Bean & Butternut Squash Vegan Chili – Ate by Ate Cooks Fall Comfort Food!

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Ate by Ate is baaaack!  Taking a week off was one of the weirdest feelings in the world.  I haven’t stopped blogging for more than a day in the last two years so with the exception of posting some photos to Ate by Ate’s Facebook galleries, not blogging at all for a week was a complete 180.  I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’ll feel completely caught up, but a week off was exactly what I needed.  It took the pressure off, I got to do a little bit of holiday planning with friends, and while I still feel like there are a million things to do for Ate by Ate, at least I’m a tiny bit caught up on sleep at the very least!

And now we’re ready to dive right into the holiday blitz!  I’m so, SO excited for Christmas and the holidays.  I’m excited to see friends, to give my family and friends their presents, and of course, to eat!  I’m currently working on the December Food Calendar (the 1st draft went to Food Bloggers of Canada last night!) and I’m planning my weekends of food the best I can.  I forsee Christmas cupcakes, vegetarian yummies, tea, hot drinks, peppermint and candy canes, cookies, baking, and hopefully lots of special winter menu items and comfort food!

Cooking up a storm!

My week off from blogging not only allowed me to do some heavy-duty planning for the month of December, it also allowed me to cook for the very first time!  I KNOW!  The girl who has only ever baked has finally cooked a great, hearty meal all on her own from scratch!  For those of you who don’t know, my mum has always done the cooking in my family and shoos me out of the kitchen.  Always has, probably always will so long as I’m living under the same roof.  I consider myself lucky when I can take out my baking sheets and mixing bowls without so much as a frown.  Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.  Point is, I’ve read food magazines since the age of 8, have watched more cooking and food shows than I have anything else, have been fascinated by cooking and baking and the culinary arts for years, but have never truly cooked!

Boiling water for pasta and noodles doesn’t count.  Making sandwiches and salads don’t count.  Or eggs.  I’m not discrediting the preparation of those foods at all because goodness knows making food isn’t a skill you’re just naturally born with, but it’s just different for me because of how I’ve grown up.  I’m not a food blogger with a wealth of cooking experience under her belt and I don’t have a plethora of recipes (although I do hope everyone enjoys the cookie and baking ones I do post!); but what I do have is a willingness to learn and a passion that sees no end.

So, what did I end up making as my very first, real foray into cooking?  VEGAN CHILI!  I cannot tell you how happy and elated I feel about this meal!  I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire day after I made it.  I feel so proud that I did it all on my own and that it didn’t taste awful – I got the thumbs up from both my brother and my mum and I thoroughly enjoyed it myself!  I took a cue from this vegetarian chili recipe from All Recipes.com, modified it, and made it my own.  And best of all, I used the most amazing, delicious and fresh butternut squash from the Evergreen Brick Works farmers’ market to make it!  And if you can believe, it feeds 4 hungry stomachs and is incredibly hearty!  I hope you all enjoy it as much I did!

Bean & Butternut Squash Vegan Chili recipe

Serves 4 to 6

(adapted from “The Best Vegetarian Chili in the World”, allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 fl oz/796 mL) no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 can (19 fl oz/540 mL) no-salt added red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 can (19 fl oz/540 mL) no-salt added mixed bean medley (white kidney beans, chickpeas, romano beans), rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, chopped butternut squash
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper/chili flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 can (12 fl oz/341 mL) corn kernels

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in large, deep nonstick skillet on medium heat.  Stir in onion and garlic; cook 3 min. or until onion is tender.  Add tomatoes and oregano; cook 5 min., stirring occasionally.
  2. Add beans, butternut squash and spices; stir until evenly combined.  Add water, bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 25 min.
  4. Stir in corn, cook 5 min.  Serve with hummus or avocado.

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The Vegan Chili Series – Gluten-Free Bread, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Tomato Vegan Chili at Organic Oven

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It feels SO good to scrapbook again.  After being scrapbook layout-less on the blog for a month (god, it makes me cringe), I finally got a batch of photos developed yesterday and I got right down to business cranking out a new bright and fun foodie layout for today!  I’ve been meaning to blog about Organic Oven for a long time now but the perfectionist in me didn’t like the photos I initially took back in March (yes, in MARCH!) and to make matters worse, I took said photos and tried to create a decent scrapbook layout out of them which I also did not like.  That scrapbook layout sat in my “these pages are not good enough” pile for months and recreating a new one sat on the backburner for awhile.  Enter the Vegan Chili series I started back at the end of September.  I knew Organic Oven had a vegan chili on their menu and it was perfect opportunity to go back and try some more yummy eats and to give myself the creative kick in the butt I needed!  So here we are with the 2nd instalment of the Vegan Chili series, my blog post on Organic Oven, and a brand spankin’ new scrapbook layout! 

