I too used this recipe for a chili cook off and I won the people's choice award!!! I've since made it several times and enjoy it every time. Regarding substitutions, I think I've added spicy hot italian sausage in place of one of the beefs (I was doubling the recipe). Also, I've added hot sauce to taste to give it a bit more zip. Other than that, it is a great recipe and I highly recommend it!!!