Turkey chili with beans and barley
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 98: Chili reception keeps the engine running

Chili with Ground Turkey, Ground Pork and Barley

Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled over the tracks. She was a happy little train for she has such a jolly load to carry.

That was me, somewhere around Day 18. My kitchen was full of lentils and tahini and other odd things, and I was full of energy and creativity. The words “Did I bite off more than I could chew?” came up occasionally but usually only if I was looking for a pun-ny retort to family teasing.

Then all of a sudden she stopped with a jerk. She simply could not go another inch. She tried and she tried, but her wheels would not turn.

Hello and welcome to Day 98.

In The Little Engine That Could, no one ever really comes out and says why the little engine ran out of gas but … oh, wait a minute. Maybe she actually just ran out of gas!

That is a problem I can currently identify with. And fortunately, there is a simple answer — though it hurts me to describe it as much as it may hurt you to hear it.

Beans. Or as Bob Dylan might say: “The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.”

Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the little blue engine. “I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can.”

The Little Engine That Could
An illustration from “The Complete, Original Edition” of The Little Engine That Could, published in 1954.

Come to think of it, this all might work out just fine for me.

Dan hasn’t found his way home from San Jose, so me, the kids and the dogs are having a Game Four party tonight, and nothing says family gatherings and sporting events like a big ol’ pot of chili. I’ve got some ground turkey — and, oh look, some ground pork — plus there are black beans in the cupboard and there is some barley hanging around, too. Mushrooms, carrots, here’s a little bit of chipotle to spice things up.

I do believe my train has come in.

Up, up, up. Faster and faster and faster and faster the little engine climbed until at last they reached the top of the mountain. … The Little Blue Engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. “I thought I could. I thought I could. 
             “I thought I could. 
                               “I thought I could.”

Chili tonight. Two more days to go.

Kitchen Castoff Used

The barley? Unless it counts that I am starting to lose my mind over here …

This is how we did it


  • 1 1/2 lb total ground turkey and ground pork (we had 1 lb turkey, 1/2 lb ground pork)
  • 1 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 6 – 7 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, whipped through a food processor
  • 7 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 chipotle, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp each dried oregano and cumin
  • 19 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • extra water or stock as necessary


Brown the turkey and pork, drain off the excess fat and set aside.

Put a little olive oil in a big pot over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and a smidge of salt, then saute until the onions and mushrooms are tender.

Return the meat to the pot, then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, chipotle, chili powder, cumin and oregano, beans, carrots, corn and barley. If things are getting thick, add more water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. As the barley cooks, it will absorb the liquid; you may choose to add more during the cooking process depending on what you like.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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