Lean into Your Chili!
By Dennis Linden
Sandra Andrade, a member of Melissa’s National Sales Team (Aspirations), combines some of the company’s most popular seasonings and fresh seasonal products to make a healthier version of the iconic pot of chili. Sandra’s recipe packs the same spicy punch that is a required tradition of all chili recipes, though she uses a very lean ground turkey instead of ground beef with a higher fat content. With an aggressive use of seasonings and a preparation that calls for simmering the ingredients in stages, Sandra creates an absolutely delicious, heart-friendly option to this popular dish without sacrificing even a teaspoon of flavor in the process!
If you have the time, prepare the pinto beans from scratch ahead of time for this recipe. Firstly, no flavor out of a can compares to home-cooked beans, and Sandra’s recipe deserves the very best components! Besides, the sound of an electric can opener seems so out of place considering the rest of Sandra’s ingredient list, consisting of just a few common vegetables, seasonings and spices. So keep it fresh home-made and soak those beans!
As mentioned, the secret to the rich taste of this dish is in the layering of the ingredients in stages that allow for each distinct flavor to meld into the mix. Sandra’s recipe gives each component its due, so to speak, by adding it to the pot and then letting it stew for a bit before the next ingredient or batch of ingredients is introduced. The final one-hour of simmer seals the deal flavor-wise. In fact, over that last hour tastebuds will be teased by a gradual increase of the wonderful aroma of this dish as it permeates the entire kitchen and beyond!
For those who shy away from spicy hot foods, Melissa’s “Mild” Hatch Chile Powder could be substituted, as well as cutting the pepper flakes measure in half or to taste. However, if you do choose to tamper the spices down a bit, keep in mind that the spicy heat of this or any dish will usually soften a notch naturally overnight. For my taste, Sandra’s heat factor was perfectly balanced. The Hatch Chile Powder gives the spicy kick a uniquely flavorful aftertaste, while the pepper flakes produced just the right amount of heat (as well as a slight sweat to the brow!) without overwhelming the dish.
In the fall of this year, Sandra Andrade will celebrate her 20th year as a member of the Melissa’s Sales Team. As a National Sales Team lead, Sandra works with many of the company’s retail accounts around the country.
“I work with my department teammates in servicing the needs of our customers. In this business no two days are alike; there are seasonal and logistical challenges that must be solved to meet those needs. It’s actually kind of fun being a part of a cohesive unit of co-workers focused on finding solutions to each obstacle as it comes as a group.”
Outside of the office, Sandra’s “off hours” are filled. “I enjoy watching sports and spending time with my family and friends. Cooking with my family is always fun, especially when I can involve my young nieces because we make an event out of it! Making tamales, empanadas or even this chili recipe are some examples of some of the group cook-ins we have shared. Traveling is a great outlet for me, so I take trips every chance I can get.”
“This recipe has evolved over the last few years,” Sandra explained. “I sometimes use a different tomato variety and add in other fresh ingredients depending on seasonal availability. I also use fresh Hatch chile peppers instead of our ground products when they are in season, which gives another texture to the recipe. My family really loves this dish, so I make it for almost every holiday gathering.”
Sandra’s own tradition of serving this dish does generate one more cooking tip: This dish is much too delicious to wait for a holiday to try. Start those beans soaking now!
Sandra’s Lean ‘n Mean Chili
1 medium-size Perfect Sweet Onion, peeled and chopped
6 mini San Marzano Tomatoes, chopped
1 package (9 ounces) Melissa’s Steamed Red Kidney Beans
5 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound Ground Turkey
2 cups Dried Pinto Beans, cooked [option: 4 cans (15 ounces) Pinto Beans]
2 cans (8 ounces) of Tomato Sauce
2 ounces Dried Hatch Chile Powder
1 ounce of Dried Crushed Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
3 Bay Leaves
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cups of Water
Sea Salt, to taste
Note: If you prefer home-cooked pinto beans, prepare them before starting this recipe.
In a large sauté pan, over medium-low heat, cook the ground turkey in the oil until the meat is slightly brown throughout, about 10 minutes. Then add the onions and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, until the onions and garlic are translucent.
Add fresh tomatoes and cook for approximately 5 minutes until tomatoes are softened.
Transfer mix to a larger simmering pot. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf, cumin, Hatch chili powder and two cups of water. Reduce to low heat and stir occasionally for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix well.
Finally, add in the steamed Kidney beans and Pinto beans (including the liquid if using canned); add sea salt to taste. Simmer on low flame for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Sandra’s plating suggestions:
Top with diced onions and shredded cheese plus a side of tortilla chips, crackers or corn bread... simply delicious!