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Bring the trail ride home with these full-flavored and surprisingly healthful chili recipes
By Robin Barr Sussman

The winter weather and the upcoming Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo call for roping in big, hot, steaming bowls of red. It’s been said cowboys on trail rides who cooked over brick fires first introduced chili in the 19th century. But some credit San Antonio’s wild Chili Queens for making chili popular during the Great Depression. Settle in and stir the pot, pardner, with these versions from Houston chefs/restaurants to bring on the fire with less fat.

Super chef/restaurateur Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Steakhouse, Killen’s BBQ, Killen’s Burgers and his newest, STQ, knows a thing or two about cooking meat of all kinds. Here, he shares the skinny on keeping chili healthful by using lean turkey and skipping the fattening toppings.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey (white meat only)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4-6 corn tortillas
Low-fat sour cream
1 large red onion, diced

In a large saucepan or stew pot, heat the oil. Add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, breaking up the meat, until white throughout, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, chile powders and the cumin and cook, stirring until fragrant, 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and 1 cup of water; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, 45 minutes. Add the beans last and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, light a grill or heat a grill pan. Grill tortillas over moderate heat until soft, 30 seconds per side, and wrap in a towel.
Season the chili with salt and pepper and serve with the grilled tortillas.     
The chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently. If desired, serve with low-fat sour cream (or nonfat plain Greek yogurt, if you prefer), warm corn tortillas and diced red onion.
Yield: 4 servings

Here’s a quick, classic — and mega-meaty — chili recipe made with minimal fat from Houston’s beer haven. Feel free to substitute ground chicken for a lighter version. This beef chili is for the real Texas cowboys. No beans about it!

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dark chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
One 8-ounce can tomato paste
6 cups water or homemade beef stock
2 tablespoons Maseca instant corn flour masa
Pickled jalapeños
1 red onion, diced

Brown the beef and onion in a deep saucepot. Drain all fat from the beef and return to the saucepot. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes until thickened. Serve hot with sliced pickled jalapenos, diced red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and cornbread on the side, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings

Here’s a terrific bean-based chili recipe from chef Dylan Murray with rich and complex flavors of fresh peppers, tomatoes and a wide array of balanced spices. You’ll never miss the meat.

2 large pasilla peppers, no seeds
6 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, julienned
2 large poblano peppers, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
One 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 dried bay leaves
½ cup TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 cups dried navy beans
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pickled red onions to taste

In a blender, purée the pasilla peppers with 1 cup of water from the recipe. On medium-low heat, sweat the vegetables in olive oil until softened. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 hours until beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each bowl of chili with pickled red onions and serve with rice, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings

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