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Blue chili bowl made by Heloise Besse.

Featured Article

Filling Empty Bowls

The annual Mason Grange Empty Bowls fundraiser benefits local food pantries when they need it most.

The members of the Mason Community Grange No.1680 hosted their first Mason Empty Bowls luncheon in April 2015 to commemorate National Grange Month and the City of Mason’s Bicentennial Community Service Day. The Empty Bowls fundraiser brings together the Grange’s historic commitment to agriculture, community service and the creative arts with the needs of local food pantries. 

In exchange for a $20 donation to alleviate hunger in Warren County, Mason Empty Bowls participants select handcrafted bowls from hundreds donated by ceramics artists. They then enjoy a simple meal of soup, bread and beverages donated by area restaurants. Since 2015, Mason Empty Bowls has raised more than $74,000 for community food pantries and organizations supporting nearly 20,000 Warren County residents who experience food insecurity each year. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grange eliminated the April soup luncheon and scaled back to a virtual event in September to keep everyone safe. Despite the changes, they raised $14,000. 

“We really missed seeing everyone this year! One of the joys of the Mason Empty Bowls luncheons has been the total community involvement this fundraising effort inspires,” says Susan Chace, Mason Grange community service director. 

To help virtual participants and our readers fill their empty bowls, two local eateries shared soup recipes with us that would normally be served at the luncheon.

For more information about Mason Community Grange, email

Quatman’s Bean and Ham Soup

Quatman Cafe’s owner, Matt Imm, offers their popular Bean & Ham soup, perfect for a comforting fall meal. Quatman’s has provided soup for the Empty Bowls luncheons for many years. 


1 lb. dry navy beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups ham, cubed

2 medium onions, chopped

4 quarts water 

Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Combine ingredients in a stock pot. Bring to a boil for 30 minutes, stirring often. 

  2. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until a thick consistency is achieved. 

  3. Serve with cornbread, crackers and your favorite toppings. 

Wildflower Cafe Cowboy Chili

Executive Chef and owner of Wildflower Cafe, Todd Hudson, is an Empty Bowls supporter and Grange member. “Empty Bowls has impressed me from the first year we did it. I can’t say enough good things about the folks involved in our Grange,” shares Todd.  

His chili recipe is a twist on cowboy chili, made by ranchers in Texas and Mexico. He recommends using quality ingredients, like whole chunks of local grass fed beef and grinding your own chili powder from dried chiles for even more flavor and heat. This recipe makes about 64 ounces of chili. 


2 lbs. grass fed beef

2 yellow onions or 1.5 cups, diced

2 bell peppers, diced (try a blend of various fresh peppers)

48 oz. fresh tomatoes, blended (or a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes)

2 beers, one for the chili and one for you

2 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. fresh ground back pepper

2 Tbsp. ground pasilla chile (or chile of your choice)

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 15 oz. can of beans (optional)


  1. Brown the meat with the onion and peppers on low. It falls apart better on a low temp if you're using ground meat, otherwise medium heat is good.

  2. When the mix is a nice color, turn off the heat and pour the fat out. 

  3. Put the pot back on the heat and add the tomatoes, beer and spices. 

  4. Let the chili cook on low until it gets as thick as you like it. If you use chunks of meat make sure they are tender.

  5. Readjust spices at the end. Add a bit more pasilla if you like it rich and spicy.

  6. Serve with oyster crackers, cornbread, sour cream, chives and your favorite cheese. The lactose in dairy will help cool the spice, if it's too hot for you. Enjoy!

  • Artisan bowls set up at the Mason Community Grange for their September virtual fundraiser.
  • Blue chili bowl made by Heloise Besse.
  • Bowls from the collection of Heloise Besse of Whistle Stop Clay Works.