Warming Up to a New Year and An Invitation

Happy New Year! We hope you all enjoyed the holiday season and are enjoying a fabulous start to the New Year. Since our area is under an uncharacteristic deep freeze, we thought it fitting to bring you this warming stew recipe to enjoy during these colder months. We also have some fun planned for a future post, so make sure to keep reading to find out how you can play along!

buttercup squash

Now this particular recipe is also for our dear friend Sally at Bewitching Kitchen who mentioned she loves chickpeas. Sally has followed our blog for nearly three years now and was our first non-family/friend commenter. So since she holds a special place in our hearts, I’m going to do a little bragging on her behalf. Check out this post to get a glimpse into why we love Sally and why her blog is on our list of faves. Congrats Sally!

Someone spied a bird out the window!

Someone spied a bird out the window!

Now, this recipe for Amazon Bean and Squash Stew (adapted from Eating Well) is also one of our faves because it’s very filling, flavorful and it’s vegan. I haven’t shared this on the blog yet, but last September, Mike and I undertook a three-week vegan cleanse. The results were fabulous – we slept better, felt better and found a ton of ways to get creative with beans, lentils, nuts, spices and all sorts of foods that were relatively new to us. As a result, we’ve completely altered our eating habits and lifestyle (in fact Mike has lost 45 pounds and is the healthiest he’s been since I’ve known him!). While we’re not vegan 100% of the time, we do eat vegan more often than not. Now that’s not to say we would turn down a fabulous seafood dinner, bacon jam, a good piece of meat, or a delicious dessert, but on an average day we’re choosing plants. In other words, there’s no hardcore rules and the blog will still feature a mixture of international recipes of all types, but this particular stew is one we can enjoy any day of the week.

veggies

So the stew starts out simple enough – roast the squash with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. We’ve used an assortment of winter squash including buttercup and acorn, and they’ve all worked well. We also typically roast the squash on the weekend, store it and whip the stew up on a weeknight. When you’re ready to make the stew, heat the olive oil, drop in some garlic (Sally – you can omit the garlic), carrots and diced onion, and saute until the veggies are tender.

making stew

Next we add a bit of veggie stock and water, the roasted squash, a tomato and a boat load of seasonings including salt, pepper, red pepper, turmeric, oregano and cumin. We bring the stew to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Next we transfer batches of the stew to the blender to puree and then return it to the pot.

squash soup

Finally we add cooked wild rice, fresh spinach and chickpeas to the pot, mix it together and cook it for another 10 minutes, or until the spinach wilts and the beans are heated through.

filling ingredients

We serve the stew with tortilla chips and lime wedges. It makes enough for dinner for four with leftovers (or two servings each if like Mr. N you want seconds). The stew is hearty and flavorful.

amazon squash stew

It’s a 4 spoon dish for Mr. N and I, 3 spoons for Mike and 2 spoons for Miss A. It isn’t her favorite dish in the world, but she will eat her share – especially if the chips are involved. In fact, we’ll all eat our share and have on several occasions now.

Chickpea stew

Print this recipe: Amazon Squash and Bean Stew

bean and squash stew

Okay, now for a little fun. This month is our three-year blogging anniversary. While we don’t post as often as we did in year one or two, we’re still making many new international dishes and exploring different cultures. It’s an adventure we all love for the food we get to try, the time together in the kitchen and for all the friends we’ve made. So, like last year, we’re going to have our annual Chopped Challenge to celebrate. For those of you that aren’t familiar with our Chopped Challenge, you can find year one here and two here. We’ve had several successful recipes – some have even stuck around. You can see all the results on our recipes page.

