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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


 

Keep it simple.

I've been all about the throw-it-together with whatever lurks in my fridge kind of meals these days.

I enjoyed this one for dinner, a few weeks back when the weather was a tad warmer: 

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Brown Rice, sauteed carrots, celery & radish, steamed kale and corn, and baked squash and leeks.

This meal took surprisingly little work, despite the fact that it included multiple dishes. A perhaps obvious tip, when making multiple dishes, is to start the longest cooking one first. Timing is everything, after all.

1.  I baked a butternut squash in the oven for ~50 mins @400F.

My method for baking squashes is: Cut the squash in half, take out all the seeds & gunk, rub a bit of salt on the flesh, and place cut side down in a baking dish filled with about 1/2-1" of water. Bake at 400F for 30-40 mins. Then take out, dump out the remaining water, flip the squash over, and put it back in the oven for another 15 mins or so. So yummy!

2. Once the squash was in the oven, I rinsed the brown rice & got the pressure cooker going. Once up to full pressure (2 bars in my lovely dear kuhn rikon) I cooked it for 35 mins, then let it naturally release for 15 minutes. If you're new to cooking brown rice check out: brown rice dainty pig style version 1 (boiling) & version 2 (pressure cooking).

3. While the squash & rice were cooking, I washed some kale, and some corn on the cob. I cut up a carrot, celery stalk, and a few radishes.

4. After 20 minutes or so, I put a cut up leek (with a bit of sea salt and olive oil) in the oven for about 25-30 mins in a separate little dish.

5. When the squash was done, I turned the oven off, and kept it inside the oven until everything else was ready. I prepared 2 pots for the corn and kale.

6. When the pressure was down on the rice, I took the lid off and let it sit in the cooker for ~5 mins (this helps it from sticking!).  While the rice was cooling, I put the corn into a few inches of boiling water (that i started while the rice pressure was coming down). Once the corn was done, about 4 minutes later, to save dishes I put the celery, carrots, and radish into the same water. I added a tiny bit of shoyu and let cook about 4-5 minutes, stirring. Meanwhile, I steamed the kale in a few cm of water.

6. Serve everything up & feast! Bonus: most of the veggies in my fridge got used!

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She did the mash...she did the millet mash...

Yeah, you all know Monster Mash is the best song ever.

Mmmmmmmmm millet.

To begin making some delicious seed and grain patties, you need to first cook some millet! (my recipe is based off Margaret Lawson's that I found here).

I do it like this:

~1 c. rinsed millet
~1 small carrot diced
~1/2 c. diced squash (optional) I used butternut
~1 tsp salt
~4-5 c. cold water (when I use squash, I use about 5 c. of water)
Bring to boil and simmer for ~40 mins, Or be lazy like me and rice cooker it on the quick setting.


(the orange is the squash, and red is the carrot!)

For a bowl of delicious millet mash (see below pic), you can eat AS is. Be warned…although it is really soupy when done cooking, millet has a tendency to harden right up, kind of like when you cook cornmeal to make polenta.

To make some delicious Millet Patties, transfer 2 cups of the cooked millet to a bowl and mix in:
~1/4-1/3 c. sesame seeds
~1/4~1/3 c. sunflower seeds
~some diced onions or green onions (I used green onions that I lightly sautéed first)
~1/2 tsp sea salt
~ 2tbsp – 1/3 c. of cornmeal (oatbran could probably do the trick)
~any seasoning you want (I didn`t use any)

Now, the reason the cornmeal measurement is so varied, is that it depends on how firm your millet is. You need to be able to roll it into a ball, and press into patties. Depending on how much water you added when cooking, the amount of cornmeal may be bigger or smaller.

Heat a pan with some oil of your choice (sesame or coconut would work well). Brown the patties and flip, browning on the other side as well. Makes a big heaping stack. Serve plain, or on a bun if you wish. Enjoy!

**These are a great way to use up leftover grains if you have them. Simply sub in for the millet, and away you go (keeping in mind you may have to add a bit of water or liquid if the grains are dry, so that you can form patties). I am sure you could easily add some sort of legumes in these as well. Have you guys made your own seed/grain burgers at home? I am dreaming up an oatmeal/oatbran/coconut/cocoa/seed patty…

Great Eats This Past Week


Mmmm....so instead of spending my time blogging this past week, I spent my time preparing, cooking, and enjoying delicious food.

Starting out with last weekend, here are some photos:

Unfortunately (fortunately...hehe) I enjoyed a delicious latte, made with unsweetened almond milk, dark italian espresso, and flavoured with a bit of honey and cinnamon.


I then moved onto what looks like a typical macrobiotic breakfast: greens, squash, veggies, and rice with seaweed and seeds! Macrobiotic breakfasts are definitely wonderful at re-balancing the body (especially after indulging in a massively wonderful latte).

Posting the photo reminds me of how much I enjoyed that latte, but also how CRAZY I felt after drinking it! I drank that bad boy down, and then did a quite intensive yoga practice at home. My body was definitely not used to such a large amount of caffeine, and while in some ways I felt that it made me more open in my practice (easier to bind in some poses), I was sweating like crazy, and actually felt quite light headed. I tried to just move through the coffee-party going on in my nervous system, but I actually got so light headed and jittery that in the middle of the seated postures I had to get up and eat a bit of brown rice I had in the fridge, just to calm my body down. So...lesson learned: coffee tastes wonderful, but should be enjoyed in SMALL quantities, or perhaps not very often at all, or at least eaten with something hearty to balance it out.

