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The Perfect Meal for Nutcracker Season

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NUT_chili_MAINSometimes after a long day at the theatre, the last thing I want to do is come home and cook dinner. Normally I find the action of chopping onions, sautéing vegetables, and getting creative in the kitchen quite cathartic, but not when I’m running on empty. Admittedly, it’s the cleaning aspect of the whole process that is unappealing to me at that point.

Nevertheless, proper nutrition is a huge part of your responsibility as a professional dancer, especially during a demanding five-week run. Efficiently fueling your body is the best way to ensure a fast recovery time and prevent fatigue and injuries. Ordering in food is a nice luxury from time to time, but it can get pricey. Additionally, restaurants often prepare food in a way that tastes delicious, but isn’t necessarily ideal for consumption every single day. So what is a lazy and hungry girl living on a dancers’ salary to do for dinner? Enter: The Crockpot. Imagine: preparing all of your ingredients, putting them in the pot, pressing a button, and coming home after two shows to a home-cooked meal warm and waiting for you. Pure magic! I like to throw all of my ingredients in the night before and stick it in the fridge, and then in the morning before I head to the theatre I simply turn the crockpot on the lowest setting. Crockpots are especially convenient during Nutcracker season because the chilly weather is perfect for warm soups, stews, and chilies that you can make with it.

This is signature Nutcracker dinner, and it’s an absolute favorite. It’s filled with veggies and protein, and it’s such a comforting dish that’s also full of health. I have a small `crockpot, but you could easily double the recipe and freeze leftovers in single serving Ziplocs for an easy weeknight meal. I love serving this chili over a bed of quinoa, topped with avocado and cilantro.

Ingredients:

-1 16 oz. of butternut squash cubes (I buy a bag from Trader Joe’s that is already chopped)

-1/2 chopped sweet onion

-1/2 chopped red bell pepper

-1 can of chopped tomatoes

-2 cups of veggie stock

-1 can of beans (I prefer black beans or garbanzo beans)

-1/2 cup frozen corn

-1 package of tempeh, cubed

-1 clove of garlic

-SPICES: 2 TSP chili powder, 1 tsp. smoked paprika, ½ tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. turmeric, ½ tsp. Himalayan pink salt, ¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Toppings:

Avocado, cilantro leaves

Method:

First, dice the squash in small cubes (or empty the bag of pre-chopped squash) and put it in the bottom of the pot. Next, chop the onion and put it in, along with the peppers and corn. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and the can of beans. Make sure you properly rinse and drain the beans prior to adding them to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. I put the spices and tempeh in last because they require the least amount of heat, whereas the squash at the bottom requires more. Before you leave your house in the morning, put the crockpot on the lowest setting. When you get home, you will have a delicious vegan chili waiting for you. To serve, put ½ a cup of cooked quinoa in a bowl, add as much chili as you desire, and top with a generous scoop of avocado and cilantro leaves.

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