Hi, I'm Kim

Hi, I’m Kim Christensen, M.Om., Dipl.OM, L.Ac. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and owner of Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back before going to school and becoming a healthcare practitioner, Affairs of Living was my creative outlet while healing from chronic health issues. These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.

Want to stay up to date? Check out my new website www.constellationacu.com.

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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

Entries in Recipes: Soups & Stews (28)


Warming Azuki Vegetable Stew (gluten free, vegan, ACD-friendly)

It is 6º F outside right now.  This is an improvement; yesterday morning when I left the house it was -21º F with a windchill of -33º F.  For those of you unfamiliar with windchills (lucky you), it is what the temperature feels like due to the added factor of wind.  These kind of temperatures are completely and totally insane, and somehow manage to shock me every year.  I think that our bodies block out the memory of cold weather, kind of like when many women say that can't really remember the actual moment of childbirth.  Adrenalin kicks in and takes over our brain, making our memories glaze over the pain.  If we could remember how trying it is to survive through this kind of cold, we would never stay.

It is almost impossible to get warm in weather like this.  I keep my hat and scarf on inside almost all the time.  Sometimes I even sleep in them.  I'm not joking!  Granted, I tend to run a little cold, but still.

The best solution is to make hearty soups and stews flavored with warming spices, like this one.  I have literally been like an ice cube all day, and after a bowl of this soup, I was finally able to take off my winter hat, scarf, and third layer of shirt.  My nose started running.  I even started sweating.  Thank you cumin, coriander, and ginger!

Quick to throw together and completely delicious, this soup is a great way to warm up on a chilly day.  It is also a perfect soup to make if you are starting a detox or cleansing cycle for the New Year!   Azuki beans are a very detoxifying bean, helping to clear phlegm and dampness from the body, and the rest of the vegetables and seasonings all have incredibly health supporting qualities.  If you are choosing to undertake a cleansing regimen, it is helpful to seek out resources and research different methods. There are a many different ways to approach cleansing diets, and it is important to consider your body's specific nutritional needs and your health situation when selecting a program.  Many cleanses can be very severe, and can be too much a shock on the body, especially if you are battling chronic illness or a compromised immune system.  Instead of providing a good, solid space for healing, these severe regimens can often throw your body into survival mode instead, making it hard to build your immune system!   It is also important to consider seasonal needs in regards to your cleansing diet.  If you live in a cold climate - like here in Minnesota, for example - January is probably not the best time to undergo a raw foods fruit cleanse.  Why?  It is completely counterintuitive to the cycles of seasonal foods and our body's corresponding cycles.

I've done a number of different cleansing regimens (multi-day fasting included!), and have found the most success to be with programs that focus on eating simply prepared, anti-inflammatory, whole foods.  Last winter I did an 6-week cleanse with the help of my naturopath, and found it to be incredibly supportive and helpful; I'd like to do that program again this year.  By taking a more gentle approach to cleansing, the body is given time to adjust naturally and slowly.  It is also more approachable from a psychological perspective, and therefore, easier to commit to.  If you view your cleanse as a struggle or some kind of terrible process, it will never work;  while you may be eliminating some toxins with your diet, you will be adding emotional toxicity.  Your cleanse choice is very important and very personal.

Ali and Tom over at Whole Life Nutrition are a great resource for starting an elimination and cleansing diet - check out the latest post!  This soup, if I'm not mistaken, should fall in line with all phases of their elimination diet, so eat up.

Full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, this soup will warm you up and start you off on the right foot for a healthy - and warm! - 2010.


serves 4

4 cups Butternut squash, peeled and cubed (or other winter squash)
4 cups broccoli florets and stems, chopped (fresh or frozen)
2-2 1/2 cups cooked azuki beans
2 shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
optional: 1 Tbsp chickpea tamari
1 quart water, broth, or leftover bean cooking liquid
1-2 Tbsp ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil

garnish: 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Prepare vegetables as directed.  In a large soup pot, heat oil until hot, then add cumin seeds.  Heat until fragrant, turn heat to medium-low, and add scallions.  Saute until tender, then add coriander and ginger, and stir.  Add butternut, and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Then add liquid and cook until butternut is almost tender.  Add cooked azuki beans and broccoli, and simmer until all vegetables are tender.  Add tamari, if using, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with thinly sliced scallion.


