Beef and Butternut Squash Chili

Beef and Butternut Squash Chili

By April Swiger, Contributing writer

Comfort food at its finest – this unique chili recipe is satisfying, nourishing, and quick to put together for any night of the week. Vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene-rich butternut squash serves as a delicious base for this recipe, making it hearty enough to prepare without any additional grains (something our family has experimented with eliminating recently). This winter gourd is my favorite for cold-weather recipes, and a staple in my kitchen until spring starts to make its appearance.

Chili is my go-to recipe for crowds, and I typically make it 3-4 times a month for my family. It’s a relatively simple meal, especially for busy moms who desire to cook nourishing food for their families. Put everything in a pot, let it simmer, and serve it with a variety of yummy toppings. To be honest though, my typical recipe was beginning to bore me. I served chili with rice, roasted potatoes, tortillas, organic corn chips, you name it I probably tried it! It was time for a change.

Butternut squash is jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients essential to help combat cold and flu season. A mere one cup serving will give your immune system a very nice boost. On top of that, who can resist that gorgeous tangerine color? I use a strong vegetable peeler to easily take the skin off, and then quickly chop it into small pieces for this recipe.

This recipe makes a very large pot and serves our family of three a hearty dinner, as well as a filling lunch the next day. The leftovers are equally as delicious, and it freezes great as well!

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Beef and Butternut Squash Chili
Recipe type: Main Dish
This simple chili recipe has a unique twist with the addition of butternut squash! It proves to be filling, nourishing, and perfect for any night of the week.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small - medium butternut squash (2-3lbs), chopped into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1½ cups crushed tomatoes (I love the BPA free Pomi cartons during the winter when fresh tomatoes aren’t as accessible)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 3 cups broth
  • OPTIONAL: Cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, chopped green onions, etc.
  1. Place the chopped onion, beef, and butter in a large pot. Cook on medium high heat until the meat is browned and completely cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the squash, garlic, and gather the rest of your ingredients.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (garlic, squash, beans, tomatoes, spices, broth) to the pot. Bring everything to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45-60 minutes until the squash is soft.
  4. Top with your favorite chili toppings. I love avocado and cheddar cheese!


How to Freeze Meatballs

Follow this simple method to make your own freezer meatballs! You can take out as many as you like at a time. You can use your favorite recipe, or you can use this grain-free, egg-free Italian Meatball recipe. Yum!
Having frozen meatballs on hand is very convenient. You can easily take out just as many as you need and use them in a variety of recipes. However, I don’t know if I have yet seen meatballs made with the ingredients I’d like, in the store, let alone ones that would mesh well with our allergies/intolerances.

Thankfully, making your own frozen meatballs is very easy and simple to do! I used my recipe for grain-free, egg-Free, and dairy-free Italian Meatballs, and made up a massive batch for my freezer. You can use whatever recipe you’d like though! The method is the same regardless.

I lost several weeks to being under the weather recently, and as someone who is expecting to give birth in the next 2-4 weeks, I am playing catch up on both my rest and my chores! I had grand plans for freezer meals but have had to cut back on some of them because of lack of time. However, meatballs were on the “must do” list, and I was thankful to get them done this week.

It was actually some of you who put this idea into my head! Several of you have mentioned that my recipe for meatballs froze really well, and I was always planning on trying it “sometime”. I decided there was no time like the present! There was something so satisfying about putting that bag stuffed full of frozen meatballs into the freezer too. So thank you!

A few notes on the ingredients I used

We choose to use grassfed ground beef. I was thankful to be able to buy some locally for a decent price and we love the added health benefits to grassfed beef. I quadrupled the recipe, and I replaced one of the pounds of beef for chicken liver for even more nutrition. You can read about the nutritional benefits of liver here. You can also read more about nutrient dense foods in general (including liver) here.

How to make Freezer Meatballs

Make and shape meatballs according to the recipe you’ve chosen to use. I used my recipe for Italian Meatballs. I recommend making small meatballs (I make mine about the size of a pingpong ball or even smaller), not the large fist sized ones.

Bake in the oven (my recipe cooks at 400F for 12-18 minutes) until done. If you are using lean meat, use parchment paper or oil the pan lightly.
Remove from oven and let cool.

Place on a parchment covered bake sheet, making sure the meatballs aren’t touching. They will have shrunk in size when cooking, so I put two pans worth of baked meatballs onto one pan for freezing, and place in the freezer on a flat surface. This ensures that the meatballs won’t freeze sticking together. Freeze until hard.

