Kuri Squash Curry

As you might know from reading some of my other posts I was living in Prince George. Well I’ve recently moved back to Vancouver and I’m loving the abundance of farmers markets that are still full of fall produce and locally made foods. With it being squash season I thought I would try cooking with a squash that was new to me. This time I tried Kuri Squash!

Not only is squash a tasty vegetable that is easy to prepare but it is also loaded with antioxidants like beta-carotene and anti-inflammatory properties. Squash are also filled with seeds that can be roasted to make a delicious and healthy snack. As a tip coat your seeds with your favourite toppings like salt, curry powder or garlic salt and roast on low heat like 250F for 20-25min to minimize loss of nutrients from heat.

This week I bought Kuri squash, It has a buttery chestnutty flavour that adds a great texture to curry.

This squash is really tasty and the curry I made below is very dense and filling perfect for a cold fall night. The only issue I have with this squash is that it is incredibly difficult to peal and cut, I would recommend having someone do this part for you as I enlisted my fiancees help in this process. What I might try next is keeping the skin on and see if the texture is soft enough to eat. Feel free to try this and post your results.

kuri squash

I modified this recipe from Carpe Season.

Thai Green Kuri Squash

Ingredients:

1 TBSP Coconut Oil
1 Yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 TBSP Green curry paste
2 TBSP curry powder
1 Can of Coconut milk, I used low fat coconut milk
2.5 TBSP Soy Sauce, I used lite soy sauce (it’s lower in sodium)
2 TBSP Sweet Chili Sauce
1 Kuri Squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1 TBSP Brown Sugar
Juice of Half a lime
1/4 cup of water or chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 Yellow Pepper, sliced
1 head of broccoli, florets
1 Can Chickpeas
Garnish with: Chopped green onions and cilantro

Serve on Brown Basmati rice

Method:

1. Heat a large pot on medium heat and melt the coconut oil, sautee the ginger, garlic and onions until the onions are translucent
2. Add the curry paste and curry powder and cook a few more minutes
3. Add the kuri squash, coconut milk, water, sugar, lime juice, soy sauce and chili paste, bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until the squash is just about done, about 15 minutes
4. Add the broccoli, peppers and chickpeas, cook for about 5 minutes more until the vegetables are tender crisp
5. Pour over cooked rice and top with chopped green onions, cilantro and some fresh squeezed lime juice

Socca (Chickpea Flour Pancakes)

English: Socca, just coming out of the oven an...

 Socca, just coming out of the oven and served hot, in the old town of Nice (Vieux-Nice), on the French Riviera (Alpes-Maritimes, France).

I was looking through my cupboards on Saturday looking for some inspiration for what to make for the wine and appy potluck I was invited to when I stumbled across the chickpea flour I had bought a few months ago.

Chickpea flour is wheat and gluten free and can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in many recipes. It adds a nutty flavour to dishes and is great in indian inspired recipes like pakora.

Beacause chickpea flour is made of dried or roasted chickpeas pulvarized into a flour it is a great source of protein and fibre with 1cup containing 21g of protein, 10g of fibre and 25% of your Daily Value (DV) of iron, compared to white flour wich has about 9g of protein, 4g of fibre and only 3%DV of iron per 1 cup.

My good friend and fellow blogger, Melissa, is the one who first introduced me to a tasty flatbread called socca that is made with chickpea flour, and I used her recipe from UpBeet. You can make socca plain or add fixings of your choice; I used cumin, sundried tomatoes and salt and pepper. The ratio is one to one for flour to water, but feel free to use less water if you want a thicker flatbread, the one to one ratio makes it like a hybrid between a pancake and crepe thickness.

After some research I learned that Socca is actually a dish traditional to France (I would have guessed something African or Indian) baked in a wood fire oven and served as street food. It can be made in a number of different ways depending on your mood. I chose to make mine like a flat pancake that I cut into quarters and served with dip (tzatziki) but you can also use it as a wrap, a pizza crust, or make it thicker and top with some greens.

Although this dish requires some waiting after all mixed together, it’s super easy to make and would make a great weeknight dinner when you’re looking for something quick to put together.

Socca

Ingredients

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup warm water
1.5 TBSP olive oil
Salt and pepper
Add ins of your choice: cheese, sundried tomatoes, cumin, basil, oregano, spinach…

Method:

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix well with water, olive oil and any fixings. Let rest covered for 1hr or more
2. Preheat greased griddle on medium heat and cook socca until a light golden brown on bottom side then place under the broiler until it starts to blister and brown, alternately you can preheat a cast-iron or non stick oven proof pan under the broiler then place your socca in the pan and cook under the broiler until it’s blistered and brown
3. Take out, sprinkle with good olive oil and salt or your favourite topings

Enjoy!

Sleep to Battle Obesity?

clocks,alarms,lying down,people,sleeping,waking up,women,leisure,householdWith only 24hrs in the day, many of us find it difficult to fit in everything we want to get done in the day. Unfortunatley instead of cutting back on activities or time in front of the T.V, reasearch suggests that many of us are cutting back on sleep. In the last 40 years we have cut back on our sleep by an average of about 1-2 hours per night.

