Super Bowl Chili and Our Trip to Breckenridge

This week I was going to take the boys to one of our regular morning places, the Denver Children's Museum. But when my husband suggested that we head to the mountains for a little day trip instead, I was on board. We decided to go to Breckenridge-- a beautiful, historic ski town which I like calling "The Ridge," but which most locals refer to, simply, as Breck. The 22nd International Snow Sculpture Championship was taking place and we both agreed that the boys would like it. It was absolutely gorgeous. 
I should note that this is the best winter I've ever had. Most winter days are between 40 and 50 degrees...and there are some 60 degree days sprinkled in there too. But we also get snow. And what's winter without snow? You need to have sledding, snow fights and snowman building, right? 
Anyway, our day trip took us up into the mountains on I-70 and the ride was absolutely spectacular. Here are a few pictures from our outing. The snow sculptures were great, though some of the more ephemeral pieces gave way to nature by the time we got there and were reduced to rubble. But there were still some great sculptures-- my personal favorite was "Ice House," the Canadian entry.
When we got back home I decided to make a quick, simple, one-pot dinner of vegetarian black bean chili with orange and cumin. It's also the perfect thing to make for the Super Bowl today! (Go Giants? That's my hometown team, but let's be honest, I've never successfully watched an entire game of football in my life.) I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit and it turned out great. I added salt and pepper to taste, and a good amount of Panola Hot Sauce. I topped it with a tablespoon of sour cream (though you could easily keep this vegan) and a little bit of chopped cilantro. Perfect! 

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Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin (Courtesy of Bon Appetit
Serves 4
2 oranges
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, pressed
4 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 15.5-ounce cans seasoned black beans, drained
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
Hot pepper sauce
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Chopped fresh cilantro
Grate enough orange peel to measure 1 1/2 teaspoons. Juice oranges. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and spices. Add beans, tomatoes, and half of orange juice. Simmer over medium heat until heated through and flavors blend, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Mix in orange peel and remaining orange juice. Season to taste with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls. Top with sour cream and cilantro. Pass extra hot sauce alongside.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

Pasta is my default entree, my go-to for dinner. I can tear into a baked ziti, a mac-n-cheese or a lasagna like nobody's business. But I'm starting to see that I have a culinary weakness--  I don't have a large non-pasta, main-dish repertoire. And I need to branch out. Indian and Ethiopian cuisine are two great ethnic choices to draw from. But at the end of the day I'd rather do take-out because the Indian restaurants in our neighborhood are actually quite good. And as far as Ethiopian food goes, I mean who can really compete with Meskerem, which is only a few stops away on the B train. For a few bucks and a subway ride, I've got 8 delicious Ethiopian mezes...all without even messing up a pot. But I've come to the point in my life where I have to start making great mains that aren't Italian pastas. This is me taking a stab at it. And the verdict? Well let's just say, mission accomplished. 
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Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili is seasonal, flavorful, spicy, easy to make, packed with protein and it will warm you up on a cold night.  This was my first attempt at making chili at home and it was a total success. 
Getting the 'pumpkin meat' out of the shell was a fun little exercise that had me heating the pumpkin in a 450 degree oven for a few minutes, then wrapping it in a towel and smashing it on the ground until the shell completely opened.  What a great way to get out stress or extra energy! When I googled "how can I cut through a pumpkin shell/skin" I kept on getting advice that required me to use a microwave. Well, I don't have one.  So after calling a friend and using my smarts, I got to the pumpkin meat by the method described above. It was pretty easy. I also used a habanero sauce I got in Belize, which infused the chili with more great heat.  
Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili 
Adapted from Good Food, Good Wine and a Bad Girl
by way of Saveur Magazine, January 2010
1 small pie pumpkin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) plum tomatoes.  (The original recipe calls for chopped tomatoes, but I ran mine through the blender really quickly because I am not a fan of super chunky tomatoes.) 
2 cans (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bottle (300 ml) stout (such as Guinness or Dragon) OR (this is my adaptation) 200 ml of Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout.  It wasn't sure it would work, but it was a really nice pick and/or gamble. 
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp each cinnamon and oregano
1 individual chipotle pepper, finely minced 
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped 
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 pinch of Ancho Chili Powder (I added this and it gave the chili some nice, smooth heat.)
I added a few drops of Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce. Pop!
For garnish: a tablespoon of chopped scallion, a dollop of sour cream, and a bit of good cheddar cheese. (All optional, but really the way to go.)
Using a sharp paring knife, cut the pumpkin into 1/2" cubes.
Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and squash, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until onion is golden. Stir in tomatoes, beans, beer, brown sugar, spices and chipotle peppers.
Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Stir in red pepper and corn, and continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes or until corn is bright yellow and peppers are soft.
Optional: Add a pinch of Ancho Chili Powder and/or Habanero Pepper Sauce.  Adjust heat and seasonings to your liking.
Serve piping hot with your favorite chili toppings.