Rainbow Chili

This Week’s Featured Food is the Chili Pepper.

Chilies are believed to have originated in the Americas.  Research indicates chilies were domesticated in Mexico over 6000 years ago.

When Christopher Columbus encountered chilies in the Caribbean, he associated their flavor with black pepper corns and thus called them peppers.

Chili seeds were later carried to Spain, and from there spread to other European, African and Asian countries.  They soon became an integral part of cuisines globally.

Chilies are consumed in many forms including fresh, dried, pickled and smoked.

Bell Peppers are sweet chilies that grow in almost every color of the rainbow:  red, orange, yellow, green, white, and purple.

Green bell peppers are unripened bell peppers.  Red, orange, and yellow bells are thus sweeter than green or purple bells.

Chili powder is a spice blend that combines chilies, such as ancho, jalapeno, New Mexico, pasilla and cayenne, with other seasonings like cumin, garlic powder, oregano and salt.  1

Red bells have more vitamins and nutrients than green bells and contain the antioxidant lycopene.  A red, orange, or yellow bell pepper can contain more vitamin C than an orange!  Spicy chilies contain the bioactive compound capsaicin.  The spiciness of capsaicin can cause a pain-stimulated release of endorphins, triggering a sensation of euphoria.  2

This week’s recipe is Rainbow Chili.  This chili contains a rainbow of fresh ingredients from red tomatoes to purple-black beans.  I am especially fond of this chili, not only because it is flavorful and hearty without being heavy, but because the recipe is adapted from the one used in the Pure Foods Kids Workshop.  While studying dietetics at Bastyr University near Seattle, I had the opportunity to volunteer with this amazing program:

The Pure Foods Kids Workshop provides free nutrition education in the classroom for 4th and 5th graders in the Seattle area.  Along with learning to define a whole food, read food labels and critically evaluate food products, they make and eat chili together.

When I first started volunteering with the program, I thought the students might reject the vegetarian chili, and was pleasantly surprised over and over when nearly all the students enjoyed the chili and many returned for seconds.

Why were the students so open to trying this new food?   Dicing up the vegetables themselves, measuring the ingredients, and smelling the aroma of the simmering chili invested them in the fruits of their labor.  This became a lasting reminder about the power of kids cooking (and gardening), and my inspiration for beginning this site.  I hope you and your little ones enjoy it as well!  3

Rainbow Chili

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Yield:  4-8 servings


1 onion, chopped fine

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 Tablespoon chili powder

1  1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can kidney beans, rinsed

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

2 ears corn kernels, or 1 cup frozen corn

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Optional: baked corn chips for dipping



cutting board

measuring spoons

measuring cups

large pot




Dry saute onions and garlic in over medium heat until translucent, adding a few drops of water and stirring well to deglaze, as needed.

Stir in bell peppers.

Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper.

Stir in black beans and kidney beans.

Stir in tomatoes with canning juice.

Stir in corn.

Bring the chili to a boil, and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cilantro.

Enjoy as its own complete meal,

Or with baked corn chips!


1.  Azhar Ali Farooqi; B. S. Sreeramu; K. N. Srinivasappa (2005).  Cultivation of Spice Crops. Universities Press. pp. 336.

2.  USDA Nutrient Database

3.  Pure Foods Workshop


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