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Eat For Eight Bucks: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

[Photograph: Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen]

Around this time two years ago, my best friend Keith and I hosted a chili cook-off. It was a memorable night of friendly competition. But perhaps the most notable part of the evening was that I made a vegetarian chili. And it won.

Meat chili is always delicious, and Keith's was no exception (a riff on this one). But we were cooking for 20 people, and part of my silent post-victory gloating had to do with the fact that his 10 pounds of losing brisket chili cost so much more than my winning humble cans of beans.

This recipe is not the same as that winning chili—I've been experimenting ever since with different veggie variations that put the old bowls of ground beef to shame. In this version, black beans get beefed up with chunks of sweet potatoes. The result is rich, sweet, and spicy, and should you be cooking for a group of your friends for the Super Bowl, it could be the perfect cheap option to impress your guests, even the guys.

Shopping List: 2 bell peppers, $0.50; 3 cans black beans, $2.50; 1 chipotle chile, $0.15 (prorated), $0.25; cilantro, $0.25 (prorated); 1 bottle of beer, $2.00; 1 can tomatoes, $2.00; 1 pound sweet potatoes, $1.00
Pantry Items: Olive Oil, Onion, Garlic, Salt, Cumin, Chili Powder
Total Cost (for 2 portions): $7.65

About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, In The Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.

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