By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Everything has been turning up pumpkin lately. It all started innocently enough. I bought a juicy pie pumpkin that inspired me to action. After roasting it up, I then pureed it and had this luminous large batch of pumpkin puree inviting me to create. All that lovely puree sparked my imagination like a tornado in a trailer park.
I decided not to go to the easiest route and bake a bunch of nummy pumpkin flans. No, I made a deal with myself it had to be recipes that I had never tried before. I started with pumpkin chili. It was wonderful! Had to make another batch of that it went so fast. Then I made a paleo pumpkin bread with almond flour that was delightful. I finally squeaked out a batch of pumpkin spaghetti sauce with the last cup of puree. That was served on spaghetti squash noodles. Our house was fragrant with the smells of a warm fire and spices. Fall has officially begun in our house.
I have a thing for pumpkins and all winter squash for that matter; after all they are the royalty of the nutrition world. They take the throne in their lively color which is the herald of their strong content of beta carotene. Beta carotene… pause for applause….is one of the most amazing nutrients we can consume for overall health. It is an antioxidant that destroys free radicals in our systems, supports eye health, reduces the aging process and is linked to prevention of cancer and heart disease. (It is important to note that beta carotene needs to be ingested naturally, through foods. Artificial beta carotene is under scrutiny for accelerating cancer.)
The crowning glory of pumpkins is that there are only 83 calories and a mega 7 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked pumpkin! They are also a good source of Vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Pumpkins were aptly represented as the gilded vehicle in Cinderella.
It is easy to make your own pumpkin puree to stimulate your fall cooking. The first step is to find a nice fat sugar or pie pumpkin, like “sugar baby” or “Cinderella.” (Cinderella pumpkins look like they are out of a fairy tale. Flat and vibrant orange with pronounced ribs, they are delicious! I saw some at Safeway this year.) Pie pumpkins are very different than the glowing Jack o lantern pumpkins. Jack o lanterns are not a good cooking pumpkin. They are grown to carve, not to be eaten. Pie pumpkins are usually smaller and have a thick, short fiber flesh that is sweet.
Simply cut the pie pumpkin in half, scrape out the guts and seeds, then bake at 350 degrees, cut side down in a baking dish with about 2 inches of water in it. Bake until a fork pierces the skin easily, about 1 hour or so. After the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh, (an ice cream scoop works great) and puree in a food processor or blender. And voila! You have the makings of many a fine meal. The puree freezes well so that you don’t have to get crazy and make everything with it. (Like me)
Get creative with it and add a cup of the puree to your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe or chili. I thought I’d share my recipe with you here tonight so you can get your house fragrant with the smells of fall. Remember that chili isn’t an exact science; it is a very personal dish. I think that is why there is so much hullabaloo over chili cook-offs. So just feel your way along here and add a bit more of this and a little less of that, depending on your personal tastes.
Primal Pumpkin chili
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
2-6 cloves of garlic
1 to 2 pounds of ground meat like elk or grass fed beef
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt
1 28 oz can of el pato red enchilada sauce
1 cup of pumpkin puree
2 cups of cubed winter squash, peeled
2 green peppers, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1-2 tablespoons of ground cumin
2-3 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of dark chocolate coco powder
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons of salt
Hot sauce to taste
Diced green onions
Take out a large caveman type soup pot with a thick bottom. Melt the coconut oil over med-high heat and sauté the onions and garlic till fragrant. Add the ground meat and fry till just barely done. Add the canned tomatoes and el pato sauce. Stir till well blended and beginning to get fragrant. Turn the heat down to medium heat and toss in the veggies (except the zucchini) and spices stirring it up often. Add some water if it seems too thick.
Turn the heat down low enough to that this delicious concoction bubbles gently. Simmer, covered, for about 2 -3 hours till all the flavors are married. (You can also add this to the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 3-4) Add the zucchini and whatever veggies you want to have some crunch factor to them, the last ½ hour the chili cooks. (I threw in my green peppers here too). I always wait to add the salt and adjust the seasonings here. Serve this luscious chili with cilantro and green chilies on top and a bit of cheddar cheese if you do dairy. Happy fall eating!