Remove from freezer and pop into a freezer bag or desired container, and freeze! Use within three months.

How to reheat frozen meatballs

I’m told that a favorite way to enjoy frozen meatballs is to reheat them in a slow cooker in a favorite sauce(think sweet and sour or spaghetti sauce). It only takes 1-3 hours on high, and I like that this would help keep the meatballs moist while they reheat. They can also be dropped into a soup for meatball soup, reheated in a sauce on the stovetop, or reheated in the oven (350F for 15- 20, or until hot in the middle).

Follow this simple method to make your own freezer meatballs! You can take out as many as you like at a time. You can use your favorite recipe, or you can use this grain-free, egg-free Italian Meatball recipe. Yum!

Eating Healthy Does Take Work (and Here’s Why That’s Okay)

Yes, eating healthy does take some work, but that's not a bad thing and the rewards are huge. Don't set yourself up for failure by not admitting to the fact that it will take *some* time to prepare healthy foods. But be encouraged, there is a lot you can do to cut down the time in the kitchen.

Work. That word has bad connotations for many of us. Work is perhaps what takes you away more than you’d like from your family. Perhaps it is what tires you out. Or takes you away from the pursuits that give you the most joy.

So when we are told that eating healthy takes “work” it leaves a bad taste in our mouth. But I would like to propose two things to you today. One, work is not a negative thing. And secondly, the faster we acknowledge that eating healthy does require activity (or work) and planning, the more successful we will be in actually fulfilling our healthy eating goals.

(For email subscribers, check out my Cheat Sheet to a Healthy Diet in Ten Easy Steps – It’s my gift to my email subscribers right now! It shows that it doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to make some great changes in your kitchen. Yes, it takes work, but in the very best sense!).

Why we consider working a bad thing

What are some of the reasons we consider “work” to be such a bad thing? One of the reasons I believe we view work so negatively is because we associate work with unfulfilling jobs and exhausting hours. We associate it with making money, not accomplishing goals. And we live such busy lives, anything that requires extra activity is met with groans.

But work doesn’t have to be those things. A simple definition of work can be “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” Work can mean reading a book to your child, taking a walk, journaling, playing music, gardening, and chopping vegetables. All of these activities take physical or mental effort, but that doesn’t mean they are negative activities. In fact, I don’t know of anything worthwhile in life that doesn’t require some activity behind it. Even the act of meditation takes mental effort.

Work is not the problem. But our attitudes towards work can be.

I think the biggest hang up a lot of us have towards eating healthy is that we want to create new habits without effort or exertion. We fool ourselves into thinking that healthy eating should be effortless, or at least very easy, and so we set ourselves up for failure.

But the fact is, it takes effort, some planning, and commitment. We now have many fairly effortless ways to feed ourselves available in the stores, the fast food line, and the restaurants surrounding us, and they have taught us that food can be easily attained without much effort.

Perhaps we have started to feel that this effortless way of feeding ourselves should be our right. Whereas in the past the work of feeding our families and ourselves was a simple fact of life, now we have to choose between pre-packaged foods and cooking from scratch. And if you’ve never had to learn the art of cooking, it can seem a daunting amount of work to learn.

If that’s you, here is some encouragement for you.

Reframe the word work in relationship to food

The job of feeding yourself (and your family) healthy food will be a much happier event if you can reframe the word work. If you go into the kitchen resenting the work it takes to feed yourself, it’s going to be an unhappy relationship. There are a lot of things that I can feel resentful towards in the kitchen if I’m not careful.

For example, I do enjoy cooking, but I dislike doing the dishes. However, if I can turn my mind towards the benefits of doing the dishes and how doing them helps me accomplish my wider goals of nourishing my family and myself, I can embrace the work happily. Yes, I wouldn’t put doing certain chores on the top ten list of things I enjoy. However, you know what I do enjoy? Feeding my family food that helps them thrive and have good energy. Food that brings them pleasure. Seeing the wider goals and benefits can make even my least favorite chores more positive.

Know that while it can be simple, it does take some time and effort

However, that said, I do want to clarify that there are a lot of ways you can eat simply to cut down on the workload. There have been times when I have tried to keep too many things spinning in the kitchen at the same time, and I have spent too much time in the kitchen.