Organic Oven, located on Yonge Street just north of Lawrence Ave., is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the food that they serve.  First off, they’re not just a bakery with desserts.  They’re a lunch cafe, a coffee spot, and a retail shop with grocery items, all in one.  They sell a number of sweets that can either be purchased as single desserts, prepackaged take-away packs, or custom designed and ordered.  They’re sweets menu includes brownies, biscotti, muffins, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and pies.  For lunch, you can sit down to a hot bowl of soup or chili, a freshly made sandwich or bagel, salads, quiches, and a host off coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, and milks, and while you’re there, you can pick up a few gluten-free grocery items to add to your bread basket.

Furthermore – and this is the kicker – you could literally have a group of people comprised of a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a gluten-intolerant come here to eat, and all four people would be satisfied with the food because their menu caters to all four diets!  For the vegetarian: goat cheese quiche, pizza bagels, egg salad, grilled cheese, and veggie sandwiches.  For the vegan (and vegetarian): multigrain, cinnamon, raisin, and poppy seeds bagels with vegan butter, vegan chili and soups, veggie sandwiches, and vegan brownies and cupcakes.  For the meat-lover: chicken and turkey sandwiches with veggies and cheese, as well as tuna salad.  Finally, for the gluten-intolerant: everything! 

Their focus is on serving healthier alternatives with dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free options.  They’re best known for their gluten-free breads, bagels, and pizza crusts and all three items can be purchased from their grocery shelves.  Their gluten-free breads are crunchy rice buns that are dairy-free, egg-free, and certified organic and they use these same buns for all of the sandwiches on their menu.  The rice buns are made from certfiied organic flax meal and quinoa flakes and they come in packs of six.  Pop them in the toaster and you have yourself a healthy breakfast and lunch!  In addition to their rice buns, they also carry gluten-free cheese, cinnamon raisin, multigrain, and poppyseed bagels which come in packs of five, as well as gluten-free pizza crusts.  Aside from the breads, their grocery shelves also carry cereals, ice cones, rice snacks, milks (a variety of soy, almond, and rice), and other goodies.

Now, onto the vegan chili!  Their vegan chili is served either on its own with a side of rice bread ($5.70) or in a combo alongside a salad, quiche, bagel, or sandwich.  Prices vary depending on which combo you choose, but generally speaking lunch at Organic Oven will come out to around $5-$10, with most items averaging $6-$7.  Their vegan chili isn’t super spicy so for those who shy away from chili because of the level of heat, have no fear because the vegan chili here isn’t an alarm setter.  I’d say that the vegan chili here is a good cross between a thick soup and a chili in texture, consistency, and flavour. 

It’s a tomato based vegan chili made with crushed tomatoes, green bell pepper, sweet onions, red and white kidney beans, and chunks of sweet potato.  It’s such a hearty, warm, comforting dish.  It’s exactly the type of meal you’d want to eat on a chilly day, with a cheese sandwich (I know that would defeat the purpose of a entirely vegan meal if that wasn’t vegan cheese, but I’m not vegan so work with me here!), relaxing with the paper or a book.  It’s that type of meal.  The robust tomato flavour was savoury and the whole bowl was overflowing with veggies.  Oh!  And I added a side of avocado to my chili.  I love avocado like nobody’s business and since there was an option to add avocado for $0.50, I took it, which is why you see slices of creamy avocado on my chili.

And the bread!  It wasn’t my first time having Organic Oven’s rice bread, but for whatever reason, it tasted extra delicious this time!  Wedges of toasted rice bread were included on the side and I had the choice of having the bread spread or brushed with vegan butter or olive oil and I chose olive oil this time around.  I could not get over how amazing the bread with olive oil tasted!  Even though it was toasted, it was so incredibly soft on the inside with crispiness on the outside.  The olive oil soaked into the bread really nicely so the bread ended up having these yummy herb flavour to it.  I could have eaten an entire loaf because it was so yummy and scrumptious and all sorts of heaven in my mouth.  I am definitely planning on picking up a pack of rice buns to take home sometime.  Between myself, my brother, and my mum (my dad isn’t really into bread), I envision the pack being devoured in two days.  Or maybe even in one.

Organic Oven is a great lunch spot because the menu caters to so many different diets and the food is wholesome, healthy, and delicious.  You can bet I’ll be back for their cupcakes (I know, shocking how I didn’t blog about them already!  I’ll get to them, I promise) and I’ll profile their sandwiches next time around too.  For the time being, bookmark this post and Organic Oven as your uptown vegan chili station.

       

*****

Organic Oven is located at 3189 Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence Ave. on the east side of Yonge Street just steps away from Lawrence subway station.  They have several other locations around the city, which I will update once I get the addresses.

