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index“Red” and I can feel it in the air – things are beginning to look a lot like the first day of college football season! We’re like kids right before Christmas – excited and giddy about the prospects of a new season. It’s also amazing how things change around our house during this time of year. Need to go grocery shopping? – remember to get something for during the game. Having a few friends over for the game on Saturday? –  make sure to break out the crock pot and start gathering ingredients for my Pumpkin Chili. Need to get the car inspected, dog needs walking, mail a package or other routine things done around the house? – make sure you ask the most important question first – when does the game start? – because, things will need to come to a complete halt once it does.

Don’t misunderstand, “Red” and I are not fanatics. We don’t scream or cry when things don’t go right for our teams (maybe a little tear once in a while, but nothing major). However, we do enjoy watching college football. We both feel it holds the last vestiges for how the game should really be played. I guess in one sense, we are purists of a sort. We like to watch with the knowledge that hopefully no one has received any “pay” for playing and are instead participating simply for the love of the game. We know that things have changed drastically over the past few years, but we still hold out hope each time the fall rolls around that this will be a good year for all.

– J.B.

Pumpkin (yes, pumpkin) Chili

chiliI absolutely LOVE this recipe. It’s been a “fall staple” during college football season and Halloween parties in our house for at least three years. The pumpkin puree adds very little flavor and instead, serves to really thicken this dish – it’s the pumpkin spice that adds a wonderful flavor! I’ve taken liberties along the way to change the quantities of ingredients – basically it depends on who’s coming for dinner. For those with sensitive stomachs, I either reduce some of the cayenne pepper or take it out altogether. Some will snub their noses at the idea of pumpkin in chili, that is until they try it for the first time – then they’re hooked! This sweet-spicy recipe will work great in a crock pot, freezes well and makes the house smell wonderful while cooking.

What’s in it:
1 pound lean ground beef (I’ve used ground turkey as well)
1/2 large Vidalia or sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 cans of beans, drained and rinsed (black, kidney or combo)
2 cups tomato juice (I use whatever is on sale, but try to find V-8)
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added (don’t drain)
1 can pumpkin puree (make sure NOT to use pumpkin pie filling)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon of chili powder, or to taste
1/4 cup of sugar (I use Splenda)
dash of cayenne pepper (can omit)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
 
Stove top instructions: In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until brown; drain. Stir in onion and bell pepper and cook 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in beans, tomato juice, diced tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Season with pumpkin pie spice, chili powder and sugar. Simmer 1 hour stirring periodically.
 
Crock-pot Instructions: In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until brown; drain. Stir in onion and bell pepper and cook 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Transfer to crock pot.  Add in beans, tomato juice, diced tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Season with pumpkin pie spice, chili powder and sugar. Simmer on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. Make sure to check periodically and stir.
 
Serve with shredded cheese, oyster crackers, sour cream or your favorite chili topping.
Makes 8 servings.