- By Addie Broyles American-Statesman Staff
Central Texas has a new low-cost grocery store that should be on your radar.
The German-based Aldi opened earlier this month in Pflugerville. There are already 1,600 Aldi stores around the country; this is the first in the Austin area. The chain is in the middle of a major U.S. expansion that will add nearly 1,000 stores by 2022, but so far, this is the only store planned for Central Texas.
Southwest Missouri is rarely ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to food trends, and yet I grew up near an Aldi. But until last week, I hadn’t been to one in years, even though there are locations in College Station, Killeen and Temple.
So, is it worth driving from Austin (or elsewhere) to Pflugerville to shop? If you live in Pflugerville, is it worth battling the lines? Here are 10 takeaways from my visit:
Sweet potatoes, black beans round out beloved weeknight chili
Some dishes come so naturally that you take them for granted. I’ve made this chili more than probably any other dish I’ve cooked for my kids, yet I haven’t taken the time to write the recipe down for the family recipe book, much less share it in the paper.
Chili purists will scoff not only at the beans but also the coconut oil and the sweet potatoes and probably the garam masala, too. It’s OK. I understand their passion for Terlingua-style no-bean, no-tomato chili, but that doesn’t have nearly enough nutritional oomph for a weeknight family dinner.
With the beans (kidney and black beans are ideal, but any mixture will work) and the sweet potato, you’ll get full on more than just meat and spices, and you can use the leftovers to make empanadas. We like to eat it topped with everything but the kitchen sink — sour cream, shredded cheese, Fritos, cilantro, onions — but I’ll leave that part up to you.
Addie’s Weeknight Chili
Use any canned tomato that you’d like; even leftover marinara sauce works. I sometimes throw in a can of tomato paste or masa to thicken and intensify the flavors and texture. Some of you might like chili with 3 tablespoons of chili powder, but I tend to play it safe on the spiciness for the sake of the kids.
A final note: Try garam masala in your favorite chili recipe, if you haven’t already. With notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, it adds a sweet smokiness to the already cumin-spiced chili. With the sweet potatoes, black beans and coconut oil, it’s a match made in heaven.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups peeled, chopped sweet potatoes
1 1/2 lb. ground meat (beef, pork, lamb, bison or combination)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15.25-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cups water (or beer or stock or a combination)
In a large pot with a heavy bottom, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweet potatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the sweet potatoes have softened, about 15 minutes. Take the sweet potato and onion mixture out of the pot and add the meat. As you brown the meat, add the spices and stir often. When the meat has cooked, add the sweet potato mixture, the beans and tomatoes to the pot. Stir well and then add two cups of water or another liquid. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour and serve. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, avocado, Fritos, saltines, cilantro, onion or whatever other chili toppings you like.
— Addie Broyles
$50,000 in grants up for grabs through Austin Food & Wine Alliance
For six years, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance has given away tens of thousands of dollars to local food businesses and nonprofits, and this year, it’ll be giving away the biggest amount yet.
Last year, the organization gave away $27,500 to five local groups. Now, it is planning to award $50,000 in grants at a ceremony in early February. Chefs, farmers, winemakers, food artisans and nonprofits are invited to apply through Dec. 1. You can find the form at austinfoodwinealliance.org.
The alliance distributes the awards based on innovation and impact in the community. Past recipients include Argus Cidery, Confituras, SRSLY Chocolate and Keep Austin Fed, a bootstrapped nonprofit that diverts food waste from Austin restaurants and grocery stores to feed the city’s hungry. The alliance also hosts an annual culinary arts career conference for local high school students, and the grants are funded by the Austin Food & Wine Festival and events like the upcoming Wine & Swine Annual Pig Roast on Nov. 19 at Camp Mabry. Tickets are available online.