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.

Putting Kitchen Tools and Herbs to Good Use – Fresh Basil, and Egg Salad With Dill

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Our kitchen at home has never been the showcase for fancy tools, machines, and gadgets.  Sure, we have a rice cooker and we have a wok hiding somewhere (my mum hasn’t used it in years), but other than that, our kitchen work bench is pretty simple.  No stand-mixer, no immersion blender, no sandwich or panini press, no slow cooker, nothing of the sort.  But our kitchen made friends with the new girl in town and what you see here is our very own, brand spankin’ new mini food processor in action!  I know, I know, how could I not have a food processor after all this time??  Food processors and mixers and the like are queens of the modern kitchen and ours has always felt a little bit empty without one.  My mum and I have asked ourselves that question many times and we finally hunkered down and bought a little one to go food happy with last week!  And did we ever have fun 😀 

We were contemplating what to make first and I figured that something simple to start off would be best, nothing to aggravate the blade on the first go-around.  So we made egg salad with lots of fresh, delicious dill that I bought at the Bloor & Lippincott farmers’ market!  I loooove dill and we always like to dress up our egg salad with something whether it’s with paprika, chili flakes, or celery so dill seemed like the natural choice for this time given how much I bought that day at the market.  Our food processor worked like a dream!  It’s a manual food processor, not an electrical one, so turning the crank was quite fun, ha!  The result was perfectly fluffy, luscious dill-y egg salad.  We mixed in a little mayo and we were good to go. 

Aside from eating my dill and sticking my nose in the baggy to smell it, I have been hugging and squishing my basil plant (no, not literally) because I love it so much.  I lovingly stare at it when I’m at my kitchen sink, I rotate it several times a day so that all the leaves get equal amounts of sunlight, and I handle the fragrant leaves as gingerly as I would priceless china.  It’s my baby.  I’ve never had a basil plant before so this was so super exciting for me!  I live on the edge, don’t I?  With the exception of two days, I’ve been eating basil with everything and I am absolutely LOVING it.  I stick basil leaves in my sandwiches, sprinkle some on my noodles, and I can’t wait to do more with it.  I’m crossing my fingers I don’t do anything to mess up my plant, but I would think that after nearly 3 years of working in a flower shop I wouldn’t hurt my plant that easily and quickly if at all!  I’ve been taking the utmost of care with it and like I said yesterday, it’s the gift that keeps on giving 😀

*****

The Bloor-Borden farmers’ market is located off the intersection of Bloor St. West and Lippincott St., just east of Bathurst St.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot south of Bloor St. on Lippincott.  The market is held every Wednesday from 3pm-7pm.  For more info, click here.

From the Television Screen to My Kitchen Table: Lemon and Green Onion Rice from Best Recipes Ever

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I thank my lucky stars for television cooking shows.  I don’t remember how many times I’ve mentioned this on the blog (or if I’ve mentioned it at all), but I adore Food Network on Channel 52 and I love Best Recipes Ever by Canadian Living with Kary Osmond on CBC, Channel 6.  I watch them both religiously.  I watch it on weekdays, weekends, while I’m scrapbooking, and after my soap operas.  When I’m home during the day, my television lineup from 3pm-5pm is as follows: Best Recipes Ever on CBC, Michael Smith’s Chef at Home on Food Network, Ricardo & Friends, and Giada at Home.  And don’t even get me started on Iron Chef, Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  I avoid the reality tv type shows like the plague, but the ones I just listed?  LOVE.  I’d say 70% of my television consumption is dedicated to Food Network and food and cooking related shows (the other 30% is comprised of sports,  soap operas, and the occasional prime time show such as Big Bang Theory which I love to pieces) and I’m telling you, I’ve learned so much from watching others cook.

My mum and I have Best Recipes to thank for this new dinner dish of ours.  It’s SO simple that it makes me feel somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t think to do it like this before.  My family and I eat rice on a pretty regular basis and one of my favourite home cooked meals is this minced pork fried rice my mum makes (which I will be blogging about soon) with minced pork, garlic, and lots of green onions.  What we didn’t think to do was to flavour our rice with lemon zest to make a simple lemon rice.  I KNOW.  Lightbulb “duh” moment, right?  So thanks to Best Recipes, we snatched a new dinner dish to put on our kitchen table and we absolutely love it.

