Polar Vortex Chili

The air outside my home hit a high of 3 degrees Fahrenheit today. The latest new weather phenomenon we are experiencing here is called a Polar Vortex. This is essentially frigid, windy conditions. The NY Times described the weather as “life-threatening cold”.

I don’t think there could be a better reason to make chili for dinner – unless you hate chili, of course. 😉

I used what I had in the house already to make the healthiest meal possible – this, I think is a critical balance one has to strike in order to make healthy changes into a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, the key is to keep on hand the healthiest options your family will eat. It also helps to learn which healthy additions “disappear” when mixed into other foods. I’ll point these out in the recipe.

This recipe makes a lot, so you’ll have enough for dinner tonight and a week’s worth of lunches in the freezer. Very efficient.

Polar Vortex Chili

Serves 8 or more

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion (white)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef (you can substitute another ground meat)
  • 3 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 T. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 2 T. ground flax seed*
  • 1/4 c. whole cornmeal**
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree***
  • 1 can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 can low sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained well

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Mine is 10 inches.

2. When the oil is hot enough it will have a somewhat wavy appearance. Add the onions and garlic and saute them until they become transparent. Try not to let them get too dark – this makes them taste bitter.

3. Add the ground beef (or ground turkey, bison, etc.) to the pan and brown over medium-high heat. This can take 5-10 minutes, or even more depending on the pan and the burner.

4. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve with cornbread and or anything else that you love with chili.

*Ground flax seed is easy to keep on hand and easy to add to stews and smoothies and baked goods. It’s a great source of dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble), antioxidants, and omega-3 essential fatty acids which have been linked to the prevention and slowing of disease.

**Whole cornmeal is another item that is easy to keep on hand. It can be used as an alternative to flour for thickening soups or stews. It can also be used in breading or baked goods. As a whole grain, whole cornmeal is a good source of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, and vitamins B-6, E, and K. It also includes 18 amino acids and minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.

***Pumpkin puree is an incredibly versatile member of the pantry staples I keep on hand. This year I took advantage of the local harvest and made my own; it’s stored in Ball pint jars in my freezer. Adding even a small amount of pumpkin puree to pancake batter, cookie dough, and yes, chili, will boost its levels of vitamin A, beta-carotene (an anti-oxidant), and potassium. Its flavor can be enhanced and supported with spices; it can also blend into the background so as to go unnoticed by suspicious or particular eaters. Even if that eater is you.


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