Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been making homemade chili.  She would start by soaking the kidney beans the night before and then she would slow cook the beans with spices and tomatoes in a crock pot ALL day!  As dinner time approached, we'd all crack open the pot of chili whenever we passed the kitchen to steal a quick bite!  Now, if you've ever made homemade beans, then you know the smell is intoxicating.  The aroma of garlic, spices, and cooking beans would fill the house and everyone would have to breathe in the goodness for hours before it was ready to eat.  Cooking beans on the stovetop is my definition of home goodness and comfort food.  Canned beans just do not compare.  However, if you are in a pinch then adding canned beans to a stew or chili will work fine.  If you're going to take the plunge and cook your own beans at home, the extra effort will be more than worth it.  A basic rule of thumb: soak your beans overnight on the counter in a bowl filled with water.  The beans will swell so make sure there is extra water at the top.  In the morning, drain the water (save soaking water to water your plants because it is full of nutrients) and add the beans to a stock pot.  Cover with water so that it comes to about 1-2" over the top of the beans.  Add lots and lots of spice.  A safe option if you are new to home cooking beans is to cook them in vegetable broth.  Or use water and add garlic salt, garlic powder, a bit of fresh black pepper, then you can add some dried red chili's, some herbs liked dried cilantro and a pinch of cayenne pepper, if you like.  Bring the beans to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer.  On average, beans need to cook for 1 -2 hours after having been soaked overnight.  Pinto and kidney beans cook more quickly than black beans so set the timer for an hour then test them.  If they are still firm, keep on cooking.  Once you make your first batch of homemade beans and experience the joy and flavor they bring, you'll never go back to canned beans again!

Now that we've got all these home cooked beans lying around, let's make some chili!!

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cubed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed and minced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  •  1 1/2 cups cooked blacked beans or 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. Chili powder
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • water as needed
  • 4 tsp. lime juice (optional when served)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (optional when served)


Heat oil in the bottom of a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the sweet potato and onion once the pan is warm and stir to coat with oil.  Stir often until the onion begins to soften which is about 4 minutes of cooking time.  Add garlic and spices and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly.  Add the canned tomatoes with liquid, bell pepper, and beans.  Cover, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and allow to cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add more water if needed.  To serve, scoop chili into a bowl, squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice on top and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.  The cayenne pepper gives this chili a warming kick so extra hot sauce should not be needed.

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