This year’s Chilifest competition at work threw in a twist: Add pumpkin to the recipe. I thought everyone had to do that, but that was only the Iron Chef category. The other three categories were Hottest, Most Creative, and Best in Show. I’m not a chili eater, and I can’t remember if I ever made chili in my life. But I decided to throw my pepitas in the ring.
I scoured Google and right away, because I like a challenge, I searched for vegan pumpkin chili to see what the uber-veggie crowd had to offer. I found three:
- Pumpkin Chili at Another One Bites the Dust
- Vegan Pumpkin Chili at Not Just Recipes
- Super Bowl of Chili at Vegan Visitor
These three were the top choices. But I ended up combining them all, with Vegan Pumpkin Chili as the base.
Piquant Pumpkin & Pepita Potpourri Chili
- 1 small butternut squash (or 1/2 a big one)
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups of vegetable broth (I used Pacific, organic)
- 2 big (about 25-oz.) cans kidney beans, drained
- 2 cans (15 oz. each) of Trader Joe’s pumpkin puree
- 4 cups of diced tomatoes
- 2 packages of Trader Joe’s taco powder
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1-2 Tablespoons cumin (or to taste)
- 1 jar of the secret ingredient
- 4-5 oz. of raw pepitas
That’s the vegan list. To go the other way, add more ingredients.
- 1/2 pound of bacon
- sheep feta cheese
For the contest, I almost added a half pound of ground turkey, but I found it was great as-is.
- In a very large pot, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until tender.
- Add everything else except squash and bacon. (But see #5 below on the cumin.)
- The secret ingredient that I used in my workplace contest was my mother’s homemade salsa. She made it for me some time ago, and it was still vacuum-sealed in the jar she put it in. I have no idea what she put in it, other than tomatoes and green pepper, but it was SPICY. The jar was about 28 ounces.
- Heat everything on medium heat until it starts to boil.
- Simmer for one hour, stirring every few minutes. Taste-test as you go, adding cumin little by little to taste.
- Bake the bacon strips in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Then pat dry and cut them into bits into the pot. Feel free to add a little bit of the leftover bacon fat.
- While that is simmering (and while bacon is cooking), cut up the squash into 1/2-inch cubes, or to a desirable size.
- Add squash when the hour of simmering is over.
- Cook until squash is almost done.
- Refrigerate overnight to let it sit.
- Let it heat up in a crockpot set on high for three hours.
- Serve with a dash of raw pepitas and sheep feta cheese.
Following these steps will lead you to WIN the Iron Chef category of your workplace contest. It will bring you a red-hot bag of goodies, such as scary spatulas, two cookbooks and a bottle of chipotle hot sauce.
The names of the other workplace winners were:
Hottest: Set Fire to the Face on Fire (Veggie)
Most Creative: Sauerkraut & Bratwurst Chili
Best in Show: Pineapple Pork Chili