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Warm up with Pumpkin Chili

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

With the weather cooling off it's the perfect time of year for hot soup, such as an all-time favorite, chili! Chili commonly contains a type of protein (typically beef), tomatoes, beans, and spices. There are a multitude of varieties of chili, and the variety with beef, beans, and tomatoes is what is referred to as chili con carne, Spanish for chili with meat. The word chili itself is based on the Aztec word "chil" translated to pepper. Chili has numerous different spellings, the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University identifies a chile as the plant or fruit from a plant, while chili is the bean, meat, chili powder, and tomato dish. Chili is the state food of Texas. The origins of chili are highly debated with different accounts of where the dish was first made. Most assumptions are based on legends and folklore. The International Chili Society defines traditional red chili as any meat or combination of meat, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients with the exception of NO beans or pasta. Chili recipes vary depending on geographic location.

There are festivals throughout the world dedicated to the soup. The International Chili Society is a non-profit organization that oversees chili cook-off competitions following regulated rules and guidelines. This upcoming weekend, Oct. 3rd and 4th 2015, in Taylorville, Illinois is the 30th annual Chillifest, complete with a hot-to-trot 5K run, a festival with vendors around the town square, pumpkin races, live entertainment, and of course, a chili cook-off under the regulation of the International Chili Society.

Chili is an easy way to incorporate more protein and vegetables into one delicious meal! Chili recipes vary with different types of beans, vegetables, spices, and other protein sources. Beans are not only an excellent source of protein, but also low in fat and cholesterol and half a cup can provide 25-30% of the daily recommendation of fiber. The meat options for chili are endless. Look for lean cuts of meat, buy "choice" or "select" grades of beef over "prime," less than 15% fat, and other options low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium to encourage heart healthy eating.

When following the International Chili Society traditional red chili without beans regulations, peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A, C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium. A teaspoon of red chili powder meets the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A and one green chili pepper has more vitamin C than six oranges. The more vibrant the color of the pepper the more health beneficial phytonutrients they contain.

The intensity, heat, or spiciness of the pepper comes from a chemical compound called capsaicin found in the flesh of peppers, not the seeds. The hotter the pepper the more capsaicin it has. When cooking with chili peppers consider wearing gloves, avoid touching your face, and wash hands after working with the spicy foods. If burning starts after direct contact with hot peppers, swab hands with alcohol then soak in milk to neutralize the capsaicin and prevent blistering. In following, if the intensity is too strong when taking a bite of your favorite chili recipe instead of reaching for a glass of water, go for a low fat milk option. Capsaicin is neutralized by the casein protein in the milk. When biting into a chili pepper, the body responds to the heat as pain and releases endorphins, the body's natural painkiller, to block the heat. Capsaicin is also used in some pain medications because of its pain releasing effects. Some researchers have found a potential link between dietary capsaicin and weight loss by stimulating the metabolism, but no solid evidence in clinical trials has yet been discovered to support this recommendation.

Looking for a chili recipe with a Fall twist? Try pumpkin chili! With the ever popular pumpkin spiced lattes back in season, why not add to the craze and add an additional fruit to a chili recipe.The pumpkin in the chili adds a tangy flavor to a favorite and boosts nutrients with in an increase of vitamin A, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Celebrate Fall with a hot bowl of chili, check out Chillifest, and enjoy the beautiful Fall Illinois foliage!


Pumpkin Chili

1 lb. lean ground turkey

15 oz. can low sodium kidney beans

1 small white onion, diced

1 cup skim milk or water

3 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 teaspoons chili powder

15 oz. can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon oregano

29 oz. can tomato puree

1 ½ teaspoon cumin

4.5 oz. can green chilies (optional)

15 oz. can low sodium black beans


  1. Brown turkey and drain. Add olive oil and sauté garlic and onions with turkey until onions are translucent.
  2. Drain and rinse beans. Add beans and the remainder of ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Serve with non-fat greek yogurt or a dollop of hummus and whole wheat crackers. Makes 10 servings.

*Tip: For a thinner consistency substitute the milk for water or low sodium broth

Serving Size (1 cup): 227 calories, 8 g. total fat, 2 g. saturated fat, 345 mg. sodium, 28 g. carbohydrates, 9 g. dietary fiber, 15 g. protein


"Peppers, hot chili red."National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. USDA.

"Peppers, hot chili green."National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. USDA.

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