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Macro Monday: All About Winter Squash

If you know me, you know I love pumpkin. And Kabocha. And pretty much all winter squash. I find them to be THE single most comforting whole food (other than oats, perhaps) out there. They are sweet & decadent and pair so well with cinnamon & nutmeg, but also taste great when made with savory spices, or dipped into a delicious tahini-lemon dressing. You can roast, steam, and mash them. Squash tastes amazing spread onto sandwiches, served with wholegrains, and cooked into soups and stews. Winter squash is very health-giving & nourishing during the cooler seasons, and every year around this time I start to crave it.

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In honour of the Autumn Equinox yesterday, on this Macrobiotic Monday, let's focus on everything to do with Winter Squash, including a recipe for my favourite way to cook it!

Different Kinds of Winter Squash:

  • Butternut - beige colour, and they come in many fun interesting shapes. A sweet, slightly dense squash.
  • Acorn - dark green skin, and shaped like an acorn (they have ridges). They are a bit watery and less dense.
  • Red Kuri - bright red and orange *look for a photo below
  • Kabocha - dark green with some orangey patches, and a sort of squashed-round shape. Very dense & sweet. *look for photo below
  • Pumpkins (and all other pie-making variety of pumpkins) - there are too many varieties of these big orange guys to count. You know the ones :)
  • Buttercup - like kabocha in colouring, but generally a bit more square-ish shaped, with higher edges with kind of a ridge. Similar to kabocha, but a bit more watery
  • Spaghetti Squash - large round & oval in shape, yellow in colour. Once it's cooked when you scrape the flesh, it comes off in strings like spaghetti. 

How to Choose a Good Squash

There might be nothing more disappointing than selecting what looks like a beauty of a squash at the store, and then getting home, cutting it open, and finding out that it's super watery or very light coloured on the inside with a spongy texture. Boo! 

Here's how to avoid this catastrophe: 

  • Get up close & personal with the squashes: pick them up, and feel their weight (I transfer them back and forth between my hands to get an idea of how much they weight). The heavier the better.  If you have 2 equally sized squashes, choose the heavier one. Always.  If a squash seems too light for it's size, place it back in the bin and keep looking. 
  • Smell your squash: if you get a whiff of mold, place it back. 
  • If you can, choose a squash with it's stem still in place

Best Places to Buy Squash

Kabocha & Red Kuri Squash from the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street

Kabocha & Red Kuri Squash from the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street

My favourite place to buy squash is at markets or food stands. I find that the grocery store winter squashes are often hit or miss...and recently, they've been more of a miss (often moldy). Local farmers & gardeners have the best selection, and high quality.

This Saturday I was lucky enough to come across Winter Squash heaven. A beautiful table and buckets filled with all kinds of squashes, and a super cute sign at the end of the block. If you're in Victoria, I recommend checking out the Pumpkin Guys on Moss Street (between McKenzie & Fairfield Rd)! They'll be there every Saturday until the end of October!

If you look close, you can see a few ladies checking out the pumpkins halfway up the block :) 

If you look close, you can see a few ladies checking out the pumpkins halfway up the block :) 

How to Cook Winter Squash

 Steamed

  • Wash & Scrub the outside of the squash
  • cut in half vertically  
  • Scrape out insides
  • peel if you like, then cut into 1" chunks
  • Place in a vegetable steamer over water, and steam for 7-10 minutes

Boiled 

  • Wash & scrub the outside of the squash
  • Peel & cut in half  
  • scoop out all the seeds and insides
  • dice into chunks
  • place in a pan with water and boil away until nice and soft (you can start with not so much water, and just add more as necessary) 
  • { you can boil spaghetti squash whole: pierce a few holes before with a knife on all sides before boiling. Boil for about 30 minutes in a large pot. Be very careful when removing from the pot - it will be really hot and will release steam when you cut it open}

Mashed 

  • Wash & Scrub the squash
  • Either boil, steam or bake the squash
  • Scoop out the cooked flesh, and using a potato masher, or a good fork, place in a bowl and mash away
  • Add in good quality oil and seasonings of choice. For savory I recommend some herbal sea salt, or perhaps some rosemary and sea salt. For a sweet treat, add in some maple syrup or honey and some cinnamon & nutmeg. 

