Most love a rich and hearty bowl of chili on a cold day! Chili is the perfect way to warm up while still being a simple meal-in-a-bowl. Not many other meals can do the same.
My fiance and I could eat chili just about every week during the wintertime. If (only) I would make it that often! I prefer a little more variation in our diets…
How can you take an amazing meal already and make it even healthier for you? Without making the flavor taste “healthy?” Now that is a question I’m asked often! I am not a fan of foods, that aren’t supposed to taste like a vegetable, tasting like vegetables. I would never add Brussels Sprouts, or another strong-flavored vegetable, to my delicious macaroni and cheese dish! It would be an absolute flavor disaster!
I am always looking for creative ways to hide vegetables into our foods. Not because we dislike them, but if I can add a vegetable into our foods without affecting the flavor or needing to have a side dish then I will! It’s just another way to ensure that on our restricted diets, we get enough nutrients!
Chili is also something that tastes better slow-cooked and the following day, it is a scientific fact! So, I will always make extra, specifically for leftovers. It is almost a crime not to!
Looking for vegetables that won’t get soggy is key. I also like to incorporate vegetables that will add to the thickness and heartiness of the chili. This is where squash comes in!
Let’s talk vegetables
Squash, which oddly enough is actually a fruit, is filled with vitamins and minerals! It also has several amazing health benefits and it is a wonderful thickener that doesn’t add to the overall flavor!
Another vegetable that I almost always add is spinach. Another extremely nutrient-packed vegetable that doesn’t add flavor! However, spinach tends to be salty so you need to adjust your seasoning.
Riced Cauliflower is something that you can add to every pot of chili and no one would ever know the difference! It is high in fiber and many other nutrients, cauliflower has also become a new popular vegetable and it is being made into many wonderful food items!
A vegetable that I very rarely use, but also works well is chopped carrots. I find these harder to cook as they are stubborn and like to stay crunchy as long as possible.
I also always use fresh onions, tomatoes, garlic, and a variation of beans in my chili which all have their individual health benefits. I just like to add more when I can. Very rarely do I use all 3 options I listed above, as I have found that it takes away from the hearty chili flavor and gives it a “healthy” flavor. On occasion though, particularly when we’re getting sick, I will pack in the health!
This recipe feeds two people with some leftovers, I will often add a pound of meat (I used grass-fed hamburger) if needing to make more.
- 1 lb of ground meat
- 1 15oz. can of tomato sauce – or V8 juice
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (I use fire-roasted with green chiles)
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 can of kidney beans
- 1 can of pinto beans
- 1/2 cup of chopped onion
- 1 cup of frozen spinach (2 cups if using fresh)
- 1/2 cup of beef stock or bone broth
- Salt, Pepper, and Chili powder to taste
If adding squash to your chili, you want to precook and make it into a squash mash. I will dice and bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until able to mash.
Brown meat and drain. I don’t rinse or do a full drain of the grease as it does have health benefits, but I am not a fan of greasy chili!
Dice and saute the onions, garlic, and spinach on low heat until aromatic. Usually 5-8 minutes.
Pour the tomato sauce (or V8), diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed beans, meat, onions, garlic, and spinach into a large pot or crock-pot. Add riced cauliflower, chopped carrots, and mashed squash at this stage too.
Add the stock and broth until the desired amount. You will have to add more if using squash and throughout the cooking process.
Add salt, pepper, and chili powder to taste. I under season and add more seasoning throughout the cooking process once the flavor has had a chance to evolve.
I cook mine for 3-8 hours depending on if I am using the stovetop or crock-pot. The longer chili is simmered the more flavors will come through.
If there will be a picky eater or if you want to hide the vegetables more, the vegetables can be pureed in a blender and poured into the chili. It’s a great way to add the flavor without adding the texture or knowledge of the vegetable!