White House-worthy Chili

July always brings an expected list of summer highlights: the pile-up of zucchini on the counter, late-night pickling festivities, keeping cool with ice cream and accompanying your kid to a White House state dinner.

by John D. IvankoJuly 31, 2013
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

July always brings an expected list of summer highlights: the pile-up of zucchini on the counter, late-night pickling festivities, keeping cool with ice cream and accompanying your kid to a White House state dinner. OK, so that last one was far from the expected norm, but it definitely takes the lead as our top summer memory for Lisa and our 11-year-old son, Liam, who journeyed to the White House earlier this month. Liam’s chili recipe was selected to represent Wisconsin in the Healthy Lunch Challenge, led by Epicurious in partnership with the White House and Let’s Move!

The Healthy Lunch Challenge motivates kids ages 8 to 12 to create “healthy, affordable, original and delicious” lunch options, which was a perfect fit as that’s our mantra here on the farm, further magnified in the summer when we have an abundance of fresh produce options. Liam, the ranking chili fan in our family, tapped into a diverse range of vegetables for flavor in this chili, along with pumpkin for a dash of nutritional sweetness.

When it's sunny, Liam cooks his chili in a solar powered oven. - Photo by John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com (HobbyFarms.com)
John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com

Another unique chili twist in this recipe is how we like to cook it. When the sun shines, out comes our solar oven. No worries if you don’t have one—you can easily simmer this chili in a slow cooker or on the stove, as well. Here’s how Liam put it in his entry:

We love cooking with garden vegetables,
Which on our Wisconsin farm we grow.
We raise veggies with compost, mulch and love.
Organic agriculture is what we know.

But our favorite chili recipe comes with two twists.
First, pumpkin adds a dash of sweet.
Garden tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers,
Give it fresh, delicious flavor that can’t be beat.

The second twist is how we cook on the farm,
We harness the heat of the sun during the day,
We put the chili pot in a solar oven and simmer,
It’s super kind to the earth to cook this way,

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Invite your neighbors as this makes a big pot,
Serve with fruit kabobs for a healthy meal sure to please,
Top with Greek yogurt and don’t forget,
To sprinkle on some fabulous Wisconsin cheese!

For more healthy lunch recipes from kids across the country, download the free e-cookbook, “2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook.” A bonus for all us home-garden enthusiasts: These recipes feature all sorts of summer season vegetables and fruit as they represent the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines. Each of four food groups needed to be included—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods—with those fruits and veggies making up roughly half the plate or recipe.

Recipe: Wisconsin Solar-Oven-Simmered Chili

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée (or a 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional toppings: plain Greek-style yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese


In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook ground turkey, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and bell peppers and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.

In a medium-sized slow cooker, combine tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth, black and kidney beans, pumpkin purée, quinoa, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and salt. Add turkey mixture and stir to combine. Cook on low 5 to 6 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. (You can also simmer this in a large pot on the stove for about 3 hours or bake it in an ovenproof dish in a 300-degree solar oven for about 3 hours.) Serve as desired with yogurt, cheese or other healthy chili toppings.

Per serving: 208 calories, 28g carbohydrates, 21g protein, 2g fat (0.25g saturated), 917mg sodium. Calories from fat: 8.7%.