 Roasted Squash Fries

  • Set oven to 400F
  • Wash & Scrub the squash
  • cut into half vertically, and scoop out the insides
  • Slice into 1/2" thick crescent moons (my fav), or sticks (like fries) or peel & dice  
  • Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and seasonings (i.e., rosemary, herbal salt, sage)  or if you prefer the sweet variety: your liquid sweetener of choice, some cinnamon & nutmeg
  • Spread out on a cookie sheet or baking dish and bake for 35-40 mins. 
  • *My favourite is to make this variety savory, using butternut squash. They make delicious fries! 

 ***My Favourite way: Steam Baked  (see directions below)

How to Bake A Squash Dainty Pig Style

  • Set oven to 350F
  • Wash/ scrub your squash
  • Cut it in half vertically
  • Scrape out all the seeds/guts with a sturdy spoon
Halved & insides scooped out Red Kuri Squash, ready for the oven. 

Halved & insides scooped out Red Kuri Squash, ready for the oven. 

  • Rub a bit of sea salt on the flesh, with your fingers {optional, but for a delicious and richer taste, rub a bit of sesame or olive oil onto the flesh first, then rub in the salt}
  • Place halves flesh side down in a pyrex dish
  • Add in about 1" of water, making sure it goes inside the squash halves too (sometimes it can form a seal with the glass)
  • Bake for 30 minutes (optional, you can cover the whole squash & pan with foil)
  • Carefully take pan out, holding onto squash with oven mitts (it's hot!!), pour out the water
  • Flip the squash over, so they now rest flesh side up
  • Put them back in and bake for another 20-30 minutes uncovered
  • Remove from oven, and carefully slice or cut into chunks. Devour!
Red Kuri Squash Ready to Eat - from the Moss Street Pumpkin Guys {it was outta-this-world delicious, some of the best squash ever btw}

Red Kuri Squash Ready to Eat - from the Moss Street Pumpkin Guys {it was outta-this-world delicious, some of the best squash ever btw}

Leftover cooked squash can be frozen, or put into the refrigerator. One of my favourite things it to use the leftovers to make a pudding (puree it, add in some cinnamon and a tiny bit of sweetener), or to cook into my oatmeal.

Some Dainty Pig Recipes That Use Squash:

*And a fun fact about winter squash: You can eat the skin on most of them - I have, with kabocha, butternut & red kuri squash. It is full of good things for you, and has a nice texture. Just make sure you don't eat the parts of the skin that have some of those bumpy markings.

We enjoyed our red kuri squash with a big salad full of fresh market vegetables, and the most delicious baguette I have ever tasted in my life, dipped in some olive oil. So good :)

What's your favourite way to eat squash?? 

Happy Autumn Everyone! xoxo


 

Macro Monday: Swiss Open-Faced Apricot Pie

When life gives you fruit, you say "yes! thanks! sweet!" and then eat it. At least I do.

I like to eat fruit plain, just as it is. I could eat bowl upon bowl of fresh picked fruit. Apricots are always a favourite and I sure do feel spoiled being here in the Okanagan, with fruit trees in the yard.

I've been enjoying fresh apricots & cherries in the morning for a wonderful summer treat. But the family apricot tree keeps delivering apricots, more & more everyday, and they were beginning to pile up, so some baking was in order. Stewing or baking fruit makes it a little easier to digest (bonus!), and provides a whole new taste experience.

Apricots & Almonds baked into a treat? Yes Please. 

MM: Swiss Open-Faced Apricot Pie

Best breakfast, the next morning.

Best breakfast, the next morning.

The following recipe is a Macro-ified version of an old family recipe I enjoyed growing up. It is a Swiss fruit tart / open-faced pie, with a very thin, almost edgeless crust, and very simple filling showcasing the fruit itself. It's vegan, not-so-sweet, and can be made gluten free if you substitute the spelt flour with a nice gf mix, or perhaps an oat & rice flour combo. The layer of almonds soak up the apricot juice, preventing the crust from getting soggy, and provide an amazing flavour combo that is impossible to resist.

Ingredients

Crust: 

  • 2 cups sprouted spelt flour
  • 3 TBSP olive oil (or other veggie oil of choice)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup cold almond milk

Filling: 

  • 1/2- 1 cup coarsely grated almonds (I pulsed in the blender to get a grated texture)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon & sugar of choice (maple sugar, coconut sugar or regular sugar)
  • enough apricots, halved to cover the whole crust (I would guess we used 15-20 whole apricots, then halved them).
  • 1 cup vegan yogurt mixed with about 1/2-1 cup almond milk to thin, and some cinnamon {I used coconut milk yogurt, but almond would work well too}.
Fresh outta the oven! Warm & Juicy Apricots! 

