Recipe: Hearty Healthy Turkey Chili

This recipe came together over many years of my trying to make my mother’s Santa Fe Soup without asking for the instructions.  Laziness fueled productivity from my point of view.  The recipe took a healthy turn when I spent a month attempting veganism.  A tough yet rewarding month of my life which clearly didn’t make much a dent because this chili still includes meat.  The best thing about this recipe is its flexibility.  You can use beans, meat, and veggies or you can pick and choose what you want.  You can use the easy seasoning packets (they’re just the bomb) or you can use the same individual seasonings.  Everything is up to you and its fairly easy to build this from what you’ve got in the fridge/pantry.

Today, I’m cooking this up in my favorite kitchen pot, my Dutch Oven.  Mine is made by Crockpot as I cannot afford my dream pot seen here.  One day, I will get married solely to register for the entire Le Creuset line from Williams Sonoma in Matte Mineral Blue.  But for now, this pot had lasted me a couple of years and is showing no signs of slowing down

I start this recipe with browning 1 lb of ground turkey.  By starting with this, I’m able to drain the fat off the meat before starting with my veggies.  I allow the turkey to drain on a paper towel lined plate while I begin softening my other ingredients.

The base of this recipe starts with my standard trilogy: green bell pepper, yellow onion, and garlic.  I dice up a whole green pepper and about half a yellow onion and throw them into the pot to saute until the pepper softens and the yellow onion is translucent.  I add a pinch of salt at this stage to help the veggies those some water. Then I add in about 4 cloves of garlic, minced.  I always wait to throw in my garlic because burnt garlic can ruin an entire meal.

Once the base is aromatic, aka making my kitchen smell amazing, I add the turkey back in to the mix with 1 packet of Low Sodium Taco Mix, 1 packet of Ranch Dip Mix, and 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced.  I add the sweet potatoes in pretty early because they need quite a bit of time to soften up and soak up the flavoring of the chili.  The sweetness fades during the cooking process and the little pieces become precious boats of tacos flavor.

Next, I add in three cans of beans that have been strained and rinsed.  I usually try to use three different kinds of beans, i.e. black, kidney, and navy.  It honestly makes no difference.  And the number of cans is up to you as well.  I realize there is a large contingent of people who do not believe beans belong in chili.  I’m judging those people, but this doesn’t require beans.  It makes a ton of food regardless.  I personally love beans and their nutritional value.

Once all of this has been mixed together I begin to add in some liquid.  This time around I added a can of diced tomatoes and a carton of chicken stock.  I’ve previously used fresh tomatoes, chicken stock, and water.  Last time I made chili I used a can of budweiser with water.  This adds a nice depth to the chili, but you definitely have to let the obvious beer flavor boil off which can take longer.  Not very convenient when you’re trying to make a meal while hangry.  Basically, you want a enough liquid to cover all of the ingredients.  More is better, because you can always allow some liquid to boil off if you want something thicker.

Depending on how full your pot is at this point, you can add the optional final ingredient.  I think butternut squash it such a great addition to this meal.  It cooks quickly and absorbs any flavors nearby, much like the sweet potatoes.  It also adds more protein, fiber, and potassium.  This is great for me because I don’t enjoy bananas so I need to grab some potassium from other places.

I began adding butternut squash into a lot of my meals when I was testing out veganism.  It adds a lot of heartiness to meatless dishes and soaks up flavor like nothing else.  It’s not meat, by any means, but it is delicious and full of vitamins.  As you can see, I don’t have much space left in my pot, but I want some squash so I make it work.  I leave them in pretty big chunks because they cook and soften so fast and I still want to be able to see them in the finished product.  Also, after chopping up two sweet potatoes and a whole butternut squash my arm gets tired and I just want to be done.  I try to save money by buying the whole squash and chopping it myself, but there’s something to be said for the pre-cut squash for just a bit more $$$.

Once everything is in and mixed together I bring the whole thing to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover, and walk away for at least 30 minutes.  In this amount of time I’ve found that all the flavors meld together nicely.  Before putting the lid on I also do a taste test to make sure there’s enough salt/flavor in there.  By using low sodium broth and seasoning I can add salt if I need it without worrying about the end product being too salty.  Sometimes I end up adding more taco seasoning as well, but you can determine if you need it based on the taste towards the end.

I let this one simmer for a couple of hours while I did some housework.  It ended up even thicker and better than my last attempt.  I’ve already had a bowl and it’s just so cozy and perfect for this gray winter weather we’ve been having.  It’s fairly low fat so adding a dollop of sour cream wouldn’t be totally out of line…But I’ll keep it clean for my work meal prep.



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