Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn on Your Dinner Plate: Mai's Baked Sweet Potato with Apple Cider Chili

First and foremost, a huge “Thank You!” to the wonderful group of ladies who came out for my first cooking class on Tuesday night. You ladies calmed my nerves and made my first teaching experience a complete delight. My head is already swirling with recipes for next week—I can’t wait!

Quick question: where would you rate an apple on your favorite fruit countdown? I’m thinking that, before this autumn, I’d probably have put it somewhere around 10 or so. Most of the berries would shimmy in before it, as well as nectarines, peaches, and grapes. I just never thought apples had a whole lot of pizzazz to offer, say compared to a mango or a kiwi. It was the old standby. If all else in the fridge was moldy or out of date, I could always count on a trusty apple from the crisper drawer to squelch my hunger. I guess I would go so far as to say I “loved” apples, kind of like you love that old baby doll with the dislocated shoulder and a lazy eye—when every other preferable comfort is nowhere in sight, she’s always up for a cuddle.

However, this fall I found my love for apples grew into somewhat of an obsession. Every week I would make a stop at a little roadside stand on White Oak Rd. and their incredibly diverse selection of apples began to peak my interest in what I thought was a fairly simple fruit. Each time I visited this stand, they had at least a dozen different types of apples to choose from and whenever I returned they usually switched out at least 2 or 3 varieties for new ones.

“Impressive,” I thought, considering that when I went to the grocery story, I maybe had 4 or 5 types to choose from. So I began to try to widen my apple horizon. When I went to this little stand, I always got at least a couple pounds of galas, granny smiths, and red delicious for my kids (those are their favorites) and then I also grabbed a couple varieties unknown to me just to try them out. And slowly, apple by apple, I found myself falling in love with this unassuming little orb all over again.

Then, after a little investigation on the web, I found out that there are over 7500 different types of apples; you could actually eat a different variety every day for 19 years! Well, well, well, little miss apple, you just moved your way right up to the top of my favorite fruit countdown. You had levels I never knew existed under your thin tasty skin.

Now, every single day involves some type of apple product, whether a mug of warm apple cider after breakfast or sliced apples and cheddar cheese for lunch. I think the kids are kind of “appled-out”, because every single time that they say “Mom, I’m hungry” in that pleading kind of voice, I respond, without fail, “Go get an apple.”

Thus, my obsession has led me to this: Apple Cider Chili. And it’s good. Really, really good. Put it over top a warm baked sweet potato and you pretty much have autumn smack dab in the center of your dinner plate.

Mai’s Apple Cider Chili over Baked Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs. ground beef, browned and drained
2, 15 oz. cans of kidney beans
3, 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
½ c. apple cider
1-2 tbsp. brown sugar
6 large sweet potatoes

Chili Seasoning:
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin

Toppings: Cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce potatoes with fork several times. Wrap potatoes with foil and bake for 2 hours, or until tender.

Meanwhile, combine first five ingredients in large pot over medium heat. Combine Chili Seasoning ingredients in a small bowl. Add seasoning to simmering pot and continue to cook on low for about 45 minutes.

When potatoes are ready, serve hot chili over potatoes, using whatever toppings you like.

If you are a little hestitant about serving this to your non apple-loving friends or family, have no fear. My husband doesn’t like apples in the slightest and he couldn’t stop raving about this chili. And if you’re not feeling all that adventurous and want to leave the apple cider out and make straight-up chili, just add another can of tomato sauce and you’re good to go!


  1. Yum - this sounds so good! We love chili, and this time of year is perfect for it. I'll be trying this one.

  2. i love this last post but im wondering is there any more on the way for 2011????