Fresh outta the oven! Warm & Juicy Apricots! 

Directions:

1. Add oil to flour & salt, crumble in with hands. Add enough almond milk to be able to knead the dough. Knead until shiny - ish, then form a ball. Let sit in fridge for about 1 hour. 

2. Roll out dough as skinny as possible between 2 parchment sheets. I'd recommend lightly oiling the bottom parchment sheet if the dough is sticking.

3. Place dough onto greased pizza pan or other shallow round baking pan (you can use the greased parchment paper you used for rolling if you prefer, instead of greasing the pan). There isn't really an edge to this pie---maybe only about 1 cm. or so. You're mostly making a crust base. Spread/stretch/press the dough with your fingers,so it covers the whole base of the pan.

4. Brush a tiny bit of olive oil on crust. 

5. Sprinkle almonds to cover whole crust (about 1/2 - 1 cm. thick). 

6. Rub in some cinnamon and sugar (about 2 TBSP) into almonds and smooth out the layer.

7. Cover the almond & sugar layer with apricots (place the inside of apricots facing up). 

8. Whisk/mix up yogurt and almond milk and cinnamon. Pour / brush over apricots until it just runs through the space between the apricots. You can use as much or as little as you like. I just eye-balled how thin it should be: kinda runny, but not as thin as milk. Just like a bit runny yogurt.

9. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes (until you smell something delicious, and apricots are soft). Watch so the crust doesn't over brown. 

Fresh outta the oven -- still hot so there's some apricot juice on top  

Fresh outta the oven -- still hot so there's some apricot juice on top  

Serve warm, sprinkling a little more sugar over top if you like. Serve cold the next day for breakfast (I highly recommend this option!).

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As this post is going up, I'll be driving all the way back home through the Rockies with my guy, T, dreaming of the land where peaches & apricots & cherries are plenty and the weather is so so so hot. If you get a chance to visit the Okanagan, I highly recommend you plan your trip around when the fruit is ready.

Just sayin'. 

Macro Mondays: Macrobiotic Fruit Tart

Today is special because not only is it Canada day (yay! err, I mean...yay-eh!), but my guy & I are celebrating 8 wonderful years together. Holy moly! And what better way to celebrate & say I love you berry berry much than with a fruit tart...right?

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MM: Macrobiotic Summer Fruit Tart

*Vegan / Gluten Free / Refined sugar free

Ingredients: 

Crust (for more crust options see end of post): 

  • 2 cups oat flour  
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup oil of choice (olive, grapeseed, coconut) 
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (almond, rice, soy, cow) 

Custard Filling: 

  • 2 cups (or a 456ml carton) amazake -- I used hazelnut flavoured
  • 2 heaping TBSP kuzu
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • lemon zest (optional) 
  • dash of vanilla (optional) 

Fruit Topping: - It's your art! you decide! Fruit for the one I made above is:

  • 1 pint (550ml) organic blueberries
  • 2 organic apricots, cut in to rings
  • a handful of strawberries, cut into hearts
  • a few raspberries

Optional Glaze

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam (fruit sweetened if preferred) 
  • 1TBSP water
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Directions: 

I highly recommend making the custard filling the night before, and if possible the crust too. Otherwise you'd need to allow enough time for both to fully cool before assembling.  If making this tart in advance, and you need it to keep well, read step 4 first. Other crust & filling options at the end of the post.

1. Prepare Custard Filling: Pour 2 cups of Amazake into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup cold water to 2TBSP kuzu in a small bowl. Whisk until dissolved. Add kuzu to Amazake. Stir constantly, bring back to low boil, then lower heat and stir until mixture is nice & thick (about 3 minutes). Take off heat. Allow to cool and firm up in fridge.

2. Prepare Crust: Place flour & salt into bowl & gently mix. Either blend or whisk the oil & milk together in a separate container. Add wet to dry, mixing in with your hands, and form a ball. Add a tiny bit more flour if necessary. Place ball of dough in fridge to cool a bit (15-30 mins). Turn oven on to 350F. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment. Take top layer of parchment off. Grease an 11" pie pan (I used a white ceramic Ikea quiche pan), and place it face down on top of dough. Carefully flip it all over, peel off parchment, and press dough into pan. Poke some holes with a fork into the dough. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool completely

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3. Put it together: Spread chilled, thickened custard over the cooled crust. If the custard is just too thick, very carefully blend for just a second, to make it a bit runnier. Then decorate: make fruit art, make it pretty, make it colourful!

