Homestead Chili Recipe

Many folks may think of chili as a dish to be enjoyed during the colder months of the year, but we eat it year round. Yes, even during the dog days of summer. It is the perfect accompaniment to a fresh summer salad and a glass of iced tea. Summer is the perfect time for making a big batch for canning or freezing since tomatoes and peppers are at their prime freshness. Like soups, spaghetti sauce and stews, chili is versatile and can be made with pantry staples that are already on hand.

I got the original recipe from the very first cookbook I purchased for myself shortly after we were married. I made it “by the book” for a number of years. As I became more confident in my cooking skills, I went rogue with the seasonings and amounts and learned just what and how much suit our tastes.

Chili is one of those dishes that never turns out the same twice, but it’s always delicious. It’s extremely forgiving and adaptable to most palettes or dietary restrictions (for example, cooked peppers cause digestive problems for my husband, so I omit them now).

The actual recipe calls for chopped chuck and hot Italian sausage. I typically just used ground beef and regular breakfast sausage. Over the years however, I’ve lightened the recipe by using a combination of ground turkey and lean ground pork or beef. You can make it using only turkey, but based on my experience, it is much better to combine with the pork or beef. The flavor is richer, but you’re still cutting down on a lot of the fat.

Making a big batch of chili was extremely economical when we were feeding two growing boys. It’s filling, packed full of protein, and tastes even better the second day. If you’re a canner, using home canned dried beans and vegetables will make this even more economical. While it is a one pot meal, there are several things that pair perfectly with chili based on the season. Rice, cornbread, rustic crusty bread, salad, or just a vegetable and fruit tray will provide a filling, frugal way to feed a crowd. I find that it freezes well, so I’m able to batch cook it to have a quick meal ready in no time.

This is my base recipe, but I taste it as I go and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Feel free to experiment with your own spices and quantities to suit your family’s tastes. If you like more, add more; if you like less, add less. If you don’t like something at all, leave it out and add flavor using something else. Also, the amounts of the beans and meats are “about” that amount. I’ve added more or less just based on what I had available.

  • 2 T Oil (I use EVOO)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 diced bell pepper (can be omitted)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground turkey (or beef)
  • 1 pound ground sausage, your preferred choice (or ground pork)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 jalapeno, diced fine (jarred is ok too; can also be omitted)
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 cans (16 0z) beans (kidney beans, red beans, pinto beans or a combination, undrained)
  • My combination of spices: chili powder, cumin (about 1 tablespoon of each), salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic and onion powder all to taste
  1. In a 3 quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent and bell pepper is tender. Add meats and cook until browned. Add garlic and let cook for about 30-45 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, jalapeno, brown sugar, and seasonings. Stir well and allow it to heat for a moment. Taste and begin adjusting seasonings to your taste. (Be sure to let it heat for a moment after each addition before tasting to avoid over seasoning.)
  3. Once it is seasoned how you want, cook on low for 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

This makes approximately 10 generous servings.

I hope this becomes one of your favorite family recipes!


Moving Forward And Looking Back

This coming Spring, my husband and I will step into the next phase and chapter of our lives. We will be moving from our tiny apartment in the suburbs to our rural homestead, downsizing even further and simplifying our lives even more.

Several years ago we partnered with some dear friends to embark on this journey with. We share the same ideas, dreams and goals of living a simpler life. A sustainable, more self sufficient and purposeful life. A slower life.

We’ve used weekends and vacations to clear land and build a few structures. It’s been tough trying to cram as much productivity as possible into such short intervals. They’re truly is only so much that can be accomplished by two people in a limited amount of time. Unexpected health issues caused us to have to stop work completely for about a year to allow for recovery. We had to overcome some financial set backs as well, and adjust to our “new normal”. But in spite of this, we’ve continued to move forward, never losing sight of the end goal. We’ve had to accept that even slow progress is still progress.

Our friends are quite a bit farther along than we are. They completed construction of their house and moved to the property last year. We’re all looking forward to being together full time so some real progress can be made on the development of systems and structures. We all still have a few more years to work before we can retire, but it will certainly be easier to accomplish things once we’re settled.

Three years ago, after both our boys officially moved out, we did some major decluttering and downsizing into a 700 square foot apartment. We simply did not need a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2,000 square foot house. We decided we could go ahead and start the great purge, further preparing for moving to our retirement homestead. With less expenses, we’ve been able to put more money aside, allowing us to cash flow several homestead projects. I will tell you though – we had a LOT of stuff. More than we ever realized. It was painful and overwhelming at times. We honestly spent the better part of a year donating, dumping, giving and sorting before we moved.

