Cleaning Up Holiday Faves, Part 2

In the last post, we cleaned up cranberry sauce, stuffing, and shepherd's pie. Today on the menu is chili, roasted vegetables, and sweet potatoes (or candied yams that seem to appear at most feasts). Chili, an excellent cold-weather food; hearty, warm, and very easy to make. If you have a slow cooker, awesome, just dump the following ingredients into the cookers, set it on low for 6-8 hours and enjoy! If you don't, I'm sad for you (and you really should get one. Life is much simpler with a slow cooker), but never fear! This can also be done on the stove in a big stock pot. The only difference is to saute the onions and garlic a bit before adding everything else. Once all the ingredients are in the pot, simmer on med-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes.

This recipe has pumpkin puree in it. I love using pumpkin as it adds extra "Umph!" to the chili by making it thicker. Pumpkin also has a decent amount of fiber, vitamins A and C, as well as a healthy dose of potassium. Make sure you use "pure" pumpkin puree, not the stuff for pies.

Also of note, this chili is absolutely loaded with vegetables (versus most chilis which are just meat and beans). The added bulk of the vegetables keep you full longer and you don't need to eat as much to reach satiety (thus saving a bit on calories).

Without further ado, I present, Pumpkin Chili!

- 1/2 onion, chopped

- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

- 2-3 cups of diced rutabaga or potatoes (we use rutabega a lot, especailly in the winter since it's in season)

- 1-2 cans of beans of choice (we like black and pinto)

- 2-3 carrots, diced

- 1 each of red and green bell peppers, diced

- 3/4 cup frozen corn (or canned, but I think canned tastes funny)

-1 can of pumpkin puree

- 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained

- 1-2lbs of meat of choice (ground beef or turkey. I use 2-3 chicken breasts and just shred it after it's done cooking)

- A generous sprinkling of the following spice: chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and a touch of cinnamon. You can add any "heat" spices you want, such as a jalapeño or two. My heat tolerance is -45, so chili powder is as hot as I can go.

 Slow cooker- throw it in, cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Stock pot on stove-

1. sautee onions and garlic in a bit of oil for 3-5 minutes.

2. Toss in the meat and cook until brown on the outside.

3. Throw everything else in and simmer on med-low heat for 35-45 + minutes.

Moving on to roasted veggies. Winter is a perfect time to take advantage of the root vegetables that grow abundantly this time of year. It's fairly simple to make, choose the vegetable combination that appeals to you the most, throw all of it into a baking dish, and roast away. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in most of the vegetables so they're pretty flavorful. Since the flavors of the vegetables are brought out, there's no need for lots of oils or calorie bomb sauces saving your waistline. This is a great, healthy side for any meal this season.

Salt and pepper are always a go-to when it comes to seasoning, but experimenting with thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and balsamic vinegar is not out of line either. Garlic, carmalized onions (added either before or after the roasting) also add a flavor burst.

Roastable Vegetables:

- Parsnips: somewhat sweet, I think they taste like a "clean carrot," and are excellent complements to more bitter vegetables such as brussel sprouts.

- Brussel sprouts- you have to be careful not to over roast them as they will start to become bitter. Slice these little guys up and toss in with they're root compadres.

- Butternut squash- peel and dice up in smaller chunks. Butternut squash is pretty dense, so in order to have softer pieces (without blackening the rest of the vegetables to a crisp), ensure that the squash are in smaller pieces so they'll cook more evenly. Butternut is also a bit sweet.

- Potatoes- either white or sweet, both options are healthy and excellent addtions to any roasted vegetable combination.

- Rutabaga- similar to butternut squash, it's pretty dense so make sure it's in smaller pieces.

- Beets- also a sweeter, earthier taste (and it turns your pee pink!) These guys go very well with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.

Dice up any combination that appeals to you, toss with desired spices (or vinegar), roast in the oven around 400-425 for 30-45 minutes (or whenever vegetables are tender). Serve and enjoy!

Candied yams, these were a staple of holiday meals when I was a kid, are well, not so great for you. The excessive amount of sugar negates the health benefits of yams (or sweet potatoes, depending on who makes them). Here's a way to still enjoy the delightful tuber without sending your body into sugar shock.

This is adapted from Tosca Reno (Clean Eating)

- 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

- 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chunked

- 1/2 to 1 tbs of olive oil or butter

- 1/8- 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon

- 1-2 Tbs of maple syrup or honey

- Salt as needed

1. Toss in potatoes and parsnips into stock pot, cover with water, and boil until soft.

2. Drain, and blend in a blender or mash by hand in a large bowl.

3. As potatoes and parsnips are mashed or blended, add in the nutmeg, cinnamon, and maple syrup/honey. Add the oil in as needed to make smooth (you may not need it).

4. Blend until smooth, taste testing as you go. Add, in small increments, salt and sweetener to achieve desired level of sweetness.

Come back next week, we'll tackle desserts!