Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili with Fresh Guacamole

This is a guest post from my friend Candace. She really should have her own blog as her love of food and puns is both intense and entertaining.

 Every now and then, Minda– my friend and our wonderful host – hounds me to do a guest post for her blog. By hounds me, of course, I mean that she invites me to do a guest post, I enthusiastically agree, then she wonders what the *bleep* happened to that post I said I’d write. She’ll remind me at least once a year, to no avail.

Clearly, she’s the best, and a far more reliable, talented, and entertaining blogger than I’ll ever be. Minda’s Note: Blush You know this; it’s why you’re here, after all. Still, if I don’t pony up with a post soon, she’s going to stop asking – or worse, stop inviting me on the bi-weekly, day-saving coffee run. The horror!!

Several weeks ago, Minda posted a recipe featuring bulgur, which she made during our Cooking Club. While she was experimenting with exotic –albeit earthy-sounding– grains, I was cooking up an inspired new chili combo – sweet potato and black bean. I love sweet potato; I love chili; and I really, really love black beans. I particularly love it when chili doesn’t require meat ingredients. I had found my match made in culinary heaven.

I have now made Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili twice, and I will definitely be cooking it again soon. I changed the original recipe slightly by adding some dark chocolate, something I’ve always wanted to do because, well: It. Just. Seems. So. Haute. And it gave the flavor even more depth and brought out the sweetness of the potatoes and generally perfectly complemented the seasoning.

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I wish my instincts always worked out so well.

A hearty thank you to our University’s wellness program leadership for introducing me to this hearty dish.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Ingredients
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 16-ounce jar chunky salsa
1 15-ounce can black beans, slightly drained
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 TBSP chili powder
2 tsp grated dark chocolate
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chipotle powder
1 TBSP cooking oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
In a large pot over medium heat, sweat onions in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and continue cooking until translucent.
Add sweet potatoes, chocolate, and spices; cook for three minutes.
Pour in salsa, water, and vegetable stock.
Bring mixture to a low boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Add black beans.
Cover and cook 20-30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are fork tender and soup has thickened.*

Top with guacamole (optional). BONUS RECIPE below.

*Note: I haven’t been very successful yet getting my soup to thicken, which has prompted me to consider a thickening agent. I will report back after my next attempt. Minda’s Note: Try mashing some of the beans with a fork before adding them to the chili. The released starch will thicken it a bit. You could also give it a quick hit with an immersion blender. 

BONUS RECIPE

When I was a kid, I hated guacamole. In fact, I hated anything to do with that weird, wrinkly blackish-green fruit thing, the avocado. But I was wrong, as kids sometimes are.

Now I know the bliss that is a cool, creamy avocado served with, let’s see, almost anything. Guacamole is just about the easiest thing to make, and I like mine so much that I’ll never buy the pre-made stuff again. I don’t like to brag, but I’ve kind of made a name for myself.

My tombstone will read:
Beloved wife and step-mother.
Epic maker of guacamole.

So I’m confident that if you love guac, you’ll love this recipe. Best of all, it’s super simple, proving once again that basic recipes are the best. But first, a couple of notes about this recipe. I choose avocados that give slightly when you press on the (still weird and wrinkly and blackish green) skin. After you cut your avocados in half and remove the pit, a large spoon is great for shelling the fruit right out of the peel. Likewise, I use a small spoon for seeding my pepper.

About those peppers. After handling a serrano pepper, make sure you wash your hands well. With soap. Twice. And don’t, like, touch your face for the rest of the night. ESPECIALLY NOT YOUR EYES. Seriously.

Or, I suppose you can use a milder pepper, if you prefer.

Guacamole (Avocado’s Favorite Recipe)
2 ripe avocados, cubed
½ onion, diced
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2-3 Campari tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 lime
½ TBSP dried cilantro, or 1 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Combine avocado, diced onion, minced pepper, cilantro, and tomato. Squeeze juice from one lime over guacamole and season with salt and pepper. Using a large fork, mash until you’ve reached desired texture. For even creamier guac, you can throw in a tablespoon of sour cream.

Minda, I hope I’ve done your blog justice. You set the bar pretty high. Notice, I refrained from using even a single pun more than three puns. So, if you’ll have me back, consider this a commitment to guest blog the Grinch cookie recipe this Christmas. You know, the one you’ve been asking me to do for two years?

Minda’s Note: Well done! 

Found on Pinterest: Cheeseburger Soup

This recipe is another Pinterest find. The recipe that I originally pinned here is an adaption of a recipe from Taste of Home that can be found here.

I always enjoy reading comments of online recipes and sometimes the comments help me decide whether or not I want to try the recipe. Some of the comments for the entry on Taste of Home made me chuckle because some people were very critical of the name “Cheeseburger Soup”. One commenter wrote “This doesn’t taste like a cheeseburger at all!”

I agree that the ground beef really isn’t the star of this soup. In all honesty, it’s a creamy, cheesy potato soup with some hamburger in it. Beefy enough not just be potato soup but perhaps not beefy enough to give the cheeseburger headline credit.

There were also some complaints about the prep time. I normally never time my prep time but in this case I did and I agree with Taste of Home’s 45 minutes. The majority of the time is chopping time, and unfortunately that’s just a sacrifice you have to make for a vegetable soup like this. I used baby carrots which cut down on the peeling and chopping quite a bit.

All that aside, this is a delicious soup that I plan to make again and again. I served it with rolls but it would be perfect in a bread bowl. Some crumbled cooked bacon on top would really set this off as well.

If you look at my recipe versus the links you’ll notice some differences. I made it healthier by using lean ground beef, skim milk and mild shredded cheddar cheese instead of Velveeta as called for in the recipe. I also used less cheese than the recipe recommended and the soup was still cheesy and good.

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Cheeseburger Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potatoes (1-3/4 pounds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese plus more for topping
1-1/2 cups skim milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

In a 3-qt. saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, saute the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. This is what’s called preparing a “roux”. Add roux to soup; bring to a boil. The roux will immediately thicken your soup and give it a smooth texture. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from the heat; blend in sour cream. Yield: 8 servings (2-1/4 quarts).