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Chili-Cheat Off

*guest poster Fay Lamb

A chili cook-off. The thought of entering one never occurred to me until I met a wonderful amateur chef by the name of Bob Chalmers. Friends of my mother-in-law, Bob and his wonderful wife, Lynn, had welcomed me into their home while I was seeking my medical treatment at Mayo Clinic.

Bob loved to cook.

I absolutely hate the idea of having a kitchen in my house. It shines like a beacon to my husband, a blinking light that reminds him from time to time that food can be cooked inside the home.

For me, the kitchen stands in my way—the space I have to walk through to get from the living room to the other side of the house. Who needs a kitchen when you have restaurants?

But while I stayed with Bob and Lynn, he shared recipes with me, and since it was free room and board, I wasn’t going to let him know that the thought of pulling out a pan or opening up a package caused me to hyperventilate. I keep my breath shallow, and I listened.

Then Bob tells me, “Fay, there’s a recipe you’ll love. It’s called Taco Soup. Including browning the meat, it takes less than ten minutes to throw together.”

Throw together. That sounded much better than chopping vegetables and learning to use appliances such as a mixer, steamer, blender, and a Dutch oven (Who knew a Dutch oven is a pot and not an oven?).

Bob told me the recipe. It took him all of twenty seconds. I timed him. Any meal that only took ten minutes to throw together should take less than thirty seconds to explain.

  • 1 lb. hamburger (brown/drain—that’s important. I didn’t realize that).
  • 16 ounce cans of the following (Do not drain—that’s important, too):
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans kidney beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
  • Mix, heat, and eat.
  • Serve with Tortilla chips

That’s it. The entire recipe. Throw together is an understatement. Other than the first go around where I didn’t brown and I drained, this meal has turned out perfect every time.

So perfect, in fact, that when the pastor announced a chili cook-off for our church anniversary, I entered, determined to dethrone the Faith Baptist Church Chili Cook-off King.

As the day drew closer, though, there was a prick in my conscience. “It’s Taco Soup, not chili,” the annoying voice said.

My reply: “I haven’t ever cooked chili, but I do remember it having hamburger, tomatoes, and kidney beans—all the ingredients for chili.”

“But the recipe is for Taco Soup.”

“Oh, well. I probably won’t win. Everyone knows I can’t cook.”

The last bit of logic won out.

Yes, I cheated at a church chili cook-off. And I won! The winning recipe vanished in no time, and the Faith Baptist Church Chili Cook-off King was a very gracious loser.

Me—not so much a gracious winner. “I won. I won. I won.” I danced around.

“You cheated. You cheated. You cheated,” said the voice again. And this time, I’m not so sure it was my conscience.

So I came clean. Everyone now knows the recipe is Taco Soup. We laugh about my win from time to time, and I entered it in the last church chili cook off.

I lost, but the Dutch oven (I still can’t get over it not being an oven at all) I used to cook the chili—I mean Taco Soup— was empty when I took it home.


Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel is soon to be released by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing.

Fay has a passion for working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010.

In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.


Because of Me:

Not your typical Christian fiction.

Michael’s fiancée, Issie Putnam, was brutally attacked and Michael was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he’s home to set things right.

Two people stand in his way: Issie’s son, Cole, and a madman.

Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart and protect him from the man who took everything from Michael so long ago?

Available through all fine book retailers,, and Mountainview Publishing, a division of Treble Heart Books.

Purchase the book at Amazon at:

Or at Treble Heart Books at:

Purchase the book at:


About Jess Keller

I'm an author, speaker and chocolate eater who's chasing hard after my dreams.

2 responses »

  1. Jess: Thank you for allowing me to share my story (and Bob’s recipe) with your readers. It is greatly appreciated.

    • This is hilarious! And sounds delicious! I love chili, and anything with beans in it. I love taco flavors, too, so this is a must try! (Although I’m not sure if I’ll enter our church’s chili cook off. Those events can get brutal! Whew! lol (Besides, then I’d have to share.)


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