Smoky Chili with Limes and Feta

Last night we actually got to go to a charity event with Michael's parents for Second Harvest Food Bank, whose goal is to eliminate hunger by the solicitation and distribution of food. The local Second Harvest branch (Metrolina) serves 19 counties in North and South Carolina. About a fourth of those living in poverty in these states are children. The event was very touching and was hosted by Chef Jeff. A brief bio of Jeff: he grew up on the streets of L.A., was arrested at age 24 for a $35,000/week cocaine operation, and was sent to jail for 10 years. While in prison, he discovered a passion for cooking and committed himself to turning his life around. He ended up becoming Executive Chef at the Bellagio in Vegas and now has a show in which he takes at-risk young adults and commits to turning their lives around by giving them work with his catering company. It's a pretty impressive story - check him out and Second Harvest if you have a chance!

On another note, Michael's work had a chili cook-off, so of course we had to submit a delicious and unique recipe for the competition! This one is a slow-cooker and has a lot of ingredients (probably the most of any recipe we've ever made), but is well worth it. Michael ended up winning 2nd place and scored for most original! He was pretty excited. We got the basic idea from Cooking Light, but made some changes. We added corn starch to make the chili a little thicker. The ham hock adds lots of flavor without too much fat or sodium. You can use cooking spray instead of olive oil to save some calories. The recipe serves about 8-10.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 1 3/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup lager-style beer (such as Budweiser)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans plum tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (12-ounce) can Mexican diced tomatoes with habanero peppers
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta
  • 8 lime wedges


  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil then the ground pork; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to slightly crumble. Drain well. Transfer pork to an electric slow cooker.
  2. Add 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and pork shoulder; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Transfer pork to slow cooker.
  3. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil, onion and bell pepper; sauté 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in beer; cook 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to slow cooker.
  4. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, chili powder, and next 9 ingredients (through ham hock) to slow cooker. Cover and cook on High 5 hours or until meat is tender.
  5. Remove bay leaves and ham hock; discard. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, sugar and corn starch.
  6. Ladle chili into serving bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 tablespoon green onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve each serving with 1 lime wedge.


Unknown said...

Mmmm...I like the lime and feta addition!

Dewi said...

Oh my this is really delicious Michael, I like the feta cheese addition to it. No wonder you win the competition. Congratulation, wow!

Sharon said...

I love feta with anything! This looks so delicious.

Culinary Wannabe said...

Feta in a chili sounds so good! I love it on pretty much anything. Congrats!!

grace said...

that's a looooong list of ingredients, and they're all wonderful! i'm especially a fan of the lovely cilantro leaves garnishing the top. :)

Heather said...

ohhh. feta in chili! sounds delicious! love the lime, too.

test it comm said...

That chili looks good!

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