A recipe to change up chili: Versatile dish can be made with beef or chicken


Just call her the chili queen.

Melissa Ellerbrock won a recent chili cook-off contest at the Northwestern Water and Sewer District and owns the golden spoon for the next year.

She said that the win took her by surprise because there were 11 other chilis and most were more involved than her recipe — one was made with steak.

Theresa Pollick, public information officer with the district, isn’t surprised that Ellerbrock’s chili won.

“It’s a base chili with a little flair,” Pollick said. “It wasn’t too spicy, it wasn’t too crazy. … This was kind of something that catered to everyone.”

The recipe is also versatile. Ellerbrock said it can be made with chicken or all vegetables.

Don’t forget the Frito corn chips, sour cream and cheese for the toppings.

“That kind of makes it,” Ellerbrock said.

Southwest Chili.

Debbie Rogers | Sentinel-Tribune

Ellerbrock said that her Southwest Chili recipe is so simple that she almost feels a little guilty about winning the chili cook-off.

Don’t bother draining any of the cans of beans or corn, she added.

“Honestly, that makes it all the more easier, you don’t have to drain anything,” Ellerbrock said. “It’s kind of nice to have those easy recipes for when you work.”

And work, she does.

In addition to her full-time job as a customer service representative for the district, Ellerbrock is also the fiscal officer for Liberty Township in Hancock County.

She first ran for the elected position almost 24 years ago, after a friend talked her into the campaign.

“I like the service part of it, for sure,” Ellerbrock said, adding that her father was a former township trustee.

Ellerbrock has been with the district since 2014.

“I love people I work with. I enjoy being up front. I enjoy working with customers,” she said.

Ellerbrock said she’s more of a dessert person than a cook.

“I make a HoHo cake that gets requested often,” she said, adding that it’s not made with the prepared packages of chocolate cake with white filling that can be purchased in a store. “It just tastes like a HoHo. You make the cake and the filling and it has a chocolate ganache that pours over it.”

She learned her way around the kitchen from her mother, who was famous for her pies.

She and her husband, Rob, live in Findlay. Her son and daughter are grown, but often visit for a home-cooked meal — especially if her meatballs with a mushroom gravy is being served.

Her daughter has already asked for a Christmas gift from mom: A collection of all of Ellerbrock’s recipes, handwritten.

“I should probably start that, but she may not get it this year,” Ellerbrock said.

Southwest Chili


2 pounds ground beef

chopped onion

2 cans of diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel)

1 large can of tomato sauce

1 can kernel corn

1 can black beans

1 can light red kidney beans

1 envelope of taco seasoning

1 envelope of ranch dip mix seasoning


Chop some onion, add to the ground beef and brown.

Add all above ingredients (do not drain cans) along with the cooked, browned meat to a slow cooker. It’s already cooked, so just keep on low to keep warm.

Heat and serve with Frito corn chips, sour cream and cheese.

You can also use chicken instead of ground beef.

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