Three years ago, I was working in a grey cubicle, stuck in a job that was making me miserable. I was spending my days doing something I didn’t believe in, because somehow that’s what society was telling me to do.
I hadn’t chosen that path – at least not consciously. I ended up working in the media and advertising industry by default, going from one promotion to the next. I was good at what I was doing. I had social recognition, a steady pay check, a good salary, nice perks, three weeks of vacation every year. On paper, I had everything I could have hoped for. But deep down, it’s like I was living someone else’s life. I knew there was something more. There had to me something more. I decided that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my days. I was too young to be unhappy. There were too many dreams that were waiting to be lived.
On a day of July of 2014, in the midst of all the deadlines and stress I was going through at work, I took the last bits of courage I had in me, and signed up for a nutrition program. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach. This fear, mixed with an incredible sense of relief. I gave my notice at work the next day and felt all the weight of the world fall off my shoulders.
I went back to school after a decade away from the classrooms. I slowly adapted to this new life. I started cooking with whole foods. And then a dream started to take form in my mind. A dream of launching this little space, in the hopes to share my experiments and learnings with the world. Because it was too beautiful not to be shared. I pressed “publish” for the first time the day after my last class. And since then, life has unfolded in ways I would never have even dreamed of.
Monday night, The Green Life won gold at the Taste Canada Awards (the Canadian Oscars for food writers!), for Best Culinary Blog in French language. I won this alongside my incredibly talented friend Shira of In Pursuit of More, who won in the English category. It was a beautiful surprise. A lovely recognition, telling me I was on the right path. As I write these words, all I can think of is how grateful I am for this journey.
Grateful for this job I hated so much, that pushed me to figure out what I was really meant to do. Grateful for the constant failed kitchen experiments, that allow me to become a better cook. Grateful for all the not-so-great photos that allow me to become a better photographer. Grateful for the community behind this blog: you, the readers, who come here to make a recipe, to read these words, or to be inspired. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to live this dream. And if you have a dream of your own, let me tell you that it’s never too late to start living it. The road will be bumpy, it won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it, that I’m sure of.
So about this recipe. This chili is super cozy, tasty, slightly spicy, and totally comforting. It’s everything you can wish for at this time of year. I swapped the usual beans for black beluga lentils and added some butternut squash and kale to the mix for an extra dose of vitamin A and antioxidants. The smoky cashews are optional, but they’re delicious and add a nice nuttiness and crunchiness to this dish. I used my new Staub Cocotte to make this chili and I am totally in love with it! And cutting the butternut squash was almost effortless, thanks to my Santoku Knife. A big thank you to Zwilling for offering me these precious kitchen tools that make my life so much easier!
Butternut Squash & Beluga Lentil Chili + Smoky Cashews
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 tsp sea salt + more as needed
- 1 tbsp coconut oil for cooking
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and minced (optional, to taste)
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 3 cups diced butternut squash about 1/2 large butternut squash
- 1 cup dry beluga lentils
- 1 28- oz can diced tomatoes I used fire roasted
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 4-5 leaves lacinato kale stems removed and finely chopped
- Yogurt use plant-based for a vegan option, or sour cream
- Fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Smoky cashews recipe in notes below*
- Grain of choice such as quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc. (optional)
Start by mixing all the spices together in a small bowl, so that they’re all ready to go.
Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, until soft and translucid. Then add the garlic, jalapeño pepper, and spice mix. Mix to coat.
Add the bell pepper, butternut squash, lentils, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, vegetable stock and maple syrup and stir well.
Let simmer for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is cooked through and the lentils are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt if needed. Add chopped kale and stir well. Remove from heat.
Spoon chili into bowls, on a bed of grain if you’d like (optional), or as is. Top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, a good squeeze of lime juice, fresh cilantro and smoky cashews.
Recipe NotesFor the smoky cashews: In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon of each of the following: avocado oil (or olive oil), maple syrup and smoked paprika. Add a good pinch of sea salt. Then add 3/4 cup raw cashews and mix well to coat. Toast cashews in a skillet over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly toasted, stirring frequently. Let cool completely before serving.
“Believe in your dreams. They do come true.”