Food as a gift, plus an easy chili recipe

by Camille on February 24, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

When my son was born three months ago, one of my closest friends brought over two meals for my family and I: spinach linguini with homemade marinara sauce and the most delicious garlic bread; and vegetarian nachos made with blue corn chips, beans, salsa, cheese and sauteed sweet potatoes and onions (which may sound unusual, but it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted).

Of all the wonderful gifts I received after my son’s birth, these meals felt especially touching. I know that in many circles, providing food to a new mom is the norm, but this was a new experience for me. It was such a relief to not have to worry about dinner while we were adjusting to life as a family of four. And there’s something so fundamentally generous about feeding another person; it’s the most basic way to say, “I care about you” to another person.

The experience stuck with me, and so when my friend had her baby last week, I was thrilled to be able to return the favor. One of the things I made for her family was a pot of chili. This is one of my favorite recipes; although there’s a little prep work involved if you prefer not to use canned beans and tomatoes, it’s extremely easy. It’s also high in fiber, chock full of lycopene, and low in fat if you use lean beef (I typically get 90-95% lean beef from Trader Joe’s).

*3 cups chili beans (either canned or dried beans that have been cooked–use a mix of pinto and kidney will do)
*At least 2 cups diced tomatoes (fresh, frozen or canned)
*Half a large yellow or sweet onion, diced
*3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin or diced
*1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
*2/3 to 1 pound very lean beef or bison (optional)
*Salt, turmeric, cumin and chili powder to taste (I use quite a bit of salt and chili powder, and a sprinkle of cumin and turmeric. I also add a dash of Worcestershire sauce)

*Put the chili beans, tomatoes and corn in a slow cooker or a large pot and turn the heat on low.
*Sauté the onions and garlic in some cooking spray, then add to the mixture above.
*Then cook the meat until it’s brown; drain off any excess fat, and add that to the rest of the chili.
*Add in spices and cook on medium for an hour, or on low for two to three hours (I prefer cooking it longer–it’s more flavorful that way). Be sure to stir it every ten to twenty minutes.


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Lauren February 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm

What a thoughtful gift! It’s so relaxing when you don’t have to worry about cooking dinner – especially just after having a baby! I love chilli. It’s so great to make a big pot on a Sunday night, and enjoy the leftovers on Monday night when you really don’t feel like cooking. Try putting some chopped avocado on top right before you serve – it’s so good! Congratulations on the new baby:)

Camille February 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Thanks, Lauren! That avocado suggestion sounds delicious.

Lauren Slayton February 25, 2011 at 8:14 am

OMG, where were you 9 years ago. I found dinner for everyone to be the item that put me over the hormonal edge when a new mom. I was tired and the sun was setting, I was blue and then had to cook? Forget the gift cards, something homemade or even a favorite condiment (if you’re not the cooking type) does so much more.

Camille February 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

Lauren S, I so agree! It’s easy to forget who brought you the onesie/stuffed animal/kids’ book, but I won’t forget about this act of kindness.

SARA February 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm

First of all, I’m so obsessed with chili right now. C, this post alone was a bit of a gift! And what a compelling subject. Eating is such a way to take care of ourselves (hence, we forget, or do it pretty badly when stress or bad emotions are high)–and, by consequence, others. (I’m thinking of Carla on Top Chef right now. She “makes everything with love.” Whenever she says that I just have to smile! Reading these comments are having a similar effect…)

Lauren March 1, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Homemade food gifts really are the best. When my grandmother passed away last year, so many friends brought food, and it was so wonderful for my family not to have to cook when there was so much going on. Someone even brought avocados, garlic, lime, and jalapeno for homemade guacamole, which I thought was such a wonderful idea–just mix it all up when you’re ready for it. The flowers people sent were lovely, of course, but the food just meant more, and was incredibly practical as well.

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