Thursday, January 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

I'm not a big chili fan. I don't know why. It's really yummy and can be so good for you. The only time I used to eat chili was in a bread bowl at Boudin on Pier 39 in San Francisco. About a year-and-a-half ago we started working with Least of These Ministries, which is a local ministry to the needy here in Tracy. Once a month our church provides a hot meal for them to take to the homeless people they've developed relationships with. It's a really cool ministry and Brian and Lydia who run the ministry are great! Anyway, they asked us to try to provide healthy meals as the food available to most homeless people is totally unhealthy. So in my search for healthy meals that would be easy to make in large quantities I came across a Jaime Oliver chili recipe. It was choc full of healthy ingredients: beans, tomatoes, peppers and onions. It turned out it was also full of flavor! Everyone loved it. We even came home and made a batch for ourselves!

Since then I've not been able to find the recipe online again and only have the one I saved from somewhere in cyber space. I have made a few changes here and there, the main one being that I use ground turkey instead of beef and sausage. Gotta save the calories where we can, but there's no way I would do it at the expense of flavor!

Turkey Chili
1 pound ground Turkey - I use the dark/white meat mix because it has a little more flavor and breaks apart more like ground beef. You can feel free to use all white meat.
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper diced

2  stalks chopped celery
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
Ground cumin
Chili powder
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 package chili seasoning mix*

S & P
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onions, for garnish

*Chili seasoning recipe follows

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. I use a chopper to make sure my veggies are diced small. If you have a picky eater you're trying to fool you can put them in the food processor and chop away. They'll still cook up the same and add the same flavor, they just won't be discernible to those little eyes!

Saute for a couple minutes till the onions become translucent. Push the veggies to the side and add the meat in the middle. You may need more oil at this point, but give it a try without at first. Add cumin and chili powder, salt and pepper. I don't measure at this point, just a nice sprinkling over everything. You've got to season turkey a little more heavily than you would beef or sausage.

Break up the meat and let it all cook out till the meat is browned. While it cooks up, get your slow cooker heating up. Drain and rinse all the beans.

Add the beans and all the tomatoes to the crock pot. I always use the diced tomatoes, but I've been know to substitute whatever I have in the pantry for the whole peeled tomatoes. If you don't have time to let it cook all day crushed tomatoes or even tomato sauce works as a substitute. You could even just leave out the extra if you want it chunkier. I promise the end result is not "tomato-y" as it might seem like it could be, so please don't leave out the tomatoes for that reason. I have also discovered petite diced tomatoes which would help with cooking time as well. Anyway, at this point it may seem that it's not all going to fit in the crock pot, but trust me it will! 
Once the meat is browned add the meat and veggies to the pot.

Now comes the fun part: make the chili seasoning! You can find the original recipe here. I made some changes based on my taste and what I had on hand the first time so this is how I make it:

Chili Seasoning
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried leaf oregano
1 Tbsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp instant minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)

Combine ingredients and add it all to the chili! Mix it in and add S & P to taste. Let the chili cook all day on low. My crock pot is crazy hot so I can hardly ever leave anything all day. The general rule is 5 hours on high and 8 on low. Mine is about 5 hours on low. It won't hurt the chili to cook longer than these guidelines. It's really hearty. Taste it and add salt and pepper to your liking. I like to under season just in case the cheese is salty. Everyone can add a little extra salt or pepper if they need it. Serve with your favorite chili toppings or try cheddar cheese, sour cream/greek yogurt, or green onions.

Feel free to drool. I think the bowl is!

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