Butternut squash (or pumpkin) chili

I have been having stomach and other issues related to the acid in some foods lately. One of the worst triggers for me has been cooked tomatoes, so I temporarily took a break from them and a few other things to get my stomach back on track. I was actually planning to add tomatoes to this chili but completely forgot and, you know what? We didn't miss them. It turned out great anyway!

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My recipe calls for the chili to be simmered on the stove, but it could easily be cooked in a crockpot (slow cooker) instead.

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If you're feeling especially festive and Octobery, you could use pumpkin in place of the butternut squash.

Butternut Squash Chili
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled* and finely chopped (a food processor makes finely chopping the squash quick and easy!)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped or sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cups cooked beans (black, white, kidney, pinto, or a mix. I cooked black and white dry beans, but you can used canned to make this quick.)
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1-3 cups of water, if needed to reach desired thickness
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
*Tip: To peel the squash, cut the bottom off so that it will stand up without tipping then peel it with a vegetable peeler.
  1. If you are using dry beans, soak them overnight then thoroughly cook them before adding them to the chili. Tips for improving the digestibility of beans can be found here.
  2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the squash, onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, garlic, zucchini, and mushrooms. Saute until veggies begin to get tender, 10-15 minutes. If you plan to use a crockpot, saute the veggies in a skillet then add them with the ingredients in the steps below to the crockpot.
  3. Add chili powder, cumin, beans, and broth (and water if you need to thin the chili). Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until veggies are very tender. Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
This chili makes a hearty meal when served over a grain like brown rice, quinoa, farro, bulgar, barley, etc.

Post-half-marathon pumpkin cranberry "scuffins"

I am relieved to say that I finished my second half marathon on Sunday! I was so nervous before the race!

All geared-up and trying not to freak out:

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The finisher's tee is so...YELLOW!

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Finisher's necklace by Tiffany:

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NWM = Nike Women's Marathon. The back of the necklace says "I run to be." with room for engraving so that we can add our own reason for running...

With 20,000 runners, this race is the largest marathon and half marathon in the country. The proceeds help to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This race has raised over $118 million over the past 8 years for the cause and I ran in memory of my father-in-law who passed away from complications related to lymphoma in 2008.

The weather was perfect but the course was even hillier than I remember and it was a hard run!

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I completely earned my post-race cupcake and Blue Bottle latte by the bay:

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Perfect, perfect weather (with the Bay Bridge in this shot)!

The physical exertion of this kind of event is challenging but, like many others before me, I definitely think that the mental race is the hardest part. I was struggling with stomach issues through the entire race (and a few hours afterwards) and my mind was all over the place.

The race was in San Francisco, which holds a special place marker in time for me. I worked in the city in the late 1990s and my life was quite different back then. My time visiting the city and running the race on Sunday gave me pause and brought about some much-needed reflection on "back in the day". A few of my favorite memories from working in SF:
  • Taking the ferry boat to and from the city. The sound of the fog horn, the smell of the engine, the splashy sound of the water while boarding...I even saw a whale from the boat one morning- what a great way to commute!
  • Flower venders selling spring flowers in little kiosks all over the place. The smell of the flowers (especially the Stargazer lilies) permeated even the stinkiest parts of the city. Amazing.
  • The little bakery across the street from my office building that had warm, freshly baked cinnamon rolls every morning.
  • Driving through the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge (on non-ferry days). Especially on winter nights near Christmas because I love to see the lights and trees in windows.
Though the race is over, my brain is still crunching through some of the meditative part of the experience. That aside, I am ready to get back to other things, like doing more weight training and yoga or just making pancakes on Saturday morning instead of getting up early to run long distances! I have been resting since the race and eating to recharge and refuel.

These "scuffins" (kind of a cross between a scone and a muffin) are disguised as a fall treat, but really they make a hearty and healthy breakfast. Not to mention, no blog would be complete with out a pumpkin recipe (or ten) in the fall, right??

