Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chilli with Chipotle Peppers

I realized today that this blog is a whopping 2 months and 20 posts old! I often remark to myself that the days seem to fly by in the Okanagan, so when I looked back on my first post just now I was a little confounded to see it a mere 8 weeks ago that I wrote it. I know, this isn’t the most impressive landmark – I’m not pouring myself a rum and coke to celebrate just yet – but it does attest to the fact that having my life confined to an RV has come at the expense of neither my sanity (yet) nor – more astoundingly – my eating habits. I’d even say that despite the constraints of cooking in the kitchenette of a 30 ft. trailer, I’m making and eating a more diverse array of meals than ever before. Of course, this has a lot to do with being surrounded by fantastic local, seasonal ingredients in the Okanagan. But I also like a food-related challenge (emphasis on food-related). Trailer-park bound or not, I’m determined to make good food!

I guess it’s about time I shared a photo of this mythical kitchenette (aka where the culinary magic happens). As you can see, it really is a quite small! Normally when I cook I move the dish rack aside and place fitted boards over the sink to create more counter space. But you get the idea.

This is very much a ‘before’ photo. Nobody would want to see what the kitchenette looks like during or after a round of cooking… think dirty dishes and utensils piled high, two or three elements on the stove in full swing, food on the floor, yours truly in a tacky floral apron and pink slippers, and Hunter trying to grab knives off the counter. A real disaster zone, in other words!

The main thrust of the advice about cooking offered on websites pertaining to the ‘RV lifestyle’ is that concessions should be made to the size of the cooking area at one’s disposal and meals should be kept simple. Makes sense, but by their definition, ‘simple’ appears to mean relying heavily on canned goods (e.g. potatoes and wieners) and an extremely liberal use of mayonnaise (one recipe I came across called for a cup and a half of the stuff!). While I’m certainly no saint – my diet isn’t completely void of processed and packaged foods (truth: I love processed cheese) – I still think it’s still very possible for meals to be both simple and nutritionally sound.

Fortunately, the majority of my recipes aren’t particularly complicated so I’ve had few problems executing them in the RV’s kitchenette. Dishes like the black bean and sweet potato chilli here are great because – like my Garam Masala Chickpeas and Potatoes – they’re easy to make and involve dirtying up just one pot, a cutting board and a few utensils! Plus they incorporate lots of fresh ingredients. No canned meat here, folks!

I’ve been sneaking spoonfuls of this chilli right out of the pot all afternoon! The subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes tastes amazing alongside the smokiness of the chipotle peppers. And the avocado on top works nicely to counter the heat of the dish. Simply scrumptious! Note: I like my chilli spicy, and the amount of red pepper flakes and chipotle peppers indicated below reflects this. If you prefer a milder chilli (or an even spicier one!), go ahead and adjust the amounts of these ingredients accordingly.

Recipe: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chilli with Chipotle Peppers

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 chipotle peppers, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 540ml can black beans (preferably organic), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 398ml can diced tomatoes (preferably organic)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 avocado, diced (for topping)
  • 1 cup cilantro (for topping)
  • Juice of one lime (for topping)
  • Salt to taste

Method:

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and continue to saute just until garlic turns golden brown. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, paprika and chili powder and stir until spices have completely coated onion and garlic mixture. Stir in sweet potato, zucchini, black beans and corn. Stir in diced tomatoes and water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and allow chilli to simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust with salt if necessary. Scoop chilli into bowls and top each serving with diced avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Eat!

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