Pumpkin chili with goat and black beans

Today I made chili without a recipe for the first time ever. I had a sugar pumpkin and ground goat meat in the house already, so I started with those and made up the rest. It turned out so good, I just had to share. Chili is flexible so you can always add or subtract some veggies for others, and substitute any chop meat you have or keep it veggie! Just play around with the spices and liquid level to suit your tastes. Here’s a good starting point:

Pumpkin chili with goat and black beans

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground goat meat
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 diced hot chili
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 – 1/2 tsp each: garlic powder, paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper
28 oz diced tomatoes
~1 cup broth (any kind, I used chicken)
~2 cups cooked pumpkin (I just used 1 whole roasted sugar pumpkin here but you could use canned)
2 16 oz cans of beans (any kind, I used black beans)

Roast 1 whole sugar pumpkin in the oven on 350F for ~1.25 hours. Place a baking sheet under the pumpkin on the rack below in case it leaks. Remove pumpkin from oven and slice in half to let it cool. Then, remove seeds (keep them to roast or just toss) and scoop out the pulp into a bowl. Mash it with a fork until smooth.

In the meantime, heat ~1 tbsp olive oil in a pot and brown your meat. When cooked, remove meat from the pan and drain the fat. Set meat aside. In the same pan, saute all the veggies 5-10 minutes until soft. Add in the spices and cook a few more minutes.

Add the meat back into the pot with the veggies, along with the diced tomatoes, broth and pumpkin puree. Bring to a slow boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 1-2 hours. Stir every so often. Mix in beans during the last few minutes of cooking just to heat them through.

Serve over white rice and enjoy!

Red curry veggies over cauliflower fried rice

I had more energy than normal tonight following an awesome workout so I prepped dinner with a little extra love and passion. As it happens, it came out awesome and was actually pretty simply so I wanted to share. I stir-fried a bunch of veggies, made a quick (literally under five minutes) red curry and served it over cauliflower fried rice. The most time-consuming part was food processing the cauliflower, but you could always do this in advance or just dice it up small. Any veggies will do 🙂

Red curry veggies over cauliflower fried rice

Ingredients

for stir fry
coconut oil (or whatever oil you use for higher heat)
LOTS of roughly chopped veggies (I used 1 green bell pepper, 1 zucchini, 1 package of shitaki mushrooms, a few handfuls of bean sprouts, 1 medium yellow onion)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

for fried rice
about a thumbs worth of butter (or your favorite fat)
1 head of cauliflower, food processed until rice size
~1 cup frozen peas
3 eggs

for red curry
coconut/extra virgin olive oil
~2 tbsp red curry paste
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk

First, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat in a wok or heavy pan. Toss in all stir fry veggies and cook about ten minutes until soft but still with a bit of crunch and color. Take them off the heat and put to the side.

Next, heat butter in the same pan over medium heat and add cauliflower. Make sure to coat it all with whatever fat you are using and cook until slightly brown and toasted looking, about 10-15 minutes. Then, create a hole in the middle so that pan is showing, add a little more butter and then eggs, beating slightly in the pan. When mostly cooked, stir eggs fully into cauliflower and add peas. Cook another two or three minutes. You can add coconut aminos or soy sauce at the end for flavor.

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You can be be making the curry in a second pan at the same time. Heat up coconut or olive oil over medium-low heat. Add curry paste and toast a few minutes until fragrant. Mix in coconut milk and just heat through. Finally, toss veggies and simmer all together for another five minutes.

Serve over fried rice and enjoy.

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Ordinary Kitchens: The hog files

A brief tale of turning my grandparent’s ordinary kitchen (and garage) into a butcher shop and meat locker.

A few weeks ago, while visiting my grandparents in sunny southwest Florida, my boyfriend Chris went on his first wild hog hunt, and it was a great success. As I have mentioned before, I consider the real story of such adventures, the ones I tell people and write about, to start in the kitchen. Once an animal has been field dressed, skinned and at least quartered, then I step into the process. So let’s start there.

Chris brought the hog back to gram’s house quartered and on ice in a cooler. Then, for the next few hours, her garaged transformed into a butcher shop as we separated out the cuts and portioned it to freeze.
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Neither of us have a ton of experience butchering a whole animal, but we felt it out, literally. If you pay attention to the meat it shows you where to cut and trim.

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Gram and pops were both really good sports about the whole event, but for a while gram refused to come into the garage. She would just shout, “how’s it going guys?,” periodically from the safety of the house. But then, she got curious.

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She even asked for more details on the kill shot!

