I’m only a level-two juicer

I’m out of oranges and the bf is allergic to fresh apples, so I made a veg-only juice this evening. Wow, it is intense. Beet-carrot-celery-ginger, and I should have made it more carrot-heavy than I did.

I’m not new to vegetable juice, but I’ve always had it blended with fruit to sweeten and lighten the taste. This – this is hard to get down, to be honest. Which makes me feel like a wimp. But if I go back to my university years and frequent visits to Victoria’s Rebar (which, come to think of it, I’m still paying for…), I never even liked the vegetable blends – I would always choose pure fruit juices.

So am I getting tougher? How long does it take to get used to a heavy beet juice?


Roasted squash seeds

I got a couple of acorn squash in my Plan B box this week, and I decided to roast them tonight so they’d be ready when I needed some dinner. (Squash takes too long for a quick weeknight meal.) After scraping out the seeds, I contemplated putting them straight in the green bin, then felt guilty for wasting food. So I roasted them.

The process is pretty easy, it’s just important to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. First, put all the pulp in a bowl of water and swish it, and remove all the flesh so you’re left with just seeds. I’m not overly fastidious about this, so mine are still a bit slimy. Then drain the water, or transfer the seeds to another bowl, and toss with some oil and salt to taste. Quantities really depend on how many seeds you have, but be careful – it’s easy to make them too salty. Spread on a baking sheet and put in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes to start. Then take them out and stir, and keep putting in for a few minutes at a time until they’re crunchy and getting brown but not overcooked. Wait to serve long enough that you don’t burn your mouth.

San Francisco

Just back from a whirlwind weekend in San Francisco for Nike Women’s Marathon (I did the half). Running aside, my real goal was to eat well.

The biggest mind shift? Realizing that the California produce is local. And oh, what they can count as local.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market was fantastic, not just for its produce but for eating. I could spend days there without having to leave.

The fresh produce was excellent, and vendors kept plying us with snack-size bites of fruit.

And the dried fruit and nuts… I ate a scary amount of dried fruit this weekend. Plums, peaches, cherries… all super soft and so, so flavourful.

I had a few too many pastries, and coffee. (Check out the awesome personal-drip system they’ve got going on.)

Basically, the market was endless. We were full before we realized we should have made some more calculated eating decisions.

We also had some great restaurant meals. Brunch at Spork was a hit – those are the veggie Mission Eggs, which almost satisfied me post-race.

And on one of our walks, we spotted a lime tree. Oh, California.


Beet-apple-ginger juice

Yum! Four beets, four apples and a hunk of ginger.

I think I’m turning orange

Orange things I ate yesterday:

Carrot-orange juice:

Yellow beet-apple-ginger juice:

Pumpkin butter (I’m in love with it on Greek yogurt mixed with cranberry sauce):

Pumpkin-chia pudding:

Yams (roasted, mashed with extras, then baked with marshmallows on top):

Pumpkin pie squares (photo is terrible because we were in a hurry to get to dessert):

Pumpkin gingerbread trifle:

Yes, it’s Thanksgiving, the time of year when we give thanks for orange food. But we celebrated more than orange yesterday! Our meal also contained colours like green and red, the full spectrum of the harvest. Our menu included:

turkey + cranberry sauce
nut loaf + miso gravy
rustic bread stuffing
brussels sprout slaw
yams + marshmallows
scalloped potatoes
cornmeal muffins + pumpkin butter + butter
spinach salad with pears and cranberries

pumpkin pie squares
pumpkin gingerbread trifle
bittersweet chocolate and pear cake

It kind of looked like this when put together:

Of course, that’s my plate, so it’s heavy on the veggies.

The turkey was brined overnight and the carnivores tell me it was delicious.

I enjoyed the salads a lot. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare brussels sprouts – I’m not big on (over)cooked vegetables in general.

