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September Healthy Dinner Blog: Chili

Hello, Fall! September got off to a summery start, but cooler temperatures are finally on the way. One of my favorite parts of the season is changing up my recipe routine. Fall just begs for soups, stews, casseroles, and CHILI! We’ll cover all those categories over the next months, starting with chili.

Chili can be a controversial subject. If you go to a chili cook-off, you’ll see more styles than you can believe. And they’re all unique! Green chili from Denver has little in common with Texas chili, which tastes nothing like the cinnamon-laced chili of Cincinnati. The first time my mom made chili for my dad, he was quite disappointed. Her chili had pasta in it and not much seasoning, just like everyone’s chili in her southern Indiana home.

Chili is also an endlessly versatile meal. Are you vegetarian? Leave out the meat! Have some leftover grilled meat you want to use? Chop it up and throw it in! Eating healthier? Lean protein and extra veggies for the win! You can throw it in the slow cooker to have dinner ready after you get home from work, or break out the pressure cooker to have it ready right away. It’s truly one of my favorite meals.

Our chili recipe focuses on lean protein, extra veggies, and a spice profile that the whole family can enjoy. I call it Confetti Chili because all the veggies look so cheerful. My kids are not very tolerant of heat, so I go for warmer spices and let diners add red pepper flakes or hot sauce to their own bowls. You could totally use this recipe with your own spice preferences.

Here it is:

1 pound 93% lean ground turkey

¾ cup diced onion

1 diced bell pepper (I use orange because it’s pretty)

1 bottle of beer (optional)

1 28oz can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 14oz can of diced tomatoes

1 8oz can of diced green chiles

2 14oz cans of drained black beans (about 3 cups if you cook your own)

1 14oz can of corn

2 medium diced zucchini

1 ½ Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 ½ tsp dried oregano

1 tsp cocoa powder (completely optional)

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp crushed red pepper

¼ tsp cinnamon

1) Brown the turkey, diced onion, and diced pepper

2) Add all the spices and let them get a little toasty

3) Pour in half of the beer and gently scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the yummy browned bits. Dispose of the remaining beer as you see fit. ;)

4) Add all the tomatoes, beans, and green chiles

5) Simmer at least 30 minutes

6) Add corn and diced zucchini

7) Simmer until zucchini is just tender, about 10-15 minutes

8) Top with your favorite accompaniments and enjoy!

A few notes…

You can use any protein you like for this recipe. I’ve made it with turkey, beef, leftover shredded chicken, and vegetarian crumbles. The flavor changes a tiny bit, but it’s all delicious.

I made this in my Instant Pot on the slow cook setting (I used sauté to brown the meat and then simmer the zucchini at the end). It’s what my schedule required that day, but I also make it on the stovetop when I’m hanging around the house in the afternoon. My only hesitation on recommending it for a slow cooker is the zucchini. If it gets overcooked, it’s just mush. If you need to use a traditional slow cooker, you might want to steam the zucchini separately and stir it in at the end.

I felt confident serving this as a standalone meal. It’s full of healthy protein and veggies in several colors. We added a little cheese and avocado on top and some tortilla chips on the side, but you could serve it with crackers, pasta, corn bread, etc. It would also be delicious with a little sour cream or Greek yogurt. If you’re a cilantro person, go for it! (Fun fact: Some people have a genetic variation that makes cilantro taste like soap.)

One recipe makes A LOT of chili! This was two full dinners for my family of five, plus lunch serving for mommy and her workout buddy. Sometimes I freeze the leftovers to have an easy weeknight meal.

My kids loved this dinner! Partly because it involves tortilla chips, but they do genuinely enjoy the chili, too. My daughter insists the zucchini is yucky, but she actually ate a couple pieces before she noticed it on her spoon. Even the toddler finished his whole bowl (definitely not a night to skip the bib!)

Enjoy a bowl of chili as we head into fall! Join us next month for a shortcut version of a Mediterranean classic.