If I were to go by today’s weather I would be making you iced tea with a sprig or two of fresh rosemary while sporting a bikini but that’s not happening because I’m practicing — practicing and preparing for El Niño.
We’ve been promised (again mind you) a long wet winter here in drought-ravaged California and I’m getting ready with some warming comfort food worthy of a proper fall.
If the rains come, and there’s mounting evidence to suggest they will, it may go a long way to easing the drought conditions (positive side of the story) but it may also go a long way to battering the region — climatologists are predicting some of the strongest storms since the 1050s … So I’m practicing (and getting ready to batten down the hatches — isn’t that what they say?).
And this meal, is a pretty great one to practice on.
Warm, hearty and delicious, this is a lovely seasonal chili with a great depth of flavor and just the right amount of heat to keep you interested without the overkill. And it all happens in the slow-cooker! The quinoa cooks alongside the other ingredients (no additional pot necessary) adding some nice bulk and nourishment to this plant-based stew.
Of course you can top the chili however you like (and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste) but lately I’ve been enjoying it with avocado cream (actually, I’ve been enjoying everything with avocado cream…) a simple mixture of mashed avocado combined with some plain Greek yogurt, a squeeze of lime juice and some (always optional) chopped fresh or roasted jalapeno. D’lish!
Avocado cream is a great way to expand the nutrient profile of traditional guacamole by working in some additional protein (vital for plant based diets) while also getting more mileage out of the avocado through the addition of yogurt — which is rather nice especially since avocado can get quite expensive during off season. For a vegan version of avocado cream, I recommend using cashews ~ you can find a recipe here.
This recipe freezes beautifully. For things like soups, sauces and chilis/stews (foods that pour and mold relatively easily) I often portion them out into individual serving sizes before freezing. I use silicone muffin cups for this — the muffin tin is not necessary but useful as a freezer tray to hold the cups. Once the contents in the cups are frozen, simply pop the frozen food cups out of the molds and place them into one larger covered container in the freezer (this also reduces the use of plastic). Our boys can then grab a cup or two (or five) from the freezer at their convenience and simply warm in the microwave. I also enjoy the portioned options at lunchtime when I’m working from home. It’s a beautiful thing.
As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results. I’ve also resurrected the Nutrition Facts Panel as many of you were contacting me separately for the information. And while I generally prefer to focus on the quality of food over the calorie count, I understand that having an estimated breakdown of nutrients can be helpful for a number of different reasons.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and, if you happen to see fall, please let her know we’re ready!
- Main Ingredients:
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 cups cooked black beans (well rinsed if using canned)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 (14-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 generous Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground chipotle chile (or to taste, it's hot especially when fresh)
- ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
- For topping: fresh chopped cilantro or parsley, as desired
- Place the first 7 ingredients in a 6-quart capacity slow-cooker: onion, quinoa, black beans, sweet potato, vegetable broth, tomatoes and corn;
- In a separate small bowl, combine the dry spices: chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chipotle chile and black pepper;
- Add the mixture of dry spices to the slow-cooker and mix with a wooden spoon to combine;
- Cook the chili on low setting for 4-6 hours or until the sweet potato is just tender -- taste and make any seasoning adjustments desired.
- Be sure to stir the contents of the slow cooker before serving into individual bowls - this will help distribute the juices;
- If you find that the chili is not as dilute as you would like (different cooking temps/ time may give rise to more absorption and less fluid) simply add a little bit more broth and stir.
- Top the chili as desired, for instance: avocado cream; salsa; chopped jalapeno; dollop of yogurt, sour or cashew cream; shredded cheese.
1) Home prep allows you to soak your beans before cooking which can ease common digestive distress associated with eating beans ~ simply soak beans overnight in a pot of covered water and then drain and rinse the next day. You can also use a quick soaking method which is to boil the beans in water for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for an hour.
2) Home cooked beans have a superior taste and texture. Canned beans tend to be overcooked and mushy - preparing your own beans allows you to cook them just to the point of being al dente so they retain their spring and resilience.
3) Most canned beans continue to be made with Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a known toxin that is used in the lining of many food and beverage cans. Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and when ingested can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.
The Heat Factor: the moderate heat in this particular recipe comes from the ground chipotle chile (chipotle is derived from smoke-dried jalapeño) - if heat is not your thing, you can omit it all together. The more generic "chile powder" that you find in the grocery store (which this recipe also calls for) is a mixture of milder chile peppers with the addition of herbs/spices such as onion/garlic powder and salt and is not particularly hot. I love the unique and distinctive flavor of chipotle but you could also use fresh chopped jalapeño if preferred - if you are new to hot peppers, start slow with a single small jalapeño (seeds and membrane removed) and see how you do.