Hmmm...here are a few snacks I enjoyed:


Yes. That's right. When I get desperate I snack on frozen veggies. And you know what? They are DELICIOUS! Frozen corn and peas taste wonderfully sweet, and are crunchy enough to trick my mind into thinking that i'm eating something bad for me. You should try it!

Looks like I also made some cocoa-oats, with some pear cooked in with it.
Step 1: Mix up cocoa powder, spices (i'm guessing my usual: loads of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of cayenne). Add a bit of water or cold liquid, sometimes I used almond milk or amasake until it can be stirred into a paste.

Step 2: Then boil pears/apples on the stove, after ~5 mins add in oats and oatbran and cook until desired thickness. Then stir into cocoa-liquid-delicious-paste in bowl, and top with whatever your heart desires:

Looks like this one had some COCOA BLISS thrown on top. I can't keep my paws off of that stuff (see previous post). It is SOOOO good. It melts into the oatmeal and blends perfectly. And it also tastes great off the spoon, for a morning kick before yoga!

Looks like the next day I also had a macro-oriented breakfast (I really do need to branch out):

Ooooh!! Then I had a China Town Adventure and came home with some great goods:

Check out the monstrous bag of Dried Mushrooms (Witches' Butter or Snow Fungus): mushrooms have great healing properties in Chinese Medicine, and are known to balance blood sugar, detox the liver, and stimulate T-cells (relating to our immune system).

I also picked up some longan berries which are great for calming nerves and helping sleep problems. And how could I resist the best priced, and FRESHEST, softest, reddest goji berries in town!?? Goji berries are wonderful for the liver, eyes, and digestion!

The next morning was ABSOLUTELY perfect:
While I was doing yoga, some beautiful bunnies (correct term: hares) decided to spend some time outside my balcony eating grass and playing. As if yoga couldn't get any better!? Yoga plus bunny-watching!? A match made in heaven.

Then I decided to cook up one of those weird dried mushrooms I bought the day before>. You just soak them in some luke-warm water for 5-10 minutes, then steam or boil for a few minutes. If I remember correctly, I added them ontop of my usual quick-boiled breakfast veggies. Although it wasn't displayed, i'm sure my usual rice bowl was lurking there somewhere.

Looks like I also had to have some COCOA-BLISS oats with COCONUT BUTTER on top. As if Artisana Cocoa Bliss wasn't the best thing ever!?? Well, it was so good that I went back to the store and bought the coconut butter. I'll post a picture later of it. It is 100% coconut. Not just the oil. All it is is blended coconut, and it tastes FABULOUS!

Later on, sometime in the week? Can't remember when exactly, I made a green smoothie Even though it doesn't look green, it was filled with delicious ingredients.

"Green Smoothie"
Blend up the following, and enjoy out of a fun-shaped glass:
Large handful of spinach
1 banana
1 pear
handful of frozen berries
squeeze of lemon
a bit of water
1/4 of an avocado

SATURDAY MORNING markets are my favourite!
I woke up and looked in my fridge. Although my brain was telling me otherwise, what I really and truly wanted was something simple, and satisfying, to take me through the yoga class I had to teach. So I ate some brown rice with flax oil. Nothing fancy, but truly great.

I was just about to leave, but my HORRIBLE chocolate addiction won out, and I tasted some great chocolate I picked up the night before.

I am a chocolate snob---I can only enjoy dark chocolate. I usually don't even like 70% too much because I find it too sweet. But I was at an earth-friendly store the other day, and I had never seen this brand of chocolate before, so I thought i'd give it a whirl. It was truly delicious, and the cocoa nibs on the bottom were DIVINE.

This little beauty gave me some glorious yoga-teaching energy, and I can't wait to try another one soon!
Before my class, I had time to run to the Saturday Farmer's Market.

I forgot to take a photo of my stash right away, so the photo is from now, with half the stuff gone. I left with:

* a GIANT buttercup squash, which I am so excited to try
* 2 beautiful blue bowls handmade by this cute couple
* some THAI basil (which will show up in the stir-fry photos next)
* some new green called tat soi, which is kinda like bok choy
* a big ass bag of carrots
* some beets
* and a bag of baby red potatoes for my boy-wonder


I came home from class, and for lunch me and my guy made another "green smoothie" and decided to use my glorious new bowls for a light lunch of organic blue corn tortilla chips, homemade guacamole, and salsa. The lovely glass of milk in this photo was for my guy. It looks so good---sometimes I do miss that creamy consistency that milk provides. Nothing can really replace dairy and get that same texture.

We went for a LOVELY walk through the river valley, and camped out on a blanket in the sun for hours. After spending 5 hours outside, we were ravenous, and came home to make a thai-inspired stir fry:

In the mix was:
- ginger
- lemon grass
- cayenne
- canned straw mushrooms
- canned baby corn
- canned bamboo strings (they were out of the shoots)
- LOTS of fresh thai basil from the market
- a can of light coconut milk

We enjoyed this served over lots of brown rice! mmmmm sooo good! nom.nom.nom.
so much good food...