Bottom of the Barrel Bison Stew (gluten free, ACD friendly)


Before I left for New York last week, I did a really good job of eating up all my fresh produce.  All I left behind in my fridge were some long storing root vegetables, a bunch of fermented food, some condiments, and the contents of my freezer.

Then I got home, and I was hungry, but going grocery shopping just didn't sound so great.  Thankfully, I have a freezer full of bean-based soups, meat, and frozen peas, among other things.  I think peas multiply when the freezer door is closed, because somehow, I never seem to run out of them.  But unfortunately, a girl can only eat so many super beany soups in one day, peas eventually get kind of boring, and thawing out a couple of GF muffins to eat with brown rice cereal, carrots, and Sunbutter just doesn't constitute a balanced meal (my dinner the night I got home...).

So what does a girl - namely, me - do with a bunch of frozen meat, some leftover beans, jars of sauerkraut, some onions, and those trusty root veggies?  Oh yeah, and have I mentioned that it is -2* F outside and there is no way in hell I am leaving the house again to get more food?  Oh, Minnesota...
A girl makes Bottom of the Barrel Bison Stew, that's what.

Back when people ate according to the seasons out of necessity, they ate stews like this, made of those long storage vegetables, meats, and preserved vegetables.  They did not have frozen peas, like I have the luxury of enjoying, but in spirit, this is a stew of days of old.  It is food made for weather like this, when it is so cold that your nose hairs freeze when you inhale.

Anyway, this stew is tasty, cheap, makes a ton, and brings new life to all those funky things that are always knocking around the bottom of your crisper, the back of your fridge, the shelves of your pantry, and the corners of your freezer.  If you are on the ACD and can tolerate starchy veggies, this is a great soup option for you, since it is grain free, yeast free, and high in protein.  A lively and rich assortment of herbs and spices add a nice touch - add what you tolerate, omit what you don't.  I'm cautiously trying out paprika in my diet again, and this stew benefits from a healthy portion of it.  Even the most humble of ingredients can undergo a makeover of epic proportions with some good seasonings.  Seriously, a well-stocked spice rack is the best investment you can make!  This stew is delicious; rich, flavorful, filling, and absolutely perfect for those hellishly chilly days that make you wonder why you choose to live somewhere that puts you through such torture for 6 months of the year.  Now I can delay grocery shopping even longer...


Bottom of the Barrel Bison Stew

yield 4-6 servings

1 lb bison or beef stew meat
1 large parsnip, diced
1/2 large rutabaga, diced
1-1 1/2 cup diced carrot
3 cups chopped onions
4 T olive oil or ghee
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground dry mustard
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup sauerkraut, drained
1/2-1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp dry parsley
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
1 qt water
Heat 2 T oil or ghee in a large stockpot, then add cumin seeds and heat until they start to smell fragrant.  Add onions and garlic, and saute over medium heat until they soften. Add parsnips, rutabaga, and carrot, along with coriander, mustard, and paprika, cover, and saute until the veggies start to soften, about 5-8 minutes.

While veggies saute, heat 2 T oil or ghee in a large saute pan, then add stew meat and quickly sear, just so the meat is browned on all sides but not cooked through.  Remove from heat, and add meat to vegetables.  Heat a small amount of water in the pan, scraping off any bits of meat, and transfer liquid to pot with vegetables and meat. Add bay leaf and water to pot, heat to a just barely a simmer, then reduce to low and cook until meat and vegetables are tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Add sauerkraut, peas, and chickpeas, as well as parsley and thyme, and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

Back on the Anti-Candida Train with Herbed Chicken & Greens Soup (ACD Friendly, low carb, gluten free)

Hello friends.  Today I'm writing with some sadness.  I have decided I need to return to an anti-Candida albicans diet (ACD) protocol. What is Candida albicans?  It's a yeast organism that everyone has in their system, but in some of us - the lucky ones - it multiplies and overgrows in our gut and leads to a whole host of nasty symptoms: things like brain fog, chemical and food sensitivities, food cravings, fatigue, skin problems, rashes, headaches, arthritic symptoms, allergies, digestive distress, depression, anxiety, and most notably, vaginitis and oral thrush.  When a Candida albicans overgrowth reaches this kind of systemic level, it is called Candidiasis.

