The Best Slow Cooker Recipe in America

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As you might know, we recently hosted a $10,000 Split-the-Pot Slow Cooker Recipe Contest to celebrate the relaunch of and do our part to help alleviate hunger. We know how much our members love how easy it is to make healthy recipes using a slow cooker, and we wanted to highlight some of YOUR best recipes, so we devised a contest that would allow us to thank you for helping SparkPeople grow into the largest healthy living community in America, while also giving back to those in need.

After weeks of popular voting, we selected 15 finalists, then taste-tested their creations at SP HQ, judging the recipes on taste, appearance, overall healthfulness, and ease of preparation. Today we're thrilled to announce the #1 slow cooker recipe in America is:

It was a hit among our taste-testers:
"I’d definitely make this recipe for my next get-together. It had just enough kick for me, but some people might like to add a little extra hot sauce. It’s great to eat as a soup, but you could also serve it as a dip with chips. Yum!"

"This was truly an easy recipe to make. I was amazed how many produce servings made it in there, and being ground up, the chicken really gave the chili a great consistency and taste."

The recipe's creator, Beth "Biz" Velatini, of Cary, Illinois, will win $10,000: $5,000 for her and $5,000 for her favorite hunger-relief charity, Common Threads. (The other 14 finalists will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.)

Founded by chef Art Smith, who was Oprah's personal chef, and artist Jesus Salgueiro, the nonprofit has been teaching children in underserved communities how to cook healthy, affordable meals during after-school programs for the last decade. Though it started in Chicago, Common Threads is focused on a nationwide effort to get one million kids cooking in the next five years.

Beth, who has a food blog called My Bizzy Kitchen, says she has used SparkPeople to help her manage her diabetes and lose weight. She's thrilled to be helping a program she believes in, and the prize money is much appreciated--she works two jobs to make ends meet, and her husband has been unemployed and dealing with health issues.

Here's what Beth had to say about winning the contest and how she plans to spend the money.*

SparkPeople: How do you feel now that you've won this contest?  Did you think you would win?
Beth: I knew that the announcement was coming. Throughout the day I refreshed my email on my phone until I got super busy. As I headed out the door to my second job, I saw your email, and I stopped in my tracks. I turned back into my office and jumped up and down and said "I think I won $5,000 for my chili!"
SparkPeople: What made you choose the recipe you decided to submit?
Beth: I started making my buffalo chicken chili in January 2010. Since then, co-workers, my sister, and blog readers have made that recipe and have told me that it's won them chili cook-off contests, so I figured I would give it a go myself.
SparkPeople: How did you come up with the recipe?
Beth: I am an insulin-dependent diabetic, so managing my weight is important for blood sugar control. I love hot sauce, so chicken seemed an obvious choice once I decided to add Frank's Red Hot sauce.

SparkPeople: Tell us what it means to you to earn $5,000 for your charity.
Beth: I am so excited that Common Threads will receive $5,000. From his appearances on Top Chef Masters, I learned that Art Smith dropped nearly 100 pounds and figured out that chefs can lead a healthy lifestyle. His program teaches inner-city kids about growing food and healthy cooking. They can take that knowledge back to their families to show that eating healthy can be affordable and you don't have to rely on so many processed foods. I love this quote:
"Our world is a large quilt and its people are the fabric – colorful swatches of beautifully woven material – all joined together by these common threads: family and food." -- Art Smith
SparkPeople: What are your plans for your portion of the prize money?
Beth: I know a portion of it will be to catch up on bills. My husband and I will be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary in December so I know we'll be having a nice dinner out somewhere. And it will be nice to buy Christmas gifts this year for our family! The rest will go into savings.

*Interview has been condensed.

Congratulations, Beth! We've compiled all 15 of the finalists' recipes onto this Pinterest board.