Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eat Food, Save Money: Transformeals + Beef and Sweet Potato Chili

We already know that cooking rather than eating out saves you money. We also know that you save even more money if you can use leftovers wisely. 

But here's the problem: leftovers can be boring. I mean, they're quick and easy, sure. Just dump them on a plate or in a bowl, nuke them in the microwave for a few minutes, and dinner is ready. But eating the same thing two or three nights in a row can tempt some people (read: me) to go out. So, I don't love having the same leftovers night after night. 

What I'm calling "transformeals" help me deal with my boredom of leftovers. I can get a lot more nights out of my leftovers if I can use some of them to make something new. 

This recipe started out as Baked Beef and Bean Taquitos (similar to my chicken and spinach taquitos). I made them for the Super Bowl. I had lots of leftover filling, but rather than make more taquitos, I came up with Beef and Sweet Potato Chili.

If you make this chili, you could use your leftovers to make Beef and Sweet Potato Tacos: just add some taco shells, some cheese, and some lettuce. Or you could make a Beef and Sweet Potato Taco Salad: add some chopped romaine, some guacamole, and some sour cream. You can transform your leftovers into something new without much extra work. And for some people (read: me) that can help keep temptations to order pizza at bay.

Notes: Even though I had leftover filling already, I've written the recipe without assuming that you made taquitos first. 

I used 90% lean ground beef, so I was able to use the fat from the beef to cook the potato and onions. If it looks like you don't have enough fat in the pan, add just a little bit of butter or olive oil before you at the potato and onion. Otherwise the potato will stick to the pan. 

The refried beans give the chili a nice thick consistency. I used regular refried pinto beans, but you could use black beans. If you want to cut down on the fat, feel free to use regular beans. Just mash them up before you add them to the chili. 

Those pre-made taco seasoning packets from your grocery store? Use them! If you don't keep tons of spices on hand, there's no use buying a bunch for one recipe. Some of those seasoning packets are under $1. Individual spices can cost $3 each. They're an investment that you might not want to make unless you think you'll use them in the future. 

1 lb ground beef
1 15 oz can refried beans
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes 
1 large sweet potato
1 small onion
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Hot sauce (to taste)

Directions: Dice the onion and peel and dice the sweet potato. Chop the cilantro.

Start by browning the ground beef in a large skillet set on medium heat. Season with salt and half the taco seasoning packet. When there no pink remaining, drain the meat on a plate lined with a paper towel. Return the pan to the heat (see notes). 

Add the onion and potato. Cook until they just start to turn brown in some places. Season with salt and the other half of the taco seasoning. Add the tomatoes, beef, and refried beans. Add hot sauce to taste. If the mixture looks too thick, add some water (about 1/3 cup to start with). 

Turn the heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Serve with your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!

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