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Sweet Potato-Black Bean Chili With Chipotle

Soup weather is upon us!  See how a little exclamation point can make it look like I am excited about that?  Well although I am decidedly un-excited about the cold weather, I am very excited that I am in the mood for soup.  Over the warm months, I have built up my stack of soup recipes and ideas to try so now is the time to put them into action.  I love making a big pot of soup for my lunches for the week and always freeze half to enjoy later down the road.  Nothing says cozy to me like a bowl of hot chili and a hunk of homemade cornbread with butter and honey.  I’ve recently come up with the secret to the most moist and delicious cornbread ever.  I’m excited to share that with you…recipe to post soon!
I recommend starting with 1 tablespoon of chipotle chili and adding to that if you want more spice.  I love spice so I even stirred a spoonful of habanero sauce into my bowl (but not into the pot to spare my friends who aren’t heat seekers).  My stepdad used to make really spicy chili and would tell me it would “burn the germs out of my intestines”.  Not the best image to share with you all but it is a memory that makes me giggle as I tuck into my own bowl of spicy chili.
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Chili with Chipotle
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I used red, orange, and yellow baby bell peppers because that is what I had on hand)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 4 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo
  • salt and black pepper
  • about 28-ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked black beans, if you use canned, rinse and drain first
  • 2 cups cooked pinto or kidney beans, if you use canned, rinse and drain first
  • about 2 cups OR one 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • sour cream, sliced scallions, avocado, radishes or cilantro, for serving
  1. In a 4 to 6 quart Dutch oven or stockpot, saute the chopped vegetables in one  tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Continue stirring to make sure the vegetables do not stick to the pan and cook on all sides.
  2. Once the onions soften and become translucent, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add all of the spices and canned ingredients, and stir. Turn heat to a simmer and cover for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Top with any of the suggested toppings above or some favorites or your own!  I like serving my chili either with cornbread, fried plantains, or if I don’t have the time to make either, some tortilla chips do just fine.

Homemade Low-Fat Yogurt (Plain or Lightly Sweetened Vanilla)

A while back I posted a recipe for homemade vanilla yogurt with cherries, pistachio, and a balsamic-honey glaze, a recipe I hijacked from Kate over at Cookie + Kate.  I believe at that time I promised to show you all how to make homemade yogurt.  Whoops!  How time flies!  Well, better late than never, right?  Here goes…

First, I wanted to point out a few benefits of making your own yogurt because y’all might need some convincing.  I bet you are thinking only hippies make their own yogurt…not true!  If I, Aura, who wears Uggs and has a Coach purse (they were unrequested gifts, okay?!?) makes her own yogurt then it is decidedly a non-hippie thing to do.  Maybe more like a foodie thing to do.  Okay…I digress…on to the benefits…!  First, making your own yogurt is easy.  All you need to do is heat up some milk, stir in some store bought yogurt (once you make your own you will use your own to culture the next batch, not store bought), and let it sit.  That’s it!  Second, making your own yogurt is about half the price of buying it when you compare the cost of a half gallon of organic milk to a half gallon of organic yogurt.  I spent $3.79 for a half gallon of organic milk, the same amount I would spend on one quart of organic yogurt.  Third, you get to determine the level of flavor/sweetener you add to the yogurt if you plan to sweeten it.  I like to add some vanilla extract and a little touch of maple syrup to mine so that it is lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt.

Convinced?  Good.  Now, here’s how you do it.