4. Optional glaze:  Heat the jam and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, until liquid & melted. Remove from heat, and pour through a thin sieve to remove any fruit lumps. Let cool until just very slightly warm, then brush over fruit. ***If planning to make this tart way in advance, I'd recommend brushing some glaze on the crust, letting it set for 20 minutes in fridge, and then continuing with the custard & fruit, and then topping with glaze (as this will keep crust from getting soggy & fruit from browning).

** I'd recommend letting the fruit tart set in fridge after assembling for 30 mins or more, as the filling will again firm up a bit. But this is not necessary, & we ate ours right away. 

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I made almost this exact tart last year, for our anniversary, and it had the above glaze on it {the glaze is delicious, but I forgot to get jam this time).  

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Some Other Crust & Filling Options

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Oat Flour & Brown Rice Flour Crust {A bit lighter & more crumbly}

Same directions as above, but use the following ingredients. 

  • 1.25 cups oat flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 + 1TBSP oil

Spelt Flour Crust {A bit sturdier crust}

    Same directions as above, but use the following ingredients:
    • 2 cups spelt flour (whole grain works well!) 
    • 1/2 cup oil of choice
    • 2 TBSP maple syrup
    • 2 - 4 TBSP cold water

    Oat & Chia Custard

    • 1/2 c rolled oats
    • 1 TBSP chia seeds
    • Boiling water to cover

    Pour boiling water over the oats/chia in a bowl, and cover wth a plate. Let sit until water is absorbed and it's no longer hot. Add in:

    • 1/4 cup almond milk
    • 1/4 cup apple sauce
    • 1 TBSP maple syrup
    • zest of one lemon
    • pinch of salt

    Blend well. Then pour into small saucepan, and add 2 TBSP kuzu diluted into 1/4 c. cold water. Bring to low boil, stirring constantly. Let cook while stirring, for about 3 minutes. Take off heat and let firm up/cool in fridge.

    Dark Chocolate Layer

    Something sinfully delightful is to brush melted dark chocolate onto the crust. If doing so, make sure to let it cool & harden before layering on the custard & fruit. 

    HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEK, FRIENDS!

    Macro Mondays: Berry Delicious Macrobiotic Ice Cream.

    Sometimes you just need a little treat. Perhaps you don't have anything ready to munch on, and maybe you don't feel like baking. That happens on occasion.

    Before my stomach let me know that dairy & I don't belong together, my favourite quick treat/dessert was unsweetened plain yogurt with frozen berries mixed in. Well, this is even better.

    Today's 1 minute Macrobiotic Monday recipe (if you can even call it a recipe, as it is so simple!) helped me through a needing-a-treat crisis. And the berries made me feel all summery. Yay for summer!

    MM: Macrobiotic Raspberry Ice Cream

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    That would be ice cream less the cream. And made in less than 1 minute.

    Ingredients:

    1 cup frozen raspberries, organic if possible
    1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice*

    (And because you'll probably want more, 2:1 frozen berries to milk)

    Directions

    1. Add the berries to a blender. Then add the milk.
    2. Blend until desired consistency reached. (I preferred to have some raspberry chunks still in there, so I literally only blended it for about 30 seconds in the magic bullet, stirring a few times).
    3. Eat right away. Um, duh.

    *Note: I used Eden brand unsweetened soy milk, as it was what I had on hand. But I know for a fact, that amasake would be amazing in here. Rice milk & almond milk would be great too. For a less traditionally macro version, try coconut milk -->I'm positive it would be ridiculously amazing.

    Equally Delicious Variations

    • Adding 1TBSP cocoa or carob powder for a chocolatey berry extravaganza
    • Frozen blueberries or blackberries or peaches instead...yum!
    • Adding some healthy fat, like 1TBSP chia or flax, or 1TBSP nut/seed butter, if you need your treat to be a bit more substantial.
    • If you want more sweetness, add 1TBSP maple syrup or rice syrup.
    • You could also try spicing things up like adding a bit of lemon zest (especially nice with bluberries/blackberries), cinnamon (great with the cocoa/carob combo), vanilla, and fresh mint.

    A few extra comments & suggestions:

    I'm sure you could store this in the freezer for a few hours, but just watch it to make sure it doesn't harden up too much. I can't personally vouch for this though, as I usually only make it when I want a treat to eat right away.

    I love using the Magic Bullet, as it's so easy to make things in small quantities, and it blends really well. I simply pour in the berries first, then fill the milk to half the height of the berries. Simple. So simple.

