Pumpkin/Squash Chili with Avocado Cream

You know that feeling, when you have 2lbs of grass-fed ground beef to use up, a new TV show lined up on Netflix, and a freezing long weekend during which you don’t really want to leave the house? No? Well I do. Such was my situation this past weekend – beef to use up, sick of meatballs, and looking for something warm and spicy to enjoy while snuggled up on the couch watching Sons of Anarchy. (Holy moly I think I need a separate blog just to talk about that show! OBSESSED.)

I made this Pumpkin Chili with Avocado Cream from Health-Bent once before, in the fall when I had a little sugar pumpkin from my farm share that I needed to cook up. Since pumpkins aren’t as easy to find in the stores this time of year and I didn’t want to use puree, I used butternut squash instead. It tastes nearly the same either way, so use what you have! A few notes:

1) I had a yellow pepper to use, so I threw that in, too. You could add cauliflower or other veggies, if you’d like – just keep them on the mild-flavor side.

2) I’ve changed the instructions a bit to be more like traditional chili in the order of operations (so rather than browning the meat and removing it to another bowl, I brown it in the pot with the veggies). I wanted an easy, mostly-one-pot dish so I did it this way and it turned out great.

3) Do yourself a favor and make the avocado cream topping. It takes 30 seconds and takes this dish from above-average paleo chili to WOW, GET ME MORE OF THAT NOW! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chili with Avocado Cream, adapted from Health-Bent’s original

chiliIngredients

For the chili:

2 lbs grass-fed ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sugar pumpkin, diced (about 3 cups) NOTE: You can use 3 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash instead.

1 (28 oz) can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (7 oz) can diced, roasted green chilies
1 c chicken or beef stock
FOC (fat of choice)
S&P

For the spice mixture:

2 T chili powder
2 T cumin
1 T paprika
2 t salt
2 t coriander
2 t cinnamon
2 t cocoa powder
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t cayenne

For the avocado cream:

2 avocados
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 oranges
1 t coriander
1/2 t salt

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat with a tablespoon of your F.O.C. Add the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes, until onions have begun to soften. Add pumpkin or squash and sauté another 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and spice mixture and sauté until fragrant, about thirty seconds.
  2. Add the beef and let it brown. Try not to stir it too much until you get some color on one side but make sure you break up the pieces. This should take 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer to let all the flavors meld. When you’re happy with the texture and the pumpkin or squash has softened, you’re done.
  4. To make the avocado cream: Add all ingredients to a bowl or a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve chili topped with a dollop of avocado cream and cilantro, if you like it!

Crispy Mashed Plantain Patties

About a month ago I bought a couple of green plantains (can’t you just tell this is going to be an exciting story??). I waited and waited for them to ripen and turn brown/black, which FINALLY happened this week. I had wanted to try PaleOMG’s mashed plantain recipe this whole time, so that’s what these two lucky plantains were destined for. I whipped it up the other night with a few changes, and have been frying up the mash in patties (per the suggestion of my friend Devin — genius!) and devouring them alongside eggs for breakfast and on their own as sweet, lightly spiced, crispy little treats.

Crispy Mashed Plantain Patties, adapted from PaleOMG’s Caramelized Mashed Plantain recipe

mashed plantain

Ingredients

  • 4 brown/black plantains, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons canned coconut milk

Instructions

  1. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sliced plantains and sprinkle with cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and salt.
  2. Cook on both sides for 4-5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Using a food processor, puree plantains. While the food processor is still running, pour in the coconut milk until you get a smooth puree. When I made this, my mixture was quite thick, like play dough. This is perfect for making patties but if you want it thinner for just mashed plantains, you can keep adding coconut milk.
  4. You can stop here and serve if you just want some tasty mashed plantains. For crispy patties, read on!
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon fat of choice in a skillet over medium-high heat (bacon fat in a cast iron skillet worked great for me).
  6. If your plantain mixture is thick like mine was, you can roll into balls, flatten into patties, and place in the skillet. If it’s thinner, pour it in like pancake batter.
  7. Cook until both sides are brown and develop a nice crust, then place on a paper towel lined plate to crisp up until they’re cool enough to eat.
  8. Enjoy straight up as a snack, with eggs, avocado, and hot sauce for a savory breakfast, or alongside pulled pork for dinner.

Shredded Enchilada Chicken

One of my favorite recipes to cook up before I started eating mostly paleo was the Lighter Chicken Enchiladas recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I’d tell you all about it but then I’d just leave you wanting enchiladas, which is not the point of this blog!

I’m happy to report that since the sauce was pretty much paleo as-written, the best part of the dish (the chicken! Duh!) is still something I can cook up and enjoy without feeling gross from the corn tortillas, cheese, and sugar (2 teaspoons) in the original. It’s spicy and flavorful on its own, but also delicious atop some salad greens or half an avocado for a light lunch. I promise to post a photo next time I make it!