  • 1/2 gallon of 2% organic milk
  • 1/2 cup plain commercial yogurt (with live/active cultures)
  1. Heat the milk:  In a heavy saucepan (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven/soup pot), heat the milk until just before it boils.  As it heats, stir gently to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  I use a candy thermometer to check the temperature but really you just need to heat it until just before boiling and you will be fine.
  2. Cool the milk.  Let the milk cool until it is 115 degrees or so, just hot to the touch.  If you want the milk to cool faster, stir it or set it over an ice water bath.  I just let it sit for a bit while I do other stuff in the kitchen.
  3. Inoculate the milk.  Ladle about one cup of the warm milk into a bowl and whisk it with your store bought yogurt (once you have made your own yogurt, you will use 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to incubate the next batch).  Once you have a smooth consistency, pour it back into your pot of milk.
  4. Incubate.  You can do this a number of ways.  All I do is cover the pot with the lid and set it into an oven that has been heated to about 115 degrees.  I shut the oven off and let the yogurt sit overnight (7-8 hours) in the oven with the oven light on.
  5. When you get up, put the pot of yogurt into the refrigerator and let cool for a couple of hours.  Once it has chilled, transfer the yogurt to air tight containers (jars or Pyrex containers with rubber lids work well).
  6. If you want lightly sweetened vanilla yogurt, stir in a few drops of vanilla extract and maple syrup to sweeten.  Taste and add more of either if you want a stronger vanilla flavor or more sweetness.
  7. Your yogurt will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and Soy Dipping Sauce

Kathleen and Tom from Life With The Lushers (self-described as two twenty something newlyweds who love food, wine, microbrews, and all things that are good) chose this week’s Food Matters Project Recipe.  If you get a minute, check out their blog–they are adorable!  For the original recipe from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook, head to Life With The Lushers.  To see what everyone else from The Food Matters Project came up with, head here!

So these were supposed to be more like bean pancakes but I wanted to shape them into little rounds so didn’t add extra cooking liquid and they were more patty than pancake.  I love edamame (say it:  ed-a-MAH-may) and often add it to stir fries so this was a fun way to try it in a different format.  Edamame is high in protein and has a great smooth texture.  Dipped into this soy dipping sauce, it made for a yummy appetizer.

The only drawback is that they are a little funny looking…I felt like I was making a special St. Patty’s Day meal (will shelve that idea!) and brought me back to a memory of green eggs and ham in preschool (I was very wigged out, as I recall).  I wanted to add something to the top to make them look a little prettier so devised a roasted bell pepper and chili aoli.  If you make these, definitely try the aoli–I thought it added A LOT to the cakes.  Enjoy!

Edamame Cakes With Red Pepper and Chili Aoli and a Soy Dipping Sauce; Adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

Makes 4 servings and takes 1/2 hour

Ingredients for Soy Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger

Ingredients for Roasted Red Pepper and Chili Aoli:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (you can do it yourself or use one from a jar)
  • 3 Tbsp sweet chili sauce (find it in the Asian section of the grocery store or in any Asian grocery)

Ingredients for Cakes:

  • 2 cups frozen or fresh edamame (make sure you buy them shelled)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions or finely diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced finely
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced finely
  • All purpose flour if needed (to thicken)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable oil to pan-fry
  1.  Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Blend the roasted bell pepper, mayo, and chili.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to plate.
  3. Add the edamame to the boiling water and cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the beans to a food processor (or use your immersion blender like I did!) and pulse a couple of times to break them down, then add egg, scallions or onions, garlic and ginger.  Process until combined but not finely pureed; you want a thick batter with some texture that drops from a spoon or can be balled up in your hands then flattened, which is what I did.  If the mixture is too stiff, stir in a little cooking liquid; if too wet, add a little flour.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Put a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  When a few drops of water dance on its surface, add a thin film of oil.  Take a small handful of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten, placing into skilled gently.  Cook until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes.  Turn and cook the other side for a couple of minutes more.  Keep the finished cakes in the warm oven while you finish the others.  Serve hot or at room temperature with the soy drizzling sauce.

Chickpea Burgers

With so many variations on homemade veggie burgers, I wonder how I ever used to make a place for processed Morningstar veggie burgers in my diet!  This chickpea burger recipe is something I whipped up to tackle an overabundance of chickpeas that I had cooked up.  Glad I did–not only was this recipe incredibly easy, but it was tasty and healthy to boot.  Feel free to add spices, change up the veggies based on what you have in the fridge, and top with whatever you want!  Make it easy and have fun introducing a real veggie burger into your rotation.

