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story.lead_photo.caption A spicy coconut sweet potato stew is just the thing to take the chill off of a cool autumn evening. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Did you (reluctantly) turn on your furnace this past week? I did, too, which indicates it's probably time to snuggle up for winter.

It also means it's time to brush up on your chili recipe repertoire so your insides will feel as warm and toasty.

Chili is a favorite fall dish, and often includes either chicken or beef. This recipe gets its protein from canned beans, with sweet potato adding the vitamin C and vitamin B6 that could help scare away winter colds.

I used chipotle chili powder, which added a pretty fiery kick to the dish; the addition of yogurt just before serving helped cool it down. The chili was even better the next day (I ate it for breakfast) and it also freezes well for those busy, don't-feel-like- cooking nights when the microwave is your best friend.

You can dish this chili right out of the slow cooker and into a bowl. Or, serve over a bed of rice or quinoa. Garnish with fresh herbs and an optional dollop of yogurt and/or shredded coconut. It's also delicious with tortilla chips crumbled on top.

——

SLOW-COOKER COCONUT SWEET POTATO CHILI

Makes: 8 servings

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored and diced

2 large sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cubed

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 poblano chilies, cored and chopped

15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes

15-ounce can coconut milk

2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon of your favorite chili powder, or more (or less) to taste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

2-3 teaspoons curry powder, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2 cup plain yogurt, plus more for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or chives, for garnish

Shredded unsweetened coconut, for garnish, optional

Place onion, celery, apples, sweet potatoes, garlic and chopped poblano in the crock of a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine, then add beans, tomatoes, coconut milk and chicken or vegetable broth.

Stir again, then add chili powder, cumin, oregano and optional curry powder. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cook on high heat for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. A few hours in, taste and add more chili powder, as desired, or a pinch or two of cayenne pepper if you like chili on the spicy side.

Toward the end of cooking, open the lid to allow the chili to thicken. If the chili looks a bit dry, add a bit more broth or water.

Just before serving, stir in yogurt. Spoon into warmed bowls and garnish with fresh chopped herbs and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

— Gretchen McKay

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