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Pumpkin Cranberry "Scuffins"
Makes 6-7 "scuffins"

1 cup ground oats (process 1 cup of rolled oats in a food processor or blender until they resemble a course flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans, chopped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (optional)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tbsp flax meal
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
3 tbsp oil (canola, coconut, etc.- your choice)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (176ºC). In a large bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients (oats through salt). Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine without over-mixing. Let it rest for a minute before dropping in large spoonfuls (about 1/2 cup each) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for a 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.
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(This recipe was inspired by and adapted from Dreena Burton's Squirrelly "Scones" in her Vive le Vegan! cookbook (a favorite of mine!)).

Running lessons

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As I mentioned a while back, I am training for a half marathon. The race date is almost here- it is THIS Sunday! This will be my second half marathon and, to be honest, I'm amazed at that fact. When I was a kid I was skinny, flat-footed, and had to sit out running in PE class because of my asthma.

Things change, though. Kids outgrow stuff (except for flat feet, in my case), bodies accept the challenges that our adult minds drive us to seek. Now, some 30-ish years later, I have found a place for running in my life and in my heart. I wouldn't say that I'm in love with it. It is more like something that I need. Beyond just a requirement for movement or fitness, running flushes out the cobwebs in my foggy head and doses me with endorphins that soothe my anxious soul. It makes me happy.

This morning I ran my last training run before my race. It was dark when our alarm when off and I really, really didn't want to get up. When I peeked out the window and saw that a bright full moon was still up, though, I practically ran to get into my running gear. I'm a sucker for a beautiful sunrise and, with an awesome moon still hanging around, I couldn't wait to get out there today.

I have learned a lot about myself through running. It is such a great metaphor for so many facets of life. I have also learned a lot about how to make running work for me. Here are some of those lessons:
  1. Just starting out (for the first time or after a break) always feels way too hard. I hate every step. I want to quit. But, if I do it anyway and stick with it, I know that I will begin to crave it and that is the best feeling in the world.
  2. Studies have shown that running can be as effective as medication at relieving symptoms of depression. I agree.
  3. When I am training for an event and I start to hate my workouts, feel grumpy, or get sick, I need a break. Even if the training plan says no, a few days (or more) off will do wonders.
  4. Early morning runners see some interesting things. Like elderly gentlemen using the bushes for cover when nature calls and such. Look away, cross the street, run faster...
  5. Eating raw broccoli before a run is not a good idea.
  6. Even a cool 60 degree day can feel sweltering hot if you're running in the sun. Wear a tank top. Don't second guess this.
  7. Heat rash and prickly heat suck. Take a cool shower ASAP after a run. Baby powder is your friend.
  8. Chafing sucks too. Use Bodyglide, especially in your armpits.
  9. Never ever wear 100% cotton socks.
  10. The more I love my music, the more I love my run. The same is true for audiobooks, which are great for long runs.
  11. It is almost impossible to chew and run at the same time. Stick to Clif shots, skip the Blocks.
  12. If I wake up feeling blah, a run will usually make a 180 degree change in my mood.
  13. I don't run fast but that's ok. I do what I need to do to get out of it even more than I put in.
  14. I love seeing other runners when I'm out. I especially like the way that I feel like we're in a secret club when we greet each other with a subtle nod and quick wave.
So why am I running another half marathon? Because nothing beats the feeling of finishing something that you thought you couldn't do.

Happy trails!

Things I'm loving right now

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It has been awhile since I've shared some favorite things and I have a few milling around in my mind right now. Here are the highlights!

Sunset Magazine

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Sunset Magazine has always been a favorite of mine. Each and every issue gives me food ideas, travel ideas, and inspiration. I am always left craving a hole-in-the-wall restaurant experience in a remote location with a view...and a road trip!

Trader Joe's Raisin Rosemary Crisps

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These crackers are sweet and savory at the same time and I love how un-ordinary they are! (Note: these contain milk products so are not vegan)

Trader Joe's Roasted Plantain Chips

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Salty crunchy goodness!

Crazy Gringo Salsa

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This is sold at my farmer's market and it is fantastic! This is medium heat but he also sells habanero (hot) and tomatillo (mild and sweet) versions. In addition to salsa, he also has homemade tamales, including a vegan one that is really great!

Chocolate Coconut Water

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Hydrating and yummy- a great pre-run drink! You caught the chocolate part, right?

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What yummy and inspiring treasures have you found recently?