Pumpkin Chili and Putting one foot in front of the other…

The term is coming to a close, and oh has the time gone by slowly/quickly/wonderfully/painfully. The clock seems to rotate so fast sometimes it feels like I will never be able to get on top of anything, whether it be homework, housework, or those nagging tasks that need to be completed within the month. Other times the tick is ominous, usually when my pockets are full of pencils and I’m standing outside the classroom waiting to right a midterm, humming to myself and rocking from heel to toe to ease my nerves (and look crazier).

This term has, thus far, been the most unique, challenging, but ultimately rewarding stint I have spent at university so far. My increased focus that has come with having a solid, long term goal has shown itself to be worthy, from the marks I’ve received to the sense of purpose I feel. Moving away from home has also given me a “fresh start”, which has been a great opportunity to live the way I have wanted to in the past two years, but never initiated. I am eating the way I want to, exercising more, getting way more sleep, and studying the way I know is most effective. That’s not to say it’s all been a sunshine-y picnic (more than one Mad Men marathons when I had too much work to do, teary midnight melt downs over the string theory of waves, multiple nights of over-indulgence, stomach aches from stress, and 1 1/2 empty jars of nutella), but overall it has included all of the good bits I conjured up in my mind when I thought of attending McGill in the first place.

One of the surprising highlights of my day is actually the commute. I know, sitting on an old school bus with my head getting blasted by cold air from the very poorly designed windows that do not seal, and my feet getting blasted by air so hot I have to cram my knees up on the seat in front of me to avoid first degree burns, does not sound like a very good highlight to have. However, between my brisk 15 minute walk to school, standing in line for the shuttle, and the 45 minutes of being shuttled, I have discovered the power of the podcast. Oh yes, the podcast. More specifically, the CBC radio podcasts. Now, this is not the first time I have listened to CBC, as I have in fact been a CBC junkie for approximately three years, and have woken up to CBC radio as my alarm every weekday since the 7th grade. At my last job, I would explain to all new employees that the CBC is played continuously, and hopefully they like it otherwise, well, that sucks. Now, I listen to The Vinyl Cafe, DNTO, White Coat Black Art, the Age of Persuasion, Wiretap, The Q, and many more on a regular basis. On my way to campus and back, I zip my collar up to cover my mouth, so as to muffle my sometimes startling reactions of laughter or sadness to passerby’s. I relay the best stories and podcasts to Sebastien over dinner, and we discuss similar stories that we had forgotten we had. These podcasts have been an unexpected enrichment in my life, providing a strong grounding experience that has allowed me to put myself in uncountable pairs of shoes.

Recently, I listened to a Definitely Not the Opera (DNTO) podcast about long walks, and how they can lead to life changes. It included the story of a Montreal man that started walking one day, and didn’t stop until he had circled the world 11 years later. This got me thinking about what walks have meant in my own life. When we lived in Victoria, Sebastien and I used to walk up Mt Tolmie from his house, and along Cadboro bay from my house. It was on these walks over the course of a semester that I proposed we move to Montreal, we discussed it, and eventually came to a decision that we would go to McGill. It was walking the West Coast Trail that solidified a group of friends that I know I will now always be able to call on. Walking on Cobble Hill Mountain with my family and friends are the memories that I associate most closely with my sense of what “home” is. Some of my most relaxing, poignant, and joyful times in my life are, somehow, all associated with the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

So it has been decided. There are three parks in a relatively close vicinity to our apartment, and it is my goal to got for a minimum of one lengthy walk per week, in addition to walking to and from campus. Yes, through the duration of the winter, no matter what. After those sure-to-be brisk walks, there’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup beside a cup of tea to initiate the thawing process. This recipe is a pumpkin-bean chili, easily modifiable to be vegetarian/vegan and grain-free. I like to do this in my slow-cooker, just because it is so convenient! If you don’t have a slow-cooker however, a large pot on low heat with the occasional stir will do the trick. The longer you cook the chili, the more developed the flavour, but it a pinch you could reduce the cooking time with any trouble. For the beans, I find that pinto beans take quite a long time to cook compared to navy beans and black beans, so I decided to use a can, for fear they would still be hard. You could substitute all the beans for canned varieties, but I believe I’ve mentioned (more than once, haha) how easy it is to cook beans! If you miss soaking them overnight, not a problem either, as long as they haven’t been sitting in your cupboard for 10 years they should cook up no problem. The recipe for the cornbread is coming up next, so hang in there!

Pumpkin Chili

1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 c black beans, soaked overnight
1/2 c white navy beans, soaked overnight
1 can of pinto beans, or 3/4 c cooked pinto beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder (or 1-2 tsp chipotle chili powder)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 butternut squash cubed (can substitute acorn squash or omit)

1) Heat a pan on medium heat with a bit of oil. Add the onion, stirring until translucent. Add the beef, and turn heat down to medium-low. Fry until beef is cooked through.
2) Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients in your slow cooker or large pot. When the beef/onion mixture is done cooking, add to other ingredients.
3) For the slow cooker, choose the “low” setting for 8 hours or the “medium” setting for 5-6 hours. If you are using a pot, heating all the ingredient to a simmer, then reduce the stove to low heat. Allow to simmer very gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2-2 hours.
4) To test doneness, try biting into the beans- they should be soft, and not have any discernible “crunch”.
5) Add salt to taste. If you find the chili is a bit too thick for your taste, you can add a little bit of chicken stock to thin it out.
6) Serve with a wedge of cornbread, rice, or simply heaped in a bowl!


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