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    Now, go for a walk or bike ride, smell some flowers, let the sun wash over your face, and then come home and enjoy this treat.

    Macro (Easter) Monday: A guide to all that's sweet.

    Happy Easter Monday, all!

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    MM: The Sweet Stuff

    In Macrobiotics, sweetness falls more to the yin side of things. Sweet things can be relaxing, soothing and expanding & help us feel better when the yang side of things take over (stress, hot weather, tension, salty foods, too much work). So it makes sense that permanently denying all things sweet is not a good route to go. Sweetness is good: we need some yin to balance the yang-paced world we exist in! Plus, treats are great and fun and are often a source of social bonding --- think birthday cakes, Easter egg hunts, Christmas cookies, and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.

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    But, too much Yin throws off the Yang. Moderation is key. And some things are just simply too-strongly yin (fall to the very far side of Yin) and will always throw off the balance. You can always enjoy sweet vegetables like carrots & squash for a very balanced sweet taste. But, when you need something a little more treat-like, try making & enjoying some sweets made with some of these less-intense sweeteners.

    My Favourite Sweeteners:

    Pure Maple Syrup

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    This is my #1 go to sweetener to use in baking. And not because I love the flavour of maple. In fact, I don't really enjoy maple flavour at all. But most store bought "maple" cookies, candies, pancake syrup etc. is full of artificial maple flavour. Real natural maple syrup is not-so-strong (don't get me wrong, if you eat it straight, you'll taste maple, but not so intense). Personally, I don't even detect the taste at all when I use it in baking. I also use it in teas, coffee, cocoas etc, and find it to add a very gentle, subtle sweet taste. You can even buy granulated maple syrup to use in baking (it makes substituting sugar a breeze, as it is dry, so it doesn't change the texture much). If I make brownies, I use granulated maple syrup.  Real maple syrup comes straight from the tree, full of vitamins & minerals. Or maybe I just like it so much because I'm Canadian?! :)

    Fruit

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    Of course, the simplest, purest, quickest way to get some sweet in your life is to chow down on some fruit. Stewed fruit is divine, and for a special treat try adding ginger to stewed apples. Fruit crisps are seriously wonderful. And fresh fruit kantens are wonderfully refreshing in the summer. Dried fruits are intensely sweet (dates are nature's candy), and frozen fruits are really convenient to throw into baking or smoothies. I love using apple sauce in cookies, muffins, and cakes. And of course, fresh fruit has many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and are recognized as powerful cleansing foods. I love fruit tarts, and will make more like the one above this summer, with recipes to post on here.

    Brown Rice Syrup & Barley Malt

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    These are the quintessential macrobiotic sweeteners. If you are new to natural sweeteners, these ones may take a bit of time and multiple recipes, to get used to the taste. They are more complex sweeteners, and therefore hit the bloodstream a little slower...giving you more sustained balanced energy. I quite like brown rice syrup. It's great as a replacement for honey as it has a thick caramel-like texture. I haven't used barley malt as much, as I try to avoid gluten. But as my digestion has become much stronger, and gluten isn't as big of a deal for me any more, when I see something with barley malt in it, I'm excited to try it. You can make great cookies with these two sweeteners.

    Runners-up

    Raw Honey

    Honey as been used for centuries as medicine in many different cultures. I've seen tons of articles floating around these days toting the health benefits and healing properties of honey, often in combination with cinnamon. It tastes amazing (obviously), and is full of enzymes. It tastes sweeter than regular sugar, so you don't need to use quite as much. Also PB & Honey is a time-tested combination that no one can touch. YUM. Another amazing combination is tahini & honey.

    Blackstrap Molasses

    I love gingersnap cookies. Bring on the molasses, because without it you'll never get that wonderful gingersnap flavour. Blackstrap molasses is, well, black. In this case, black is a good thing, as it means that it is less processed and full of vitamins and minerals that are often taken out of regular molasses. Also, blackstrap molasses is really high in iron!

    Coconut-palm Sugar

    This is a newer product, and I've tried it in a few recipes over the past year. It is definitely not so sweet, which makes sense as it is supposed to be very low on the glycemic index. It is quite dark brown, and has a rough texture ---> this is good, as it shows that it is less processed. I would definitely try subbing some of this in for brown sugar or regular sugar in any recipe, if you'd like to try veering away from regular old white sugar.