Candidiasis can happen to anyone, but some people are more susceptible than others.  A history of antibiotic or steroid use, high carbohydrate or high sugar diets, or leaky gut syndrome or intestinal inflammation makes someone more likely to suffer a Candida albicans overgrowth.  Treatment methods vary, but most schools of thought agree that dietary changes and antifungals are necessary to rebalance proper bacteria levels in the gut.  Since sugar and carbs feed the yeast, dietary protocols generally call for a reliance on low-carb, no-sugar foods, and limiting or omitting entirely starchy vegetables, grains, and fruits, depending on personal tolerance.  Fermented foods are discouraged by some protocols, alcohol is a strict no no, as is an excess of mucous forming, dampening foods like dairy.  One has to watch out for molds in spices, herbs, nuts, mushrooms, and bulk foods.  And there needs to be a strict avoidance of yeasts - they hide in everything.

Last year I was on a strict ACD for about 10 months.  It made a huge difference, but was incredibly hard on me.  I was very sick when I went on the ACD; my digestive system was thrashed and I was suffering severe Candidiasis symptoms and extreme fatigue.  My system was weak, and  I wasn't strong enough to withstand the intense cleanse I was putting myself through.  I lost weight rapidly, lost a ton of hair, and was completely lethargic.  Once I started seeing a naturopath, we tested for Candidiasis, which proved that I was right in my suspicions.  She helped me moderate my ACD diet and gave me anti-fungals, and together, we worked on a good protocol.  While my blood sugar was still a disaster, I stopped losing such frightening amounts of weight, and started feeling better.  Over the next 5 months, I noticed more and more improvement, and then in March, I tested negative for Candida.  I had beaten it!  I felt really great, inside and out.  I was even able to eat fruit again, without the old BActerial Vaginitis flaring up. What a victory!

So, I slowly started letting more foods back in; fruit, agave nectar and maple syrup.  More baked goods.  More starchy vegetables.  Lately, even itty bitty amounts of cane sugar in those allergy-free chocolate chips and tapioca chips.    And I had been feeling really good until about June, when I noticed a few things coming back.  My carb cravings got stronger.  My food cravings in general are sometimes out of control.  I have been experiencing more headaches again.  More fatigue.  Join pain. Some of my old skin issues are coming back, like random hives, more breakouts, and some eczema on my hands.  And despite more my active lifestyle, I have been gaining weight like crazy.   For a girl with a perfectly function thyroid and pituitary, that's weird.  But the most irritating and frustrating symptom is the flare-ups in Bacterial Vaginitis-type symptoms.  On a few occasions, after eating more sugar than usual, I experienced a bad hangover type reaction.

I've tried to ignore these symptoms, or attribute them to other things, but my gut tells me that it is a flare-up in the good old Candida.  For those of us that deal with this struggle, our systems are susceptible to being overcome by the Candida again, and we need to be careful.  While I had hoped I had truly beat it, I'm thinking that I may have been a bit overenthusiastic at the re-inclusion of some of those formerly forbidden foods into my diet.  My system is sensitive, more sensitive than I thought.  My gut tells me that this is what I need to do.  And if there is one thing I've learned from this process, it is that I need to listen to my gut (literally!), no matter how much I want to tell it to shut up.

So, what does this mean?  Anti-candida diet, here I come, once again.  I like the method used by the Whole Approach website - their diet phases and food lists are very helpful and totally approachable.  Fellow blogger Ricki from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs is also using this approach in her current ACD diet.  Ricki is a wonderful blogger and inspiring woman; I have gotten excellent support from her, and her encouraging words have helped give me the strength to make this decision.  If you aren't familiar with her blog, I highly recommend checking it out - she is a wonderfully creative cook, an excellent writer, and is generous with kindness and sincerity.  Someday, I hope to be able to meet her in person!  But in the meantime, I read her blog religiously.  As for my blog, you'll be seeing a lot less baked goods, that's for sure.  More high protein dishes, no more fruit, no more sweeteners other than stevia.  Lots and LOTS and LOTS of vegetables, fixed every which way.

