January 24, 2013

Cook Lightly, Make Chili

Low-Sodium Salt-Free Butternut Bison Chili

I failed my juice cleanse.

Me, the queen of restrictions, failed miserably at my juice cleanse. A cleanse that I started yesterday morning at 9am, following my morning cup of coffee (the first offense). Ending shortly after 6pm, just hours after my second cup of coffee and thirty minutes before a bowl of quinoa and vegetables. Let’s just say it was all down hill from there. I even snuck in some chocolate before bed.

It just wasn’t for me.

Because while I love of shots of green and blended beets, I totally overestimated my ability to love an all liquid diet. Turns out, I really like to eat. And while I am a pro at dealing with restrictions, I don’t like feeling depraved.

So how about we do this instead? Let’s keep the vegetable and the whole liquid idea, but let’s also throw in some ground buffalo, squash, warm chile peppers, and even some mushrooms to fill things up. Then, let’s let all these savory ingredients leech out their natural flavors. And let’s make a chili that is chunky and comforting, low in sodium, and also technically super “juicy.” Which means it still counts.

Now that sounds a gazillion times better than blended beets. No offense, beets.

And by following a spice-packed recipe from Cooking Light, we can make this exact dish. There were surprisingly very few alterations to make on the original recipe. Almost all the canned ingredients, from tomato paste to chickpeas, are listed as “unsalted,” which is a new thing for magazine recipes. So cheers to Cooking Light for all the low-sodium, no-salt love. As a side note, the combination of dried ancho chills, cremini mushrooms, and ground bison (only 60mg of sodium per 4oz serving) create a super earthy broth on their own, so there’s really no need to use beef stock (unsalted or not) if you don’t want to.

In place of sour cream, I swapped my favorite low-sodium Greek yogurt. And for acorn squash, I subbed butternut squash. Then, I used rosemary in place of parsley, just because that’s what I had on hand. And for extra color, I sautéed some purple cabbage and boiled some Israeli couscous. Which, yes, landed me even further from this whole cleanse thing, but helped me soak up all those juices that developed with every minute of boiling. A maneuver that, if I was doing a clean bowl cleanse, would land me in first place.

So if you’re doing a juice cleanse, I commend you. If you’re not doing a juice cleanse, I recommend this hearty chili. A dish that isn’t just filled with vegetables and lean meat, but one that will keep you full too.

Chow on.

(I’m going to go eat some chicken)


adapted from Cooking Light magazine’s Bison Chili with Chickpeas and Acorn Squash


  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 cups water
  • One 8-oz package of fresh cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground buffalo or ground beef
  • 1 tbsp no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp no-salt-added chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • One 28-oz can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • FAGE Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley, cilantro)
In a medium sized bowl, combine the chiles with 2 cups of boiling water. Let them stand for 10 minutes and then add them, the chile-soaking water, and the mushrooms to a blender or food processor. Combine until smooth.
Then, pour the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. Add the  black peppercorns and the coriander seeds and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the onion and the garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add in the buffalo (or ground beef) and cook and stir for about 6 minutes until the meat has browned. Add the tomato paste, stirring frequently for two minutes. Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, the orange juice, crushed tomatoes, and the chile-mushroom mixture.  Bring everything to a boil for 5 minutes and then reduce to a simmer, cooking for 25 minutes and allowing the liquid to reduce and thicken. Add in the butternut squash and cook for a final 25 minutes, until the squash is soft enough to eat.
To serve, ladle chili into bowls and top with cool Greek yogurt and any fresh herbs you have on hand.

+ Sodium Count: Ground buffalo: 60mg per 4oz serving; No-salt-added tomato paste: 10mg per 2 tablespoons, depending on brand; Canned tomato: 15mg per 1/2 cup, depending on brand; Butternut squash: 6mg per 1 cup cubed; Plain Greek yogurt: 60mg per 6-ounce container, depending on brand


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