What better way to enjoy an evening or weekend day by having themed dinners for friends and family?! While I do this quite often, I also love extending that into my work place. Each year in the fall, I organize a “Chili Cook Off for Charity”. It is a great way to develop camaraderie with co-workers and also creates goodwill in our local community. In 2010 we adopted a unit of 15 soldiers in Afghanistan. We shipped and sent 30 boxes of food to them (it’s what they asked for most). The boxes were full of snacks and luxuries they just didn’t have over there. They received the boxes two days before Christmas. The soldier I communicated with to set this up wrote the most beautiful letter of thanks I’ve ever read, it was the best Christmas present I ever personally received (that our company received). That’s what it is all about!
Prior to organizing the cook-off we vote on that year’s charity, gather information about it and design an informative flier that gives all the details, dates, and times. We post signup sheets around the facility and encourage everyone to sign up with their BEST dish or dessert that goes with Chili, or they can choose to be a “contestant”. Our company springs for all the supplies, cups, toppings, bowls, plates, drinks and ice.
The banter runs deep as the chili cook-off ramps up and gets closer, everyone considering themselves the best chili cook on our side of town. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of the competitive spirit!
On the day of the cook-off the tables are decorated in a Southwest theme, each Crockpot of chili is set out on a line of tables with a voting sheet that has each contestant’s number on it (all anonymous of course). Anyone who brings chili (as it can be expensive to make) gets to eat for free. Everyone else is asked to pitch in five dollars to the charity pot (most donate more) and everyone is encouraged to start the eating and voting. After the food noshing is over, we tally up the votes. Prizes are awarded 1st, 2nd, and last. First place receives a $50 gift certificate to Chili’s. Second place receives $25 gift certificate to Chili’s. The entry that comes in last is given the book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chili”. It’s all in fun, and everyone recognizes it’s all for good.
Below is the recipe I contribute each year (it’s won twice, just not this year).
D’s Easy and Stellar Chili
2 lb ground beef (coarse or regular)
2 large onions
1 large green pepper
2 tbsp jalapeno finely chopped (I de-seed mine)
2 (14 oz) can Mexican Tomatoes (like Rotel)
3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
3 tbsp cumin
3 tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 (14 oz) cans pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup water (more or less as required for consistency)
Brown ground meat with onions and peppers (I always add a little salt and pepper too). Drain meat and add everything else but the beans in a slow cooker. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Add beans last and serve.