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Beyond "Disgusting": Kid-friendly Turkey Chili

Kids + Turkey = Good. Kids + Wild Turkey = Bad.

This week’s soup, which isn’t a soup at all, came about because I felt like pandering to my kids.  Or, if you have a less sardonic outlook, I made turkey chili because I knew my kids would like it and I felt like treating them.

The answer lies more in the notion of parental mood swings than it does with the kids.

You try to get your children to eat a range of foods.  And, thankfully, they go along with it most of the time.  But there’s always some grousing, a lot of lollygagging, and even the occasional “This is disgusting!”

It wears you down.

Sometimes you just want a freebie.  A meal that they’ll eat with enthusiasm or, at the very least, without complaint.

This is that meal.  No, not the without complaint one, the meal they’ll eat with gusto.

It’s also great because it doesn’t feel like you’re slumming.  It’s not frozen pizza.  It’s not “McNuggets.”  (Yes, I’ve gone there.  There’s no shame in it, so long as you don’t do it all the time.)  This meal is good for them and they’ll eat it, even if they’re food “haters.”

My eldest claims to hate turkey, and fish, green beans, beef, cooked mushrooms, pork, etcetera, etcetera.  She’s a kid.  It comes with the territory.  My job is to get her to eat all these things without really telling her about it.

I’m getting pretty good at it.

I’ve gotten her to eat green beans by stir frying them.  She’s eaten beef made into carne asada. (Who doesn’t like a lime marinade?)  She’s also enjoyed pot stickers that have shrimp in them.

She’s like most kids, if you put a mild disguise on the food, she’ll fall for it almost every time.  Oftentimes, the food she likes best is the one wearing the false moustache.

This week’s imposter: Turkey.

Both my girls like chili, and regularly order it when we eat out.  They also love the vegetarian chili I wrote about back in May.  But they haven’t had real chili. Because they haven’t ever had the spice that makes chili great (and hot).

That would be cumin.

This recipe offers a nice way to get acquainted with the spice.  It also features a simple process that really heightens the cumin’s flavor.

The cooking begins with whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan.  Next the pan goes on the stove over medium where it gets an occasional shake so the seeds don’t burn.  After a few minutes the seeds end up on a cutting board.  Once they’re cool, they need to be ground up.  To do this, there are several options.  You can crush them with a mortar and pestle (mine’s broken).  You can put them in a coffee grinder you will never ever again use for coffee (mine’s still packed away in a box somewhere).  Or you can just crush them with the side of a chef’s knife and chop them into a powder (that’s what I did).

After that it’s pretty much chili as usual, but what a difference.

I only used a teaspoon of cumin in this recipe because I wasn’t sure my daughters would go for the heat.  If you want to make your version hotter, by all means, go for it.  Bump up the quantity of chili powder too, if you like.  And, if you’re really up for a food adventure, try adding Indian ghost chilies.

Note:   I had some of them in a salsa over Columbus day and my mouth was on fire for a good thirty minutes, without a beer or glass of milk in sight.

You won’t find that kind of heat in this chili, however.  It’s, you know, for kids.

Turkey Chili
(serves 4-6)
1 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground (more if you want it hotter)
1 T oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs, turkey, chopped into small cubes or ground
1 t oregano
1 T chili powder
1 cup stock
1 14 ½ oz can, diced tomatoes
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 T instant polenta
Garnishes (optional):
Sour cream
Cheddar/Jack cheese, shredded

  1. Put cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and cook over medium heat (shaking the pan regularly) until they get a little color, then take the pan off the heat and set it aside to cool.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, a mallet or even the bottom of a pot, gently crush the cumin seeds into a powder and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot (6-8 quarts) add the onions and garlic and sweat them over low heat until they become transparent (5-7 minutes).
  4. Add the turkey, oregano, ground cumin seeds and chili powder and continue to simmer over low heat until turkey is no longer pink (5-7 minutes).
  5. Add stock, tomatoes, seasonings and polenta.  Bring the chili to a boil and reduce it to a simmer for at least an hour, stirring regularly.
  6. Garnish with any combination of onions, sour cream and shredded cheese and serve warm over polenta or rice.  Fresh baked cornbread is an excellent accompaniment but so is good crusty bread and butter.

Image Credit: In the spirit of kid-friendliness, it’s a turkey chili picture equation.  Do the math.

This chili is your classic bowl of red, although, its lack of beef might mean it’s really a bowl of white.  It’s also interesting because it doesn’t have any beans.  Let me know how you like your chili, with beans or without?    I’ll be reading and responding.

6 Comments to “Beyond "Disgusting": Kid-friendly Turkey Chili”

  1. steve says:

    spot on Phil! trick o’ trick the childrens! i am so bored with the regular fare: pizza, mac n cheese and sheeesh: plain anything. We make two meals (sometimes three) for four. I will try this recipe though there is no guarantee they will try much less enjoy…. Thanks, old friend (not that you are old). ; )

    • pcandres says:

      Staggering what they will and won’t eat. We have whittled down to the one meal, but that doesn’t mean they’ll eat it. Certainly not with any pleasure. The strange thing is how much mood affects everything, not to mention the sibling. If the other one’s in a pissy mood, that almost guarantees a brighter mood for the other. Don’t know if that’s the case with boys, but girls emotions are very much enviro-centric. Thanks for the comment. Hope turkey chili is a hit.

  2. Titania says:

    I don’t know if you go back to check comments on old recipes but this one has joined our other favorites. Now that I know where to get the vegie ground turkey I’ll be making this often. I had 2 halves of red & orange bell peppers which I chopped & added. They added a little more color. AND for the first time in my life, I have a real mortar and pestle. Thanks, Phil, for all the things you’ve added to our lives. Love, Titania

    • pcandres says:

      Actually, I check comments as they arrive. And since your comment came in recently, I saw it not too long ago. Glad you’ve got the mortar and pestle though. Actually, this chili is a pretty hard core southwestern bowl of red. No beans, just meat and tomatoes and fresh ground cumin. I guess it’s not all that pretty but it’s pretty good even without the peppers. Congratulations on your continuing creativity in the kitchen. Now you just need to step in to do a guest post. Let me know when you’re ready.