Recently, a family classic celebrated its own special day on February 23rd—National Chili Day.   So… why all the attention on chili?  Turns out, chili is an ancient recipe that has been handed down through generations and is stewed in several different cultures as a dinner favorite.  Last fall, I went to the farmer’s market and bought my beans, tomatoes, onion, garlic, green pepper, and fresh cheese for a great price while supporting my local farmers. Another plus of making great chili includes the option to use exotic ingredients from all over the world.  For example, some chili recipes call for alligator meat or the extremely spicy habanero pepper, which we usually import from other countries. Chill offers the freedom of creativity—experimenting with fun ingredients may help enhance that “yum” factor.

Getting creative with your chili takes time.  As an avid chili maker, I would recommend start simple. Add some tasty vegetables or experiment with brown sugar (adds a smoke-like, sweet taste), chopped hot peppers (for that 5-alarm effect), or some crushed corn chips (adds texture).  Made your chili too hot? Add some milk to help mask the burn.  Substituting meats can also be a great simple change. While some chili calls for ground beef, I like to use ground turkey or chicken since it is a little leaner.  As you become accustomed to how ingredients can change how viscosity, taste, and appearance you can begin to experiment even more and coin your very own secret chili recipe.

Ingredients for Mom’s Crockpot Turkey Chili:

2 cans kidney beans                            1 large 28 oz can of canned tomatoes with juice, puree

1 lb ground turkey burger                  3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

3T chili powder                                    1 green sweet bell pepper

1T brown sugar                                    ½ onion

Cheese or sour cream for taste         cooking spray

1) Spray skillet with cooking spray, cook meat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook until tender.

2) Empty beans into crock pot (set on high). Add tomatoes, brown sugar, and chili powder. Stir and add meat and veggie mix. Stir again and cook for 4 hours.

3) Add cheese or sour cream after cooking. Garnish with some garlic bread. Bon Appetite!

Lauren Smith
University of Illinois Food Science student


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