Chipotle Butternut Squash Chile

One of my greatest loves during the fall and winter months is soup. Not broth. but chunky, hearty, filling soup. It’s easy, comforting and warms you up down to your toes. Soup leaves the kitchen smelling homey. It is easy to double or triple a batch for company. Easy to store, reheat and freeze…and you can cook it so many ways. If you search our posts, we have no shortages of soup here. While I can’t complain about the winter being warmer this year, it has left me less in the mood for soup.

Last week, though, I found myself craving a bowl. I ransacked my fridge to see what I had. Last year I made a delicious butternut squash black bean and quinoa chili, but have since lost the recipe. In my search, I stumbled upon this Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili with Avocado from Cookie & Kate. I already knew that butternut squash and black beans were an excellent combination, and I felt that you can’t really go wrong with chipotle and avocado, especially since I had recently learned to pick a perfectly ripe avocado. So I gave it a go…

The results were far better than I hoped. We ate it back to back meals, and leftovers. My hubby was quite disappointed when it was all gone. The recipe calls for about an hour of cooking time and a half hour of prep, but I cut this way down, by throwing everything in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. To adapt it for the pressure cooker, I started by sauteing onions, bell peppers and squash in a pan with olive oil. (Costco sells pre-cut squash!). Once soft, add garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin and cinnamon and just enjoy the fragrance. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes, and broth, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. At this point I simmered my chili for about 10 minutes until it was reduced, in the future I will put less liquid… though truth be told, I think pureeing it in a blender for a hearty creamy soup would also be absolutely scrumptious

There are notes on the original recipe, that you may be able to cook this in the slow cooker also.

You can top the chili with corn tortilla strips/chips, avocado, cheese, sour cream, red pepper flakes, cilantro, hot sauce or whatever else you think would be good. I topped mine with cheese, sour cream and avocado. Find the recipe here; and let us know what you think!

Breakfast Tacos

Some years ago, we spent several winters and one summer living in Mexico in our travel trailer, staying in a small village way off the beaten tourist path.  We became close with several Mexican families, literally being “adopted” as family members.  We were included in their family celebrations – baptisms, weddings, and funerals as well as the normal holidays.  Our youngest children were still small, and they attended the local schools where no English was spoken.  Needless to say, they quickly become fluent in Spanish, far more so than my husband and myself.  One of my favorite memories is of my youngest son, about 5 years old, sitting up on the counter of a hardware store and attempting to translate for my husband, who wanted to buy some PVC pipe and fittings.  After much back and forth, the mission was accomplished.

Our Mexican friends were astounded by the variety of foods we ate – and we were eating simply, using only ingredients we could buy there.  They ate basically the same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner – beans and tortillas, maybe some peppers and queso fresca to go along with them. Other dishes, such as rice, soups, tacos, etc. were for special occasions, and one chicken would feed a large family (usually as soup).  Meat was sparse and used mostly as a flavoring, and was not a part of daily meals.
Most families did not own a complete set of silverware as we know it.  A sharp knife or two, and some spoons for soup.  Everything else, including the beans, were scooped up with a piece of a tortilla and then eaten together.  (For years, my kids loved to eat beans using a torn-off piece of a tortilla to scoop them up.)  One day, I made cole slaw, and I sent some over to one of our friends so he could try it.  Sure enough, he immediately wrapped it in a tortilla, ate it and pronounced it delicious.
The only bread we had was what I made. One day I was out of bread at breakfast time and only had eggs and bacon available to fix.  We always had corn tortillas on hand that we bought from a local tortillaria, so I briefly fried several tortillas, cooked an egg and a couple of pieces of bacon, and folded them inside the tortillas, along with some crumbled queso fresca.  Oh, my word!  That was one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth!  Since then, I have added a few more ingredients (shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cabbage or alfalfa sprouts) and this is still one of my favorite breakfasts.  Needless to say, my kids love them, too.

Breakfast Tacos (one generous meal)
  • 4 corn tortillas*
  • 2 strips bacon, cut in half
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese** (or queso fresca)
  • 1/2 fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce, cabbage or alfalfa sprouts
To Assemble:

Cook bacon until crisp, then set aside. Briefly fry each tortilla in a skillet with a little oil or butter, flipping over halfway, just until it starts to brown (I like to use the grease from the bacon).  Remove from skillet, put on plate and immediately sprinkle with 1/4 of the shredded cheddar down the center, then fold in half.  Repeat the process with the rest of the tortillas.  Quickly scramble the egg in the hot skillet, and then divide evenly between the tortillas.  Add 1/2 piece of bacon to each.  At this point, I like to put the folded tortillas back into the hot skillet (off the burner) for a minute or two to be sure the cheese is melted, but it isn’t necessary.  Once the tortillas are back on the plate, carefully open each one and add chopped tomato, chopped onion, feta cheese and shredded greens.  Fold back up and prepare to feast!
This is a meal that really sticks to your ribs, and you will find that you aren’t hungry again for hours. I also often fix this for myself for lunch or dinner when I don’t have anything else handy and don’t feel like spending a lot of time cooking.
*You can use flour tortillas, but the combination of flavors just isn’t as good.

** I have always been disappointed in the queso fresca that you can buy here.  Feta cheese is much closer in taste and texture to what we bought in Mexico, and is easier to find.