Friday, October 5, 2012

Harvest Chili

     Yesterday, I squeezed in a morning walk before it got too hot outside. Just as I stepped back into the bliss of my air conditioned house, I received a picture text from my sister, Jenna. Snow. It had SNOWED over night up there in Fargo, ND. As I wiped away the sweat from my brow I thought about how crazy it was that my family and I live in such drastically different climates, yet still are in the same country. 
     While I am a huge fan of Florida's gorgeous foliage, blooms year-round, various cultures to enjoy, beaches, and well above freezing temperatures, I do get a little homesick when I think about the "Northern Fall" I grew up in. 
     In Montana, fall is a season of color changing leaves and cool, brisk evenings. On those cool Autumn nights you find gloves, hot chocolate and schnapps, homemade noisemakers, and rosy red noses and cheeks in the small town football stands. Not a light in town is on. Everyone attends the football game to support their hometown boys.
     Also this time of year, everyone is preparing for the winter. As a child, my family and I would harvest our garden, hunt for venison, and make cheeses. Apple sauce, sausage, canned beans, apple pie filling, feta, mozzarella, blanched peas, etc. You name it, we harvested and preserved it. What could be buried in the root cellar was uprooted and stored underground. This was a lot of work, but we never saw it that way. It was a way of life. Fresh, inexpensive, and naturally organic. There was love, hard work, and a sense of pride in every meal.
     When you live off the land you eat what is in season. Everything we had harvested was free game for a meal choice. We were surrounded by fresh produce until we decided what to preserve and how to preserve it. In the mean time, we needed to eat. My Mom would fix up many hearty meals. With the flavors of fall all around us, we ate well. 
     Now I am in Florida. Some people ask me which place I like better. Montana or Florida? I always explain that they are not comparable. They are so different, that it would be unfair to compare them. I love them both for different reasons.

     Three things that have proven to be similar whether we are experiencing Fall in Montana or Florida, is football, friends, and food. 

     -Football - Though the atmosphere and whether of football games change with 
      different regions and leagues, it is still football. Dan is still playing. 
     -Friends - I have been so lucky to find such great friends here in South Florida and 
      also continue to stay in touch with those back home. 
     -Food - With the season of Fall comes the fabulous seasonal foods. Pumpkin, 
     Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Fresh Potatoes, Apples, Tomatoes, etc. Whether 
     you are harvesting a garden or scooting your cart around the grocery store, there 
     are plenty of colorful and fresh options to choose from.

     This year, at the first sign of Fall, I whipped up what I call Harvest Chili. Though I had to buy everything at the store, I used what many people are harvesting from their gardens right now. A warm and hearty meal, this Harvest Chili is perfect for those cool Autumn nights. With squash, beans, corn, tomatoes, and zucchini, this chili is perfect for using up those garden veggies. 

     Make it for a crowd, make it for your family, a football party, testing/finals week. I make a big ole pot and then reheat it bowl by bowl for a few days. Sneak in your kids veggies! With so many veggies in this Harvest Chili it is actually quite healthy. Though I like things very spicy, (like burn your tongue off spicy), I made this at a low-moderate spice level so that it could be eaten by children and adults alike. I figured I would wind up adding a ton of hot sauce, but I actually enjoyed the flavors so much I didn't even use it the first day. The leftovers, I tried a tiny splash of Chipotle Tabasco.

This is great for make ahead. Couple hours, or even a day ahead of time.

Harvest Chili

3 lbs Ground Chuck 80/20
2 1/2 c diced yellow onion
2 cups sliced and diced celery
2 1/2 c butternut squash peeled and sliced the size of canned pineapple chunks-1/2 inch
1 tsp minced garlic - about 1-2 cloves
29 oz can tomato sauce
28oz diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can chili beans in sauce
1 can butter beans or beans of choice
4 TB chili powder
2 TB cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
2 cubes of beef bouillon, crushed
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 TB brown sugar
2 cups zucchini chunks  same size as squash
Shredded Cheddar, raw onions, and crackers optional

-Brown ground beef in a large pot
-Drain beef in a colander over a bowl
-In empty pot that beef was browned in, over med heat, add onion, celery, squash, garlic, and about 1/4 cup of strained meat juice. Sautee until onion is translucent.
-Add strained beef back into the pot with the vegetables. Stir.
-Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and paprika.. Stir.
-Add can of tomato sauce, both cans of beans, and undrained can of tomatoes. Stir.
-Add crushed beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Stir.
-Simmer on low, covered, stirring occasionally for 15-30 minutes or until squash is almost tender when poked with a fork.
-Add zucchini. Stir.
-Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Zucchini will not take long to cook.
If you are not eating chili right away, cover pot and turn off burner after you add the zucchini. The warmth of the chili, pot, and turned off burner will cook the zucchini in about 35-60 min.
-Serve with shredded cheddar, raw onions, and crackers if desired.


  1. This looks great!
    I love "fall" food!

    1. Thank you! You should try it. Perfect for Fall! I hope you live somewhere that you get to enjoy Fall colors!!