2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (2 cups)
1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 to 2 jalapeños or other hot chilies, seeded and minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups cooked dark red kidney beans or other red beans or 1 (15-ounce) can beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
8 ounces baby spinach
1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1. For the best flavor, heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Alternatively, omit the oil and sauté these ingredients in a few tablespoons of water or combine them in a microwave-safe bowl with a little water, cover and microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Transfer the onion mixture to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the sweet potatoes, bell pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes and beans. Stir in the broth, thyme and allspice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook low for 5 1/2 hours, or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in the spinach and coconut milk. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Cover and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.