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Mexican Pumpkin and Turkey Sausage and Shredded Chicken Stew [Low Carb][Paleo]

Posted Feb 16 2011 9:09am
Cindalou's is hitting the road (and hoping it isn't still iced over on our killer mountain driveway!) with a spicy low carb stew to warm even the coldest of frozen toes and fingers.  It's Mexican theme at girl's night this weekend and I wanted to bring something with a little variety.  For a small handful of ladies there are enough Mexican dishes already there to feed a small Army... or a large one.  All the classic Mex entrees and sides are already taken- beans, guacamole, taco salad, chalupas, quesadillas, flan, dips, and chips galore! I thought something a little different would be nice (plus the hubby just bought a case of organic canned plain pumpkin from an Amazon deal last month!  That's a whole lotta pumpkin for two).  My stew is a variation on a common Tex-Mex pumpkin chowder, but I omit the high glycemic corn and use low carb substitutes with much more nutrition.

As you recall, pumpkin is a great low carb winter " superfood ," packed with Vitamin A, C, E, magnesium, iron, and a host of other minerals.   Be sure to use the plain pumpkin not pumpkin pie mix by the way!

Cilantro is a fantastic herb for detoxing the body of heavy metals .  It is also a great source of B vitamins, zinc, and selenium as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals.  In general, dried herbs are nutritionally dense foods, though potency of certain nutrients can be lost in the drying process.

Tomatoes and salsa provide more Vitamins A and C (better than oranges, plus less sugar), and the organic coconut milk and virgin oil provide brain nourishing and metabolism boosting medium chain good fats (the MCTs).  Don't fear the coconut fat, it is burned as fuel for and repairing the body, not stored like longer chain polyunsaturated fats (bad fats like soybean, corn, and peanut oils to name a few).  Vitamins A, C, E and the B assortment help strengthen your immunity in these blistery wintery days.  Don't reach for a pill or softgel for health either- your body knows how to assimilate and nurture itself with vitamins and minerals from real food.  Those supplements have their place but shouldn't replace basic real food... hey, you can always start with a big dollop of my warm spiced up stew! :)

Note: The turkey sausage is optional for vegetarians or vegans.  For a non-Paleo ("Caveman") version add black beans.  I just had a pack of gluten free Andoullie turkey sausages on hand and I wanted to combine the ideas of a typical Mexican pumpkin soup with a Brunswick stew.  (Brunswick stew is out for us kosher southerners who don't do pork).

2 15 oz cans organic pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 15 oz can organic coconut milk
3/4 c water (or low sodium free range organic chicken broth- adjust for your consistency preference)
1 15 oz can Rotel tomatoes, Mexican Style Lime and Cilantro OR 1 15 oz can organic fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies (undrained)
1 7 oz can green chilies, drained
1/2 c. hot salsa (Kroger brand is gluten free according to the last list

1 T. organic virgin coconut oil
1 package Andoullie turkey sausage (I used Garrett Farms brand gluten and antibiotic free sausages)
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded before serving (see below)
lime juice, to taste (I usede about 1/4 c)
stevia glycerite,~ 1 T.
1 tsp organic unsulfured blackstrap molasses (great vegan source of iron and B vitamins), optional

spices:cilantro, ~ 2 tsp
sea salt and pepper, dash each
cumin, ~ 2 tsp
cumin seed, pinch of whole seed braised with pestle and mortar
oregano, ~ 2 tsp
thyme, ~ 1 tsp
Badia curry powder (it is gluten free, I asked the company and posted the reply on Celiac Forums at the end of the thread ),  ~ 1 T.

garlic powder and onion powder, ~ 1 tsp each
turmeric, ~ 1 tsp
parsley,  ~ 1 tsp
paprika and cayenne pepper,  ~ 1 tsp each
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (for color)

 optional: 1 Reynold's slow cooker liner (makes for easy clean up)*
Preparation:Line your slow cooker with the liner if you choose to use it.*  Add the coconut oil and turn to high to melt the oil and swash it around the bottom (you can also spray the cooker or liner).  Add the chicken breasts to the bottom.  Add the pumpkin, undrained Rotel or fire roasted tomatoes, and coconut milk.  You may wish to thin the stew with either water or organic free range chicken broth.  Stir to mix well, though leave the chicken on the bottom.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Check the chicken breasts with a fork and shred them a bit into large shreds if you can (to preserve the texture). My breasts were still a bit raw so I did most of my shredding at the end.

Since the sausages are already precooked and I didn't want them to get mushy, I decided to wait to add them until after the chicken had cooked a bit.  The sausages can be sliced into bite sized pieces now and added to the stew.  Or if you prefer, the whole sausages can be fished out at the end and sliced, though that method is a bit messy.  Add the rest of the ingredients: broth or water, the drained green chilies, spices, lime juice, and salsa.   Stir well. Cook on low for another 3-4 hours or until chicken is fork tender and shreds easily.  Adjust the lime juice and cayenne to suit your taste.  You can always cook it all on high for a shorter time as long as the chicken is well cooked.  Since I have the time I wanted to let the spices and flavors simmer on low for the last few hours and "marinate" rather than just throw it all in on high for shorter.
Alternative Method (The Quickie):  Throw it all in and cook on low for 6 hours or until chicken is fork tender and shreds easily. 
Shred the chicken (and slice sausages if not done previously) before serving.  This goes great with some guacamole or avocado and a dollop of (nondairy) sour cream (I would use my homemade coconut milk or cultured (fermented) soymilk ' yogurt '). Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and dig in!
While this stew has a nice spice to it, feel free to experiment with spice amounts.  I prefer things fiery myself :)  Don't forget cayenne pepper and those healthy coconut MCTs help reduce inflammation and rev up that sluggish winter metabolism, while pumpkin and tomatoes give a low carb and low glycemic vitamin and mineral punch.  Keeping up your immunity naturally and holistically with healing, warming foods and proper exercise helps balance the body.  Now go run in place as hard as you can for 1 minute- burst train and stretch those lungs and achy legs!  Whew, now I'm all warm and toasty!

Other add ins that would be nice are 1 c. chopped white onion and diced tri bell peppers like a frozen mix of veggies and chunks of celery and torn bits of kale.  I didn't have any on hand at the time though, what a shame to miss kale!!

Note: This was not spicy enough for my taste, but a T. or so more cayenne would help.

*Note on the slow cooker liner: It does not give material but I can tell it is some form of plastic which has been apparently "approved" as food grade.  I am skeptical about the liner (as well as the ceramic Crockpot) leaching into the food (acids and fats tend to degrade plastics and break them down into possibly toxic by-products like dioxins and PCBs ).  However since I am traveling with this whole shebang, I wanted a quick and cleaner way to transport this stew.  Yes, even Cindalou up on her health soapbox chose convenience :)

Cindalou's Kitchen Blues: Healthy Celiac / Coeliac Gluten and Dairy Free Recipes
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