Where do Jack-o-Lanterns go for Dinner?

Halloween came and went, leaving us sick of sweets and craving some real, hearty, stomach-warming food. Our choice of Pumpkin Beef Chili stemmed from two simultaneous predicaments: A very large pumpkin carved like a cat and an excess of ground beef.

Halloween Pumpkins: Many people simply compost their jack-o-lanterns but these pumpkins are perfectly good to eat, assuming you have not left them outside for days and days. We carve our pumpkin the day of Halloween and then bring him in again before midnight. Large pumpkins don’t make great pies because they hold too much water and not enough flavour. But, they’re great for soup and added into other full-flavoured dishes like chili.

Grass-Fed Ground Beef: If you purchase local food based on the seasons (and I hope you do :-), you know that ‘tis the season for cleaning out the freezer in preparation for new meat orders. We’re finishing off the last of last year’s grass-fed beef. At this point in the year, the roasts are long gone, the steaks are gone, and we’re down to a few sparse cuts, some bones, and an excess of ground beef. (Find more information about How is Grass-Fed Beef Different and How Do I Purchase Grass-Fed Beef.)

Ground Beef + Halloween Pumpkin = Pumpkin Beef Chili!



2 lbs grass-fed ground beef
1 lb beef shank or 1-2 beef bones
2 Tbsp lard

4 cups diced pumpkin
3 cups kidney beans

1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jar diced tomatoes

¼ C 100% cacao powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Avoiding Cans:

We really try to avoid eating canned food.

Tomatoes: The acidity in tomatoes makes them particularly prone to absorbing chemicals from the plastic coating or aluminum on the inside of the can. So, what to do? You can freeze tomatoes whole in peak season, although they use a lot of precious freezer space. You can also make your own tomato sauce and either “can” it in glass jars or freeze it. If you have not prepared any of these, try to buy tomatoes or tomato sauce in glass jars rather than cans.

Beans: Canned beans have been cooked at extremely high temperatures through industrial processing methods and retain very few nutrients. Like any other canned food, they absorb chemicals and metals from the can. On the other hand, organic, locally grown beans dried and sold in bags offer a healthier and more cost-effective option. Just remember to plan in advance—you’ll need to soak your beans for 24-hours or so and then simmer them in advance.



Prepare your Beans

Are you eating Paleo? No worries, just leave the beans out! We eat very few grains and legumes but we had some dry kidney beans sitting in the pantry so decided to add them in.

Soak: The day before, put your dry kidney beans in a pot of fresh, cold water and leave them to soak for about 24-hours. During that time, change the water at least once.

Remove the Skins: Like the hull on grains, the skins on legumes contain phytates—chemicals that damage our gut lining and block nutrient absorption. So, removing the skins is optimal but also tedious. Depending on the beans, the skins do typically loosen as the beans puff back up. I typically use my hands to grind the beans against one another, removing some of the skins. I haven’t succeeded in removing more than, say, a quarter of them but figure that is better than none.

Cook the Beans: I always boil the beans in a pot with lots of salted water first and then, once they are moderately soft (they’ll cook more in the chilli), rinse them in preparation for adding them to the chilli.

Prepare the Other Ingredients

  1. In a large pan, heat lard over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion; sauté until slightly tender.
  3. Add the ground beef and brown.
  4. Add meat/garlic/onion mixture to the crock-pot.
  5. In no particular order, add in the other ingredients and spices. Of course, feel free to modify the spice list to suit your taste.
  6. Stir all ingredients well and set Crock-Pot to low and cook for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve and enjoy! Freeze the rest for quick thaw and heat dinners!