I came home from work last week to find a little present waiting for me in the kitchen. Jon bought me a 6 lb can of pumpkin. You know the GIANT cans of diced tomatoes you see at Smart & Final and think ‘who needs THAT many diced tomatoes?’ THAT’S the same size can the pumpkin is in. The recipe on the back of the can instructs me on how to make 9 pumpkin pies from this 1 can.

9 PIES.

No way am I gonna make 9 pies though. Food bloggers don’t make the same thing twice, ever. It’s like a unspoken law or something. And also, um, the man just lost 40 lbs. Pumpkin is a vegetable, yes, but when combined with butter, flour and sugar, I think it negates the ‘health’ value. I think. Although, I can be convinced other wise…

In an effort to use some of these 6 lbs, how about I make something that is legitimately good for ya? It’s got protein, vegetables, fiber… And a side of cornbread. You can’t have chili without cornbread. I mean, I guess you can. But why?

The chili is very hearty and comforting. It doesn’t have a strong pumpkin flavor at all. Which in some ways is disappointing because I really love pumpkin. But looking on the positive side, it’s nice because you can serve chili to non veggie eaters and know that they are getting their vegetables too. It also freezes well. Which is a good thing because this is a MASSIVE batch of chili. Eat some, freeze some, give some away to your neighbors… I highly recommend making this because it is REALLY yummy.

Update as of 1/5/2012:
This is a great finger food for babies learning to use their ‘pinchers’ to eat (around 8 months). My baby loves grabbing the beans, peppers and onions all by herself. I originally thought it might be too flavorful and she wouldn’t’ like it. But nope, the opposite is true! If your baby is still eating pureed food, just toss all of it int he blender and then spoon feed it to them.

Crockpot Pumpkin Chili
Serves 6-8
Time: 6 – 10 hours
Recipe adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef (I used 12% fat)
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to season meat
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, adjust according to how spicy you want it)
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cocoa powder
3 cups homemade beef stock (or use 2 cans beef broth)
1 can (15 oz. can) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz. can) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz can) pumpkin puree – NOT pumpkin pie filling
2 cans (15 oz can) diced tomatoes with juice

Optional Toppings:
shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, bacon, diced bell peppers, diced onion

Serve with Cornbread (recipe below)

Instructions
Heat a small amount of oil in a large heavy frying pan, add ground beef, season with salt and fresh ground black pepper, and cook until the beef is well browned. Add browned meat to the crockpot.

Add a little more oil to the frying pan (unless you used a fatty meat, the pan should have plenty of juice left in it from the meat), add diced onion and green bell pepper and cook 2-3 minutes, until the onion and pepper is just starting to soften. Add minced garlic, ground cumin, cayenne, dried oregano, cinnamon and cocoa powder and saute a couple minutes more.
*Sauteing the spices release the flavor, so don’t skip this step.

Put the onion mixture into the crockpot, then add the beef stock to the pan so it picks up the beef flavors and juices, and add that to crockpot.

While onions and peppers are cooking, drain the beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse with cold water until no more foam appears. (This removes excess starchiness and makes the beans easier to digest.) Add beans to the crockpot. Add canned pumpkin and diced tomatoes with juice.

Stir the mixture to combine ingredients.
*At this point you can refrigerate the chili and put it in the crokcpot to cook later. I made the meat/veggies the night before, chilled it overnight, then turned on the crokcpot the next morning before work.

Cook on high for 4-6 hours (or 8-10 hours on low) stirring a few times if you’re home. If not, it’s not the end of the world. My slow cooker has a higher heat, even when I put it on low. So I end up cooking on high for 4 hours or low for about 7 hours. Adjust your time depending on your slow cooker.

You can garnish the chili with sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon (if you like that sorta thing), or whatever… Me, I just dove right in…

Corn Bread Muffins
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Dorie Greenspan
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk (1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)
1/4 cup pesto (optional)

Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins with liners, then spray the liners with non stick spray. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it. In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, and eggs together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk, stir to blend. The batter will be lumpy, that’s ok. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Optional: Spoon 1 tsp pesto onto the top of each muffin and swirl. I did this to a few of the muffins for fun. They tasted REAL good. Next time I’ll add pesto to all the muffins and top them with some Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by West Bend.”