Chickpea Burgers

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced finely
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed or the same amount of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • Mixed greens or lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Avocado, thinly sliced
  • Whole grain mustard
  • Barbecue sauce
  1. Heat oil in frying pan and add cumin.  Toast for 30 seconds or so, until cumin is fragrant.  Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, and carrot and cook 5-6 minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Place 3/4 of the chickpeas in a food processor with 1/2 of the vegetable mixture, 1 egg, and panko bread crumbs.  Blend until smooth.  Smash remaining chickpeas in a bowl.  Add remaining chickpeas and sauteed vegetables to the puree and mix.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Form patties from the chickpea mix and place on pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
  4. Place on whole wheat buns and top with onion, lettuce, tomato, avocado, mustard, and barbecue sauce.  Mmmmm!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ah, Labor Day, you have fooled me!  It occurred to me that today is Monday, not Sunday and that I have a recipe to post for the Food Matters Project!  Well, better late than never…

This week, the lovely Sara from Simply Whole Kitchen chose Quinoa Tabbouleh and once again, I’m so happy to be part of this project because over the last six months I have tried a couple of dozen new recipes that I may not have tried otherwise.  Funny thing is, I have had bulgar wheat in my pantry for months and have thought about making tabbouleh several times but bulgar wheat doesn’t end up in my rotation too often so the idea kept getting shelved.  Along comes Mark Bittman…who once again reminds me that I don’t need to “play by the rules” and that tabbouleh can be made as many different ways as it can be spelled (Tabbouleh, tabouleh or tabbouli, tabouli…blah!  my tongue is tied!).  This particular recipe taught me that there are no hard and fast rules to cooking and that we can let creativity be our guide.  In this case, tabbouleh is made with quinoa and in Bittman’s recipe, even adds radishes, beans, and celery to the dish.  I love this guy and his easy-does-it attitude.

And I love quinoa.  I mean really, really love it.  Like Love with a capital T and a cherry on top.  I go through tons of the stuff and if you have been to my house, chances are you have left it at one point or another with a little baggie of quinoa with directions on how to cook it because I am always spreading my quinoa gospel.  I was overjoyed to see quinoa have a starring role in my Cooking Light magazine last month and I’d like to imagine that I have had a small role in spreading the word about this great seed.  In a nutshell, it is a nutritional powerhouse (a stand-alone complete protein), cooks faster than rice, and is a great and much healthier stand-in for carbs like rice or couscous.  If you want to know more about it, click here or shoot me a comment/question and I would be happy to answer!

I adapted Bittman’s recipe based on what I was in the mood for so if you want the original recipe, head on over to Sara’s blog, Simply Whole Kitchen.  And remember, you don’t need to have everything exact to make a great tabbouleh!

Quinoa Tabbouleh
adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1/2 c quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • salt
  • 1/3 c olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 c lemon juice, or more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 c roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 6 or 7 radishes, chopped or sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c finely diced scallions or red onion
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan with 3/4 c water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cover and bubble gently until the quinoa as absorbed all of the water, 15 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered for 5 minutes.  Toss the warm quinoa with the oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with pepper.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more oil or lemon juice as needed, then serve.

Chipotle Glazed Squash and Sweet Potato Skewers

I’ve been on board the Food Matters Project train since just about the beginning of this year.  It escapes me how I learned of it but I do remember one thing—when I saw the first posts I was hooked.  The first week of the FMP saw its contributors making chipotle-glazed squash skewers and since that week (which I missed) I have wanted to make them, in large part due to the drool-worthy photos Sarah posted on her blog, 20 Something Cupcakes, to kick off the project.