    Sucanat / Turbinado Sugar

    These guys are basically less-processed white sugar. Some of the vitamins and minerals are still left in tact, making it slightly more nutritious, and easier to digest. These guys are easily found in all stores now, and you can make some simple & easy cookies with them, as bake just the same as regular sugar.

    Not-so-sure

    Stevia

    Many many health professionals and healthy eaters love stevia, as it is from a plant, and doesn't impact blood sugar really at all, but tastes super sweet. I don't really have any particular nutritional complaints about it (some are more natural than others though, for sure). But, I put it in the not-so-sure category, because my stomach doesn't really like it. It is pretty potent for me personally, and is so-so-so sweet that it often puts my cravings for sweetness into overdrive. It can be delicious though, for sure. My favourite brand for taste is nunaturals alcohol free vanilla liquid stevia.

    Agave

    Agave has a nice mild taste, and is from a plant (if you get the real stuff), but it's not my favourite, as it has such a high fructose content. I do eat it occasionally though, as it's often the "natural, raw, low glycemic" sweetener of choice in healthier options at stores & restaurants etc., but I have never bought it myself, nor used it in any of my own cooking/baking.

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    It can be really difficult to make healthy choices these days, with tons of information floating around out there, and coming at us in every direction from tweets, magazines, newspapers, facebook, news stories, etc. I think the best way to choose the foods you eat, is to simply be open & willing to try anything, and then make a note of how it makes you feel --- both physically & mentally. And then, once you eat those foods, if you're aware, you'll notice how much of them is right for you.

    What is your favourite sweetener, and how do you use it?

    Macrobiotic Pumpkin Pie: 4 crusts, 3 different fillings

    When you make four different pumpkin pies, all vegan, wheat-free, and macrobiotic, and then subject your family  (mostly "regular eaters") to multiple taste testings, you kind of hope there will be a definite best-tasting pie. At least I did.

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    This time, though, two of the pies received equal praise. There was no clear winner. But then I realized:  2 > 1. Two delicious pumpkin pies is better than 1 delicious pie. Um. Duh.

    Enough chit chat. Here are the recipes & reviews:

    Pie #1 - 3rd Place

    Recipes from Kristina Turner's The Self-Healing Cookbook
    Wheat Free Oat Crust (p. 152) & the filling for Sweet Squash Pie (p. 154)  

    For the filling I roasted 2 sugar pie pumpkins in the oven ( I cut them in half, gutted them, rubbed a tiny bit of salt on the flesh, then placed them cut side down in a baking dish with a 1/2 inch water, and baked at 350F for about 50 minutes). And I followed the directions in the book exactly for the crust, which baked fairly well!

    Pie # 1: baked then puréed sugar pie pumpkin filling

    Pie # 1: baked then puréed sugar pie pumpkin filling

    Brown Rice & Oat Flour Crust.

    Brown Rice & Oat Flour Crust.

    Results & Comments:  Last Place. It was still edible---but was just "ok" as reviewed by the "regular pumpkin pie eaters." Most people found that the crust tasted a little bitter (perhaps they weren't used to the strong taste of wholegrain flour --- brown rice flour, in particular). I was told that the filling was delicious, but not really like a pumpkin pie filling, and would perhaps do better as a savoury dinner kind of pie. It wasn't spicy or sweet enough for most eaters. To be honest, I think that the sugar pie pumpkins were a bit under ripe. They didn't seem heavy enough for their size, and the flesh just didn't have the rich colour I was expecting. For my macro-ified taste buds, the crust was just fine, and the filling was okay. But, I think it would have been more delicious had I used my favourite, kabocha squash, instead of the sugar pie pumpkins. This cookbook is wonderful though, and I highly recommend it. Most recipes I make out of it are received very very well, and I plan to give this recipe another chance in the future.

    Pie #2 - tied for 1st place

    I used this recipe as my base:  from the Eden foods website.

    Crust from oat flour & olive oil.

    Crust from oat flour & olive oil.

    My substitutions were:  I used all oat flour instead of wheat flour, and rolled the crust into a ball, then put it between parchment paper and rolled it out.  I needed to add a tiny bit more oat flour to make it form a ball. I also used almond milk (unsweetened vanilla flavour) instead of the soy milk. In the filling, I again used almond milk, and also used only 1/2 cup maple syrup instead of 3/4 cup. The canned pumpkin I was used was organic, in a BPA free lining can. I also omitted the nuts. Overall, my changes from the original recipe lightened up the pie and made it wheat free.

