Butternut Squash and Chipotle Chili with Avocado

I almost quit blogging.  Over the past two months, thoughts of leaving this little space behind flooded my mind and I came thisclose to stopping.  The blogging world is not at all what it was when I started Apple a Day almost seven years ago (how has it even been that long?).  Back then, there was no such thing as professional bloggers.  Nobody needed super fancy cameras, piles upon piles of props, or timed posts.  We didn’t worry about search engine optimization or our social media presence.  We blogged because we liked to cook, we liked to write, and we liked to share our creations with the handful of readers we had.

Now, it is just so different.

I can’t compete with people who blog as their full-time job.  While my photography has improved drastically from my very first blurry, unedited photos taken with a flash in the dark of night, I still wouldn’t call it my strong suit.  I don’t have a media kit or a webmaster or a slew of sponsorships.  Nobody is knocking on my door asking me to write a cookbook.  And the money…well, let’s just say it ain’t what it used to be.

But here’s the deal–I’ve decided I don’t care.  Might I try, once grad school is over, to increase my web presence, update my design, and create a stronger brand?  I wouldn’t rule it out.  I could definitely see myself doing that.  But it’s not where I’m at right now.  And that’s okay.

When I started blogging, I didn’t think about unique hits, Pinterest stats, or monthly revenue.  Heck, I was barely worried about what my photos looked like.  (Thank goodness that’s changed a bit!)  What I did concentrate on was improving my cooking skills, how much I loved writing, and what fun it was to nourish the people I loved.  None of those things have changed.  I still have so much to learn in the kitchen.  I feel like my writing has improved just as much as my cooking and baking and that has brought me confidence beyond measure.  Most importantly, I’ve seen my food comfort people, make them happy, and bring them together in ways I never would have thought possible.  And that, dear readers, is what truly matters most.

So I’m still here.  And I plan to be for quite some time.  I’ve made us this hearty, comforting, and healthy butternut squash and chipotle chili with avocado.  You might also want to try my favorite (more) traditional chili or this white turkey chili.  It’s cold outside and we could all use something to warm our bellies and get us on track in the new year, don’t you think?

butternut squash chili

Seasonal butternut squash is cooked with spices and beans to create a healthy, hearty chili everyone is sure to love.  Topped with creamy avocado, it’s irresistible!

Butternut Squash and Chipotle Chili with Avocado
adapted from Cookie + Kate

2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs.), peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
sea salt, to taste
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
1 bay leaf
1 (14-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including liquid
2 (14-oz.) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. vegetable broth
2 avocados, diced
chopped cilantro, for garnish
chipotle hot sauce, for garnish

1.  Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, squash, and garlic and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

2.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir until vegetables are evenly coated, then add the bay leaf, tomatoes, beans, and vegetable broth.  Cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Taste for spice level and adjust, as needed.

3.  To serve, remove bay leaf, then ladle into individual bowls and top with avocado and cilantro.  If desired, spice it up with some chipotle hot sauce.

Yield: 6 hearty servings

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  1. Stephanie
    January 6, 2015 / 3:09 pm

    Glad you decided to stick around! Sometimes I dislike the "professional blogs" simply because everything ends up feeling a little forced. I much prefer genuine blogs like yours whether they're "professional" or not 🙂

  2. Courtney
    January 6, 2015 / 7:24 pm

    Aw, Kelsey! I know what you're talking about, but I'm so glad you decided to stick around. I wrote a very similar post (about a year and half ago, I think). When I was talking to Eric about it, he said something that really resonated with me – "The truth is, blogging is a game and you don't like playing. You just want to cook food for people and make pretty things." He was, and still is, right. Hugs, friend!

  3. Natalie
    January 7, 2015 / 1:40 am

    Oh can I ever relate! I quit first and foremost for family reasons, but also because like you said, blogging just isn't the same anymore! That being said, stay true to YOU and keep doing it because you love it…it sounds like your head is in the right place 🙂

  4. Tamara
    January 7, 2015 / 4:43 pm

    Hi Kelsey!!!Your post was so perfectly what has been going through my mind as well. I wrote a blog a few years back for 2 years and then stopped… Now I'm trying to get back into it and I'm finding it so intimidating because I know my blog cannot be a full-time job for me right now… Thank you for putting into words what has been on my mind for the last few months. We are happy to have you around for as long as you'll have us!!Keep cooking! tamara

  5. Lexie Rochelle
    January 8, 2015 / 3:59 pm

    I am so glad you have decided to continue posting on your blog. Your recipes are always delicious and healthy. Cooking is a way that we show our love to others, and I know it makes you happy to do that for your family and friends. I can't imagine my private recipe binder without Apple A Day recipes. I think most people feel comfortable with a recipe that will look the same on their family's table as it does in your pictures…the props and sponsorships aren't what is important. When someone sees your blog, reads your description, and sees your pictures, they say to themselves, "I can make this for my family, and they will love it." That is what a great recipe is all about. Thank you for continuing to write with passion and a love for what you do for others. I am proud of you.

  6. Bridget
    January 12, 2015 / 5:44 pm

    Maybe I'm just selfish, because I don't care about the success of other people's blogs. I'm happy to continue along with what I'm doing without worrying about competing with anyone. I don't really read any professional blogs anyway; I much prefer personal, real blogs like yours. 🙂

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