2 tbs butter
1 frying pepper, cut into rings
4 small sweet peppers, cut into rings
1 onion, chopped
1 large jalapeño, sliced thin
2-3 garlic cloves sliced
1/2 tsp each: cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt
3 small tomatoes roughly chopped (w/ seeds)
1 15oz can black beans
1 15oz can cannellini beans
2 cans pumpkin puree
1 lb ground turkey
2 cups chicken stock

In a large pot, melt better and sauté onions and peppers over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add in jalapeño and chopped garlic and cook a few more minutes.

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Once veggies are soft, mix in spice and cook a few more minutes until fragrant. Then, stir in tomatoes and turn heat to low, letting everything stew for 5-10 more minutes.

In the meantime, brown ground turkey in a separate skillet with just a little bit of olive oil.

After the tomatoes start to get soft and cook down, add pumpkin and chicken stock into the pot. Mix well, then add in beans. Bring everything to a boil, making sure to stir often since the pumpkin is thick so nothing sticks.

Once the pot boils, turn down to low heat and mix in browned turkey. Let pot simmer on low, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring often.

chili-pot

I served as is, but you could top with a bit of grated cheese or a scoop of greek yogurt or sour cream.

Enjoy!

Ordinary kitchens

This year, I had two major “aha!” moments, both while driving and both related to food. Out of the first, back in January, came the topic for my master’s thesis. The second, which happened today, gave me the idea for my next project. It’s called “Ordinary Kitchens,” and will chronicle the stories behind the best dishes I have encountered in the homes of my friends and family.

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my ordinary kitchen

You see, on my journey to learn everything there is to know about food, I’ve jumped around a lot:

I’ve tried to figure out what I really want to learn and why.

I’ve been both light hearted and serious in my approach.

I’ve created a recipe blog and studied food policy at the graduate level.

I’ve waded through serious and paralyzing self doubt.

I’ve questioned whether or not I can make a positive impact on a food system that doesn’t work the way I’d like it to.

I’ve tried to decide if I should cook or write, or go to culinary school or get a Phd.

Here’s what I know: food is the starting point of everything else in life. It’s as simple and complex as we are. It’s what we make of it. Not a day goes by where we don’t think about it and touch it and plan around it. Because of that, there is knowledge and richness to be soaked up absolutely everywhere.

So, I am enrolling myself in cooking school by taking the time to discover the hidden secrets in all the ordinary kitchens in my life. Then, I’ll share what I find out here. If one instant driving in the car can be so life-altering, imagine how far preparing an entire meal can take us.

Where have I been? A story in 10 pictures

Here are top 5 reasons (excuses) I have not blogged since July:

5. I returned from a month-long cross country road trip and wanted to savor the feeling of being unplugged.

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4. It was summer, I can walk to the beach from my house, and I don’t like getting sand in my laptop.

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3. I started my third semester of full-time graduate school.

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2. I stopped prioritizing eating right and training hard, stopped cooking, and entered into a downward shame spiral in which a clean eating blog had no place.

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1. I realized this blog didn’t feel like me anymore.

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5 recent and related events that helped me commit to starting again:

5. I ended 2013 by baking my first real loaf of bread, using my Uncle Jimmy’s recipe. It turned out delicious and I savored every bite. I remembered simplicity, good smells and how happy I am in my kitchen.

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 4. Then, with the holidays behind me, I decided it was time to go back to the gym, start eating mindfully again and get my muscles back.
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3. Upon reconnecting with my awesome network of strong fitness pals, I heard about the wonders of almond flour and started breading EVERYTHING.
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2. With a focus on getting strong again and leaning out, I added a lot more fat back into my diet, and started cooking almost everything in coconut oil…

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**Note: As far as I can tell, coconut oil has life changing properties

or butter or lard.

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1. Finally, with a little help from a friend, I decided that this blog can be about anything I want. Instead of waiting to find the perfect recipe and then trying to write the perfect post, I think I will just share cool information as I find it. Sometimes you have to approach life one hurdle at a time in order to move forward.

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6 car camping “pantry” must-haves

You don’t need much to cook tasty meals on the road. However, car camping provides a little more space than other types of camping, so you can get away with stashing some treats. Here are a few things I keep the back seat or a cooler to give those fireside meals an extra boost.