Cooked rice (we used white Jasmine rice, but any rice will do) with the zest of one lemon (there are 4 people in my house, so if you’re cooking for yourself or for two people, half a lemon should be good enough), and as many chopped green onions/scallions as your heart desires.  I love green onions so I dumped a bucket-full on my serving.  If you wish you can mix in a little garlic and olive oil, but I left mine plain the first time around with just the lemon zest and green onions and I have to tell you, this rice is now going to be a staple in our home.  Thank you television, I love you.      

Putting Market Vegetables to Use: Roasted Eggplant, Marinara, and Mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan Melts!

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It was eggplant day at my house today!  Remember the baby eggplants that I was so super excited about finding and buying at the farmers’ market this past week?  We put them to use for dinner and made our version of roasted eggplant parmesan sandwiches!  Super simple, super DELICIOUS!  I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, but over the years it has grown on me and I’ve found ways to cook it that make my tastebuds and tummy happy.  Roasting, for me, is definitely the way to go and breading it also makes for delicious eggplant meals. 

This past Tuesday I bought 6 beautiful baby eggplants at the East York farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave. and we were hemming and hawing on how we should cook them and what to serve with them.  Should we throw them on the grill?  Mix it with other vegetables?  Eat them alone?  My mum came up with a great idea today: make eggplant sandwiches!  We sliced them to roast in the oven for our melty, cheesy, saucy sandwich melts.  The eggplants were sliced and seasoned and tossed in olive oil with a little bit of black pepper, dry basil, and minced garlic. 

We placed the slices of eggplant on a tin foiled baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes at 400°F.  I can’t even put into words have AMAZING they smelled!  And of course, tasted 😀  They were soft, the skin was nicely blistered and roasted, and the garlic…ahhh.  And then the fun part came: assembling our eggplant parmesan melts!  We loooove English muffins in our house, so we toasted some English muffins, put some mushroom and tomato marinara sauce on the stovetop to heat up, and got our slices of mozzerella cheese ready to go.  I slathered on a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottoms of the English muffins, placed two big slices of roasted eggplant on top, layered it with a slice of mozzerella cheese (which melted beautifully omg yum), placed another slice of eggplant on top, and topped the whole shebang with another generous dollop of tomato sauce.  Eggplant sandwich success! 

I was inspired by a lot of different things in making these roasted eggplant melts: the amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches at St. Lawrence market, Giada’s eggplant and asparagus stacks on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, and the eggplant parmesan at Frankie Tomatto’s!  Even though we didn’t have any parmigiano-reggiano cheese to shave on the roasted eggplant or fresh basil to finish off the melts, we made do with what we had at home and made a great dinner with fresh vegetables straight from the market.  It made me so happy to see my market vegetable purchase go from farm to table and it was such a simple way to make a wholesome, healthy, and hearty dinner.  I’m super excited to see what other fresh and delicious eats I find at my next farmers’ market visit!

A Corn Tortilla Kind of Mood! Breakfast for Dinner and Dinner for Breakfast

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When I eat dinner at home, rice is normally the name of the game most days.  Sometimes I will eat noodles and to my father’s chagrin, pasta, which he hates.  In all honesty, if not for my father’s nose wrinkling, our whole family would diversify more often and eat more noodles and pasta and pitas and other grains.  I’ve taken matters into my own hands though (literally) and I’ve been on a soft corn tortilla kick for the past few days.  And this is what happens when I stuff a tortilla silly and go a little taco happy!  I may have been the only one in my family to partake in the corn tortilla fun during dinner over the past two days, but that certainly didn’t stop me from taking advantage of my options: breakfast burrito style?  Open-faced sammie style?  Taco a la Old El Paso style?  I kind of did a little bit of everything and it was quite the spectacle eating this monstrous thing I put together.  Messy?  Yes.  Yummy?  Also yes.  I started with a chickpea hummus spread (which by the way functions as an amazing “glue” for the tortilla!), laid out some sliced roma tomatoes (my favourite kind), added some eggplant sauteed in bean curd paste (they come in little cubes that turn into a nice thick sauce or paste when cooked), and topped the whole shebang off with scrambled eggs and mixed frozen veggies.  I’m thinking of eating corn tortillas for dinner for the rest of the week at home.  It’s fun 😀