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

The Vegan Chili Series! First Up: Vegan Chili Brunch With Grilled Tofu Steaks at Niche Coffee & Tea on Queen West

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I’m not quite ready to unleash Ate by Ate’s Fall Harvest series just yet, so I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of a lead-in to get us all revved up first!  The best thing about fall food is the warm and fuzzy comfort factor and chili and stews are some of the best meals to induce that great cozy cocoon feeling.  Enter the vegan chili series to Ate by Ate!  Over the past year, I’ve come across a number of places around the city that serve their own unique interpretations and versions of vegan chili and I’m so excited to start this new series, not only as an individual series, but also as tie-in to the upcoming Fall Harvest series on the blog. 

Why the interest in vegan chili though, and how did I become interested in vegan chili in the first place?  Let it be known that I absolutely hate beef chili.  I may not be vegetarian or vegan, but that certainly doesn’t mean I enjoy all meat dishes and beef chili is one such meal I’d turn the other cheek to.  I can see myself enjoying turkey chili and I’m actually really looking forward to making some of my own in the near future, but for the time being, vegetarian and vegan chili is my way to go.  I have so many vegetarian and vegan friends (some of you might be reading this right now!) and I thought this would be a great way to introduce some veggie meals and the places that serve them to you all so you can tuck the information away for future reference.  Or if you’re really into what I post, you might just run on over right now and try the dishes out for yourself!

The first time I had vegan chili was 3 years ago when I was a newbie grad student eating lunch at The Grad Lounge at York.  As an every day, permanent menu item, the vegan chili was one of the most popular meals and I was constantly seeing people order it with the cute little corn muffins for lunch.  Growing up though, I was never the biggest fan of chili (I blame the beef varieties for turning me off) so even though I knew so many of my friends and classmates enjoyed it, I shyed away from it at first.  Then temptation and curiousity took over and I said to myself, “to hell with it, I’m getting me a bowl!”  And from then on, my chili ways changed forever and their vegan chili became one of my favourites, especially during the fall and winter.  Granted, my chili remained vegetarian as opposed to vegan at times because of the side of sour cream I’d order, but the meal itself is vegan through and through and a well-loved meal among the graduate student community.

Now, let’s get started with the first post of this vegan chili series!  First up, the grilled tofu on vegan chili brunch at Niche Coffee & Tea Company!  I mentioned this brunch dish in my first Niche post almost two weeks ago and I was itching to have this showcased in the series the second I found out the dish existed on the menu.  Niche is a coffee, tea, and brunch cafe located on Queen Street West just west of Bathurst St. with everything from eggs benny to French toast to omelettes to banana bread with Nutella and cinnamon sugar.  Their vegan chili is served two ways: vegetarian with eggs, or vegan with grilled tofu, and both styles ($10.50) come with your choice of either homemade grilled foccacia or cornbread.  I was so excited to order this that I was fidgeting in my seat and probably grinning like a fool when the nice waitress came around to take my order.  And that excitement wasn’t die down when my food came.  Behold!

What we have here: a nice big bowl of chili made with spiced tomato curry puree, chickpeas, red kidney beans, diced carrots, celery, and corn, served with 4 grilled tofu steaks, strips of crunchy baked tortilla chips, a slice of fresh tomato, arugula (no guacamole for this time unfortunately, but that wasn’t a big deal), and grilled wedges of fresh foccacia.  Oh my goodness, there were so many wonderful things about this meal.  First, the chili had some kick to it!  If you can’t tolerate heat in the slightest amount, this might not be the most comfortable meal for you to eat, but if you’re like me and you can take a bit of kick, you will LOVE this!  The flavour is so different because it’s not your run-of-the-mill crushed tomato chili.  It’s almost like a fusion of curry, tomato, and chili and I enjoyed it so much. 

The grilled tofu steaks were perfection.  They were so cute, like mini decks of tofu cards 😀  The texture was firm, the flavour was savoury, and there was that slight crispness around the edges from the grilling that made it even more delicious.  The crunchy tortilla strips were a fabulous addition and the foccacia…oh man.  I think the grilled foccacia wedges I had with this meal might have been some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had.  The edges and outsides were crisp and the insides were amazingly soft and the bread just melts in your mouth.  It had a wonderful rosemary-thyme and olive oil flavour and I literally said, “ohhhh my god, this is so good” out loud after I took my first bite of it.

The whole vegan chili and tofu dish worked so well because of all the different textures (soft, crispy, juicy, moist, etc.) and all the flavours.  Even though I was drinking water with my meal, the tofu and foccacia is the perfect complement to the heat from the chili because it mellows it out and you get the best of all the flavours when you alternate between all the items of food.

If you try this out, I hope you’ll all enjoy it as much as I did.  If you have suggestions or requests for the series, feel free to leave a comment!  This is the first of hopefully many more vegan chili posts to come!

*****

Niche Coffee & Tea Company is located at 626 Queen Street West just east of Palmerston Ave. and west of Bathurst St.  They serve brunch during all hours of operations and are open 7 days a week at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, with closing hours at 5pm on all days.