Turkey Chili

During my time in Oregon I was frequently asked questions about being from Hawai‘i.  Aside from the most ridiculous “do you have electricity in your grass hut?” types of questions, I was often asked about the weather here.  More specifically, “does Hawai‘i experience seasons?”

The confused expressions as I answered, “yes, of course” were priceless.

Our seasons may not be drastic, but we definitely see changes in weather patterns, temperature, and length of day.  Although we don’t necessarily see four distinct seasons, most often we experience two: tropical & rainy or tropical & dry.

Depending on where you live, leaves fall (but don’t necessarily change color).  Our plumeria-lined driveway, for example, is void of all color (aside from brown) during the winter months.  And the vibrant shades of yellow, fuchsia, and pink are always a welcome sign of summer.

[Winter Plumeria / Summer Plumeria]

Maui experienced her first big rain this week (we were on flash flood warning for a bit there).  I really wanted to get a photo of the huge muddy waterfalls and rocks falling down the side of Hana Highway but it was literally pouring buckets and I was nervous to pull over.  The rain fell hard and steady in Ha’iku as I got my weekly chiropractic adjustment at Livity Cafe of Life (seriously, this place has changed my life).

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I love the rain.

The junk thing = rainy weather soggy slippahs 😦       The great thing = rainy weather warm, hearty food 🙂

When I think of hearty, I think nice, hot, rich and flavorful chili.  Beef chili was a staple in both of my houses growing up (my parents are divorced) and one of my brattiest childhood memories is waiting for my mom to hand-extract every single bean from my chili and rice bowl before I would even look at it (I fully expect to have the snottiest daughter in the world as karma).

I stopped eating chili when I stopped eating red meat during college because I honestly thought it was required for beef to be the main ingredient. Once I became more knowledgeable about health and wellness, I started experimenting.  This recipe started as vegetarian chili (using a can of refried beans to bulk it up), which I made often and always had in the fridge or freezer.  But when I became borderline anemic, I decided that I wanted to incorporate meat back into my diet (and as I increased my strength training I wanted less “synthetic” proteins).  Because our poultry industry in the U.S. is the worst, I had to do some research on the companies our Whole Foods stocks before I agreed to eating anything.  One company seems legit and I started by adding white meat organic, free-range chicken and then tried ground chicken.

If I could get over my red-meat phobia I’d make this chili with Maui Cattle Co. beef (but alas, I just can’t do it–I’m still trying to get over the smell of animal blood in my kitchen again).  All variations of the recipe are great, but lean ground turkey is surely my favorite. The turkey adds great, rich flavor and texture while providing me lots of protein and iron.

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Turkey Chili

[Ingredients]

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • ~3 ribs of celery (the leafy center is great to use in chili/soups)
  • 1 large red/yellow bell pepper
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 2 c black beans (if you soak your own you greatly reduce the amount of sodium!)
  • 4 c pinto beans (could also use kidney/navy but that’s what we had on hand)
  • 5 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 c corn

Soak beans overnight, then boil until they’re tender (usually about an hour or so).

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Dice onion, celery and peppers.

Sautee veggies (all except corn) in olive oil until onion is translucent.

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Stir in spices.

Add turkey.  Stir often until meat is cooked through (about 10 minutes).

Assemble the tomato troops and mix them into the pot, too.

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Let it boil, then reduce heat to simmer for at least half an hour.

Add the beans (mmm, fiber and more protein!) and stir.

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Simmer for at least another half an hour (the longer you can let it all cook, the more incredible this chili will be!)

Add in the corn and heat through.

Enjoy! Makes 16 hearty servings.  We always freeze half of the pot immediately and eat the other half for the upcoming days’ lunch or dunner.

Nutrition Facts [1 c serving]

Calories 190 • Fat 5g Sat. Fat 1.4g • Sodium 242mg • Carbs 26g • Fiber 10g Protein 17g

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