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Friday Flashback: Baked Bean Chili

Posted Oct 05 2012 5:41am

I don’t know about y’all, but one of the things that frustrates me about being a food and/or healthy living blogger is spending so much time developing amazing recipes and writing thoughtful, creative posts, and then never going back and looking at them again.
Today, I put a stop to that. Today, I’m headed back in time –and back to Texas–to (re)share one of my favorite recipes of all time. [Yes, people, I said OF. ALL. TIME.] I love it so much, I even did a recipe redux for Breathe Magazine in January. I fixed up the photos a smidge, but kept the words the same. So let’s go ahead and take a little trip down memory lane….
I. Love. Fall. And not just because it has TWO names instead of just one.


Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I think fall is the best season of the year. Forget January 1st, September 1st is the start MY “new year.” This time of year, I get nostalgic for apple-picking, start wondering why I haven’t bought a new backpack, and wonder if my best friends are all going to be in my class.

The sight of the first, most miniscule leaf fallen from the trees makes me giddy!*
*And requires a photograph. Obviously.
I start putting apple pie spice on everything I can get my hands on… …and oatmeal just really isn’t as wonderful unless it features apples AND pears AND persimmons AND pumpkin butter. (AND Pumpkin-Spiced Pecan Butter …go “balls to the FALL,” right?)

The colors (which look especially nice on redheads)…the flavors (welcome to cinnamon-spiced squash-a-palooza!)…the food magazines!

And who doesn’t love that slight chill in the air? Oh wait. Where’s the chill in the air?* *Hint: It’s not under that pumpkin.

Welcome to Texas, y’all…where temperatures cause you to reset you internal thermometer whereby ‘hot’ is anything over 115, and ‘cold’ means less than 70. So last weekend, when a “cold front” moved through, and we reached a low of 60 degrees in the earliest hours of the morning…well, that was reason for celebration.

Instead of Indian Summer, in Texas, we have Cowboy Autumn.*

*Translation: we flirt with fall temperatures and then the next day we’re back to 405 degrees in the shade.
And Cowboy Autumn requires chili.

Although if you’re a Texan, you will throw the idea that this recipe, like my Harvest Tempeh Chili ,* can be called “chili” out the window (and you’ll say it not nearly so nice terms) and that this deliciously simple and soul-soothing concoction can only be called a stew as no one in Texas believes chili can be anything but beef…

*Which struck out not once (for the beans), not twice (for the lack of beef), but THREE times (for the inclusion of butternut squash and apples)
But Mr. Pumpkin doesn’t mind.

And neither do I. The secret ingredient? Baked beans!
Inspired by my coworker, Shelly , who showed up to work with the most delicious smelling stew (which she, being from St. Louis, called “chili”) and told me she’d used mashed up baked beans in it, this Baked Bean Chili involves quite a few cans…
…not a lot of work… …and ridiculously tasty results.

The key really is the baked beans…they lend a sweet flavor that permeates the whole concoction for a subtle tang that makes you want to take just one more bite. (Mashing ‘em up first just messes around with the texture…which is fun.) I also had some leftover black beans from my Halloween-spired Chipotle Butternut & Black Bean “Bisque ” which had been soaked overnight and then boiled with garlic and chipotle. (You can substitute canned black beans, prepared chili beans, Great Northern beans, pinto beans….you get the idea.) I didn’t take a photo of every step, because pictures of onions ‘steaming’/sauteing in the bottom of a soup pot is getting boring…but the method is simple: saute, season, stir, mash, dump, pour, stir some more, simmer, puree a little bit for texture, stir some more, simmer, serve. And although serving it simply is probably your natural inclination, you could get a little wild.* Instead of dipping cornbread into your chili…

*Waking up to a 45 degree morning in Texas IS pretty wild after all!

…you could just pour the chili right on top!

(And, well, you obviously have noticed I was too lazy to make cornbread and made coarse grits–or polenta–instead.)

I might wear cowboy boots, but I’m not from Texas. So I can call this chili. And you are gonna have to deal with it. Baked Bean Chili (Unless you’re from Texas…then you can call it Baked Bean Stew)
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, diced (optional)
  • salt + pepper
  •  1 15-oz. can fiesta corn
  • 1 15-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-oz. can Busch’s vegetarian baked beans, undrained and slightly mashed
  •  1 15-oz. can black (or other) beans*, rinsed, drained, and slightly mashed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

*May substitute 1 1/2 cups soaked and boiled beans

1. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in a little olive oil (or ‘steam’ in water) in a soup pot over medium heat.
2. Once onion and pepper are softened, stir in chili powder, cumin, chipotle, and salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes, or until fragrant.
3. Add corn, tomatoes, and mashed beans to the pot.
4. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes.
5. Using an immersion blender, puree chili a bit for added texture. [You may remove a cup or two of chili and puree in a blender, if you don't have an immersion blender, but be hot liquids + blenders = hilarity.]
5. Just before serving, stir in fresh cilantro.
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