The nut loaf is a classic amongst our friends – and considering that it consists mainly of cashews and oil (with some bread, onions and spices thrown in), it’s easy to see why it’s delicious. We served with a miso gravy recipe from the Fresh cookbook.

The cornmeal muffins are my standby recipe. They’re always a hit and easy to make. We served with pumpkin butter and butter that I had made fresh the night before… ahem, after overwhipping some cream. Lemonade out of lemons. At other times of the year they’re extremely good with raspberry jam.

The yams and marshmallows are an old family recipe – yams mashed with mace, eggs, sour cream and salt, then baked with marshmallows on top. Last year, because I had finally acquired a KitchenAid mixer and wanted to try something fancy, I made homemade marshmallows for them. They are so much better (lighter, fluffier, more flavourful) that I’ve made it a new part of the tradition.

As for dessert, we ended up with three this year because I wanted to try some new recipes. My sister brought pumpkin pie squares, which we’ve been making for quite a few years. (Shortbread crust means no pie crust to make.) I actually prefer them without the cream cheese icing as it overpowers the pumpkin flavour and makes them too sweet for me.

The new recipes were a pumpkin gingerbread trifle and a pear chocolate cake. The trifle I had high hopes for – pumpkin and gingerbread are two classic flavours that pair well together and the recipe had tons of good reviews. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had thought I would. The pumpkin mousse was excellent, and I would make it again to serve on its own as a somewhat lighter (low-carb at least) fall dessert. But the gingerbread cake they used was a very light cake and I prefer a much denser, darker gingerbread that’s halfway to a brownie. And much more gingery. Next time I might experiment with using fresh ginger as well as dried. (The glazed pecans are from the brussels sprout recipe, minus the pepper.)

The cake was an experiment, because it was a new way of preparing cake (you start by beating whole eggs for five to 10 minutes, until they are very fluffy and light). The flavours were certainly good but overall I was underwhelmed. I should note here that in general I’m not a cake person so it takes a phenomenal cake to make me happy (whereas I’ll happily eat a cookie from Tim Hortons). I think it would have been better served warm so the chocolate would still be melty.

Overall, it was a great meal, and I ate far too much. But I eat vegan and fresh food so often these days that I found it very heavy. I think next time I’ll lighten things up even more in the meal and cut back on the heavy stuff.

Juice is hard to photograph

Excuse the terrible pictures, I’m going to have to come up with a nicer way to take photos of juice. But today’s my first day testing out the Breville Juice Fountain Plus, which the company kindly lent to me for a story for besthealthmag.ca.

My absolute favourite juice is kale-apple-ginger, so that was my first attempt, preceded only by kale-pear-ginger for the household member who’s allergic to fresh apples. As you’d expect, the pear version was quite thick, but delicious. I think I did four pears, four or five stalks of kale and a few inches of ginger.

The kale-apple-ginger was also good, and more liquid than the pear. I did about the same ratio and actually found it very sweet – I must have chosen a sweet variety of apple. (I picked a bag of local organics from the new organics case at Fiesta Farms.)

The juicer was super easy to use and easy to take apart to clean too – although like all juicers, cleaning it afterward is a bit of a pain. My only challenge was that there were a lot of chunks of kale leaves in the pulp container afterward, so it obviously wasn’t handling all the kale. I was alternating kale with apple like I’d read to do, but that didn’t seem to be enough. Does anyone have any tips for getting more green juice?

Dinner at Raw Aura

Last night was my second-ever (excluding the airport) trip to Mississauga. (The first was many years ago, when I was studying Croatian and we went on a trip to a Croatian opera.) I met up with two friends (with cars) and we headed to Raw Aura in Port Credit as part of our tour of Toronto’s raw restaurants. Douglas McNish, the chef at Raw Aura, was one of the people I interviewed for my raw-food article in Edible Toronto and I wanted to check out his work. (Apologies in advance for badly lit iPhone photos.)

The restaurant is small, and cute. Street parking is free after 5! And my first impression after reading the menu was that I wanted to try one of everything.

