Easy Vegan Skillet Chili (And A Great Pumpkin)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on October 7, 2014

Easy Vegan Skillet Chili with red beans and butternut squash

The first Fall I was writing this blog I posted a short photo essay called The Reincarnation of My Jack-o-Lantern, in which I documented baking the pumpkin that had lit the way for wandering spirits (and trick or treaters) on my porch for Halloween night. Usually I love to bake pumpkins and squash and make yummy soups and desserts, and am willing go through the tortuous process of gutting them or cutting them up first if need be. Or if I don’t want to do all that, I’ll just stab the said squash or pumpkin with a sharp knife in several places and bake it whole.

Last week I got my first pumpkin in the CSA I’m sharing with friends. It’s small, squat, and covered with a textured stripes on top of deep orange. Pretty to look at and fun to touch. I keep thinking I’m going to bake it like I always do, but so far I just don’t feel like it. Plus, it got warm again in that Indian-Summer-on-the-Palouse way, so I have the excuse of not wanting to turn the oven on. I think the truth is that so far I’d rather look at it than eat it. The other night I realized what I really wanted to do was to draw it. As I began, I saw that is was  going to take on magical proportions and fill up the paper I was working on. Here’s what I came up with. I call it “A Great Pumpkin.”

"A Great Pumpkin" original chalk pastel by Maria Theresa Maggi

Every time I look at this fanciful drawing I smile. Or laugh.  And right after I finished it I said to the “real” pumpkin, “Now I can eat you.” But I still haven’t done that yet. It seems like too much work. So here’s an easy version of bean and pumpkin or squash chili that doesn’t require any peeling, gutting, seeding, chopping or even baking whole of a squash or pumpkin. The secret? Frozen butternut squash cubes. For when you’d rather draw your pumpkin than cut it up. Or for when there’s just not enough hours in the day.

A couple of years ago when I composed The Reincarnation of My Jack-o-Lantern I emphasized the lines of Nancy Willard’s wonderful poem “St. Pumpkin” that seem to be saying the pumpkin wants to live new lives. In my photo essay I showed it as jack-o-lantern, baked cubes, soup, and dessert (links to those recipes are in that earlier post if you’re feeling like checking them out). This year I’ll leave you with a few lines from the beginning of the same poem. They are the kind of words that make me want to draw, to make that little pumpkin last.

“Somebody’s in there.
Somebody’s sealed himself up
in this round room,
this hassock upholstered in rind,
this padded cell.
He believes if nothing unbinds him
he’ll live forever.”

Kind of neat in a getting-ready-for-Halloween sort of way that the type is both black and orange. Kind of neat that when I draw something it takes on a life of its own that seems eternal. At this time of the year when the veil between the worlds grows thin, I like to think about beautiful things lasting a long time and helping me to remember. Or loving connections that reach beyond the grave. And the lights we light inside pumpkins to honor those who have gone before. This tasty and easy dinner feeds my body while giving my spirit plenty of time to enjoy such seasonal musings.

Maria (moonwatcher)



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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Susan Voisin October 8, 2014 at 8:32 am

Maria, I love your pumpkin drawing! It makes me smile, too. The recipe looks delicious, but I’m wondering where you find frozen butternut squash. I’ve never seen it here, but it would make cooking with squash so much easier.


2 moonwatcher October 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

Hi Susan, glad you love the pumpkin drawing! 🙂 I didn’t have to look any farther than the Moscow Food Co-op’s freezer section for the frozenn cubed butternut squash. Here is the link to the brand I buy http://www.stahlbush.com/our-products/frozen-vegetables/. I also see that Earthbound Farms has just introduced packages of frozen cubed butternut squash. Perhaps the Whole Foods in Jackson might pick this up? I pounced on these the minute I saw them–they are great in a pinch!


3 Veronica October 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

That’s a lovely drawing! I like the little moon peeking out in the corner. And the chili looks yummy. I think I did see some frozen squash in the freezer at the store… I’ll have to investigate further. Happy Halloween and enjoy all the pumpkins!


4 moonwatcher October 8, 2014 at 11:34 pm

HI Veronica–thank you! I love that you like the little moon peeking out in the corner of the drawing. 🙂 And hope you can find the frozen squash cubes easily. Happy Halloween back to you. Really appreciate your comments so much.


5 Debra Maslov October 8, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Such a beautiful pumpkin drawing, Maria! I love all the rich colors & texture…..especially the woody stem. It is totally understandable your not particularly caring to eat it right away. Thank you for the delicious seasonal chili recipe too. I will definitely check out the frozen butternut squash – what a great time saving tip!


6 moonwatcher October 8, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Thank you, Debra, for kind words about the drawing and the chili–I’m so glad you liked the textures in the drawing, and that you understand why I’d rather draw it than eat it right now! Hope you can find the frozen squash in your area.


7 Nicole O'Shea October 10, 2014 at 11:04 am

I love the pumpkin drawing!!!

You know, I might be wrong, but I can see why you don’t want to cut into that sucker. It has a sort of stout, squat, stately presence. Maybe even a little threatening…even the little moon peeking out behind it is keeping clear 😉




8 moonwatcher October 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Love your comment about the pumpkin, Nicole–makes me smile a lot. It does have a kind of integrity–and when I drew it it wanted to grow much larger than it actually is to show off it’s vibrancy and texture–and I guess, even try to dwarf the moon! LOL It was just a fun experience. It will be a card at the co-op, at least I hope so. Waiting on Archer to get their card stock. . .thanks for appreciating it’s spirit!! 🙂


9 Nicole O'Shea October 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

yay! it’ll be a wonderful card. was it drawn on black pastel paper?


10 moonwatcher October 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Yep. 🙂 One of my faves. 🙂


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