Inspired by a Korean Bento Box: Sweet Potato Vegetarian Vermicelli Noodles

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My apologies for the photo of the crumpled empty noodle packaging.  This is all I could salvage!  I couldn’t get a picture of the noodles in its original packaging as my mum had already started dinner when I came home from school yesterday.  But I wanted to show you all anyway in case any of you are interested in buying some for yourself to cook.  I’m super excited to show these noodles off as they are delicious and so versatile!  What we have here: Korean sweet potato vermicelli noodles, made from sweet potato starch.  My mum and I have both eaten sweet potato noodles in Korean bento boxes and to my mum’s delight, she found a nice big package (seriously, this package could feed an army, there’s 400 grams of it!) at our local Chinese supermarket, Foody Mart (at the intersection of Hwy. 7 East and McCowan Rd.).  And did we ever go to town with it.

After boiling and rinsing the noodles under cold water, you can add a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar and the rest is entirely up to you.  You don’t need a lot, just enough to give the noodles a bit of flavour.  These sweet potato noodles are awesomely amazing because they’re soft and thin and they remind me a lot of Chinese ho fun noodles.  They’re translucent, jiggly noodles with a chewy texture and they’re great paired with both vegetables and seafood and can be served hot or cold.  We kept our big bowl of noodles vegan with red and orange sliced bell pepper, sliced carrots, green onions, and some black pepper and chopped cilantro.  My portion was vegetarian because I added a dollop of garden vegetable cream cheese on the side (it makes it so creamy and yummy, eeee), but you can really do whatever you like with them.  We’re thinking avocado, shrimp, and alfalfa or sunflower sprouts for next time, yum!  Happy first weekend of April, everyone, it’s going to be a beauty in the city!

A Springtime Avocado & White Bean Salad to Brighten Up the Palate!

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Okay, so the weather outside was absolutely frightful today.  A mix of wet snow, sleet, ice pellets, hail, and everything in the kitchen sink falling from the sky does not make for a fun day out.  But!  I’m here to the rescue!  Instead of looking out the window and wanting to bang your head against the wall because winter knocked on the door and sweetly said, “did you miss me?”, you can look at my bright and yummy avocado and white bean salad instead! 😀  Yesterday I posted photos and wrote about Fresh’s white bean and avocado dosas, and it was that particular dish that inspired me to create this one over the weekend.  My mum and I had a great time making it (we love using our cute little colander, haha.  If you can believe it, I bought it from Bath and Body Works!) and a VERY good time eating it!  We had plenty of avocados that were nice and ripe and this salad made for a fantastic vegetarian dinner.

We used white kidney beans, avocados, sweet corn, diced green bell pepper, chopped green onion, a nice fistful of chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  SO DELICIOUS OH MY GOODNESS.  I just love the versatility of beans and avocado.  I loved the combination of mashed black beans with baby spinach and alfalfa sprouts with a dollop of sour cream, and I absolutely adore this combination too.  The kidney beans have this great potato-y, earthy flavour, you have that creaminess from the avocado and corn, the cilantro gives it that fresh, spicy zing, and the bright, crunchy bell pepper and green onions give it the salad lots of extra texture which complements the softness of everything else.  My mum and I were heaping spoonfuls of this salad on our dinner plates!  

The salad itself could have definitely functioned as a main meal, but I ate it with a bowl of yummy udon noodles with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkling of black pepper and red chili flakes.  I love udon noodles, with or without the soup broth.  My mum and I will usually grab several packs of udon noodles at the Chinese supermarket and when I eat non-veggie meals, I’ll eat them with some pork chops and veggies, or with cut up hot dog weenies and mixed veggies, ha.  Yummy to the max!