my friend Ryan's turkey chili, with which I ran off and did my own thing

A detestable dish sold from Texas to New York City and erroneously described as Mexican.**

Hoo wee! Lemme tell you right now that I am in no way going to add to the controversy over “Which state has the best chili” or “What is authentic chili”. For many years we, in this house, made only Texas-style chili because the boy didn’t like beans. Well, he likes them now – or if he doesn’t, he eats them because they are pretty good for you, plus it gives him endless fodder for fart jokes. And who doesn’t love a good fart joke?

One of the best quotes I’ve found which encompasses how I feel about chili is this one by Carroll Shelby, the race car driver and chili-starter-kit-maker (which I totally borrowed from the International Chili Society site)

The beauty of chili to me is that it's really a state of mind. It's what you want when you make it. You can put anything in there you want, make it hot or mild, any blend of spices you feel like at the time. You make it up to suit your mood.

And that settles that for me.

Over the weekend when the first cold winds blew through Atlanta, we began using our fireplace for the first time this season. I love the change of seasons, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love all the foods associated with the change of seasons. All the lovely fall vegetables, pears, apples, and an endless list of stews and soups. Last Saturday night while I was trolling Facebook, my friend Ryan posted that she was making turkey chili with her stepdaughter, which immediately sparked my interest. I’ve never made turkey chili before. Our chilis are usually beef-centric. In the last month, the boy and I have spent a lot of time really thinking about the food we’re eating, due to that whole Lifestyle Change thing I wrote about in the previous blog post, which has led to less red meat in our diet. I tell ya, healthy eating is not easy. And by that I mean you have to really consciously put effort into meal planning. You can’t just grab a Stouffer’s frozen lasagna, toss that in the oven and call it a day (not that there is anything wrong with Stouffer’s lasagna – I realize it’s a great convenience to have and we’ve eaten our fair share of them when we didn’t have the time to plan anything, but have you seen the list of ingredients?). Here’s the thing: we still may not have the time to plan meals, but we make the time. That’s the thing about Lifestyle Changes, you must force yourself to make the time for working out and planning meals, and next thing you know it becomes second nature. If that means devoting a few hours on the weekend to sitting down and making a list, and cooking big vats of soup that will feed your family all week, well, make that time. Besides, you can cook together, and I find that cooking with people you love is a very harmonious and nice way to pass the time.

So anyhoo – Ryan was busy making turkey chili and I immediately commented on her FB status that I wanted said recipe, which she graciously typed up and sent over. The original recipe was her own creation, so I was really honored that she took the time to put it down on paper for me. She is good people. We are going to start a project together soon, but I’m not going to say much more about that now. It’s still brewing in the dark part of our brains, although we really do need to get on that. Ryan, let’s talk soon!

I took her recipe and ran with it, put my own twist on it. Keeping with Mr Shelby’s quote from above, I think you should do the same. I’d love to hear what variations you made!

My friend Ryan’s turkey chili, with which I ran off and did my own thing

1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. turkey sausage (hot or sweet, depends on what you like) removed from the casings OR 1 lb. turkey kielbasa (smoked or not, up to you), chopped up into pieces
4 cups chicken stock
1 small can diced green chilies
3 cans of beans, drained (great northern, cannellini, red kidney, black beans, a combo of whichever you prefer)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped up small
2 celery ribs, chopped up small
1 can of corn, drained
½ green pepper, chopped up (you can use a whole pepper. I only had a half left in the fridge)
½ jalapeño, chopped up small (keep the seeds if you want it spicy. Hell, use the whole jalapeno)
½ of a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
Chili powder
Dried oregano
Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium /medium- high and brown the turkey meat and the turkey sausage together, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until it’s brown. If you are using turkey kielbasa instead of turkey sausage, leave this out for now and just brown the ground turkey. When there is no more pink left, drain the meat and set it aside.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, add one tablespoon of olive oil and heat it on medium. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, green pepper, and sauté this together, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and scraping up the bottom as you go along. Add the drained turkey meat and if using, the chopped up kielbasa. Then add (to your liking):

• a tablespoon (or more) chili powder (start with a couple of teaspoons if you want it less spicy)
• a tablespoon (or more) each of cumin, paprika, and dried oregano
• ½ teaspoon cayenne powder (you can always add more later if you want more spice)
• ½ teaspoon of salt (you will probably add more later, so keep the salt to a minimum now and add later on – you can always salt more but you can never take it back)

3. Using half of the canned whole tomatoes, squeeze a few of the tomatoes into your pot to break them up a bit (using your impeccably clean hands!). {Save the remaining tomatoes for another day or for pasta}. Add the can of green chilies. Let this cook together for a bit, stirring occasionally.

4. Add 3 to 4 cups of chicken stock or chicken broth, and stir. Bring to a simmer, and let that cook for a few minutes. You can add more broth if it’s too thick. Then add all the beans (that you’ve drained), stir well while scraping up the bottom, and let the whole thing simmer. Let simmer for however long you want, half hour or so. Taste for seasonings – salt, maybe more chili powder or cumin or cayenne. You can always add hot sauce to your bowl when you eat it.

** Quote from a Mexican dictionary, courtesy of Food Timeline


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