Chili by Carissa Holley of Blue Zones Project

This chili recipe was a way for Carissa Holley to turn her whole family into bean lovers. As a working mother of two, vegetables and a crockpot are key components on Carissa’s kitchen counter and eating more and more beans was inspired by her work with Blue Zones Project.

Across the world 5 regions were identified as Blue Zones — places that share similar characteristics that result in their people living happier, healthier lives and also living 100+ years! One thing that stood out to Carissa was that these communities all ate beans; garbanzo and white beans in Sardinia and Ikaria, black beans in Nicoya Peninsula, adzuki and soy beans in Okinawa, and green beans in Loma Linda, California.

As a Community Engagement Lead for BZP Maui, Carissa worked with her team member Kaimana (check out her kabocha squash soup recipe here!) on marketing, press releases, hosting events, and campaigning to move their wellness initiative along and introduce their community to the Blue Zones Project. Traditionally people turn to diet and exercise when they address wellness but what BZP found they could improve on are other supporting factors to complete the puzzle. Known as the “Power 9’s” these are lifestyle choices that are seemingly small but actually play a big role in our overall health and longevity.

“Knowing and living your purpose, enjoying your ohana, being social, having close friends that have healthy habits, having a sense of something greater than your self are all really important to being healthy.”

Carissa Holley shares a few of the “Power 9 Principles” of the Blue Zones Project

By focusing on all these parts together you can live a longer, happier life. And make sure you eat your beans!

Carissa’s Family Chili


  • 1/2 lb. Locally Sourced Meat; Venison, Beef, or Sausage*
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil 
  • 1 C. Dried Lentils, rinsed
  • 1 Dried Bay Leaf 
  • 1 Large Onion, chopped 
  • 1 Medium Zucchini, diced
  • 2 Bell Peppers, diced  
  • 1-2 ears Corn, you can grill it first for some added smoke!
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 oz) can Diced Tomato
  • 1 (15 oz) can Black Beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 (15 oz) can Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 (6 oz) can Tomato Paste 
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 3 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 2 Tbs Cumin 
  • 3 Tbs Cacao Powder
  • pinch Chili Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 

Preparation Instructions:

  • Brown the meat and onions in a pan with olive oil. When the meat is fully cooked and the onions are translucent remove from the pan and drain excess oil.
  • In a medium pot, combine lentils and 3 cups of water. Bring to a rolling boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain the lentils and reserve the bay leaf. 
  • In a large (6-8 qt) slow cooker mix together the meat, lentils with bay leaf, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, garlic, diced tomato,  beans, corn and tomato paste. 
  • Gently fold in the oregano, chili powder, cumin, cacao powder, chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper. 
  • Cook on low heat for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.  

*If you would like to make this chili vegan you can substitute tempeh for the meat. To prepare the tempeh:

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  • On a parchment-lined baking pan, toss tempeh with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  • Add the tempeh when you add the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker.

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