During the holiday crunch, I find that my eating habits fall a little short.  Chili has always been a regular winter meal for us and this version is by far the healthiest and tastiest variation I have come up with.  Meaty without the meat is how I like to think about it.  The richness comes from the addition of the butternut squash. I puree 1/2 of it to thicken the soup and then set the rest aside as a topping.  Even finicky kids will devour it.

Serves 6 to 8

1 lb butternut squash, cut into ¼ inch cubes

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 medium red pepper, diced

2 cups water

1 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 15 ounce can kidney beans

1 15 ounce can pink beans

¾ cup black lentils

2-2.5 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Juice from 1-2 limes

Optional - see toppings list below.

In a large soup pot, saute garlic, onion, red pepper, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons chili powder, and ground cumin on medium heat for 3 minutes, add in black lentils until they are coated with oil, about 1 minute.  Add in crushed tomatoes, canned beans and water.  Bring to a boil, cover and turn to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In a separate medium pan, saute 1 clove of garlic in a small amount of olive oil.  Add the butternut squash cubes, saute for 1-2 minutes, cover and add 1/4 cup water, let steam for 7-10 minutes until squash is tender. Puree 1/2 of the squash, save the rest for toppings. Add the puree to the chili and let simmer for another 30 minutes. Add in the lime juice and more chili powder to taste.

After the chili has thickened, about 1-1.5 hours total cooking time, it is ready to serve.  Prepare various toppings listed below.

Recipe Notes:

Individualize the chili bowls by offering optional add-ins like greek yogurt, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, jalapeño, hemp seeds, avocado, cilantro, lime wedges, tortilla chips, quinoa, rice.