Chili and Cornbread

Lisa has enjoyed making chili since her college days. At the time, she never wrote down a recipe and rarely measured the ingredients, so the chili came out a little different every time. Since then, she has used several well-tested recipes — including her sister’s award-winning chili recipe from a chili cook-off on Beaver Island, Michigan — to improve upon her own version, but when onboard Gyatso, we tend to revert back to the old stand-by. This means that she makes it from memory by sticking with the basics and varying the recipe according to the availability of ingredients readily available.

Lisa and her sister like to serve chili with cornbread on the side, but Lisa has promised to keep her sister’s chili recipe and the recipe for Circle M cornbread (from a now-closed family restaurant on Beaver Island) a secret. However, since chili has become an onboard favorite, she has finally made the effort to write down the basics of her own chili recipe, simplified for use on the boat. Also included below are a few notes about tasty variations to traditional cornbread recipes.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion (yellow if available), chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or more to taste)
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound of ground beef, turkey, chicken or Italian sausage
1 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes or 3 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and
1 15-ounce can of tomato puree
1 15-ounce can of kidney beans, pinto beans or black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1 small can of mild green chili,
chopped (optional)
1 medium sweet green pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 small can of corn or fresh corn from 1 cob, steamed and cut from the cob (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or soup pot. Add onions and sauté over medium heat for 3- 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for another one minute. Add the meat and cook until it is no longer pink. Drain excess fat from the pan and return to the heat. Chop or crush the tomatoes and add along with the tomato puree, beans and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. If using any of the remaining ingredients, stir in during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. If the chili is too thick, it can be thinned with a cup or two of water or broth. Return to a simmer, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and remove bay leaf before serving. Serve with condiments and cornbread (see below) as well as a mixed green salad.

For a vegetarian version, substitute 1 cup of diced carrots for the meat and add 1 cup of vegetable broth and cup of bulgur wheat along with the tomatoes.


We serve chili with any or all of these condiments:

  • dollop of sour cream
  • shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • finely chopped onions (yellow or green)
  • chopped black olives
  • hot sauce


Use your favorite cornbread mix or recipe with any of these

  • melt grated or thinly sliced cheddar, Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese on top (add grated cheese before cooking or grated or sliced cheese after baking and return to the oven to melt)
  • add a small can of corn to the batter before baking
  • substitute sour cream for 1/2 of the milk called for in the recipe

Adventures while cruising to the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Black Seas in a Tayana 37 sailboat


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