08 November 2013

Crock Pot Gourmet: Chili with Pumpkin and Cranberries

One year ago today, I had a Twitter conversation with Summer Heacock (@fizzygrrl), Emily McKeon (@ERMcKeon) and my now-agent, Jessica Sinsheimer (@jsinsheim) that kind of changed my life in a way I didn't expect. We were talking about food, and favorite pumpkin recipes (because pumpkin is the best ingredient ever and November requires creative pumpkin recipes). I mentioned my Crock Pot Pumpkin Souffle, and Summer, Emily and Jessica told me that I should be sharing my delicious recipes with the world. So the next day (one year ago tomorrow), I posted my first Crock Pot Gourmet recipes for Meatball Stew and Pumpkin Souffle. And the response has been overwhelming. In the past year, I've posted many other delicious Crock Pot creations, as well as some favorite recipes that can be cooked without a Crock Pot. Today, I'm celebrating this delicious anniversary with a mouthwatering Pumpkin Cranberry Chili.

 You will need:
2 lb. dry beans (or 8-15oz. cans of beans)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. baking cocoa
1 large can pumpkin
1-5oz pkg of Craisins
2-15oz. cans diced tomatoes (I like the kind that have green chiles in them)
1 large onion, diced

I prefer to use dry beans when making chili for two reasons. First, I control all of the seasoning. I don't have to worry about my dish being over-salted, etc. And second, it's much cheaper. But if you aren't comfortable cooking with dry beans, or you don't have the time for these first steps, canned beans work just fine, and you'll still get a healthy, delicious dinner.

Wash your dry beans, and cover them with water. (The water should come up at least 2 inches above the top of the beans. You want them to stay submerged even after they've begun to expand.) Soak them overnight (or for at least 4-5 hours). I like to place the beans (still in the colander I used to rinse them) into a very large silver mixing bowl (or a clean and sanitized sink, if I'm using my mixing bowl for something else) filled with cold water.
When the beans have finished soaking (they'll probably be 2-3 times the size they were when you started), drain the water and rinse them thoroughly. (Soaking the beans in the colander makes it super-easy to do this.) Draining off the water you soaked the beans in and rinsing them before cooking makes the finished product less likely to cause gas. (Also, the more you include beans in your diet, the less likely they'll bother your tummy.)

Place the beans into your 7-quart Crock Pot (if you have a 3 or 4-quart Crock Pot, you can easily cut the recipe in half) with fresh, cool water. (Fill the crock until the beans are covered with 1/2 to 1-inch of water.)
 Add your cocoa, salt, garlic powder and chili powder.
 Cook on high for approximately 4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours), until beans are tender.
The beans will continue to expand as they cook, and will look something like this:
 Add the tomatoes, Craisins, onion and pumpkin. 

You could, if desired, cook the onion with the dry beans in the first step, but DO NOT try to cut corners and add the tomatoes and Craisins early. If you add acidic ingredients to dry beans, you can cook them for hours and hours, and they will not get tender. If you're putting this chili together before work, and you won't be home during the day to add the acidic ingredients at around lunchtime, you can cook the beans overnight on low, so they'll be ready in the morning, or you can use canned beans (in which case, you would add the seasonings to the beans at the same time that you add the remaining ingredients).

I like to stir in the onion, Craisins and tomatoes first, then carefully stir in the pumpkin. (The extra juice from the tomatoes makes it easier to stir in the pumpkin.)
Continue to cook, on low, for 4-5 hours, or longer. Now that you've added the tomatoes and cranberries, you don't have to worry about the beans getting any mushier as they cook, so you can easily keep the chili simmering all day long, and the flavors will simply continue to meld together.

 Serve as-is (my favorite), or top with your favorite chili toppings (cheese, sour cream, corn chips...) 
We like to use the leftover chili the next day for things like Chili Omelettes and Chili Cheese Fries or served over the top of spaghetti noodles for a delicious Chili Sketti.


  1. This is defnitely a mix of things I would've never thought go together- chili and pumpkin?! But it looks delicious!!!

    1. It is really delicious. I made it three times in one week (the full, 7-quart Crock Pot recipe), and we had no leftovers. The kids ate it like crazy and asked for more.

      I like to play with flavors that don't usually go together. Often, I'm very pleasantly surprised.