Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Those who like it extra spicy will love this black bean chili recipe I got from Café Latte in St. Paul, Minnesota a few years back. A reader requested the recipe from the restaurant when I wrote a Q & A food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Café Latte obliged—but in restaurant-sized quantities. So I had to do some fancy division and subtraction to get down to a recipe I could fit in my largest soup pot. This is still a massive amount of soup, but it always gets gobbled up in a hurry. Served over a bowl of brown rice, it’s a filling, satisfying meal. If you can take the heat! (Which I can’t, so I make this as a gift of love to my husband and sons who DO like their food on the spicy side.)

Serves 10-12

4 (14 ounce) cans black beans
1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
2 )14 ounce) cans corn
1½ cups yellow onions, diced
2½ cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
6 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable soup base or chicken soup base*
Half of 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
2 cups canned, roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice

Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Drain and rinse beans and corn. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle powder over onion mixture, and stir to combine. Roast spices and onion mixture for a few minutes. Add water and soup base, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; then add chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or puree, roasted peppers, beans, and corn. Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked rice, and top with cilantro and sour cream.

*NOTE: Soup base is a less salty and more flavorful way to make soup than using bouillon or vegetable/chicken stock. It’s first ingredient is vegetable or meat, and salt is lower down the list. I prefer to use this in soup whenever I can, and usually buy only the chicken base as I use it in other soup recipes as well. But if you’re trying to go strict vegetarian with this recipe, you’ll want to buy the vegetable soup base.

Tortilla Black Bean Casserole

IMG_0805If tacos married lasagna, this would be their love child: an easy layered Tex-Mex dish that packs a punch of flavor. I found this casserole recipe online at Midwest Living, but I’ve added a can of corn, and more seasonings than the original as it needed a little more zippity-do-da. It assembles in about 15 minutes, and bakes in 30…and as small corn tortillas take the place of pasta, it’s a hit with the gluten-free crowd. The first time I served this, my meat-lovin’ man was shocked when I told him he’d eaten—and enjoyed!—a meatless meal. So it’s a hit with vegetarians and carnivores as well. With only 2-3 of us currently in our household (that third comes and goes a lot), we always have leftovers. That’s why we were happy to find this dish is even better second day, reheated in the microwave. 

Serves 8


2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 sweet green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce) can of corn, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, do not drain
3/4 cup picante sauce or salsa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, or regular paprika
Pinch each garlic salt and black pepper
12 – 6-inch corn tortillas (these small ones fit best in the rectangular pan)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese (I prefer the white cheddar)


1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 scallions, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In a large skillet, sauté onions on high heat until translucent. Add green pepper and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir for additional 1-2 minutes. Add black beans, corn, undrained tomatoes, picante or salsa, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes.

In 3-quart rectangular baking dish (9″x13″), assemble the ingredients in this order:
1/3 bean mixture
6 corn tortillas
1/2 of the shredded cheese
1/3 bean mixture
6 corn tortillas
1/3 bean mixture
1/2 of the shredded cheese

Top with foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let dish cool and set for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro, and sliced scallions.

Cowboy Caviar

IMG_0675Tired of salsa? Give your chips something new to dip with this tasty and nutritious bean and veggie dish. I first had this when my neighbor Tutti made it for a beach party at her cabin. I made a total pig of myself, lingering over the snacks, dipping (and probably double-dipping) into this fresh take on salsa, sans the tomatoes. She finally asked me if I might like the recipe, most likely to get me to move away from the table. Tutti’s recipe had pimentos in it, but I’ve never had those on hand, and the red bell peppers do the job of adding that pop of red. I also add a few more vegetables than she did.

This travels really well, so it’s great for bringing on a picnic or serving at a potluck. I’ve sent this with the guys to cross-country camp for a healthy snack, and the coach LOVED it because the guys got extra protein and veggies—and even the ones who “didn’t eat vegetables” sampled this snack. You can add as many raw veggies as you like, just dice them so you don’t end up with just one large carrot on a chip.

If you have any leftover, this is great on top of chopped salad greens, with some diced grilled chicken. No salad dressing needed – the sauce does it all.

Makes 2 quarts

For Sauce:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can black-eyed beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch green scallions, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/3 to 1/2 cucumber, diced
1 can shoe peg corn, does not need to be drained (vacuum-packed)
1 small can diced green chili peppers, drained
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh jalapeño, minced
Tortilla chips for serving

Combine vinegar, sugar, and oil in saucepan. Heat on medium until sugar is dissolved. In large bowl, combine all the beans and vegetables. Pour sauce over bean and vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate 2-24 hours. Before serving, drain off excess marinate. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: If you want to be extra-healthy, you can serve this with cucumber rounds instead of chips. Skip the cukes in the recipe, if you go that route.

Baked Beans with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Baked-Beans-IMG_0676I had you at bacon, right? This baked bean dish is one I came up with through years of tweaking, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken or ribs, burgers or brats. The trick is to bake it low and slow—then the flavors really blend together. Next time you’re invited to your friends or neighbors for a barbecue, offer to bring these. You can make ahead a day or two, refrigerate, then bake an hour or two before the event. No last minute prep needed. 

If you want to try to appear classier than you actually are, you can put the beans in individual ramekins for your dinner guests. Then bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6-8

4-6 pieces of bacon
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans Bush’s baked beans, do NOT drain
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, rinse and drain
1 (14 ounce) can butter or cannelloni beans, rinse and drain
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup full-flavored molasses
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon dried mustard (or 1 tablespoon prepared mustard)
Dash each salt and pepper

IMG_0668Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Fry bacon in large frying pan until crisp. (If not cooked until crisp, bacon will turn soft when baked with beans.) Remove cooked bacon to plate lined with paper towels; cool. Add onions to bacon fat and sauté on medium to medium-high heat until onions are golden and caramelized (see photo). Add minced garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes longer, until garlic is golden brown. Drain off any excess bacon fat.

In large bowl, combine all the beans, catsup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper. Add in caramelized onion mixture, and crumble bacon on top. Stir again until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into 3-quart baking dish (casserole dish is better than 9″x12″ baking dish), and bake uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until sauce has thickened and darkened in color.

NOTE: If making ahead and refrigerating, let stand at room temp for an hour or so before baking, if possible.

And this recipe may not be low-cal, but it is gluten-free!