finally, a chili recipe my kids will eat

MY KIDS DON’T LIKE CHILI. EXCEPT THIS WAY. There are a couple of tricks at work here.

  1. First, make some chili. Don’t put in too much cumin and skip the spicy chiles.
  2. Then swap a soup bowl for a juice glass and present those knee-high guys with this, a chili parfait.

And if that doesn’t work, I have another idea…

Fall is underway in North Carolina. Our mornings are cold, afternoons sunny and evenings have just a bit of chill to them. That doesn’t stop me from serving every possible meal outside though, where cleanup becomes Mother Nature’s job instead of mine. Here’s a fleece, it’s dinner time! No wonder a big pot of bubbly chili sound so good.

Except to the kids.

These guys have never once eaten chili. Served, yes. Eaten, no. Granted, chili is hardly a family staple, most of the spices weren’t available in Rome and after it was uniformly refused the first couple of times, even a delusional cook  cheerleader like me gets discouraged.

Then I got an idea.

What if I used less cumin, which seems to be the main deterrent for tiny taste buds, and arranged everything in a fancy way? We’re big fans of a certain Fancy Nancy in this house and because she says parfaits are fancy, I knew we’d be in with this one.

So we adapted Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili (a Martha Stewart recipe I couldn’t resist because I met Jimmy Fallon once over a game of darts. It was New York in the early 2000’s, the pub was dark, definitely smokey and really fun. Chili recipes didn’t come up at the time but I think he’ll understand our makeover madness once he starts cooking for baby Winnie.) To make it work for kids, we took out the spicy stuff: cayenne pepper, chiles and chile powder. But don’t worry it wasn’t bland. We added another half an onion plus a few more herbs. Here’s what we did.


Jimmy Fallon’s Crock-Pot Chili becomes (much) more kid-friendly

take out:

  • cayenne pepper
  • habanero chile
  • chile powder
  • whole tomatoes


  • another onion, finely diced (you don’t want the chunks to be big enough for anyone to see them)
  • another can of beans (I like to mix red kidney with something white or pinto)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • crushed tomatoes (no kid wants to bite into a big hunk of stewed tomatoes)

Also, I just cooked the whole thing in a dutch oven on the stove. I have a hate-hate relationship with my slow cooker. On this day I’d actually gathered up the courage to try the darn thing again and of course, ran out of time. (Who has a spare five hours after they’ve figured out what to make, gathered all the ingredients and gone to the trouble of browning meat in another pan?) So I bubbled it on the stove for a couple of hours, then just turned it off, letting the flavors marinate together for the remaining hour or so until dinner time.

To make the parfaits, you simply need two things: clear glasses and cheese. I used our juice glasses because they’re see-through but also small (2.3 ounces). The main objective when it comes to a successful dinner at my house is getting everyone a. at the table and b. trying everything. My kids eat a huge breakfast, a medium lunch and by dinner time they’re just not that hungry. Never have been. So it’s more about the community factor–we’re all sitting together every night–and the opportunity to try something good, something that may or may not have taken hours to cook.

If that fails. Try this one. Take a piece of toast (I like those whole wheat “take and bake” loaves from the store), add a dollop of chili then sprinkle with cheese. Put in the broiler for one minute and tada. Chili cheese toast. Mini carb lovers, rejoice!


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