December 2012 Issue

Sweet Potato Chili — Here’s a Recipe Even Die-Hard Meat Lovers Will Enjoy
By Jean Kressy, MS, BSN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 14 No. 12 P. 66

If you read my column last month, you know I don’t eat much meat. I’m working on becoming a vegetarian, but I’m not there yet.

It’s tough to write about food and give people recipes without including meat. A part of me still thinks you should eat some meat—even if it’s just a few bites. Enter my girlfriend, Alice.

Alice and her husband, Jack, are die-hard carnivores. Their freezer is stocked with packages of meat. Jack shoots small birds and prepares them for cooking on newspaper on his kitchen table. Alice’s favorite recipe calls for two rabbits. I have no idea where she gets them, but I know there are no markets in our neighborhood that sell rabbits or have any other game hanging in the window.

So when I have a recipe that I think will satisfy the palates of experienced meat eaters, I take the pot off the stove and head down to Alice’s place. If Jack’s around, he fills out the taste panel. If their children are home, that’s even better.

Until Alice bought her own copy of the cookbook Game-Cookery, she’d borrow mine for months at a stretch. I didn’t mind, but the last time she returned it, the venison chapter was worn thin. If food stains on the pages mean anything, Alice and Jack were feasting on the Venison Steak Exotic recipe while I was skimming the fat off sauces that were already low in fat.

Feeling particularly ambitious, Alice once tackled a sauce espagnole that called for 24 ingredients. The cookbook author warned the recipe was complicated and time consuming but apparently important enough that serious game cooks should try it.

When my sweet potato chili with beef dish was ready for tasting, I thought it wouldn’t meet Alice’s standards—although everyone who’d tried the recipe in the past loved it. The recipe is a version of a dish from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, which I modified to include less meat and more vegetables. I was fully prepared for Alice to say something about the nuances of flavor, her favorite way of telling me it needed more salt, and equally ready for Jack to let me know it needed more meat. What really surprised me was that after they licked their plates clean, they said it was better than Woodcock pilau.

— Jean Kressy, MS, BSN, is a food writer and clinical nursing instructor living in Massachusetts.


Sweet Potato Chili With a Small Amount of Beef

Keep a tube of tomato paste on hand for recipes that call for a small amount. Liquid is always tricky in a recipe. If too much simmers away, add more water. If the chili is too soupy, cook it a little longer.

Serves 6

2 tsp canola oil
1/2 lb ground lean beef
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 (15.5-oz) can small red beans, rinsed, and drained
3 cups (1/2-inch) diced peeled sweet potato
2 (14.5-oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 cups water
1 T chili powder, or to taste
1 T tomato paste
1 tsp roasted ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese and chopped fresh cilantro, optional garnish

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat.

2. Crumble beef into pot; cook, stirring to break up pieces, until browned. Drain off fat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook six minutes or until onion is softened, mixing occasionally.

3. Add beans, sweet potato, undrained tomatoes, water, chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper; mix to combine. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until potato is tender. Stir occasionally.

4. Serve, garnished with cheese and cilantro, if desired.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 261; Total fat: 4 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 23 mg; Sodium: 433 mg; Total carbohydrate: 39 g; Dietary fiber: 11 g; Sugars: 10 g; Protein: 16 g