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Ok, she didn’t ask for more details, but once we got her into the garage, she was getting the whole story. By the end of the night she was assisting and it was awesome! Now I guess we’ve both been places and seen things we never thought imaginable.

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When everything was cut, we vacuum sealed and label it all and then somehow got it to fit into the freezer.

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Once we got the meat home (in the cooler, checked-in and flown under the plane like normal luggage – who knew?) I started experimenting with the best ways to cook it. So far, we’ve made stew, pulled pork and red curry. Recipes of the stuff that turns out awesome to come!

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 don’t like. So, I made up my own version based on what 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 spices and cook a few more minutes. 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.

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

Enjoy!

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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Strong is Beautiful

I recently did something I am really proud of, but am not sure how to share. I took part in a photo shoot at my gym. My coaches put together these “Strong is Beautiful” photo shoots a few times a year, and give members the chance to get some fitness shots taken. In retrospect, I think part of the reason they started doing this is to allow us to see ourselves through someone else’s lens, since our own lens is often distorted and so harsh. I work out 4 times a week, eat pretty healthy most of the time, and sometimes still can’t see my own muscles. Yet I’ve never once looked in the mirror and failed to notice my love handles or “fleshy knees.” I was nervous, but I thought it would be a good challenge for me, and also probably empowering and fun even if I never saw the pictures.

That being said, of course I was dying to see the pictures! When I first got them back, I almost couldn’t look at them. I peaked, with only one eye open. There I was, just sort of out there, in the open, showing (flaunting!) what I got. The lighting was great, the photographer was amazing, I got a spray tan, had my makeup done and was slicked up with baby oil, but I still picked myself to pieces in every shot.

After sleeping on it, I looked at the pictures again and shared them with a few friends. They, of course, sent back kind, amazing comments oozing with love, support and validation. So I looked at them again, and kept looking until I could see my muscles. I looked at them until I was smiling ear to ear with pride and joy. I might have actually even said, “daaayym girl!” in my head. I thought, if I can pick out my imperfections in these pictures, then the pictures are real. They are showing me who I am, which means the strength and beauty I see is also real.

I scored a few points with me this week by allowing myself to be vulnerable to someone else’s lens, and trusting and accepting what they saw instead of rationalizing it away into nothing. That was a little bit huge.

This month, I’m a little over two years, 4 races, and 1 photo shoot into my health and fitness journey. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a clean diet and some heavy weights to help you face the world.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

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**Thanks to Eric Brushett PhotographyTuff Girl Fitness and Bodyology Fitness Studio

In Interrupt This Blog to Bring You the Hunting Season

Sometimes I feel like I lead a double life. Part of me, the part I’ve known for longer, is horrified by the idea of meat production. She likes bunny rabbits, cute cuddly things, animal adoption and wildlife rehabilitation. She became a vegetarian and enjoyed that it made her conscious about eating every single day. The other part of me, the newer part that I understand better, watches in fascination as a deer is butchered on her kitchen table. She takes pictures so she can write about it, and eats venison sliders hot off the stove in the same room with the butchered carcass. She recognizes that a squirrel with a broken leg left to the coyotes in the woods is not a total waste. She knows that nature can be as brutal as humanity. She is more sure of this lifestyle than any that has come before.

I admit it, the shock value of eating squirrel or trying a little bite of deer heart (because why not?) have long since gone for me. Things I never even knew were a part of life have become common place, and living with a hunter has been a huge part of that. This elicits mixed responses from the people in my life who know me best. They still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I just know it’s right.

The thing is, at this point in my life I have a hard time even picking up a package of organic chicken at Whole Foods without wondering how many miles away that chicken was slaughtered, or why it’s wrapped in so much plastic. I have no reservations, however, about the fresh and “free range” meat in my freezer. Since I have made the decision that I am ultimately a meat-eater, I might as well know everything about it and understand exactly where it comes from. For a while I thought I couldn’t handle that, that I just didn’t want to know about or experience most of the lifecycle of these animals. That’s not the case any more. Knowing is the only way I can do it.

As a bonus, all of the wild game I cook is incredibly lean, lending itself well to the culinary experiments of a clean eating blogger. This brings me to the newest freezer challenge: 30lbs of ground venison and about 30+ more pounds of steaks and stew meat.

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I think I squeezed in a few frosty beer glasses and an ice cube tray on the freezer door, but other than that there is not much else in there. Well, there also might be a pheasant and/or a snow goose. I’m really not sure.

What did we cook first, you ask? Read on my friends, read on.