The Perfect Meal for Nutcracker Season

By on December 9, 2015

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.


-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


Avocado, cilantro leaves


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.

About Alexandra Pullen

Alexandra Pullen was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her initial ballet training at a local community center. Pullen studied at Dance Center Evanston, Evanston School of Ballet, and Chicago Ballet Arts, and the Ruth Page School of Dance, where she joined their company, the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Academy of Ballet in Chicago under Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev. She toured with the Joffrey Trainees to perform as Clara in The Nutcracker Suite. She studied on scholarship at summer programs of the San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2012, Pullen competed in the Youth America Grand Prix Chicago Semi-Finals and received a gold medal in the classical category and a silver medal in the contemporary category. She was a Finalist in New York City. In September 2012, Pullen was awarded the Shoot for Change Scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, and joined ABT Studio Company two weeks later. Pullen joined ABT as an apprentice 2013 and was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2014. With ABT, Pullen's rep included Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Ashton's The Dream, Manon, Cinderella, Gaite Parisienne, Les Sylphide, La Bayadere, and Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita. She toured ABT to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Australia, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. This is her second season with Colorado Ballet.

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