The thought of doing this for winter SUCKS.  But I deserve to feel better than I do currently, and if this is what it takes, I need to be willing to go back down this road.  I think it will be easier on my system this time around - I'm much stronger these days, and I'm way better at cooking with all these restrictions than I was when I first started on this path almost two years ago.  I'm determined at making some killer ACD-friendly holiday food.  And maybe even treat myself so a little slice of ACD-friendly pumpkin pie.

Yikes, here we go again.  Back to the Whole Approach food list , the Jeanne Marie Martin's Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook , and Donna Gates' Body Ecology Diet.  Back to the coconut oil.  Back to the cleansing baths and being gentle with myself.  I know more this time around, I'm in a healthier place, and feel empowered by this decision, not a slave to something I don't understand.  I now know how to explain it to my friends and family, and how to ask for support.  And all things willing, I'll feel better.  I have a strong feeling it will make a big difference.

So, to kick it off, here's a little recipe for some tasty, low-carb, ACD-friendly chicken soup I made last night.  Full of chunky chicken, lots of green veggies, flavorful herbs, and one little carrot for spleen meridian-strengthening power, this soup feels satisfying, not restrictive.   Freeze leftovers for easy meals later on.  I started this chicken soup from scratch, with the whole darn bird, the best way to do it.   It is easy to cook a whole chicken, and once you taste the stock, you won't go back. Besides being delicious, the natural gelatin in real bone broth and stocks is ultra-healing to our body's tissues, and can help repair and soothe the lining of the digestive tract.  Between a couple batches of stock, and all the meat, one little chicken can yield many many meals.

I like using a crock pot to cook my chickens to save time, but it also works well on the stovetop. I put my chicken in the crockpot last night at 6:30, ate dinner, ran to Whole Foods for a bunch of low-starch vegetables and more coconut oil (argh.), went to the gym, and got home at 9:30 to a cooked chicken and about 6 cups of fresh stock.  I cut up the vegetables for the soup and sauteed them in the pot on the stove while I cleaned up the chicken and strained the broth, then finally assembled everything in the pot.  By about 10:15, I had a pot of fresh soup cooling the fridge.  I also had a second batch of stock going in the crock pot, and leftover chicken for meals later this week!  See?  Home-cooking doesn't have to take up all your time.  The more you do it, the faster it gets.

If you don't want to start with the whole chicken and make your own stock, feel free to use store bought stock and skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or leftover pre-cooked chicken) for a super-fast and easy meal.


serves 6

1 whole chicken, free range, no antibiotic
6-8 c water
2 bay leaves
2-3 whole allspice berries or cloves
handful parsley and fresh thyme or other herbs
2 tsp marjoram or oregano
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 chunk onion
other vegetable trimmings/scraps

3 c cooked chicken, diced or shredded
2 c broccoli florets and chopped stems
2 c celery, sliced
4 large leaves Swiss Chard, leaves chopped and ribs sliced (may sub kale or collards)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
optional: 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced
2 tsp dry marjoram or oregano
1 Tbsp dry basil
1-2 tsp thyme or savory
1/4 c parsley, minced
pinch allspice
8 c stock/broth and water
1-2 T olive oil
salt/Herbamare to taste

COOK THE CHICKEN/STOCK - looks like a lot of instructions, but it is REALLY EASY!

  1. Rinse off the chicken, and trim off any excess fat or waste.  Stuff fresh herbs inside the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken in large stockpot or crockpot with bay leaves, allspice, marjoram, carrot, celery, and onion.
  3. Crock pot: cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  Stove top: bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 1 hour. 
  4. Once chicken is done, remove it from the pot.  Remove skin, setting aside for making another batch of stock later on.  Remove meat from bones, setting bones aside with skin.  Set aside 3 cups of meat for the soup, and save the rest for later in the refrigerator or freezer.
  5. Strain broth through a fine colander into a large bowl, and use it for the soup!  
  6. If you want an extra batch of stock, place skin, bones, and the veggies/herbs back in the pot.  Throw in some fresh carrot and vegetable trimmings from the soup veggies, more water, and more herbs.  Cook on the stove top for an hour or two, or up to 24 hours on low in the crock pot.  The longer it cooks, the richer it tastes!  When it is done, strain through colander, and store in jars.  Use within 5 days, or freeze for later.