And I tried. First, the Muddy Waters juice: kale, apple, celery, beet, lemon and parsley. As the name suggests, it’s not the prettiest of juices, but it has its own special beauty.

Appetizer: the beet ravioli, filled and topped with a cashew cheese and red pepper marinara sauce. And this is the point where I caution you that portion sizes aren’t small at Raw Aura. I could have stopped here and been completely satisfied (with a bite of dessert at the end, of course.) I loved the kale chips on top – this was my favourite dish of the night.

One of the nightly specials was a mushroom soup. I’ll go for anything with mushrooms in it so of course I ordered it. It came topped with watercress, which was delicious and pretty but kind of a pain to eat unchopped. The soup was a lot simpler and milder in flavour than the ravioli so while delicious, it might have been better served first.

What did my friends order, you ask? One had the falafel, made of sprouted chickpeas and wrapped in collard leaves, with a cauliflower tabouli.

The other started with the avocado tartare:

And chose the miso soup as her main. It’s a hearty one, with kale, kelp noodles and sprouted beans.

For dessert we shared a platter of three selections. From top: blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin pie and pecan pie.

We were all completely stuffed, but we were up to the challenge.

The winner was the pecan pie, but as you can see, we managed to polish them all off.

The verdict? All three of us agreed that while all the raw restaurants we’ve tried are excellent in their own rights, Raw Aura has the best raw food in the city – and it isn’t even in the city. Thanks, Doug!

Now to calculate times to Port Credit on the Go bus…

Pumpkin butter (and oatmeal)

Confession: This isn’t local pumpkin. This is canned organic pumpkin from somewhere in the U.S. But, of course, you could make it with your own pumpkin puree, or probably even squash.

The recipe comes originally from Smitten Kitchen, as interpreted by Oh She Glows. Pumpkin puree is sweetened, spiced and thickened into a yummy topping.

Start with pumpkin puree and apple juice (I used cider).

Add sugar and spices. I used half maple sugar, half brown sugar but honestly, I couldn’t taste the maple. (Maybe I could have with a side-by-side comparison.) By the way, if you really want a way to keep your brown sugar from going hard, store it in a mason jar. It’s actually airtight and doesn’t lose moisture.

I served it immediately on top of steel-cut oats (cooked up with dried cherries and topped with sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, almonds and hemp milk).

So, so delicious. We’re going to serve it with cornmeal muffins at Thanksgiving dinner.

Planning for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year. I love that it’s about food, and friends and family, and taking a pause at the border between the light and dark halves of the year. I love the name, and how even though the holiday’s roots are more or less Christian, the meaning transcends belief systems. And I love how well it resists becoming commercialized. But most of all I love the food: squash, yams, heavier greens and nuts are what I crave.

I posted about our dinner last year, which was fabulous. This year I’ll still be making the brussels sprout slaw and the yams with homemade marshmallows (and there will still be a turkey), but I’m adding a few new items. First, cranberry sauce – I’ve got my eye on the first of this trio from Smitten Kitchen. Second, I thought ahead and bought a basket of pears last weekend so they’d be ripe for baking this weekend, and I think I’m going to try this (also Smitten Kitchen) Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. Some other recipes (all from Bon Appétit via Epicurious) I’ve got my eye on:

Celery Root and Potato Puree with Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke “Croutons”
Heirloom Squash Farrotto
Clementine Jicama Salad
Green Beans with Lemon and Pine Nuts

What’s on your menu? And does anyone know what happened to the pine nuts? I think I’ll have to substitute almonds.

Squash and kale

I’m always excited to get squash and kale in my organics box, as they go so well together. This weekend I made a Bon Appétit recipe for butternut squash and kale bread pudding – it’s always popular. I think I made it for the first time last year for Thanksgiving. And tonight I’m going to steam the rest of my squash (it was a big one) to make this butternut squash smoothie. (I might even add kale.)