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    Results & Comments: Well deserved 1st place spot. The filling was really great: the spices could be a little stronger, but the texture was amazing. The crust was a clear 1st place winner though. Out of all the crusts, this one was everyone's favourite. The oat flour worked perfectly in place of the wheat flour, making it tummy friendly. It stuck together well, and baked quite nicely. I preferred this pie the 2nd & 3rd day, after it cooled off a bit in the fridge. This recipe makes a LOT of filling. I filled two regular pie crusts full and had TONS left over (must be intended for a deep dish pie) when I doubled the recipe, so I imagine the normal recipe could make enough filling for two regular crusts. 

    Pie #3 - 2nd Place

    Crust from Kristina Turner's The Self-Healing Cookbook
    Nutty Oat Crust (p. 152 ) with some modifications. Same filling as pie #2.

    Substitutions: I used ALL oat flour instead of the recommended brown rice & wheat flour. I did not use any nuts, simply left them out. And I was out of sesame oil, so I used sunflower oil instead.

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    Results & Comments: 2nd place. This pie was definitely good. Everyone enjoyed it, as expected, because it has the same filling as pie #2. The crust was enjoyable. It held together nicely and baked well, BUT, it just didn't seem quite right for a pumpkin pie. Not so much like a regular crust. As you can tell by the picture above, it was almost like a giant not-so-sweet oatmeal cookie. I want to try this crust again with something else as a filling. This combo was good for breakfast the next day, I was told.

    Pie #4 - Tied for 1st place

    Based on this recipe here.

    Substitutions: For the crust, I used the same as pie #2, only lightened it up a bit by using 2TBSP olive oil and 2TBSP cold water. Again, I used all oat flour, and almond milk in place of the soymilk. For the filling, I reduced the ample syrup to 1/2 cup, left out the barley malt, and used a generous 3 heaping teaspoons of cinnamon plus hefty shakes of cloves and nutmeg. 

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    Results & Reviews: A very close flat out winner. Upon first bite, most people said this was hands down the best. But after a few more tastes, the votes were split between this and pie #2. No one could guess the secret ingredient: tofu. The spices in this pie were the strongest, and therefore my favourite hands down, and everyone else agreed that the flavour was delightful. The biggest pumpkin pie fan of the lot said that this one had the most similar texture to regular pumpkin pie. The sweetness of this one was JUST perfect---it tasted a bit sweeter than pie#2 though, despite having the same amount of maple syrup. As per the instructions in the recipe, the pie definitely does best to sit overnight in the fridge. The lightened up version of crust #2 was good, but not as good as #2 --- if you must reduce the oil, then this one turned out very well, but if you can spare the extra oil, using the full 1/4 cup in the crust will give you the best taste.

    Overall Thoughts

    I was really impressed with pie #4. I am not usually a big tofu eater, and was definitely skeptical making this pie. As I was blending the filling (very quick & easy btw) I really couldn't predict how it would turn out. To say I was pleasantly surprised with the taste is a big understatement. I knew pie #2 would be delicious the second the filling started bubbling on the stove & I snuck a taste. 

    I'm really happy that I was able to successfully replace wheat flour in the crust. Changing flours in recipes is always tricky, but it turned out so well I couldn't stop smiling. I plan to do a post soon with the measurements and changes I made to both winning pies in regular recipe format for ease of reading. 

    Next year, I'll be making 2 pies: Crust #2 for both, filling one with pie #2 filling but adding more spices, and then making filling #4 exactly the same as I did this year. 

    Champions side by side: pie #2 on the left, #4 on the right.

    Champions side by side: pie #2 on the left, #4 on the right.

    And what to do with all that extra filling from pie #2? Well folks, that's 2 more sweet pumpkin treat recipes for 2 new posts. 

    Did I ever mention how much I love pumpkin?

    Happy Thanksgiving --- Pumpkin Pie showdown.

    Hi friends,

    It's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. I'm only so-so excited. And mostly because of the extra day off. Truthfully, growing up I never really was a fan of the whole "turkey dinner thing." I didn't really enjoy meat so much, and turkey was no exception. From a young age creamy things like whipping cream made me feel queasy. And cranberry sauce on top of turkey? YUCK! A true nightmare. Cranberry sauce as jam on bread---ok. As an overly sweet thing on top of meat--- no thanks. And I've never even really even tried stuffing. Mashed potatoes were just ok, and as for gravy, I could take it or leave it.  