  1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil and saute garlic, celery, sliced chard ribs,  carrot, and broccoli on low, covered, for about 5-8 minutes, until fragrant.  
  2. Add chard leaves, cooked chicken, and stock, and simmer until all the vegetables are almost tender.  Add herbs and spices to taste, and let cook 5 more minutes to flavor through.  
  3. Serve!



My weekend: Baking with A-K from "Swell Vegan" and Dairy-Free Cream of Turnip and Fennel Soup (vegan, gluten free)

This weekend was lovely.  I had a lot going on, lots of music to play and see, shopping with a friend for a vintage wedding dress, and doing lots of cleaning and housework.  I managed to fit in a lot of cooking too - I canned beets, froze a bunch of pears, made some tasty gluten-free Garlic Kale Waffles (recipe to come!), and made a couple batches of soup: Squash, Parsnip, and Apple Bisque seasoned with homemade Curry Powder, and Cream of Turnip and Fennel.

One thing that made this weekend really special was my baking date with A-K from the über-fabulous blog Swell Vegan !  Yes, A-K and I both live in Minneapolis, and yesterday, cyber life and real life collided in my kitchen for a vegan, gluten free Savory Squash Scone baking experiment.  A couple weeks ago we met for the first time for a raw vegan feast at the Minneapolis restaurant Ecopolitan.  After commenting on each other's blog posts and tweets for ages now, and guest appearing on the same "Fresh and Local" radio show, and living in the same city, we decided it was right time we meet in person.

So, meet we did, at one of the only restaurants in town where a vegan and an allergy-ridden, GF omnivore can order straight off the menu.  Ecopolitan is an organic, raw, vegan restaurant and health care center; their menu is expansive, featuring everything from fresh juices and smoothies, to intriguing appetizers and entrees, to make-your-own salads, to desserts and pre-made goodies like flax crackers and sprouted buckwheat crusts.  They also offer classes, workshops, health consultations, and have various forms of healing therapies, like colonics and this crazy light therapy I don't understand.  I haven't ventured into that realm of Ecopolitan, only the restaurant for me so far - but it is intriguing.

As it turns out, we both brought each other a little gift for our dinner meeting.  I brought A-K some jalepeños from my garden (despite the fact I can't eat them, they grow in my garden, long story). She brought me a copy of swell., her cookzine .  I was thrilled, since I've been meaning to order one for ages.  While many (okay, most) of the recipes in the book are off limits to me as written, A-K's whole foods cooking style allows for easy substitutions and alterations.  I can't wait to try me-friendly versions of the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers with Millet and Leeks, or the Coconut Red Bean Quinoa.

Anyway, we'd been talking about how much fun it would be to cook together some time, and that we did.  I had a hankering for some kind of savory squashy scone, so we tried it out, using her recipe for Sweet Potato Cranberry Scones and adapting to be gluten free, savory, and use squash instead of sweet potato.  We decided on a blend of squash, caramelized red onion, fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and chives, and a blend of GF flours and quinoa flakes, and we threw it all together while talking about birding and other food and non-food stuff.
So, how did our meeting of the minds turn out?  They looked lovely, golden and flecked with purple and green.  And they tasted AMAZING. But the texture?  Darn gluten free, vegan baking, you are a hard nut to crack.  The texture was a bit too gummy; each bite kind of stuck to the roofs of our mouths.  We tried to figure out what we could do better next time, reducing the amount of moisture and maybe changing up some of the flours, baking at a higher temperature.  If only the texture could have matched the success of the incredible flavor! Either way, it was fun, and the scones were totally edible - but the recipe was not a smashing success to post to the blogs.  Stay tuned for more Swell Vegan /Affairs of Living mash-ups in the future.  Next time we'll do something like soup that we know will be a success!
Squash & Caramlized Onion Scones - tasty, bad texture.

