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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.Β 

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

  • 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: Macrobiotic Eating for Autumn

Eating seasonally and locally are major parts of the big picture view that Macrobiotics takes. If you do this, you'll feel great during all the different seasons, but also during the often uncomfortable transition times between.

Google Image Search Result:  http://tinyurl.com/m892tjv

Google Image Search Result: http://tinyurl.com/m892tjv

People seem to intuitively move towards lighter eating in warmer weather, and heavier eating during the cold of winter. This is simply our bodies tapping into the universe & mother nature, and sending us signals about what would serve & nourish us best during each season. 

Nourishing Meals for Autumn

When the weather cools off (becomes more yin), it feels best to begin eating slightly heavier & warmer foods with more concentrated energy (more yang) to feel balanced.  Some great recommendations for Autumn are root vegetables including pumpkins & squash, more grains including denser ones such as millet & sweet rice. Stewed fruit and desserts like apple crisp replace the crisp fresh raw fruit enjoyed in summer. And also, in your cooking, you could use a bit more salt and condiments.

Just like I posted a recipe for lighter summer eating, on this lovely Macro Monday, I have a delicious Autumn dish for you, to match the changing colours of foliage, and keep you warm during scarves & boots weather. 

Gingery Adzuki & Kabocha Stew

This is a classic Macrobiotic dish--and is one of my absolute favourites. T loves it too. I would guess that every Macrobiotic cookbook has a variation, and here's mine: 

I promise this stew is much better than the old photo I dug up ;)

I promise this stew is much better than the old photo I dug up ;)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup dried adzuki beans {rinse & soak overnight, then rinse before using}
  • 1 medium kabocha (~600g), seeded & cut into about 1" chunks (peeling optional) 
  • 1/2" chunk of ginger, finely diced
  • 3 cups filtered water

Directions: 

  1. Layer into the pressure cooker, in order: the adzuki beans, the chunks of kabocha squash, and then sprinkle the diced ginger on top. 
  2. Pour the water in, gently, down the side of the pressure cooker, so you don't disturb the layers. 
  3. Bring the pressure cooker up to full pressure, and then lower heat to the lowest setting to maintain high pressure. Cook for 30 minutes. Then let pressure release naturally.
  4. Lift the lid, and if you like, add in a tiny bit of sea salt or tamari to taste, and let it simmer for a few minutes on low heat. The kabocha will be soft and break apart. 
  5. Serve with a sprig of parsley on top (I forgot for the photo, my bad).

This stew is great on its own, or with some good hearty bread, or on top of brown rice. For variation, you could make this with butternut squash instead - but I bet that once you go kabocha, you'll never go back :)

Stove-top Variation: 

You could make this without the pressure cooker, no problem: Follow the same layering technique, and bring the mixture up to boil, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer away with  lid on. Just make sure to check the water every so often, and add more as necessary. I pretty much always make this in the pressure cooker, but my guess is that it would take about 45 minutes to 1 hour or so doing the regular stove-top variation.  It will be done when the aduzki beans are nice and soft.

***And, there will be an Ohsawa pot variation coming soon --- I have written down my recipe for making this in the ohsawa pot, but will need a few days of searching to find it in my moving boxes.

Happy Autumn everyone! Enjoy your roasted veggies, apple crisps, pretty scarves & pumpkin pie.  Make sure to take some time for reflecting on the year, while sipping some warm tea and watching red, yellow & orange leaves swirl & dance to the ground.

What are your favourite Autumn foods, and clothes? 

Mine are definitely pumpkin anything, especially pie, and scarves <3

Big hugs,
Jess

 

Sometimes you need to go to Kyoto to find the right pie.

So since my last post my guy and I have had 2 sets of parents visit.

So nice to see all of them, but for the last month our days have been a little too jam-packed.

But, it was so nice to get away and do a bit more traveling around here.

I have a great vegan guidebook to Japan, and I found this little gem of a restaurant in Kyoto:

Cute Sign out front.

Love the decor.

Those jars, my loves, are all filled with vegan and macrobiotic oriented cookies.  Pure heaven.

We had hoped to get the macrobiotic lunch set, but unfortunately it was a busy day and was all sold out.

I still left happy though.

I started with a salad:

And then had the curry with brown rice & fresh vegan bread:

They were all sold out of brown rice too---but hey, when the only choice left is fresh vegan bread, I know i'm not doing too bad at all ;)

Loved these chopstick rests. So pretty!!

The presentation of food in Japan is just ridiculous.

It is really so well done. In fact, it's one of the things i'll miss the most when I return home.

And you know a trip to macro restaurant wouldn't be complete without dessert. This dessert made me think of all you lovely readers and bloggers.

For the record, this may have been my FAVOURITE dessert ever ordered. 

First, some kukicha tea in an adorable cup with a cookie happy spoon.

Absolutely gorgeous pottery.

Oh, what's this?

I'll give you a hint: inside there are two of my favourite things...

Kabocha + Adzuki Pie.

I ordered this thinking that there was no way I could go wrong. Those two flavours go great together.

I was happily surprised when I took the first bite:

It wasn't pureed or blended together at all!