It had been 30 years since we’d lived in an apartment and we weren’t too sure we would be able to adapt to it, but reminding ourselves it was only temporary. Surprisingly, we’ve actually enjoyed it. We live in a great community and have a rather private unit. It was the most sensible thing to to do at the time we did it. Still, it was bittersweet.

We’d lived in our house for 10 years. That’s a lot of birthdays, graduations, holidays and memories. And as excited as hubby and I were to begin the “next phase” of our lives, there was also a sadness for the closure of the first chapter. We were officially empty nesters.

In that driveway and garage, my boys had learned everything from how to change a bicycle tire to swapping out a car motor and rebuilding a transmission. There’d been countless motorcycles and autos parked there with visiting friends and family.

We only locked our doors if we left, and it was not uncommon for one of our “borrowed” children to stick their head in yelling “Hey mom! Dad! You home?” I was always cooking and baking, making sure anyone who passed through left with a full belly. I still haven’t mastered cooking for two. I think I’m down to cooking for about four, so it’s a good thing we don’t mind leftovers.

We hosted all night computer game parties, the living room covered up with pre-teens and teenagers all engrossed in the latest quest while fueling up with pizza, cookies and soft drinks. Anyone who needed a place to crash was always welcome. It was never difficult to get help with house projects or yard work – there was always an extra set of hands that could come help out willingly.

There were countless neighborhood cats that passed through our home as well. Some only stopping to catch a quick bite of the food I left out for them. Others, happily lounging on my bench swing waiting for me to come out and give a chin scratch. A couple considered themselves members of our family. There were pets that passed away during those 10 years, so their memories are with us all still too.

That yard was where I had my first flock of chickens. There was always some kind of gardening experiment going on in various parts of the yard. A worm bin, a compost pile. Raised beds and container gardens. Twelve foot high sunflowers and eight foot high okra plants. Our wonderful neighbor and I solving all the worlds problems in discussions over the fence. I shared the bounty of my vegetable garden with her each summer; she shared the bounty of her flower bulbs in fall when she thinned out her plants. Her beautiful daylilies are growing at my homestead right now!

Our oldest son learned to drive stick shift in that neighborhood. Our youngest followed a couple years later. There was always some sort of automobile tinkering project going on in the driveway and garage.

I guess one of the things you don’t realize is just how quiet things get once the kids move out. That beautiful background noise of laughter and chatter. It just becomes such a part of your daily life that once it’s gone, you feel incredibly lonely without it. I was quite depressed those first few months after the boys were gone.

There is joy in knowing that we did our job as parents as best we could with what we had. I like to say my boys are amazing in spite of us. And we were – are – very close. We’re usually all together each Sunday – our two sons, daughter in law and granddaughter. We can sit and talk with these now adult children the same way we could when they were kids. They always knew they could come to us with anything. We were consistent, we were stable, we were safe and they knew they were loved.

So, we enter another bittersweet phase of our lives. Our homestead is about 2 hours in one direction, our youngest and his family are moving about 2 hours in another direction and our oldest is moving out of the state about 5 hours in yet another direction! Guess we’re all finally leaving the nest. So while getting together every Sunday is probably not going to be manageable, we’ll get together as often as possible. We’ll be the grandparents with the farm for the grandkids to come visit!

Even though I love our little apartment and it makes all the financial and practical sense in the world, I am so ready to get moved onto our homestead!

I miss my clothesline and the smell of laundry dried by the sun and a gentle summer breeze. 

I miss my hands being in the dirt and being surrounded by grass and flowers. Gardening is extremely therapeutic for me. The smell of dirt. The wonder at the miracle of a plant growing from seed. Seeing what flourishes and what was a complete waste of time. The birds singing, the bugs buzzing, the sun and fresh air all work together and help me sort out my thoughts. I’ve solved many problems while on my knees pulling weeds, picking beans or digging with a shovel.

New ideas ignite.

Solutions are found.

Clarity, focus and peace attained.

I’m at peace with where our lives are and where we are headed. On to the third quarter!


Resources For Buying Seasonal Produce

Summer produces some of the best fruits and veggies! The variety is abundant and when you buy seasonal, it’s less expensive.

Now is the perfect time to stock up for canning, preserving, dehydrating and freezing so you can enjoy the bounty of summer all year long. Check out this seasonal produce guide for the perfect time to purchase your favorites!

Summer is also a great time to check out your local farmers market, co-op or local farm. Make it a family fun day at a local farm that allows you to pick your own produce. They often times have attractions or games to make the day more eventful!

Another way to obtain fresh produce locally is by joining a CSA. Local Harvest is a great resource to locate a CSA, farm or farmers market in your area. Now, you may not have any of these in your area locally or that would be within reasonable driving distance, but some farms actually do ship items. Definitely worth checking it out!

I hope you find these resources valuable and that you are enjoying the summer!