Speaking of no-fail soups, I had a stellar soup experience over the weekend.  I had a bunch of turnips to use up, a crisp fennel bulb, and a strong desire for something creamy.  There is something so undeniably nourishing about creamy soups, but it is sometimes hard to get a good, dairy free base.  I've tried various methods of making dairy-free cream of WHATEVER soups, but had not yet found my silver bullet.  Well, I really hit the jackpot with this one, I think.   The rich, creamy base is credited to pureed rice and caramelized onions, an old trick I saw in a Julia Child cookbook I was browsing at a bookstore.  I don't remember what kind of soup she was using it for, but I remembered the technique, and thought it would be the perfect base for something vegan and creamy.  As luck would have it, I was right.   It is almost like potato leek soup, but lower carb and nightshade free.  I roasted the turnips and fennel first to get a richer flavor, which added great depth to the soup. If you've never tried turnips before, this is a great way to start - it thick, satisfying, and a total breeze to throw together.  I managed to eat most of the batch - I ate mine for lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day!  I did save some for lunch leftovers tomorrow.  But dang, I really loved this soup. Make a big steaming pot and share it with people you love.


yield about 2 1/2 qt

2 lbs turnips, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1/3 c white rice
olive oil
8 c water/stock + more as needed
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
2 tsp dry dill
2 tsp dry thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425* and get out a big roasting pan or cookie sheet. 
Wash and prepare turnips and fennel, and put in baking pan with a little olive oil.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are golden, tender, and roasty toasty. 
While vegetables roast, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large stockpot.  Add onions and garlic, and saute, covered for 5-8 minutes.  Make sure they do not burn, you just want them golden and caramelly.
Add white rice and saute a few minutes, then add about 8 c of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, then cook for 20-25 minutes, until rice is totally tender.
Add roasted vegetables to pot, scraping out any caramelly bits from the pan into the pot (add a bit of hot liquid from the pot to the roasting pan and swish around to get out anything tasty you can't scrape out).   Let soup cook about 5 minutes to flavor through.
Using an immersion blender or blender, blend soup in batches until totally smooth and creamy, adding additional water/stock as necessary.
Return soup to pot, and add crushed fennel seeds, dill, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Heat through, then serve.



My beet love affair: "Triple B" Beet and Black Bean Chili (gluten free, vegan, tomato free)

When I woke up yesterday morning, I noticed something remarkable.  My nose was cold.  Not just a little chilly, but downright cold.  I had left my bedroom window open, as usual, but this time, something was different.  This time, the night air had a bite to it, that crisp twist indicative of the change of seasons, of Fall's inevitable return. That cool night air crept into my bedroom while I slept, and it left its mark on my face.  According the the weather man on my clock radio, it was only about 42º F outside; from the feel of the air in my bedroom, and feel of the tip of my nose, I believed him.  It's funny how we all doubt the weatherman's predictions of beautiful weather, but never doubt the proclamation of cold temperatures.  So, I hit the snooze, buried my face in my pillow, and pulled the quilt over my head, nestling into the warm cocoon of my bed.  There is nothing more delicious (except this chili, recipe that is).

Once I finally decided to greet the day, well before the sun, I was struck with the most intense desire for chili, and concurrently, the most intense onset of goosebumps.  So, I threw some dry black beans in a bowl to soak, unsure of what direction the chili would take, but with a hope for something great.  Then I put on gloves, a down vest, and a scarf, and hopped my bike to commute to work.  By the time I arrived downtown, my cheeks were flushed, and my hot breath became visible in the cool air.  The streets were filled with blazers, scarves, and pea coats, a drastic departure from the sundresses, sandals, and linen of only a month ago.

All day I thought about the chili while checking emails, and sometime mid-afternoon, I was struck with what I considered the most brilliant idea: instead of stewed tomatoes, a chunky beet puree would form the base of my chili.  It seemed like the perfect way to tackle the beets in my crisper and add great flavor and body to the soup.  Sure, you can make tomato free chili, but it is never really quite the same, in my opinion.  There needs to be something there.  Pureed beet sauce would be just the right thing.  Hey, why not?  Beet and black bean vegetable chili sounded great to me.  I've been using beets in a ton of recipes lately, so it fit the theme.  Plus, all those "b"s were screaming for a catchy name like "Triple B" Chili.

YES! I had a plan. 

