charles waters heats things up

#10 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

Charles and Heidi ham it up.

Holy Soup Spoon!  Mr. Excitement is here!

Can you feel the joy and the love?  I’m tickled pink that actor and children’s poet Charles Waters agreed to join our Potluck this year. I’m sure whoever coined the phrase, “life of the party,” must have had him in mind.

I first “met” Charles at one of GottaBook’s 30 Poets/30 Days events. Immediately loved his positivity, sense of humor and offbeat child-centric take on life. He’s a veritable wellspring of creative energy who, interestingly enough, discovered his love for children’s poetry while touring for 3 seasons with Poetry Alive!®.  Performing poetry for kids all over the country inspired him to write his own and eventually develop his one man show, Poetry Time with Uncle Charles.

Charles’s poem and recipe prove that his favorite dish is indeed hot stuff. Sounds like this special chili has helped him write and perform awesome poems and get people of all ages fired up about poetry. Never underestimate the power of a good chipotle!



My friend Isabel’s
Santa Fe Chili
Compels me to act
Downright silly.

My taste buds soar,
I click both heels,
A top confection
Out of all her meals.

Black beans mixed with
Canary rice,
Combined aromas
Made to entice.

Chipotle peppers,
Sour cream,
Like Coltrane’s album

Feel a bit crummy?
Life’s not going well?
Then try Santa Fe Chili
Made by Isabel.

© Charles Waters. All rights reserved.


Charles: Somehow I lucked out and have a friend named Isabel Garcia who cooks for me. She became a vegan a few years ago and cooks the most nourishing, delicious meals you can imagine. Every meal she makes is a favorite of mine, but her Santa Fe Chili rocks my planet. It’s a perfect meal for lunch or dinner; make a side salad, pour yourself a cold beverage and enjoy! By the way, this poem is totally autobiographical because if I’m feeling low (or not) and have this meal, I’m dancing around like Bill Cosby in “The Cosby Show.”

Take that, Jello pudding!

Santa Fe Black Bean Chili

What you’ll need:

2 large stew pots
Medium bowl


-3 cups dried black beans (a 1-lb. bag yields about 2+ cups dried beans — so you’ll need a 2-lb. bag) to produce 9 cups soaked/cooked black beans (or simply use six 15-oz cans, NOT DRAINED)
-1-1/2 inch piece dried brown chipotle (dried jalapeño chiles), soaked in 1/2 cup hot water (use more or less chipotle for desired spiciness)
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
-2 cups diced yellow onion (about 2 onions)
-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
-15-oz can stewed tomatoes, pureed (NOT DRAINED)
-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
-1 tablespoon molasses
-1 aji dulce pepper (any color), seeded, pureed (use more or less for desired spiciness)
-15-oz can crushed tomatoes
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1 teaspoon ground coriander
-1-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
-1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
-1 teaspoon veggie base
-2 teaspoons salt
-Pepper to taste


-Cooked brown rice
-Chopped green onions
-Vegan sour cream
-Sliced green or black olives


1. Soak 3 cups of examined, sorted and rinsed black beans in a pot with 9 cups of water for 8 hours, covered.

After the overnight soak, drain the beans and discard the water.

Put the cleaned black beans back in the pot.

Add 9 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the beans, stir gently.

Bring the beans to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer with lid tilted, checking for tenderness after 90 minutes. If required, cook for additional 30 minutes.

Once desired tenderness is reached, remove from heat, keep the lid on and set aside.

1 a. If serving with brown rice, begin cooking it now before you continue with the recipe.

1 b. If using canned black beans, DO NOT DRAIN! In step #8, simply measure 1 cup of canned beans.

In step #9, add 1 cup of water to the pot along with the remaining cans of beans.

2. Heat ½ cup of water (I use a ceramic cup and heat water in the microwave for 30-45 seconds). Cut piece of dried brown chipotle and place it in the hot water to soak. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

3. While the chipotle soaks, mince the garlic and finely dice the onions.

4. Heat oil in a separate large stew pot.

5. Add minced garlic and diced onions to heated oil, stirring often. Turn heat down to allow to soften but not to brown.

6. Meanwhile, puree in a blender, the stewed tomatoes, cilantro, aji dulce and molasses. Pour into the blender the soaked chipotle along with the ½ cup of water in which it has been soaking. Puree until completely smooth with no visible chunks.

7. Pour the blender contents into the pot and stir, mixing the softened onions and garlic well. Raise heat slightly.

8. Measure 1 cup of the cooked black beans into a separate bowl, using a ladle to ensure enough of the black beans liquid is collected. Mash the beans well to create a thick paste and then mix the mashed beans into the pot.

9. Pour the remaining cooked beans (and its liquid) into the pot and stir.

10. Add the remaining ingredients – crushed tomatoes, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, turmeric, fresh lime juice, veggie base and salt and stir well.

11. Cover pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

12. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and stir. Cover and set aside for additional 10 minutes.

