Firehouse Frito Pie from EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2012

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Success is measured in many different ways. For some, it’s crossing the finish line first. For others, it’s making it across the finish line. For me, it might be waking up, making it to the race and actually running a few steps. No, a race is not my strong suit.

Dudette is a vegetable eater. I’m grateful for that. She loves tomatoes and raw carrots. She’ll eat spinach on pizza and broccoli that’s steamed tender. The one vegetable that she’s dug those sweet little heels in over is zucchini.

I’ve tried; oh I’ve tried. I made at least a dozen loaves of null last summer because Hubby and I loved it so much. Dudette took one taste and deemed it unworthy because it contained zucchini. We tried it tucked inside other sweet treats. No go.

Grilled. Roasted. Baked, Sauteed. All methods were tried. It came to a point where I didn’t really care if she ended up liking zucchini; I just wanted her stomach to get the experience of having eaten some.

By hook or by crook, doggonit. I was not giving up.

The Process
Believe it or not, there is an entire large zucchini in this Frito Pie. It’s grated. Can you see it? My hope was that Dudette wouldn’t be able to either. It’s not really frito pie, you now. It’s more chili over tortilla strips. But, whatever works.

The tortilla strips are easy enough. Lightly coat corn tortillas with cooking spray, cut them up and bake them (salt would have been nice but they didn’t ask me and it is supposed to be healthier cooking).

The chili is a combination of onion, turkey, zucchini and tomatoes with beef broth, chili powder and cumin all simmered together. A can of red kidney beans are mashed to thicken the chili and another can of whole beans is added for texture and flavor.

That’s it. It takes about an hour, but that’s mostly simmering time. The only real prep work is chopping the onion and grating the zucchini.

The Verdict
First, an admission of omission. I did not use the full 1/2 up of chili powder. There is no way I can do that and ask a 5 year-old to eat it. I put in 2 tablespoons of chili powder.

What Hubby and I thought; We enjoyed this a lot. It has so much flavor and depth. I’d have never guessed that it was healthier than regular chili or that there is zucchini in it. Of course, a serving does have 17 grams of fat so healthy is a relative term. I’d have no problem using this as my go-to chili, though. It’s delicious.

As far as Dudette, she was totally and completely taken in. She had no clue that she was eating zucchini. Score! Finally! However, she still found it spicy and didn’t like the tortilla strips on the bottom (they did get a bit mushy after a while, which was nasty). Otherwise, she liked the chili. She really did.

Success.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I know this is supposed to be a frito pie, but I will leave out those tortilla strips next time. They’re just not necessary and honestly, they’re not anywhere close to tasting like real fritos so all they do is remind me of what I’m not having. I’ll also continue to make it with much less chili powder. I can’t imagine the punch that a half cup gives.

Firehouse Frito Pieprint this recipe
from EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2012

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound 93%-lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large zucchini, shredded
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth or chicken broth
16 5- to 6-inch corn tortillas
Cooking spray, preferably canola oil
2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed, divided
2 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese or sharp Cheddar cheese
1 medium tomato, diced
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 bunch scallions, sliced
Pickled jalapeños (for garnish)

Position racks in middle and lower third of oven; preheat to 375°F.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and turkey; cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until the turkey is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add zucchini, tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally and maintaining a simmer, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, coat both sides of each tortilla with cooking spray. Cut them in half, then cut each half into 1-inch strips. Spread the strips on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake, rotating the pans from top to bottom and stirring halfway through, until crisp, about 25 minutes.

Mash 1 cup beans in a bowl. After the chili has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in the mashed beans and whole beans. Cook until the beans are heated through, about 3 minutes more.

To serve, place about 3/4 cup tortilla strips in each of 8 shallow bowls. Ladle about 1 1/4 cups chili on top. Garnish with cheese, tomato, lettuce, scallions and pickled jalapeños (if desired).

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