So, when I got home, my tummy grumbling and the urge for chili even stronger, I threw the beans and beets in the pressure cookers, and set to work.  I love soups that are brimming with vegetables, so I chopped up garden-fresh sweet onions, garlic, carrots, and zucchini to add to the mix.   For seasonings, I decided on a mix of cumin, coriander, basil, and a bit of roasted carob powder for a smoky sweet flavor.  In the end, the chili was thick, chunky, and incredibly flavorful and satisfying.   For a bit of extra smoky flavor, I added a pinch of smoked salt (yum...).  Visually, this soup is a winner - it is a beautiful deep burgundy red color, flecked with bits of green, orange, red, and black. But best yet, it is totally tomato free!  For all of you sensitive to tomatoes, this is the perfect solution, you won't even miss 'em!  And if you're one of those people that is uneasy about beets, don't worry - their strong flavor is tempered by the beans, vegetables, and seasonings.  Easy to prepare, and full of protein, fiber, and loads of vitamins and minerals, this soup is ideal for a chilly night.  It should freeze well, so make a batch, and save some for later.   The vegetables are totally interchangeable, so feel free to customize to fit you your needs.  Can't do carrots or zucchini?  Try adding bell pepper, or if you can, fresh corn (lucky you!).  Intolerant to onions?  Leave 'em out, and add an equal amount of other vegetables.  Like it spicy?  Add chili powder, cayenne, or fresh diced jalepeño peppers.  Make it yours!

As I felt cool air sneak in through my open living room window, I relished in a bowl of my chili, garnished with fresh chives. I had harvested a mighty handful from the garden earlier in the evening when I went to cover my plants.  Yes, that's right - we had our first frost advisory in the Twin Cities last night, and I'm not quite ready to give up on the garden yet.  So, I was spooking around the backyard in the dark, covering my tender  plants with old sheets, and harvesting chives, tarragon, rosemary, and basil to put in the dehydrator.   I picked the last cucumber, the last zucchini (finally!), and the second to last butternut.

Yes, the weatherman was right, the weather is changing, the temperatures are cooler, and Fall is upon us.  I see it in the earth, I feel it in my body, and I'm welcoming it with open arms, a hungry tummy, and steaming bowls of soup.


yield: about 2 1/2 quarts

2 cups dry black beans (about 4 cups cooked) + water for soaking and cooking
3 large beets, whole
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2-3 cups chopped vegetables of choice (carrot, zucchini, bell pepper, corn, etc)
2 T cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
2 T extra virgin olive oil,  coconut oil, or other oil
2 T roasted carob powder or cocoa powder
2 T dry basil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or, add in a pinch of smoked salt - yum!)
1 c water + 2-3 c stock, water, or bean cooking liquid
optional: 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, or 1/4 tsp vitamin C crystals (adds an acidic quality, similar to tomato-based chili) 

optional add-ins to pick and choose (I didn't add because I'm currently avoiding them, but if I could, I would!):
2 T dry oregano
1/2-1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4-1/2 chipotle pepper powder

If starting with dry beans, soak in 6 c water for 6-8 hours.  Drain, rinse, and cook beans by desired method (stovetop, slow cooker, or pressure cooker) with fresh water.  When beans are tender, drain, and save any of the bean cooking water.  If using canned beans, rinse well before using.

Wash and trim beets, leaving skins on and 1" of the stem, if possible.  Cook whole beets by desired method until tender.  You can do them in the oven (puncture, wrap in foil, cook 400* for about 45 minutes), boil them (large pot with fresh water, boil for about 30-40 minutes), or put them in the pressure cooker (15 lbs pressure for 20 minutes) until tender.  When beets are tender, run under cold water to cool, then slip off skins.  

While beets are cooking, heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, add cumin seeds and coriander, and saute until fragrant.  Add chopped onions and garlic, stir, cover, and saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add chopped vegetables and a splash of water, then cover, and saute an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  

To make beet puree, coarsely chop two of the peeled beets (about 2 1/2 c), and add to food processor/blender with 1 c water.  Pulse a few times, then blend until thick and smooth, like a chunky tomato sauce.  Dice the remaining beet, and add to stockpot.

Next, add beet puree to stockpot, along with carob powder, basil, any optional herbs/spices, and 2 cups of the remaining bean cooking liquid, water, or stock.  Stir to mix.

Bring to a simmer, then cover, and cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding additional 1 c liquid as necessary for desired consistency and adding salt and adjusting seasonings as needed.
Serve immediately, or cool and freeze for later.  If desired, garnish with fresh chives or cilantro, a dollop of something creamy (non-dairy or dairy yogurt, sour cream, cashew cream, or whatever else you do), or something cheesy.