Legacies and Aunt Jane’s Chicken Chili

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the legacies we leave behind, particularly the traditions we’ve chosen to either hang onto or let go. Two aunts of ours recently passed away within a span of three weeks, and as we often do at these times, I’ve been reflecting on the memories and legacy they left behind. For me, memories almost always include family traditions, which are entrenched in meals shared at various holidays and occasions. Food, is to me, so much more than simply ingredients and nourishing our bodies; it is the center by which legacies happen.

When I started this blog, my intent was to share my recipes with others, documenting recipes which I’ve created myself and also, those that have been given to me. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, many a family member texted me asking me for the strawberry jello recipe, or Grandma Lummie’s Yams, or the potluck potatoes. My response was always, “it’s on my blog, look under this post…” I realized that somehow I am the keeper of the recipes of my generation. Many of the family recipes that have been handed down to me were either described over the phone while I frantically wrote all the ingredients or I watched as they were created and took notes. There was no email, Pinterest, or texting back in the day. Maybe because I chose to perpetuate these traditions in my own family, I’ve been entrusted with an amazing responsibility to pass on legacies through food. If this blog serves as no other purpose than that, I will count it as a great accomplishment.

I first met my spouse’s Aunt Jane when we were dating, almost 30 years ago. At that time, she was living in Newport Beach and I remember being impressed at a young age because this woman worked her way up from a secretary at Hoag Hospital to retiring as Executive Director of Medical Staff under the auspices of having the education the position required. I was never impressed by success and wealth (still not), but I’m always impressed by a woman who got there by being bold, brave, determined, and relentless. Jane was clearly one of those women.

Over the years, Aunt Jane moved to Marin County near San Francisco and eventually to Whidbey Island, near Seattle. In our early married life, we stayed with her and her husband and she made us this chicken chili. I’ve made this chili over the last 25 years, adapting and modifying both the ingredients and the technique, but talk about a legacy! If legacies live on through food, Aunt Jane’s chicken chili will live on for a very long time, even though she will be greatly missed.

This is the original recipe and you could do it a multiple of ways. I usually put the chicken in my crockpot and cook it on low first and then add it to the rest of the ingredients in a stockpot, but I don’t see why you couldn’t put everything in the crockpot on low for the day. This recipe is super versatile and it really gets its flavor from the chocolate and jalapeno peppers. I’ve also added cubed sweet potatoes. However you decide to adapt it, enjoy Aunt Jane’s legacy and her awesome chicken chili!

The ingredients:
6 TBSP. olive oil (I use garlic oil or coconut)
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced (1 heaping tablespoon crushed)
2 sweet red bell peppers, diced
4 jalapeno peppers, minced (I only use 2)
3 TBSP. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds (I use ground)
1 tsp. ground coriander
pinch of ground cinnamon
6 whole chicken breasts (I use thighs)
2 cans (16 oz.) tomatoes in puree or crushed
8 Oz. olives, sliced
1 cup beer ( I substitute chicken broth)
1/4 cup grated unsweetened chocolate
salt to taste

Heat half the oil and saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the red bell peppers and jalapenos and saute over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon and cook for 5 minutes more.
If the chicken isn’t already cooked, brown the chicken in remaining oil in batches, just until cooked through.
Add the chicken, tomatoes, olives, and beer (chicken broth) and stir to combine. Simmer 15 minutes.
Stir in chocolate and add salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Garnish with cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream, and avocado.


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Categories: Meals


Diligent seeker of health and nutrition, Paleo follower, and creative culinary practicer...


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2 Comments on “Legacies and Aunt Jane’s Chicken Chili”

  1. Suzanne
    December 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    This is chicken mole with the chocolate and cinnamon. It sounds delicious. You can make it with ground beef and it would be really good too (this is how I make my beef chili).

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