Appetizer Basket

So how does this work? Well, we ask for mystery basket ingredients from twelve readers which are then put up to vote in a blog poll. Our readers vote on a basket for three categories – appetizer, main course and dessert. The baskets with the most votes in each category will be our mystery ingredients. Then on Super Bowl Sunday (February 2, 2014), Mike and I go head-to-head in an all day cooking challenge. The kids serve as both sous chefs and judges, a task they take very seriously.

winning basket

This year we’ve asked our top six commenters and five new commenters to provide us with basket ingredients. Now,that leaves one opening and we’d like to make this open by special invitation. We know there are many silent blog readers and occasional commenters out there, and we want to make sure you’re included as well. So, if you would like to name ingredients for an appetizer basket we’d love to include your choices in the poll. Just shoot us an email at eatplayloveblog@gmail.com or leave a comment with four ingredients to include in our appetizer basket poll. They can be as wild or as traditional as you want to be, as long as they can be relatively easy to source. All ingredients received by 1/15/14 will be put into a draw and one participant will be selected.

Dessert basket

We look forward to your submissions and are excited for a new challenge. Albeit not so excited about the mess that always results. ;) Messy, messy, messy

Happy New Year all! Stay tuned for the upcoming interactive blogging fun. We’ll put our ingredient baskets up to vote sometime after the 17th of this month, after which our challenge lies in your hands! Until then, enjoy the stew and stay warm. Cheers!

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58 comments on “Warming Up to a New Year and An Invitation

  1. That chickpea stew looks delicious, perfect for this chilly weather : )

  2. hotlyspiced says:

    Happy New Year and congratulations on three years of blogging. And congratulations to Mike on losing 45 pounds. That’s incredible. And your stew looks lovely and like it’s full of flavour. I can imagine you would be enjoying this very much with the freezing temperatures outside xx

  3. Velva says:

    This is a beautiful hearty stew. Thanks for sharing it with us. I am looking forward to seeing the ingredient baskets-very cool.

  4. Mmm, I love stews! They’re great for this time of the year and are so filling too.

  5. You know how much I love your Chopped challenges. Since I came up with a really good one last time, I have to think about this challenge and see what I can think of. Now I’m excited :)

  6. Charles says:

    I just love img_0058… and the dish isn’t even finished yet! Beautiful, warming, hearty, filling stew Kristy! You know, I received a notification of a trackback to my anisgrisar post but couldn’t figure out where it was from! Now I realise where… hyperlinks aren’t showing up as underlined for me anymore, weirdly – I’m sure they used to! Thanks for the mention in any case! :)

    I think eating vegan would drive me up the wall, but “sometimes”, for sure. I seem to be in the vast minority amongst people I know that don’t hold the belief that if you don’t consume meat every single day you’ll wither away and die from some nutrition-related illness. Indeed, I can happily go days at a time without touching any meat, fish, or poultry, and sure – we’ll occasionally load up with pulses, nuts, seeds and the like but I do love me some cheese, butter, oh… and eggs, my God, eggs!

    It’s fantastic that you’re both – especially Mike – is doing so well after some lifestyle changes. That’s really impressive and I can totally see how it’s worth it.

    Sometimes I think it must be great to give up my various “vices” like coffee, but then I wonder if it’s worth the caffeine-withdrawal-induced headaches! I already get killer headaches by 10am if I haven’t had my first few cups of joe of the day! :p

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Charles! It is a hearty stew. I really like it. I’m with you on the vegan thing. It certainly can drive me up a wall. Mike is much better at it than I am. He isn’t against any food really (especially not sausage). He just knows that eating vegan most of the time makes him feel better and helped him lose the weight he’s struggled with for years. I on the other hand, while I feel better too, can’t give up cheese, eggs and butter entirely; and I would go crazy without sushi or pizza! I’d say I’m vegan typically five out of seven days of the week. Mike generally goes in three week chunks with maybe eating non-vegan two or three times. He’s planning to reintroduce things gradually at some point (to a certain degree), but he doesn’t think he’s ready yet. I don’t think I could give up caffeine either. I did give up diet coke for tea though. :) I have you and Kelly to thank for that! I never knew tea could be so good. I’ve been missing out for far too long.

