Hearty Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

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.


Becoming a Farm Girl

img_6717A year ago this month, we moved into our house. We built on three acres nestled into a rolling hill bordering an apple and pear orchard. I can be at the grocery store, Starbucks or the library in less than 10 minutes but we definitely feel like we live out in the country.

Aaron’s family has property where they raise cows for beef and my husband has been enamored with farm and ranch life for as long as he can remember. When it became clear a few years ago that we would not be moving back to the hometown where we grew up, we started looking in earnest for a piece of property.

Fast forward to today and we have 6 chickens, 4 sheep and 3 cows (who will have babies in the spring). Marriage is a funny thing isn’t it? Two people with separate dreams and aspirations spending a lifetime figuring out a shared vision. My immersion into farm life has been in fits and starts…two steps forward one step back.


But every day that shared vision becomes a little clearer, has a sharper edge; the reality doesn’t seem so overwhelming. As I write this I can see all those animals out my window, and I realize more and more how glad I am to have them. The kids are learning so much and as much as I’m not much of an animal person, I care very much about where our food comes from, it’s probably what I love most about my town, I can literally see my food growing everywhere I go.


And because we’re talking about beef, how about a recipe for pot roast?  A recipe for braised short ribs in my favorite cookbook, Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes, became the inspiration for this delicious and easy dinner. It takes 15 minutes to prep and a couple hours to cook and the leftovers are maybe even better the next day.


Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

  • 4-5 pound bone-in chuck roast
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14ounce can organic tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1-2 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (Italian seasoning works just fine)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large dutch oven or oven-safe pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Liberally salt and pepper chuck roast on all sides. Sear the chuck roast on both sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Saute the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, scraping up the little brown bits. Salt and pepper the veggies, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and bay leaf. Add chuck roast back into the pot. Turn heat off. Add wine, beef stock and herbs de provence to the meat. The liquid should cover the veggies and about half the meat. Cover the pot with the lid and put in the oven. Cook for 3-4 hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone. Pull the meat off the bone, serve with the veggies it cooked with and if you’re feeling really generous make some mashed potatoes. Watch your family devour their plates and ask for more.