Working smarter, faster, and cooking more simple food has gone a long way in cutting down the time I spent in the kitchen. Recipes we love but take more time aren’t made on as regular of a basis. Recipes that make good leftovers are made in larger batches. You can spend a huge amount of time in the kitchen if you’d like too. But few of us have the luxury of spending half the day in the kitchen (though I suspect half of us mothers feel that we do regardless of our cooking methods). The point is this: It does take work and activity and planning. But you can also streamline the process, learn to cook faster, and cook smarter for less time spent working in the kitchen.

The more you practice the faster you can become and the more effortless it will seem

This leads me to another important point. Like anything else, the more you practice, the faster and more effective you can become in the kitchen. One of the trends I see in the cooking world is to view cooking as a kind of luxurious weekend activity; an activity to use to relax, like your yoga class. I truthfully think that we should not view all of our cooking that way because, once again, it sets ourselves up for failure in eating healthy on a consistent basis. Instead, we should view it as “activity done in order to achieve a purpose or a goal”.

Like all skills, it does take time and effort to become better at it, and there is a learning curve. But we should focus on the purpose and goal, and that should include becoming skilled and wise enough in the kitchen to make the most of our time there. Our goal in the kitchen is not to once in a while spend the weekend creating gourmet spreads of food, and then eating food on the fly the rest of the week. Our goal is to consistently eat well. And for that to happen, being able to use effectively what time you have in the kitchen is crucial. Practice makes perfect here.

Acknowledging and accepting that there will be a time commitment, a learning curve to the cooking process, and that cooking healthy does require some work will go a long way in helping you succeed long term in eating well.

I’ve accepted the fact that eating well takes effort and time on my part, and I’m fine with that. In all other areas of my life if I am going to achieve my goals and hopes, I also expect to use effort and time to achieve them.

And so far? I’ve discovered that the effort and time have been worth it.

Easy Crock-pot Chicken Teriyaki (For Delicious Rice Bowls!)

Crock-pot Chicken Teriyaki Blowls- The Nourishing Gourmet

By Katie Mae Stanley, Contributing Writer

Chicken is gently flavored with an easy and simple homemade teriyaki sauce and then cooked in a crock-pot. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables and you have a lovely meal for a busy night!

In our busy lives, it is very tempting to get food out or settle for processed foods to save on time. Those may be fine for the occasional treat, but our bodies need nourishing foods on a regular basis to thrive. Few things weaken the body more than poor food choices. But I understand those busy days where it’s hard to get food on the table. Believe me, I’ve had many of those days myself.

I want to share with you the two appliances that have been instrumental in getting nourishing food on the table in the busy seasons of life. My crock-pot (affiliate links, Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker is a great brand to use) and rice cooker (I love my Vitaclay Rice Cooker) are two of my best friends. Okay, maybe not my friends, but as far as appliances go they are right up there with my Blendtec and grain mill! Crock-pots and rice cookers allow you to prepare nourishing meals that you can fix and forget. Many of these appliances are now programmable to keep food hot for up to 12 hours after the food has finished cooking.

The options are endless when you are cooking in a crock-pot, but this teriyaki recipe is one of my favorites. Teriyaki is bursting with flavor with the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Kimi shared a tip for the easiest marinade ever, soy sauce (or tamari) and unrefined sugar of choice (such as coconut sugar). It can’t get any easier than that, right? For this dish, I followed that basic idea and added a bit of ginger since I love the pop of flavor it adds. If you don’t feel like adding ginger, it is totally optional.

Have you ever gotten teriyaki rice bowls? I remember loving them in high school, and they were so tasty! I haven’t had one in years but decided that is was time to have one again in the convenience of my home. My trusty crock-pot and rice cooker made this a very easy meal to throw together with almost no work. I chose to steam some broccoli for about 10 minutes to go with my rice bowl but you could use any vegetable you have one hand.

Here are a few more teriyaki dishes:

Crock-pot Teriyaki Bowls
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, boneless and skinless
  • ¾ cup soy sauce or tamari (use tamari for gluten free option)
  • ⅓ cup sucanat or coconut sugar (palm sugar)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 green onions, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Mix the soy sauce or tamari, sugar of choice, water and grated ginger in a cup or small bowl.
  2. Place the chicken in a crock-pot. Pour the sauce evenly over the chicken.
  3. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
  4. Slice the chicken once it is done cooking.
  5. Serve with white rice and steamed broccoli.
  6. If desired garnish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds. Enjoy!