New Year, New You Resolution Challenge: Turkey Bean Chili

Okay. So I signed up for the “New Year, New You” Resolution Challenge at The Energy Club in Arlington to help me lose weight and improve my fitness. Michelle, the nutritionist with the gym, has provided suggested menus both for the “detox week” and to follow. She recommends we add 4-6 oz of lean protein per meal for the detox week that otherwise has low-glycemic index fruits and vegetables, herbal tea, and warm lemon water. Of course, the first thing out of her mouth for the protein was cooking a tray of chicken breasts for the week and then she’s good to go.

I silently balked at the thought of dry, flavorless baked chicken breasts. I knew I could come up with just as healthy but more interesting “lean protein” than that. It’s definitely winter here in DC, so chili was a good candidate with beans and chicken or turkey. So I went to BJs to see what I could find. Ground turkey caught my eye. I looked at the nutrition facts–not exactly super lean at 93% lean, 7% fat, but it’s 1/3 fewer calories than the neighboring ground beef. So I grab the ground turkey.

Now ground meat can get pretty chewy in a pressure cooker if it’s just broken apart and lightly browned, so I took a different tack. I cut the tray of ground turkey into 1-inch cubes, so that I could add flavor and retain texture by browning the meat on at least 2 sides. Then the inside of the cubes would cook in the Pressure Cooker.

The other challenge: Michelle says to sauté in only 1 tsp. of olive oil rather than the, um, generous amount of olive oil I normally use. So the recipe that follows does just that. I use 1 tsp. olive oil for each browning or sautéing iteration. The onions suffered the most, I think, with this treatment, more steaming than sautéing; but they were going in the Pressure Cooker Pot not directly on a plate so I gave in for the sake of health.

I was incredibly pleased with the result: flavorful chili with tender turkey chunks and satisfying beans throughout. And I made enough for the entire week and then some. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Bon appétit!

ZinDiva’s Turkey Bean Chili


Total Time: 3 hours; Active: 2 hours; Passive: 1 hour (2-3 hr for Variation 2)
Equipment: Large sauté pan, Pressure cooker (or 5.5 quart French oven for Variation 2)

3 lbs ground turkey, cut into 1-inch cubes
6-9 Tbsp. Penzey’s Chili Con Carne seasoning, separated
1 can low sodium chicken broth
4 onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, crushed between fingers, w/ juices reserved
2 16-oz cans tomato sauce
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds & membranes removed, cut into 1-inch squares
1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. Penzey’s Red Aleppo Pepper Flakes, to taste
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Garnishes: Green onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream/nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1. Preheat large skillet over a medium-high heat (medium for Le Creuset enameled cast iron). When pan is hot, add 1 tsp. Olive Oil to pan, spreading oil with a paper towel to evenly coat.

2. Brown the turkey cubes in batches on at least two opposite sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. When turkey is browned, sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp. Penzy’s Chili Con Carne seasoning over the turkey. Toss the turkey lightly in the pan to coat the turkey. Remove turkey cubes and loose browned bits to the pressure cooker vessel (hereafter referred to as the pot).

3. Deglaze the pot with ¼ cup of chicken broth, working to remove browned bits and seasonings. Allow the chicken broth to boil down slightly to concentrate flavors. Add to the pot. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until turkey is gone. After browning and removing the last batch, add the reserved tomato juice to the pan instead of chicken broth, reducing to make a bit of a sauce. Add to the pot.

5. Repeat step 1. Then sauté the onions, sprinkling with salt to taste (about ¼ to ½ tsp), until onions are translucent. Add to pressure cooker vessel.

7. Repeat step 1. Sauté the garlic for about 1 minute until lightly fragrant but not burnt. Add to pot.

8. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, bell pepper squares, red pepper flakes, ½ tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper to the pot.

9. Stir ingredients well with large spoon.

10. Place the pot in the pressure cooker and follow the manufacturer directions. (Some Pressure Cookers require 1 Tbsp. oil floating on top so that the beans do not foam and clog the valves.) Cook on High Pressure for 20 minutes and then use natural steam release to blend the flavors. It may take 45 min to 1 hour to heat, cook, and release steam.

11. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with garnishes as desired. Makes 16 cups, about 8 main dish servings.

Variation 1: Replace 1 can of tomato sauce with 1 can broth or beer.

Variation 2: If you do not own a pressure cooker, add ingredients to 5.5 qt French oven and bring to a boil on the stove top. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours until turkey is cooked and tender, bell pepper is tender but not soggy, and flavors are blended. More liquid may be needed due to evaporation. Add chicken broth or beer as needed.

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