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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On My (Chinese) Kitchen Table: Ground Pork Fried Rice with Green Onions

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Rice has always been a part of my life.  Coming from a Chinese girl like myself, that probably doesn’t sound any alarm bells, but hear me out.  Rice has played a role in some of my funniest memories (according to my uncle, my aunt was enjoying her fried rice so much she flung a few grains into his ear with her rapid fire chopsticks), and in my early stages of socialization in true-blue Chinese culture where my great-grandmother would cook me baby portions of congee as a toddler.  It wasn’t until I finished high school and started university though that I started feeling restless about the consistent rice noshing.  I wanted to experiment, I wanted to try new things.  My dad has never had any qualms about inhaling on an everyday basis, but I knew my mum and I wanted to branch out and eat other kinds of meals.  In short, my mum and I started feeling bored and we could feel ourselves falling into a food rut. 

Mixing things up has pushed us to get more creative and to leave behind the safety net of the traditional Chinese white dinner, all the while reminding us that rice is still very much an integral part of our food culture.  The whole point was to seek a balance and I think we’ve found it: don’t necessarily abandon it, but don’t rely on it too heavily for the sake of tradition and routine.  For this reason, fried rice has functioned as a happy-medium, as a way of breaking up any form of monotony in the kitchen without denying the fact that we are Chinese and hey, we consume a lot of rice!  Even though I don’t consider fried rice in particular to be the defining dish in Chinese and/or Cantonese cuisine (this quick association actually makes me cringe because it’s so awfully misguided and stereotypical), I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love fried rice, or at the very least enjoys one specific kind.  Pineapple and chicken, egg and shrimp, seafood, mixed vegetables – I love them all, especially when I have it at the really nice sit-down Chinese restaurants with the banquet-style set dinner meals and the little dim sum tea cups! 

My mum has always made fried rice every so often as a treat for my brother and I when we were growing up, and my mum’s ground pork fried rice is one of my all-time favourite comfort, home-cooked meals.  Similar to the lemon green onion rice I posted a week and a half ago, it’s a white rice dish comprised of lean ground pork, chopped green onions, lots of minced garlic, sautéed buttom mushrooms on occasion, olive oil, and our special light-hearted touch: red pepper chili flakes!  Normally, I would sprinkle on some Worcestershire sauce (geep-jup, as we call it in Chinese) or sweet chili sauce, but this time around I felt like something cold on top of the hot rice, something with a little bit of tanginess to it: sour cream!  With a plate of pork and green onion fried rice, a dollop of sour cream, and a smattering of chili flakes, I have myself a plate of home-cooked comfort.