Introduction: Turkey Chili and Meditation

This Instructable project will show you how to make a great turkey chili while exploring the similarities between cooking and meditation. For this project, you will need to have a basic understanding of cooking techniques along with common cooking items and spices. A curiosity about meditation or an open mind would also help but isn’t completely necessary to complete the project.

When I was younger I would meditate daily but I haven't practiced it in any meaningful way for some time. Just recently I have started to explore meditation again and realized that the art of cooking and meditation share some similarities. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to examine the practice of meditation and how you might incorporate it into your cooking.

The act of cooking itself can be a form of meditation. I find that while I am preparing the ingredients for a dish or while I'm cooking it, my mind turns inwardly to self-reflection. This exercise in cooking and meditation can be a form of what is called walking meditation. Walking meditation involves being aware of your body's movements by redirecting any thoughts that may come up back to the movements of your body you are refocusing your mind and staying in the present.

I discovered this recipe online one night while trying to find something I could throw together with the ingredients I currently had in my kitchen. I find that using turkey adds a richer flavor to the chili versus using beef. After making the original recipe several times I have added some ingredients while adjusting others to make it my own. It's a family favorite that I'm sure you'll love!

A brief introduction to meditation

On a basic level, meditation helps to bring awareness to the how we think, how our thoughts are formed, and how to take control of them. After you read this sentence, take 30 seconds and close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Try to listen to the air coming into and out of your body. Go ahead, I'll wait....... Done? Did you notice all the other thoughts going on as you were trying to listen to yourself breathe? Crazy, right?! It was a never-ending monologue of thoughts.

By practicing meditation, you can learn to recognize these thoughts, gain some control of over them, and still your mind. Cooking helps us keep our thoughts in the present and focus on the single current task. Keep this idea of meditation and cooking as you continue this Instructable.

*There a video at the end that illustrates the cooking steps.

Step 1: What You'll Need

What you'll need for this recipe:

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 can of 10oz tomatoes
  • 2 can of tomato sauce
  • 4 tsp of chili powder
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1/4 tb of pepper
  • 1/4 tb of salt
  • 1/4 tb of cumin
  • 1/4 tb paprika
  • 2 russet potatoes (optional)
  • a small amount of vegetable oil, or other fatty liquid (for the potatoes)
  • 1 large pot to cook the chili
  • 1 medium sized cutting board
  • several small dishes (These will be used to hold your potatoes and other ingredients optional)
  • a tea and table spoon
  • stove or other heating element
  • a knife to cut with
  • a fork or spoon to taste your chili

How does meditation relate to cooking? Good question! Lets take a look at the different components.

This recipe will represent meditation. The ingredients and other odds and ends we will be using will represent our thoughts.The final outcome, the turkey chili, will represent our mind that we are working to making more at peace, in better control, and aware of itself.

So, you'll read this recipe (meditation), you'll gather the ingredients (thoughts), look at them, understand them, and shape them to create a delicious turkey chili! (a peaceful mind)

Step 2: Prep the Ingredients

I like to have all the ingredients prepped ahead of time.

By having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go you end up saving yourself a lot of time and stress while you cook. You won’t be scrambling around the kitchen trying to find the can opener while your chili continues to cook.

  • Measure out all your dry elements, salt, pepper, chili powder, etc., and put them all into a small dish. This way, when it’s time to add them, you can just dump them all in at once.
  • Dice the onion into small pieces. If you don’t know the best way to do this here is a great video by one of my favorite chefs on how to dice an onion. Just watch your fingers!

  • Cut the potatoes into small pieces. The potatoes aren't part of the original recipe, it’s something I added because I like a chunkier chili, so the potatoes are strictly optional. I like to cut them into cubes using this technique but you can choose to cut them differently depending how think you want them.

  • Open the cans of beans and tomatoes so they are ready to go as well. Drain the liquid out of the can of bean as you won’t be using that.

While you are prepping these ingredients try and keep your thoughts on the food itself. As you do this you will notice that random thoughts will arise in your mind. They could be anything from what the next step in the process is to what you need to do at work tomorrow. As these thoughts arise remember to focus your mind on the cutting and measuring of ingredients. Keep yourself in the present, focus on where you are and what you are current doing, let these thoughts go.

Step 3: Start the Cooking!

This is where the all the fun begins!

  • Put your pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high.
  • Once the pot has had a chance to heat up, add a small amount of vegetable oil, 1-2 tb, and place the potatoes into the pot.
  • Cook the potatoes until they are a slightly soft. The best way to tell if your potatoes are ready is to taste one! You want the potato to be at the point where it’s just past raw but not cooked yet. This usually takes fifteen to twenty minutes depending on the thickness of the potatoes. Don't let the potatoes cook too much, you will be taking them out and adding them later and they will finish cooking with the rest of the ingredients.

These potatoes are like an idea or something you’re trying to remember that's at the tip of your tongue. Sometimes you should take that thought and put it aside and come back to it later.

Step 4: Add the Turkey and Onion

  • Once the potatoes are done take them out of the pot and place them into a bowl. This will prevent them from continuing to cook. As I mentioned before, you will add the potatoes later to finish cooking with the rest of the chili.

Now it’s time for the star of the show, the turkey!

I will usually try and buy fresh ground turkey when doing this recipe. You can usually find it in your local grocery store or at Sams. Otherwise you should be able to find something frozen.

  • Add the turkey, minced garlic and onions to the pot.
  • Cook until both ingredients are done. How do you know when they’re done you ask? Easy, both the turkey and onions should be a light brown color.
  • If there is a lot of fat from the turkey you can drain it into one of your tin cans or a porcelain cup, DO NOT pour it down the sink! Pouring it down the sink can cause your sink to clog since fat hardens after it cools off. However, if there is less than a quarter cup of liquid fat I wouldn't worry about getting rid of it. It will cook off during the rest of the process.

Step 5: Add the Other Ingredients

  • Once the turkey, garlic, and onion are done, stir in the can of diced tomatoes, the can of tomato sauce, the beans, add the potatoes from earlier, and the spices. Let these ingredients cook until the liquid is boiling.
  • When the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 - 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. As you occasionally stir your chili, take the time to taste it. If you like more heat to your chili you can add more chili powder or other ingredients as you see fit.

Much like our thoughts, these ingredients are all separate pieces that make up the turkey chili. (our mind) We are the owners of these ingredients and we can control and shape them into something else, we just need the recipe (meditation) to tell us how.

Like other aspects of our life, the more you do something, the easier it becomes. You will find that once you make this chili over and over again you will be able to make this dish almost effortlessly. You will be able to gather the ingredients and mix them without paying too much attention to them. You will become a turkey chili master! Meditation can also become something that comes as second nature to you. By practicing meditation, you will eventually become better at it, and just like cooking, you can pursue other aspects of it, or stick to the basics.

Step 6: Time to Eat!

  • Now that your chili is done, turn the heat off and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. This will let the ingredients meld together and bring out even more flavor. I like to serve my chili with some cheese on top and some Jiffy cornbread as a side, but feel free to add your own toppings.

I hope your chili turns out great and that this Instructable gave you some insight to meditation and that meditation doesn't need to be sitting silently with your eyes closed. You can incorporate it into different aspects of your life and can help you gain some insights into your thoughts and where they come from. There are many articles about cooking and meditation or mindfulness and the health benefits that go along with it.

If you interested in learning more about these subjects you can visit this website.

Below is a video that illustrates the cooking steps.

Thanks for reading!