      • Charles says:

        Hehe, I must admit my tea drinking has slipped a bit now (yeah, I’m letting the British side down!). Now I’m installed in Sweden I seem to have the adopted the Swedish coffee fetish. 12 – 14 cups a day these days… not sure if that’s entirely the “best” thing ever, but I gotta stay awake somehow on these long dark winter days :D

        • Kristy says:

          LOL! That is a lot of coffee! I’d never sleep if I had that much. If I have two cups I have the jitters. :) But I can’t say I blame you. It would be so weird to have it dark for so much of the day. I’d be wanting to go to bed way too early.

  7. Congratulations on the 3rd blog anniversary! I truly look forward to this chopped challenge and I can’t wait to read the posts! It’s fun to see your whole family is involved in this event and it’s actually one of my most favorite posts you share. I hardly can wait!

  8. Well, those 45 pounds are inspiring me. I think vegan is a doable goal, especially if you leave room for some meat dishes. I’m hoping to move towards more of those veggie meals and this recipe looks wonderful! I look forward to your Chopped Challenge.. I’m always surprised at how creative and completely different your two sets of dishes turn out! Happy New Year to you!! xx

  9. Well I must say that I’m rather intrigued by the idea of the ‘silent blog readers’…who knew? Your stew looks warming and delicious — packed with good stuff and I love the colour of it too, earthy and beautiful. I’m very much looking forward to the 2014 Chopped Challenge — that Kitchen Chaos photo has become a classic! A perfect storm :)

    • Kristy says:

      LOL – it’s always a perfect storm around here so to speak. ;) I think you would really enjoy this stew Kelly. We’re looking forward to Chopped as well and will make sure to take another picture of our kitchen disaster.

  10. Raymund says:

    I wonder what the chopped challenge this year would bring. Hope you get some wonderful exotic ingredients.

  11. Happy New Year Kristy! Wow, the results of your vegan cleanse are truly amazing and inspiring. It is quite an accomplishment for Mike and I’m sure the health benefits make it all worthwhile. It wouldn’t hurt for me to reduce our beef intake, but I’m afraid I fall into the rut of cooking to avoid complaints and don’t experiment enough with legumes and other vegetables. Looking forward to following along your chopped challenge again this year. Have fun and there’s no doubt that the creative juices will be flowing. Talk to you soon!

    • Kristy says:

      I know exactly what you mean about the cooking rut. The kids aren’t vegan, so they often get a separate meal. Although Mr. N is enjoying a lot of the vegan dishes. Miss A still needs her meat and cheese though. :) Happy New Year to you as well!

  12. Joanna says:

    wow 3 years! I’ve just started my blog and can’t imagine 3 years from now :)

    the stew looks great – I am also veggi/vegan most days of the week but also would never say no to some tasty meat!!

    I’d like to put a box forward! – chilli, cauliflower, apricots and kale

    looking forward to reading about it :)

    x

    • Kristy says:

      Oh it’s a wild ride Joanna! I can’t tell you how many things have changed and how much we’ve learned through blogging in the last three years. It’s certainly been a lot of fun. I wish the same for you! Thank you for submitting the box ideas! We’re looking forward to seeing what we end up with. :)

  13. A few more pumpkin recipes may be found on my blog…just type pumpkin into the search bar there…and enjoy! Made a quinoa/pumpkin soup this week too. ;-)

  14. Congratulations on 3 years! Can’t wait to see the Chopped Challenge!

  15. I enjoy your yearly competition and will look forward to voting on the ingredients! And this recipe looks like a wonderful dish. I subscribe to Eating Well but don’t remember seeing this one, so thank you! Congratulations on three years. With the age of your children and such active family life, you are really to be commended for sticking with it! It’s not easy for anyone, but I have to believe it is much more difficult when you’re a mom to two school-aged children. But it’s always so good when we do hear from you, my friend!

  16. Dawn says:

    So glad you are doing the challenge again – can’t wait!! Happy New Year!

  17. can;;t believe its been three years! Can’t believe 45 piunds? WOW! and cant believe never had this soup before. I love the sound and look of it. the beans and the squash together make a perfect combo and I always love your cooking challenges! Here is to a wonderful new year!

    • Kristy says:

      Mike has been very dedicated to getting healthy. I’m so proud of him. :) And we can’t believe it’s been three years either! Time just flies by. Happy New Year Jessica!

