Saturday, January 30, 2010


I’m a tiny bit famous for my chili. Frankly, you can’t survive 20 years of campus ministry without a chili recipe that feeds the hordes. I’ve made huge pots of chili for Columbia students, staff colleagues, Harvard students, faculty from Boston, not to mention many church, family and friend gatherings. Former students tell me when they reminisce about college fellowship days, they talk about my chili—that’s how good it is.

When I cook chili it grows and expands like Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes. I’ve had friends watch this process and laugh because the pound of ground turkey I begin with doesn’t look like much, but 15 minutes later, as I transfer overflowing chili to another pot the quantity seems truly miraculous. Twelve years ago, the chili I made for a Super Bowl party not only fed the 10-15 folks at the party, but the 15 women who came to the Community meal at our church later that week along with our entire small group that was volunteering. On top of that, we scrounged up quart sized yogurt containers and every single woman took home one to two quarts of my chili. Only then did we scrape the bottom and wash the 20 quart pot.

But Jesus says a prophet has no honor in her own home, and this applies to chili just as much to words from the Lord. We haven’t hosted a Super Bowl party since that expanding chili party. Instead, we’ve enjoyed the hospitality of my friend Jean and eaten her chili. And my kids FAR prefer her chili to mine.

All night long, as the TV blares and the men gather in front of the screen, we ladle bowls of Jean’s chili with its big chunks of beef chuck, a recipe straight out of the New Basics cookbook, my three kids approach me and say:

“Jean’s chili is SO good!”

“Jean’s chili is SO much better than your chili.”

“Can you make Jean’s chili?”

“I want you to make Jean’s chili instead of your chili.”

“Let me tell you again that I like Jean’s chili better than yours.”

“Can you get the recipe from Jean so you can make her chili?”

I can’t shut them up. I demur with,

“Yes, Jean’s chili is delicious.”

“Isn’t it great that you get to eat Jean’s chili once a year?”

In the spirit of “every family has its different rules,” I even try the “Jean makes her chili and I make mine” parry. But they know that I’m pacifying them so they step up the pressure until I’m hearing:

“Your chili sucks! Jean’s chili is AMAZING!”

They just won’t shut up. And when my middle child, the most persistent foodie of the three kids, finally realized I actually own the New Basics so have the ability to make Jean’s chili, her wrath knew no bounds.

Why don’t I just capitulate and make Jean’s chili? Well first, I actually like my chili. Also, when I cook I try to make healthy foods as delicious as possible. My chili uses ground turkey, beans and tons of vegetables. Because I know it’s so healthy, I don’t feel bad about adding a sprinkle of extra sharp cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. I don't feel bad if my kids wan to eat it for breakfast, lunch and snack. The extra deliciousness that chunks of beef chuck would add just isn’t worth it. And chunks of beef chuck not only take time in the butchering, but also don’t go as far with a crowd. My Chinese frugal soul loves that a couple pounds of ground turkey can eventually feed 50, if not 5000.

All these thoughts and musings about chili cross my mind because I just made a humungo batch in my new 12 quart pot I found at Home Goods and the Super Bowl is next weekend. After feeding my staff team on Friday, tonight I feed the Cana Marriage ministry, and given that once again, the chili overflowed my new pot, I assume we will have chili on hand for many days to go. I will probably freeze a bunch after tonight. I’m not sure if Jean is hosting her Super Bowl party this year, but if she does, I will be eating Jean’s delicious chili next weekend, enjoying it and feeling grateful for her generous hospitality.

As will my kids.

MacTuan’s Loser Vegetable Chili

4 Tbs. Canola Oil

2.5 lbs. ground turkey (or can use beef)

8 medium/large onions, diced

10 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 cups Chili powder

1/4 cup Cumin powder

1/4 cup Oregano

2 tsp. cayenne powder (optional since this is really hot stuff)

2 lbs. dried beans, soaked and cooked until very soft (I don't know how many cans of beans this would be--suffice it to say, a lot!)

4 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

4 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes, tomatoes cut into large chunks

4 cans corn

2 lbs. carrots diced

4 cups frozen peas (can buy the frozen peas and carrots for ease of preparation)

4 Zucchinis diced (I didn't use this because too expensive)

4 Peppers, Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, whatever color you want (I didn't use this because too expensive also)

Cheddar Cheese (I prefer extra sharp), grated

Sour Cream (I prefer light)



Minced Red Onions

In oil, saute the onions until soft, add the garlic, swish around a little, add the ground turkey, brown. When turkey is browned, add spices, and fry for several minutes to let the spices seep into the oil. Add beans, tomato and carrots. Let simmer for as long as you want. Between half an hour and 10 minutes of serving, add the other vegetables. Salt to taste. Serve over rice, offer cheese, sour cream and other condiments as a garnish.

I find that canned tomatoes add a lot of salt, so you really have to add very little. If you use canned beans, you may not have to add any salt. To make it more spicy-hot, add more cayenne pepper. To give it a richer chili flavor, add more chili powder, to make it more smoky, add more cumin.

You can obviously add or delete whatever vegetables you like. The flavor will be the same, but I like it more on the healthy side.

Note: I wrote this recipe because folks kept asking me for it, but everything is approximate. So add what you like in greater or lesser quantities.


Jean said...

I laughed out loud as I read this blog. Truly goes to show how unappreciated we are as moms doesn't it? If they only knew how very very little I cook compared to you and how much I totally look up to YOU when it comes to everything about food!!


Tara said...

Ha! This is great.

We live with another family, and the other wife and I take turns cooking. I try not to be offended that my kids far prefer her Market Basket sausage stir fry to my Whole Foods grass fed lamb.

And I've gotten used to their little faces falling every time they find out I am cooking as well as their shouts of, "Yeah, Joyce is cooking!" when they find out it's her night to cook.

KJ Kenfield said...

Your chili recipe sounds really good, and healthy. Do you have Jean's by any chance???

Nancy Pedulla said...

Great writing- loved reading all these pieces. It is fun to see your work- your usual transparency, wry humor and insightfulness. Keep it up!