Light color, deep flavor – a healthful white chili

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The first time I ate white chicken chili, it was wrapped in a burrito. And I fell in love.

Of course, I'd always been a fan of tomato-based red chili, but the white version — flavored with green chili peppers and thickened with sour cream — struck me as cleaner. And I didn't miss the sometimes cloying sweetness of tomatoes.

So here is my lightened-up version of white chicken chili. It can be eaten straight up by the bowl, over rice, or spooned into a whole-wheat tortilla. To lighten the recipe, I thickened the dish with some mashed white beans and a tiny bit of reduced-fat sour cream for an unexpectedly luxurious texture.

The list of ingredients in this recipe is longish, but good chili requires a fair amount of flavors. On the other hand, this version doesn't need to simmer for hours, which makes it fit for a weeknight. Then again, if you happened not to serve it until a few days later, the flavors would only improve.

The base of this chili is ground chicken and white beans, both of them affordable. If you can't find ground chicken, use ground turkey, or even lean ground beef.

As written, this isn't especially spicy. To save time, I call for canned green chiles (the mild ones — not the canned jalapeños on the shelf beside them) and generic chili powder (a blend of ground chile peppers and other spices).

To heat it up, think of hotter chiles, canned or fresh. Or use pure chili powder made of ground dried chiles, such as chipotles. Or finish the dish with your favorite hot sauce.

And please don't forget the garnishes. They add so many layers of flavor and texture.*

White Chicken Chili With Lime

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active). Servings: 6.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped

1 pound ground chicken or turkey

1 tablespoon minced garlic

11/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

11/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use 2 cups if not using the wine)

Two 151/2-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed

41/2-ounce can chopped green chiles (use less if you prefer a very mild chili)

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Salt and ground black pepper

To serve:

Chopped scallions

Chopped fresh cilantro

Grated low-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Lime wedges

In a large nonstick or stick-resistant skillet over medium, heat the oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and red pepper, then cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Add the chicken and cook, breaking up the any large pieces, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, chili powder, flour, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the white wine, if using, and the broth in a stream, whisking. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a fork to mash 1 cup of the beans. Add both the whole and mashed beans and the chiles to the chili and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and cook until hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the chili into bowls and accompany at the table with scallions, cilantro, cheese and lime wedges.Nutrition information per serving: 410 calories; 120 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 75 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 29 g protein; 430 mg sodium.