  18. sallybr says:

    Me again, sorry… had to say I love this recipe, and intend to make it (yeah, minus the garlic, in the name of marital peace.. :-)

    45 pounds lost, that blows my mind, I did not think he would HAVE 45 pounds to lose, the pictures already show a very fit guy… oh, well – healthy is good, and I am in awe that you can change your nutrition like that… you guys are amazing!

    • Kristy says:

      Mike has been very committed to getting healthy for the past several months. He’s tried different diets over the years but ended up with the yo-yo thing. He finally found a lifestyle that he can adapt to and that works for him. It’s been way better than a “diet.” I’m so proud of him. I know it’s hard work. And I’m glad you like the recipe! I thought you might. :)

  19. That soup looks Ahhhhmazing!

  20. sallybr says:

    Major congrats on THREE YEARS! Awesome, and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to count myself as one of the “most ancient” followers! Wow!

    I almost had a cardiac arrest when I saw the link to that article – I haven’t quite recovered from finding the article myself early today, and now I am sure there is a net conspiracy out there to kill me from excessive happiness ;-)

    On a more serious note, thank you. You know I mean it, so I’ll just leave it like this….

  21. Ha, ha. I always love your messes. Don’t throw the dishrag at me! Congrats on the big 3!

  22. vanyadhanya says:

    Hi guys, I must say I fall into the category of ‘silent followers’ of your blog. I am pretty new to the blogging scene and only recently discovered your blog. But I love the work that you guys do and of course the proof is in the pudding..happy 3rd anniversary.

    I would love to present my appetizer mystery box which contains – haloumi, tomato, pineapple, garam masala.

    Cheers!

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Vanyadhanya! I have good news – you’re basket will be a part of our Challenge! I actually sent you an email earlier today asking if you would participate and thanking you for the Liebster Award. Let me know if you didn’t get it and I will resend. We were hoping you would contribute for a main course basket. If you want to amend your ingredients to be a main course, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll go with the four you named here. :) Thank you so much! And thank you for following along. Cheers!

  23. Mary says:

    always love visiting – I’m coming up on 3 too and can’t believe it! I the stew is SO up my alley – simply delicious, healthy and I could just live on it!
    Mary x

  24. Eva Taylor says:

    What a great post, Kristy, Happy new year to you too! Wow! 45lb is incredible, good for Mike! That stew looks and sounds fantastic — JT and I are doing a juice cleanse and we’re juicing breakfast and dinner but not lunch. I’m not quite as satisfied as I hoped I would be, and I adore veggies! Reading this post at 6pm is making my tummy grumble!
    Happy anniversary to your blog, three years is an amazing benchmark, congratulations. I LOVE your chopped challenge and I look forward to seeing the posts this year (to be honest, it’s the only thing I look forward to on Superbowl Sunday (shhhhh!). You should tweet as well, give us up to the minute play by play! Woohoo! Now I’m going to wish January away, no wait, the cold has already made me do that!

    • Kristy says:

      It’s what I look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday too. ;) Thanks Eva! Looking forward to your basket selections too. Good luck on your juice cleanse. I was just considering one of those myself. Are you any particular one?

      • Eva Taylor says:

        Hi Kristy, we’re loosely following Reboot with Joe http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/category/blog/recipes/juice/. JT bought me a Nutri Bullet for Xmas because I was spending over an hour juicing with my 25 year old juicer from my MIL. It has a lot more fibre than just juicing but the down side is that you actually get less vegetables. I think both have their up and down sides. I like the nutri-bullet because it did not break the bank and I have juice on the table in about 10 minutes.Neither JT nor I mind pulp (fibre) but if you do, you may wish to strain the mush through a fine sieve, otherwise it’s like a smoothie the longer you blend. I’m hoping to drop a few pounds I put on from being at home, Christmas and recipe testing!

  25. Norma Chang says:

    Congratulations on your 3rd. A big bowl of your stew would be very comforting right this moment. The temp is below zero.

  26. Congratulations on 3 years! Such an amazing milestone!

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