It is obvious Americans love chili. Cowboy Will Rogers referred to chili as a “bowl of blessedness.” Heck, Texas has even declared chili to be its state food.
Our past is peppered with chili parlors; our calendars penciled in with National Chili Day (the 4th Thursday in February). We attend chili festivals by the droves and some of us are steadfast members of chili appreciation societies. Those among us who are regarded as chili deity have been ordained Famous Chili Queens.
But why is our passion so fiery, almost borderline mania?
Do we love it because it is the harbinger of cooler weather? Is it because we associate it with friends in festive settings? Or perhaps it’s because it beckons us, nay taunts us, to swagger with bravado in the face of unrelenting spice? This topic is hotly debated. (See what I did there?)
Sure. We love chili for those reasons.
But scientifically speaking, there is a gastro-psychological explanation for our ardent regard of this sometimes mouth-burning, often sweat-inducing love-hate relationship with this popular dish.
The abhorent eye-watering, pain-rousing sensation caused by capsaicin in peppers causes our bodies to recalibrate. Our bodies sense the pain and send a Bay Watch team of endorphins to rescue our tongues. This rush creates a “high,” and that high keeps us coming back for more pain. Paul Rozin, professor emeritus in psychology, calls it “benign masochism.” He describes this phenomenon as a flipping of a switch: what was negative now becomes positive.
I think he also calls it “hedonistic reversal.”
Most of us would like to extend a hand of gratitude to our neighbor to the south for our love of chili. But here’s a fun and ironic tidbit. According to History and Legends of Chili, “the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated): ‘detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.’”
Tell that to the hundreds of thousands who attend chili festivals every year.
When I think about chili, my mind immediately goes to football. For years Mom and Dad hosted Super Bowl parties with pots of simmering chili on the stove.
This recipe, however, is not at all like what Mom used to make. As a matter of fact, it is not like the chili I usually make. My aspiration to gradually move to a plant-based diet forces me to be creative. I love the challenge of having to rethink my standby recipes with the awesome task of restructuring them yet retaining their old-school, comforting deliciousness.
Not only is the pumpkin in this recipe a substantial complement to the chili, it is also chock full of antioxidant goodness that coaxes your metabolic process to do all sorts of glorious body things.
This yummy combination of pumpkin and plant-based beefless crumbles is a fabulous gluten free + vegan dish; however, you can easily modify the toppings to dairy based cheese and sour cream for your non-vegan preferences. You could also dish it up with other colorful, flavor-boosting condiments such as sliced green or red onions, jalapeños, lime, and cilantro. Try serving this chili as the star of its own bowl, heaped onto a stack of tortilla chips, mounded on a baked potato, or slathered over rice or pasta (a la Cincinnati-style). In fact, you could even go full carnivore with this recipe by using ground beef/pork/turkey with the pumpkin instead of the crumbles. The possibilities are endless!
If you find the chipotle in adobo a bit strong, hold back on the amount at first. You can always add more. If you have already added a bit more than someone in your family would like (such as my cute little mom who fans her tongue—as this that would help!), you can always add a big dollop of sour cream to cool it down and make it delectably silky.
The pumpkin beer adds a layer of flavor that I really like. Can’t find pumpkin beer? No worries! Most any amber or lager beer will do. You are looking for a balance of maltiness and slight bitterness. Just avoid anything too ‘hoppy.” If the alcohol is a concern, rest assured that it will cook off. However, feel free to substitute broth in its place. The results will still be delicious.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask The Man. I rely on him to be my taste-tester. He is a die-hard carnivore at heart, but he also enjoys the imaginative options I force upon provide him. Last night came home from golf, sniffed the aroma wafting from the pot on the stove, and dove right in to a big bowl. He oohed and aahed; then later, for his 4th meal, he used the chili to make a mountain of nachos. Srsly, he loves this chili!
Remember: you have lots of lifestyle options with this recipe. You do you!
Pair this bowl of healthy, flavor-bursting goodness with a red blend wine or a cold lager.
P.S. This chili is even better the next day!
Please let me know how your twist on this recipe turns out. Tag #nakedepicurean on Instagram and include your photos so we can celebrate together.
Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Chili (for 8-10 servings)
INGREDIENTS-ish (these are mere guidelines; you do YOU)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 13.7 ounce package of Gardein™ ultimate beefless ground, thawed
- 1 12 ounce bottle of pumpkin beer
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 28 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 1 15 ounce can of organic pumpkin
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste
sour cream or dairy-free sour cream
cheddar cheese, cotija cheese, or dairy-free cheese
red onion or scallions
- In a heavy pot over medium heat, sauté onions & red pepper in olive oil until soft. Add sliced garlic & stir until garlic is soft.
- Add beefless crumbles, broth, & beer until heated through.
- Add diced tomatoes, canned pumpkin, and chipotles. Stir until well combined.
- Add spices & season liberally with salt.
- Allow chili to become bubbly & then reduce heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (The longer, the better!)
- Serve with tortilla chips and garnish as desired