13. Serve with rice or any combination of optional ingredients.

*Please see more tips and recipes at



Charles Waters has performed professionally in theatres across the country since 1997. He also dedicated 3 years of service to Poetry Alive!, a performance and teaching theatre troupe that reaches an estimated 600,000 students nationwide each year and where he performed in 38 of the 50 states.

His poems will appear in the upcoming anthologies AMAZING PLACES edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY edited by J. Patrick Lewis (Children’s Poet Laureate of the United States), THE ARROW FINDS ITS MARK: FOUND POEMS edited by Georgia Heard and AND THE CROWD GOES WILD: A GLOBAL GATHERING OF SPORTS POEMS edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer.

He performs his one man show POETRY TIME WITH UNCLE CHARLES to elementary and middle school audiences.

Please check out his website at and his YouTube channel at


Previously: Menu/Giveaway/Door PrizesApril Pulley SayreMary QuattlebaumHelen FrostLinda AshmanGail Gerwin, Martha Calderaro, Kathi Appelt, Robyn Hood Black.


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

37 thoughts on “charles waters heats things up

  1. Whoa! If those two faces (in the first photo) and that chili doesn’t wake us up, nothing will! Looks like a great recipe, though I’m a bit stymied over “veggie base.” Is it stock?


    1. Isn’t that photo great? I don’t know the story behind that photo with Charles and Heidi. Maybe he can fill us in. Clearly they’re both having too much fun :).


  2. My daughter makes a mean vegan chili too. I’ll have to give her Isabel’s recipe. Sounds so tasty, looks good too! Thanks for the tribute poem, too. Nothing like being a little ‘up’ when giving appreciation. It’s great!


    1. Charles’s charisma shines through in both photos. I imagine he could “sell” any product with that face. The chili does sound yummy; will have to make it soon.


  3. My morning coffee has nothing on this post. Thanks, Charles and Jama, for all this great spicy-poetry-love-energy, and that irresistable photo! What a fun poem. And with three vegetarians and one vegan making up my family, I’m mmmm-mmmm-ing at this recipe.

    (And for some reason I’m giggling at the examining-the-beans step… could be a fun poem in that somewhere, too…?)


    1. LOL! You must always examine your beans, Robyn :). Only a poet would see the metaphoric potential there. Please do write a beans poem and let me share it here!


  4. Under normall circumstances, I’d shy away from any recipe with a lengthy list of ingredients &/or lots of preparation steps. But Charles and Heidi are so charismatic, and that Santa Fe Chili looks so tasty that –I can’t believe what I’m about to say–I’m really tempted to put on my (metaphoric) apron and get cookin’!


    1. Yay for Melodye! Wonders never cease. I’m lovin’ the picture in my head of you dancing around the kitchen and cookin’.


  5. I’m making chili today! Poetry Time with Uncle Charles sounds great. I’ll bet he gets kids very excited about poetry.

    (Also, Jama, that is a sweet necklace you are crushing on…)


    1. Hooray, it’s chili day! Tabatha’s gonna turn the heat up!

      Yes, I imagine Uncle Charles rocks the house every time :).

      Glad you like the necklace . . .


  6. Thanks for stopping by everybody! First off thank you Jama for inviting me to the food fest. Secondly the baby’s name is Heidi Joy Hunter, this picture was taken on January 7th 2012 at the Armor Crossfit gym in Ocoee, FL. Heidi’s parents Scott and Jamie Hunter are co-owners of the gym and great friends of mine.

    If anyone lives in the Orlando, FL area I will be conducting a children’s poetry performance during every Saturday in May here:

    You all must try the Santa Fe Chili. Yum!


    1. Thanks for the scoop on Heidi, Charles. We all wanna eat her up with a spoon. So adorable.

      Exciting about your Saturday performances in Orlando. Go, Poetry!!


  7. Oh, I’m not sure which I want to take a bit out of more – those wee baby cheeks (Heidi’s, not Charles’) or the chili. On Easter, my brunch company didn’t leave so I made dinner – much like this, only with pintos – and my guests went to town. I want to try this one, though – oh, yummy, yummy. Seriously: between the poem and the picture, IsaVegan has made a sale!


    1. Lucky brunch company at your house. I bet your pinto bean chili was to die for too. Isabel’s version *does* sound scrumptious. I like trying new vegan recipes.


  8. One of my favorite dishes is chili con carne (not veggie-based unfortunately), but this one may be a new twist that we can explore! Will share with my husband! 🙂 Love the high energy and positivity of this post. Can feel it all the way here in Singapura! 🙂


    1. Happy to hear that you felt the love in Singapore, Myra! I do think your husband should make this chili for you! 🙂


  9. Jama,

    I met Charles when I attended the NCTE Annual Convention in Orlando in 2010. He’s such an exuberant and charming young man!



    The chili recipe sounds delicious. Thanks! I’ll have to check out your Youtube channel.

    Happy Poetry Month!


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