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  1. Jarred jalepeño slices and/or hot sauce. These are first on the list because you can use them in almost every camp meal, morning, noon or night. If you like a bit of a kick, add hot sauce or pepper slices to eggs, wraps, grains, veggies, sandwiches, etc. They will keep in the cooler for probably way longer than you need them too, and you can always bring leftovers home or gift them to fellow campers.
  2. Salt, pepper and olive oil. Spices are non-perishable, easy to store, and go a long way in flavoring dishes. If you are working with the same basic ingredients for a few days in a row, you will be surprised how exotic even just salt and pepper will taste. You can pick up a cheap non-breakable salt and pepper set at the grocery store, or pack spices from home in plastic straws that are bent and taped shut at the end. It is best to store everything so that you can pour directly on food and don’t have to use your fingers, since they will likely be dirty. Olive oil is an easy cooking medium/fat because it adds flavor, does not need to stay in the cooler, and can be used to cook almost everything. Try to find a plastic bottle since glass can break and is not allowed at some campsites.
  3. Tortillas. You can instantly turn a pile of left over ingredients into a dish-free breakfast, lunch or dinner with any kind of wrap. Plus, most of them do not require refrigeration. You can even toast them in an hot, non-greased skillet on the camp stove or over a fire for 1-2 minutes.
  4. A block of cheese. Need I explain?
  5. Chocolate. Chocolate is a lifesaver for a few reasons. Most importantly, depending on how long you are camping, you will likely become sick of all of your food and will just want a treat. Chocolate, in any form, will back you up in those moments. If it’s hot out or your food is being stored in the car all day, keep it in the cooler. Chocolate is also a great trail snack that provides some sugar to keep you going. Snickers are my favorite because they provide salt and fat in addition to calories, which is helpful if you are doing something particularly strenuous and sweating a lot.
  6. PB & J. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple on all my hikes or long driving days. They are filling, substantive, easy to make and carry, and delicious. They can also sub in as breakfast or dinner in a pinch.

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    personalized pb&j’s

Poaching eggs in the Black Hills

May I first say, sorry for the delay in posting! I intended to post from the road, but some places had no service or electricity and all places took my head so far from the computer that I kept not writing. However, I took pictures of everything we ate along the way so I could catch up once back on the grid. Here we go.

Our first night of camping was in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The prairie landscape here is described as beautiful and unforgiving, which I can now say is about accurate. We set up our tents and prepared for a silent and powerful sunset.

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In the morning, we set our for an 8 mile hike across a harsh rock crust trail dotted with sunflowers and grasses.

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However, we did not depart without a tasty power breakfast! Since we were still getting a feel for how to keep the camp stove lit in the prairie winds, first morning simplicity was important. Poached eggs are great to make on a camp stove because all you have to do is boil water, and there is minimal cleanup afterwards. Plus, they are soooo good.

Ingredients:
*makes one serving

2 raw eggs
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 fresh orange
salt and pepper to taste
a dab or two of hot sauce if you wish

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Bring a few inches of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Crack both eggs into a cup. Once the water is boiled, spin the water to create a whirlpool in the middle of the pot. Then, carefully pour the eggs into the center. Cook for three minutes at a slow boil, and then remove the eggs from the water with a spoon.

Serve with avocado slices and fresh fruit!

Deep dish pizza is my new favorite food

Let’s cut to the chase: Chicago deep dish pizza is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I mean, just look at it…

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Since Chicago was our first real stop on the trip, providing a few days of leisure before camping, we decided to indulge in this decadent local treat. Our host
took us Giordano’s for a taste.

I am not sure what I was imagining deep dish pizza to be, but I could not have been more wrong. I think I was picturing a Sicilian sort of thing, with a thick crust. Instead, what arrived on our table was a stuffed pizza. The delicious crust was filled, like a pie, with a melty core of cheese and toppings, about an inch high. All the elements were perfect. The crust was light, sweet and flaky, just thinly lining the bottom of each slice. The sauce was delicious, closer to a thin tomato sauce than a thick marinara (win!).

Both the sauce and crust take a back seat to the cheese and filling, which ooze out everywhere bringing joy with every bite. Here, take a closer look:

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Now, I am a clean my plate kind of a girl, but a slice and a half put me over the edge. Good thing the leftovers made a great room temperature lunch in the road the next day :)

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Junk in the trunk

When I was little, the word “adventure” was used to sugar coat traumatic family vacation experiences. If we got pickpocketed on the metro in Rome, missed our flight to the Cayman Islands because we did not have our birth certificates on hand, or if I passed out on a mountain top gondola ride in Jackson Hole and peed my pants, for example, we were simply “on an adventure.” Between the ages of five and fifteen, adventures for my brother and me involved a lot of crying and temper tantrums. (These vacations were also amazing and life-changing, but when something fabulous happened we were just “on vacation.”

What once was a dirty word, however, has been restored, especially as I reflect on my childhood experiences and realize how wonderful my parents made even ridiculous circumstances. I like to think that their generally nonchalant attitude about proper documentation and the like made me who I am today.

Today I excitedly embark on a new adventure, my first one in a while. Starting right about now, my best friend and I are driving clear across the country. Not only that, but we are training along the way for a 10k in California at the end of the trip. I am telling you this because this will be my first vacation since I joined the blogging world. Therefor, I am taking the opportunity to challenge us to a three week, cross country, car camping, 10k training, mostly clean eating but also mind-expanding culinary extravaganza. I’m sure we’ll come up with something worth sharing in that time.

Stay tuned!

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