Literally just a hunk of kabocha topped with adzuki beans. 

The whole wheat crust was barely sweetened at all. In fact, "normal" people wouldn't consider this a dessert at all.

But, it was perfect, because it didn't leave you feeling all yucky, like too much sugar does.

It was great. I need to recreate it as soon as I am back home in Canada with an oven.

They served it alongside homemade vegan caramel soy icecream.

And you know I couldn't leave with a little something either:

Especially when they wrap it in the cutest bag ever!

I'll show you what was inside next time.

Any nice eating out experiences lately?

pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's (wo)man.

Bake me a kabocha cake, as fast as you can!
Now why am I so excited about baking, you ask?
Well, I baked, I baked, I baked my very own cake!!!
It has been over 18 months since I last baked! 
Most houses do not have ovens, here in Japan. 
And, because I don't use microwaves very often, I couldn't justify buying a new
fancy one that has a baking function. 
And also...baking in microwaves always just seems a bit strange to me.
But, I am going to one up that whole "microwave baking is strange" idea, because I finally caved.

I baked a cake in my rice..........
wait for it.................................................................................
cooker! 
(p.s., I'm currently loving How I Met Your Mother...any other fans out there?)

Anyways, it was glorious!
I used the wonderful edible perspective's pumpkin buckwheat bake recipe.
So, so so so so so yummy.
Can you tell i'm excited?
My changes:
I doubled the recipe...because I wanted a big cake. Enough said.
I didn't have any bananas or maple syrup, so instead:
 I added in some vanilla stevia drops into the kabocha puree (I think I used about 15 drops?). 
I also doubled the amount of kabocha puree than called for (final amount was ~1c).
And I doubled the flax egg also (so I used 4T flax meal).
And I didn't use any nuts, because I was out.
Let's get to it!
I ground my own buckwheat groats. And mixed all the dry stuff together.

I steamed, then roasted, then pureed my own kabocha (skin included).
And I used my own almond milk. And I mixed it all together!
After it was all said and done, I felt like a pioneer woman, hahaha.
It took MUCH longer to cook using my rice cooker's CAKE function.
But, no problem. Apart from finding my patience within, it was no big deal.
I think I cooked it for just over an hour on the rice cooker cake setting.
It was cinnamony, kabocha-ey, and hearty.
I loved it! It was more like a kabocha BREAD, than a cake, because of lack of banana and maple syrup. 
But that was cool...I just served it up with a spoon of nut butter, and relaxed.
It was fun. I really miss baking. 
Normally I wouldn't bake cakes back home. 
Cookies or granola bars, or breads are more up my alley. 
But hey, beggars can't be choosers.
Have you ever baked anything cake-like in your rice cooker?
First time for me. But now, I feel like Christopher Columbus, ready to explore a whole new territory!
Do you like baking? If so, what do you like to bake?
I love baking. I find it very stress relieving. 
I think as soon as I get home to Canada, I will bake a big batch of cookies.

Squash, Lentil, Chickpea, Carrot Stew

If you add 6 cups of water to these ingredients:

 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
3 carrots diced
1/2 kabocha peeled and diced
1 c. red lentils rinsed
1 c. yellow split peas, rinsed
1 inch of ginger, peeled and minced
1 T cumin
pinch of black pepper
pinch of salt

and bring them to a boil and simmer for about 40 minutes, 
you will get this delicious stew:

Stir in the lime juice near the end, and garnish with chopped peanuts and parsley.

served on top of brown rice, with a side of brussel sprouts and daikon. 
Inspired by this recipe.
It's the perfect assortment of flavours, and makes your belly feel great on a winter evening.
Not to mention, it's garlic and onion free. I approve!
What's your favourite stew recipe?

Macro Plates

Usually Macro plates at restaurants offer similar things:
a whole grain (usually brown rice, but sometimes a mix too) topped with a bit of seeds
light veggies (steamed, or a salad)
roasted veggies
beans
perhaps some sea veggies (wakame, or maybe there is some kelp with the beans)
you will probably also get a soup, usually miso, on the side.

I enjoy making these at home all the time. I know that Maggie also loves her macro plates.
This one had brown rice, steamed daikon, broccoli and greens, and 
stewed carrots and burdock (nishime style).

This one had roasted kabocha, nishime daikon with sweet potato, celery, carrots and burdock.

I freshened it up a bit with some parsley. And topped off the rice with some tamari roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
This one has all steamed broccoli, daikon and kabocha, greens and shitake sauteed with ginger, and brown rice topped with dulse powder or black sesame:

I often drink the broth from steaming veggies. Sometime I make miso soup. 
I have some issues with fermented foods, so if I have miso soup too regularly, I notice it...
but by all means, if it agrees with you, miso soup is recommended at least once per day. 
About beans: sometime I have beans lightly sauteed in sesame oil on the side. But lately, I have been preferring to make dhal and serving it ontop of brown rice, withs some light veggies on the side. 
I don't eat beans everyday...but lately probably 3 of 4 times per week.
Yum yum. 
Have you ever tried a macro plate? 
Do you like macrobiotic food?

Long time no....blogging?

Hello all you beautiful people!