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    The one thing I always did enjoy though, was my mom's roasted veggies. She bathed oven roasted carrots, turnips, & sweet potatoes in fresh herbs and lemon. Hmmmm... and people wonder why I enjoy macrobiotic cooking so much? I think I was just designed from the start to enjoy this way of eating.

    I have another confession to make as well: I never really liked pie much. Especially pumpkin pie. But I think this was because I got sick one time after eating it, and I can only guess now that it was because of the giant pile of whipping cream on top. But alas, times have changed.

    Pumpkin Pie Showdown 2012

    Pumpkin pie sans whipping cream? Yeah, ok. Let's do it up. I do love a good pumpkin. 

    I spent 6 hours in the kitchen yesterday. I made four different whole-grain gluten free & vegan pie crusts, and three different pumpkin pie fillings. I even roasted 2 sugar pie pumpkins to use instead of canned pumpkin puree in one of the pies.  

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    Two different thanksgiving dinners means everyone gets to sample two different pies each day. I want to get a feel for which recipe is the tastiest, so next year when I want to indulge in my pumpkin love, I know which one to make. The only downside to my method, other than the time and sweat,  is that I only had one pie plate, so I had to buy a few cheap aluminum ones. But, c'est la vie.

    Sneak peak of yesterday's champion:

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    Please share with me: What's your favourite pumpkin pie recipe --- macrobiotic, vegan, or otherwise?

    Dinner Party Delights

     Hey Guys,

    The focus of this week's Thursday Things are FRIENDS!
    And enjoying simple meals with them :)

    Here's a few quick shots from the dinner party last night.

    You can see my plate because of the rice cake, hahaha.
     (once my belly is doing great, I will definitely indulge in some good quality bread)
    Lemon slices for the soup, cute bird lemon squeezer from Japan, and tahini sauce for the veggies.

    3 kinds of Sourdough Bread  (wholegrain, baguette, & potato bread)



    French Lentil Stew(has parsnip, celery, carrots, ginger & parsley in it).

    Roasted Veggies


    Kabocha, Fennel, Japanese Sweet Potato, & Yellow Beets



    Tahini Custard (like a kanten, made with apples, raisins & tahini)

    Before
    After! I garnished these with a few raisins before serving.



    * To make this mouth watering custard, please read Aveline Kushi's book "Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking." It is simple, tastes decadent, and received great reviews from my guests!

    *French Lentil Stew Recipe coming soon!

    * And, a guest post tomorrow!

    Have a lovely thursday, dainty piglets 

    Sweet treats.

    A sweet treat for my sweetie and I to enjoy on Valentine's day:

    Did you know you can cut strawberries to look like hearts? really super easy :)

    For our evening indulgence, I made 
    Brownies with Tofu Whipping Cream
    They are mega-delicious, and are made with brown rice and almond flour.
    I made a few substitutions/changes to her recipe, to make them a bit more macrobiotic friendly:
    * Instead of earth balance, I used 1/4c. vegetable oil 
       (I used 2Tbsp olive oil, 1Tbsp sunflower oil, 1Tbsp walnut oil)
    *I also added 3Tbsp applesauce
    *I replaced the sugar with maple syrup granules
    *I used 1tsp baking powder instead of soda, because I only had alkalized cocoa available
    *I toasted the walnuts first
    *I used unsweetened baking chocolate, plus a few dark chocolate squares cut up (I think 70%).

    To up the macrobiotic friendly factor even more, you could replace cocoa powder with carob powder, and use grain-sweetened chocolate. Let me know if you try!

    I served ours up with some quick: 
    Tofu Whip
    *1 package of lite silken tofu
    *2Tbsp maple syrup
    Blended with an immersion blender until very smooth.
    Keep in the fridge for a few hours to firm up.
    *At many of the macro-restaurants I visited in Japan, this was served with desserts, I simply guessed the proportions and ingredients, and it turned out just fine!
    These brownies are best made the day before you want to eat them. They get really dense after sitting awhile. Store them in a glass container. I put mine in the fridge.

    There are far worse things in the world, than waking up to brownies in the fridge.
    I saved a few, and brought the rest for some yogi-friends to devour. They gobbled them right up and pronounced them swoon-worthy :)
    This was the first time I have used maple syrup granules, because, let's face it: they aren't cheap.
    I got these ones from iHerb.
    They were just superb, as was iHerb, as always :)
    $5 off your first order with code ROP008.
    By FAR the cheapest place to get products like seasonings, sweeteners, etc.
    What's your favourite brownie recipe?
    Have you made macrobiotic or vegan brownies?