Lucky for me, this week was a ‘wild card’ week, where FMP’ers will have the opportunity to go back and choose a recipe they missed posting.  I’ve only missed a few (yes, I am patting myself on the back for being dedicated!) so I had to choose from these skewers, cabernet sorbet, or a tomato tart.  This was, hands down, my choice.  I had everything I needed and, like I said, I’ve been thinking about making them since January.

Now, just because I had everything I needed it doesn’t mean I had the best ingredients to work with.  I had a butternut squash I had been hanging onto for a few months.  I think I actually stopped ‘seeing’ it, sitting in the fruit bowl, just like I have stopped ‘seeing’ the one mismatched drawer pull in my kitchen that I cannot remove from the drawer without sawing off the front of the drawer.  Now, this squash looked pretty durned normal from the outside so no issues there.  But when I opened that sucker up, I realized that things had been happening on the inside.  The squash was still okay but instead of a great deal of flesh with some strings and seeds in the center, I found about 50% flesh, 45% stringy stuff, and 5% seeds.  Oops!  Lesson learned…squash changes over time.  Well, I was still able to salvage quite a bit but couldn’t make 1-inch cubes out of the squash so cut it into long strips, which were impossible to skewer.  Because I wanted the skewer effect, I also cubed some sweet potato and a little bit of extra-firm tofu (I love the China Rose brand—wonderful texture and taste).  The prettiest of the three by far was the butternut squash—you can’t beat the color.  All went into the oven on a large sheet tray.

40 minutes later, the result was a hodgepodge of smoky-sweet veggies and tofu.  Good on their own or (as I found out later–see photo below) tossed into a salad.  After the first round of snacking, I took leftover quinoa, black beans, and corn from the fridge and tossed together a quick salad, adding some thinly shredded spinach for a pretty pop of color.

One note:  next time I make this (and there will be a next time) I will add some more honey.  I felt it needed a little more sweet to balance the heat.  Not that the recipe didn’t yield great results…I can just picture it being even better like that!

Chipotle-Glazed Squash Skewers

{total time}: 55 mins; {serves}: 4 – 8

Sweet, starchy winter squash takes well to the smoky heat of chipotle chiles, especially when you concentrate the flavors by roasting slowly. Use any winter squash here, or even sweet potatoes – in either case, these kebabs are drop-dead gorgeous.

  •  1 1/2 pounds butternut or other winter squash (you can also use sweet potatoes), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  •  1/4 cup olive oil, plus some greasing for the pan
  •  1 or 2 canned chipotle chiles, chopped, with 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  •  1 tablespoon minced garlic
  •  1 tablespoon honey
  •  Salt and black pepper
  •  Lime wedges, optional
  •  Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1.  If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20 – 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with oil. Thread the squash tightly on 8 to 12 wooden or metal skewers and put them in the roasting pan.

2.  Combine the 1/4 cup oil, 1 chipotle chile, the adobo sauce, garlic, honey, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl. (A mortar and pestle is ideal here.) Taste and add another chile if you like.

3.  Brush the glaze evenly over the squash skewers and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, turning once or twice and basting with any pan juices. When the squash is tender and deeply colored, remove the skewers from the oven. Serve hot or at room temperature with lime wedges and cilantro if you like.