I have been crazily busy this week. Two teachers at my studio were away, so I was teaching yoga left and right! Good news: every class I teach, I end up loving teaching even more. There is definitely a learning curve, and I think I have finally settled in. I feel more grounded in my teaching, and much more confident. Yay for yoga!!


As far as eats these past few days go, I was very undecided about the only rice, or the only veggie thing. I tried on friday to do just veggies....and by noon I was sooo grumpy!! Hahaha. My guy was like "eat some rice. Now." So how could I refuse? I definitely need my complex carbs.

Since then, I have been eating LOTS of veggies, but have been including grains when I feel like it, and lots and lots of kabocha squash. Maggie...I love you!!! Steamed Kabocha is AMAZING, and takes WAY less time to make than when its baked in the oven. I'm so happy to eat my favourite favourite favourite veggie in another way.

Today I tried some yams! Not so macrobiotic....but heck...you only live once, right? hahaha. I usually avoid anything potato like, because they give me major puff belly, and I end up just feeling kinda yucky. BUT, I haven't had yams in a long time, and they looked really appealing at the grocery store, so wish me luck...I think I can already see my belly enlarging :)

I have also been eating some brussel sprouts, and I always forget how much I like them. Mmmmmmm!
On the hormone front I'm going to try taking some raspberry leaf tea, which I read is really great for my specific problem. I'll let you all know if it ends up helping.

Overall, I'm feeling really great after mega-dosing on veggies these past few days, and eating very simply for the past few weeks! I almost couldn't believe it that I am already half done my month of very simple eating! I'll be adding some more stuff back into my diet soon, because I want to make sure I get my protein...I just need to take it slow, because my stomach is very sensitive. Also, variety is the spice of life...you can't really be happy eating JUST brown rice and the same veggies day after day. A wide variety of grains, beans, veggies, fish and a little bit of fruit is just what my body likes. And a bit of cocoa (and dark chocolate), of course.

Hrmm...well...it's really nice outside, so I think i'm going to catch some sun! With the weather getting nicer, I just feel so much lighter! I love walking outside in the summer, especially in the early morning. What is your favourite summer activity?

Pea Shoots, New moons, and Snow! Oh my!


Hello all you lovelies,

I have been M.I.A. these last few days: busy busy with yoga teaching, cleaning / re-organizing the apartment, and running around.

I have been really diligent with my "health plan" or clean eating, and I feel great! My tummy problems are getting better: I think the acupuncture, herbs, and simple eating is definitely helping!

My eats have been very unimaginative these past few days. Mostly the usual good stuff: brown rice, seaweed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, kabocha(mmm), kale, and collards. And of course, a few green apples, a pear or two, and some berries. Next week...less fruit!

But wait! There were a few sneaky little devils that snuck their way onto my plate...No.....not chocolate (I wish)...but something almost as good (??)! Sneaky Devil no 1.: dandelion greens (no photo, sorry). These buggers are plenty bitter, but are also plenty good for you, and your liver (and according to my holistic health practitioner, my liver and blood are "weak" as a result of the pill)...so bring on the bitter greens! Sneaky Devil no.2: Pea Shoots! I randomly picked these up at the grocery store, and sure am glad about it! They taste just like crisp peas! mmmmm. Great steamed for just a few moments!

In other news, I spoke to my acupuncturist about my "health plan" for the next month, and we decided that according to my current body imbalances, perhaps instead of a week of only brown rice, I might do a week of steamed veggies, with a bit of a liver cleanse each morning. I'll post more about this in the next few days!

I have been really really low energy this week, and i'm definitely convinced it is partly due to the new moon! In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, we don't practice on moondays (full or new moon). The reasoning is that because our bodies are made up of such a large percentage of water, we are affected my the moon cycle just like the tides! On new moons, our energy is downward moving. We might feel more grounded, and just generally a little bit less active. New moons are great days to work on hip-openers! On full moons, we don't practice because we have TOO much energy. Everything is upward flowing, and we are more likely to injure ourselves. Just ask any nurse...full moons are when people go crazy! And it is best to practice yoga when we are slightly less crazy, and slightly more balanced :)

And why the title, "Pea Shoots, New moons, and SNOW! Oh my!" you ask?? Well because I live in Canada (arctic wasteland), where it SNOWS on April 23rd! Wow. I was just getting used to throwing on a skirt on the way out the door to yoga...today it was back to scarves and mittens. Oh well! I guess there are worse things than snow in April, right? Does it ever snow in April where you are from??

Today's Dinner

As a nice summary of my huge (sorry, I cannot be concise) entry below, here is my yummy macrobiotic dinner for tonight:

Soaked brown rice, cooked with ginger and wakame, topped with flax oil, dulse flakes, kelp powder, shitake mushrooms and a few sunflower seeds.
Lightly boiled: daikon, carrot, collard greens, and black kale, all topped with a bit of Udo's oil and celtic sea salt.
A half of a baked Kabocha squash (the most delicious squash ever!!)
A bowl of the remaining veggie broth.

Mmmmmm!!!! Soooo satisfied. Definitely don't need anything else today (even though my my mind is trying to trick me into going back to that cocoa bliss jar....damn cocoa).