I originally thought I would share a treat in honor of Valentine’s Day, but I figure between the candy bowl at work, the treats kids brought home from parties at school and the well-meaning boxes of chocolates that loved ones gifted us, we’re all a little sugared out.
And as much as it hasn’t really felt much like winter the last couple of weeks, it IS still winter. We came home from a gorgeous blue-bird (although a little icy) day on White Pass over the weekend with cold toes, soaking wet ski gear and absolutely ravenous appetites.
We needed one of those winter-staple meals to warm up, comfort our tired bones and take the edge off our hunger-fueled grumpiness. What hit the spot was a big pot of chili with all the fixings. And this chili evolves a little every time I make it.
That’s the beauty of chili — it’s incredibly forgiving. You can change it, swap in and out ingredients, and it remains delicious.
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. It’s mostly cans of beans and tomatoes, some spices you likely have in your cupboard (and if you don’t have one or two, no problem), and a little chopping. It all goes in the pot to simmer for an hour or so, making your house smell amazing.
The result is a big pot of hearty soup that feeds a crowd. It’s slightly smoky from the cumin seeds and full of big, savory flavors. The green chilis and cayenne add a hint of heat to the soup without it being too spicy.
We load our bowls up and go crazy with the toppings. I usually chop cilantro, slice some avocado and put out a bowl of tortilla chips and shredded cheese. I always top mine with a few pickled jalapeños, but I never shy away from a little heat.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 red OR orange bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large sweet potato, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 1 4.5-ounce can green chilis
- 2 14-ounce can organic black beans
- 2 14-ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 to 2 cups jarred salsa
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef (cooked shredded roast beef or cubed stew meat work well, too)
- 1 32-ounce box chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start by browning your hamburger in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan.
Break the meat up with a wooden spoon, stirring occasionally until it’s cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. If you prefer ground turkey, or happen to have some leftover roast beef from earlier in the week, use that instead.
You can always skip the meat completely and make this a vegetarian chili.
When the meat is finished cooking, drain on a paper towel-lined dinner plate and set to the side.
In a large pot, cook the onion, bell pepper and sweet potato in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Salt and pepper the vegetables liberally. Add the green chilis, black beans, tomatoes, salsa, brown rice and chicken stock to the pot. Stir to combine. Carefully add the meat to the pot and stir in all seasonings.
Turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Allow to cook at a slow boil for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the rice is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes break apart easily, the chili is ready.
Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to break the larger pieces of sweet potato apart as well as shred the meat. If the soup starts to get too thick, add more chicken stock (or water) a cup at a time until you get to your desired consistency.
Taste the soup and make sure it tastes right for you. Salt and pepper again if needed. Before serving, remove bay leaf.
Ladle chili into bowls. Top with chopped cilantro, avocado, corn chips and a big dollop of sour cream.