Still Life With Roast Vegetables and Romesco Sauce

Welcome to week 27 of the Food Matters Project!  When I read we would be making romesco sauce for this week’s project I was filled with nostalgia.  Flashback to 2004.  A younger version of me (a waitress by day, student of sociology by night, writing about the construction of masculinity in boxing and bodybuilding…oh the days when all passions, no matter how random were pursued…!) on a break from serving up huge plates of healthy eats at Gaia Cafe, picked up the NY Times Dining In section.  The cover article was “The Chef:  Peter Hoffman; Still Life With Roast Vegetables.”  It was the first time I read a food article that struck me as so romantic and appealing that I wanted to make the dish right then and there.  The article follows Peter Hoffman on his visit to the Union Square Farmer’s Market.  He carefully selects what’s good at the market and creates a gorgeous pile of roasted veggies served with a piquant romesco sauce.  I tucked the article in my purse and made it soon thereafter.  It became my go-to dish for quite a while.  I would pile veggies on a platter and serve it with generous amounts of romesco, crusty bread, and a dry white wine.  It felt so rustic and romantic (as a couple of ex-boyfriends can attest!).  When the Food Matters Project schedule said “romesco” I was thrilled to return to this long-lost favorite.  The recipe below is the version provided by the NY Times.  For Mark Bittman’s recipe, check out Mireya’s blog, My Healthy Eating Habits.  She is living in Spain right now and shares some information on the origins of the sauce.  Older posts take readers on a tour of Spain–a great way to get a close-up view of one foodie’s experience!  For everyone else’s take on the recipe, head to the Food Matter Project site or to the Food Matters Project Pinterest board for a visual of all of the great stuff we FMP bloggers cooked up (note that it will take 2-3 days for all photos to be posted on the Pinterest board).

Feel free to use any vegetables you have in the house that can be roasted–don’t feel limited by the suggestions below!  Romesco keeps for up to a month (and freezes well) so this sauce will get some mileage–definitely worth the time to make it!

Summer Salad with Romesco; adaptedfrom Chef Peter Hoffman in the NY Times, June 16, 2004

Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

For the salad:

  • 1 bunch (about 5) medium beets (I used candy striped, red, and yellow beets), tops trimmed leaving 1 inch of stem
  • 4 or 5 small lita and/or golden zucchini squashes, trimmed and halved lengthwise or sliced into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 bunch green garlic
  • 1 pound red potatoes (1 to 2 inches in diameter)
  • 1/2 pound green and wax beans, lightly steamed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and halved lengthwise.
  1. Prepare Romesco (recipe below).  Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Prepare vegetables for salad: heat oven to 450 degrees. Place beets in a small roasting pan with a lid. Place squash in another small roasting pan. Trim firm green leaves from garlic, and slice stalk into 1-inch pieces, and halve or quarter bulb. Place in a third pan, with potatoes. Drizzle all pans with olive oil, season with salt, and toss to coat. Cover pan of beets, and place pans in oven.
  3. Cook all vegetables until they are tender, transferring them to a platter as they are ready. Vegetables are tender when a knife passes easily through center. Squash should take 12 to 15 minutes; potatoes and garlic about 20 minutes. Beets will be tender in 45 minutes to one hour. Allow roasted vegetables to come to room temperature, but do not refrigerate. When beets are cool, peel and cut in two or in quarters.
  4. To assemble salad:  arrange potatoes, squash, beets beans, green garlic, and eggs on platter. Serve romesco on the side for dipping.  Serve with crusty bread and a salad of arugula or another spicy green.

Yield: 4 servings.


Time: 45 minutes

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2-inch-thick slices day-old sourdough bread
  • 3 dried ancho chilies (find at grocery store or if you have a Hispanic market, even better)
  • 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 cups (after juices are drained) canned plum tomatoes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (I used mostly Sherry vinegar with some apple cider vinegar splashed in–you can use red wine vinegar if that is what you have on hand)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • Salt
  1. Place a medium skillet over medium-low heat, and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is hot, add bread and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate to cool and dry.
  2. Return skillet to medium heat, and add chilies, pressing them into pan with a spatula so they soften. Flip chilies, and continue cooking until all sides are pliable. Transfer to a plate to cool, then remove stems and seeds (wear gloves or put baggies over your hands while handling the chilies!) Bring a small pan of water to a boil, and add chilies. Simmer until rehydrated, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. In bowl of a food processor, combine almonds, fried bread and garlic. Process into a thick paste. Add chilies, tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar and paprika. Process, adding 1/2 cup olive oil in a thin stream. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 1 month. Serve with grilled meat, fish or roasted vegetables.  Yield: 1 1/2 quarts.