Sweet and Bright: Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, I've known many frigid winter days; my husband has lovingly called this different type of bone-chill "Buffacold."  Since moving south to Richmond, Virginia, the majority of my winters have been relatively mild.  This year, however, we've seen record cold temperatures and multiple days of snowfall.  To be honest, I'm just not used to it or prepared for it anymore.  Despite this fact, the snow this year has been a nice reminder that winter happens here, too.  I love living in a place now with four seasons.  (Buffalonians joke that in Western New York there are two seasons: winter and construction.)
With all of this cold and snow, I have found myself relying on a delicious slow cooker soup regularly.  Because I have made it for myself no less than four times in the last month, I thought it might be worth sharing.  Not only is it delicious, but it is easy and ready when you are.  Who doesn't like coming home to a hot, home-cooked meal?
1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can black beans, no need to drain or rinse (or 1 1/3 c of cooked dry black beans)
1-2 boxes vegetable broth (I make my own, so the amount varies, fill pot half to full)
1/8-1/4 head of red cabbage, chopped
1/2 c spinach or frozen spinach, chopped
1-3 ribs of celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
(optional: 1/3 c rice)
1-2 t cumin
1/2-1 1/2 t chili powder (depending on how hot you want it--start small)
dash of salt
sprinkle of pepper
a few squirts of hot sauce (you may not put hot sauce in/ on everything)
To serve:
tortilla chips to crunch on top
Begin with the vegetable broth in a large pot or in a slow cooker.  Combine all other ingredients, beginning with the vegetables and beans.  Add in spices a little at a time.  Allow to heat thoroughly.  Sweet potatoes should be tender before serving.  If you've added rice, be sure that is also ready before serving.
Stovetop: heat on high until just before boiling, then cover and simmer on med-low.  Should be ready within an hour.
Slow Cooker: combine and set on low (4-6 hours) or high (2-3 hours).
We all know how important a healthy diet is to our well-being.  Eating the right foods can help your brain function better, help maintain healthy weight, and prevent a host of diseases. This was originally just a soup containing most of our stock vegetables, but I have come to love the sweet potato black bean combination.  The colorful and delicious combination makes it an even better quick and easy meal.  To help get you motivated to try this, or something like it, I've included the benefits of each of the vegetables below:
Sweet Potato/ Yam: contains calcium, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber

Red Cabbage: provides vitamins C, K, and B6, potassium, fiber, manganese, as well as protective phytonutrients (polyphenols/ antioxidants)
Celery: contains vitamins K and A, fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties
Carrot: provides vitamin A, multiple antioxidants including beta-carotene, but has also demonstrated cardiovascular, vision, and anti-cancer (particularly colon cancer) benefits
Spinach: as outlined in Smoothie Superfoods, spinach contains vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties
Enjoy and keep warm!