Shredded Enchilada Chicken, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil or fat of choice
  • Salt
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4-ounce) can pickled jalapenos, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves (add more if you love cilantro)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)

Instructions

  1. Combine the onion, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onion has softened, eight to ten minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about five minutes.
  3. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the thickest part registers 160 degrees on the instant read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the cooked onions to release their juice (you could skip this step if you want the onions in your sauce). Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite sized pieces. Toss together the shredded chicken, 1 cup of the enchilada sauce, jalapenos, and cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with avocado, lime wedges, and hot sauce. This is tasty on its own, on a halved avocado, or over salad greens. (I’ve also turned it into enchilada nachos, but that’s not exactly—ok, remotely—paleo! Maybe you could try it with homemade sweet potato or plantain chips?)

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Two things have made me a very happy camper today: 1) a HA-UGE snowstorm is headed our way, promising a snow day full of movies and cooking and hot chocolate and snow forts and doing good deeds by shoveling out the driveways of strangers and 2) I got this squash lasagna recipe right last night and I can’t wait to share it with you!

The original recipe comes from Health-Bent, and while I usually love their recipes, this one wasn’t one of my favorites. The pizza sauce was too sweet for me and I wanted more veggies. So, after a bit of tinkering (and getting over my recent aversion to using my mandoline), here’s my revised recipe. I like it better than real lasagna, but I’ve never been one with Garfield in my affection for the stuff, so you can decide for yourself. It was also my first time trying this tomato sauce and holy moly I can’t wait to use it in more dishes. It lets those little sweet tomatoes really shine. *sigh* Hope you enjoy it!

photo 1Butternut Squash Lasagna, adapted from Health-Bent’s version

Ingredients

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 12oz bag or bunch curly spinach (baby spinach would work too)
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced into planks
  • 1 recipe of simple tomato sauce — recipe below — or about 4 cups of your favorite

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. In a skillet, crumble the sausage and brown it, along with the onion.
  2. While that’s going, prep your squash. I found the lasagna turned out best when I used a mandoline to slice my squash into 1/8” planks (since thinly sliced squash better mimicked the texture of lasagna noodles), though you can do this with a sharp knife, too.
  3. When the sausage is browned, add garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add spinach to the skillet and toss with the sausage mixture until it cooks down. If it doesn’t all fit at once, just keep adding it in batches until it’s all wilted.
  5. Using a 9×9 oven-safe baking dish, put down enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. (This keeps the squash from sticking to the pan.) Next add the squash, trying not to overlap the pieces, then spoon on the sausage mixture, followed by the sauce. Repeat until all your ingredients are used up, trying to reserve enough sauce to cover the top of the lasagna.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. You’re looking for a bubbly pan with a crispy, browned top. Right out of the oven, the lasagna may by liquidy. Let it set for a good half hour before cutting into it, as it will solidify.

Simple Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions, adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. Check out photos here!

  • 28 ounces (1 large can) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter from grass-fed cows (Kerrygold is a good brand)
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • Salt to taste (Canned tomatoes may contain salt. Mine was plenty salty without adding any, so taste first!)

Put the tomatoes, onion, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, and add salt to taste if necessary. You can puree if you like a smooth tomato sauce.

photo 3

Chocolate Banana Coconut Custard

I made this decadent paleo chocolate custard yesterday as a birthday surprise for my mom – Happy Birthday, Mumsy! My friend EC came through in a mini-emergency last Saturday and made this for our paleo potluck dinner (after I sliced the corner off my finger using a mandoline and couldn’t make tropical macaroons). Aaaanyway, the custard was so dreamy that I was thinking about it all week. When you’re trying to stay strict paleo and staring down a chocolate craving, it hits the spot.

A word of advice on this one: try not to pound more than a small serving because as good as it tastes in the moment, you’ll probably end up feeling queasy within about 5 minutes (maybe because of the amount of coconut oil that makes this a rich treat). Trust me on this. I’ve done it twice and both times wished I had pumped the brakes and exercised this unfamiliar thing called portion control. I’m going to file that under “Lesson Learned” (along with the importance of mandoline safety).

chocolate custardChocolate Banana Coconut Custard, from Fast Paleo

Serves 1 – just multiply the recipe for more people. The recipe calls for hand whisking, but you can also make this in a stand mixer, using a hand mixer, or in a food processor for a really smooth texture.

  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 2 Tbs almond butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • splash vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs raw cacao powder (I used cocoa powder and it came out great)

Instructions

  1. Mash banana with fork until creamy.
  2. Add almond butter, stir until well incorporated.
  3. Add melted coconut oil and vanilla extract, briskly mix using small wire whisk. (Use your muscles here to really smooth out the mixture with any remaining banana chunks.)
  4. Add cacao powder, whisk again and until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow coconut oil to set and thicken the mixture.

Eat as-is or top with berries, shredded coconut, chopped pecans – whatever you’d like!