It is recommended that adults recieve about 7-9hrs of a good nights sleep per night to help with restoring our minds and bodies. This includes helping to restore our immune system, decreasing irritability and impatience, and lowering blood pressure. Now there is also more and more evidence to suggest that lack of sleep can affect our metabolism and result in increased weight and difficulty to lose weight.

Recently I watched a presentation from theCanadian Obesity Summit which discusses how sleep (or lack thereof) can be part of the contribution to obesity and could be the cause of some peoples futile attempts to lose weight.

Jean Phillip Chaput points out that obesity rates in the U.S have increased by 19.4% in the past 40 years where the sleep rates in U.S have decreased by 1-2 hours in the same amount of time. He also points out that sleep depreviation is the major risk factor for overweight and obesity in both children and adults. And examines a study that showed that adults who slept less than 5 hours per night were 55% more likly to be more obese than those who slept more; and that children who slept less than 10hrs per night were 89% more likely to be obese than those who slept longer.

So what are some of the possible reasons for this relationship between decreased sleep duration and obesity? Well for one thing, the longer we stay awake the more hours in the day there are for us to overeat. Most of us who aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep per day may likely be spending some of our sleeping time infront of the tv with chips and popcorn on hand. Not only are there more hours to spend eating but one study showed that sleep restricted people had increased neuronal activity in response to food stimuli than those who slept 9 hrs per night; showing that reduced sleep may make people overeat. In addition, restricted sleep also increases appetite for more calorie dense foods especially carbohydrate rich foods.

To add to this, studies have also found that decreased sleep affects physical activity. This can likely be that people who do not get enough sleep don’t have enough energy to partake in physical activity. Another side to this could be that physical activity helps with sleep and that people who are physically active (at least 30min per day) will have better quality sleep as a result.

Not only can decreased sleep result in weight gain but it can also impact your attempts to lose weight. A study found that men on a calorie restricted diet who were sleep restricted lost 55% fat mass and 60% muscle mass compared to their counterparts who slept 8.5hrs per night. So if you’re trying to lose weight while depriving yourself of sleep, you may be losing muscle mass instead of what you’re trying to lose (fat mass).

While this research doesn’t necessarily prove that sleep restriction is the cause of obesity, it definitely suggests that sleep could be a major risk factor. The next time you’re battling to lose those last 10 pounds and think you just can’t exersice any more or eat any less than you are maybe you should take a look at your sleep hygeine. Are you getting enough quality sleep?

I think it’s time for us to start decreasing our screan time and our dependence on caffeine to keep alert during the day and pay more attention to getting enough sleep during the night.

Hearty Kale Soup

The weather is slowly starting to cool down and you can tell that fall is in the air. Let me start off saying that fall is my favourite time of year. The weather is a bit cooler, the leaves start changing colours, pumpkin lattes are back at Starbucks and I can finally start making some of my favourite comfort foods including soups. As I mentioned in my last post I am an avid Farmers market shopper and this week was no exception. I picked up some kale, potatoes, tomatoes and yellow beans all perfect for making my Hearty Kale Soup.

Although I’m not a fan of labelling a food as super food, if you are so inclined I would definitely classify kale as a superfood. Not only is kale delicous (if cooked right), but it has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as cancer fighting properties not to mention it is packed full with vitamin K, vitamin C, betacarotene and calcium. You should only avoid large quantities of kale if you are on blood thinners (warfarin) as the vitamin K content can affect how well warfarin works and your pharmacist might want to adjust your dose.

There are so many ways to cook and prepare kale like cutting off the stems and sauteeing it with tahini (sesame paste), or baking it in the oven into kale chips, adding it to breakfast smoothies or cooking it into a soup (like I did).

I actually got this soup recipe from one of my good friends Rilla who made it after buying kale at the farmers market last week.

Again as usual I will post the ingredients and you can use as much or as little of each as you like.

kale soup2

Hearty Kale Soup

Ingredients:

Stock: (I like ot make my own or you can just use your favourite store variety

Chicken bones
Celery
Onion
Tomato
Carrots
Bay Leaves
Garlic
Salt
Pepper Corns

Soup:

Kale, stemed and chopped
Carrots, Chopped
Onions, Diced
Yellow Beans, chopped
Chickpeas or white beans
Fingerling or red new potatoes
Curry Powder
Chili powder
Curry Paste
Coconut oil or other oil/butter

Method:

For the Stock:
1. Place all ingredients for the stock in a large pot and cover with water
2. Simmer covered for 30-45min
3. Strain and set the borth aside for the stock
4. Meanwhile, sautee onions in a large soup pot, add carrots, and beans and sautee for a few minutes5. Add curry paste, chilli poweder, curry poweder, salt and pepper and any of your other favourite spices, cook for 1 minute
6. Add potatoes and stir to coat in the spice, add the  stock and simmer on low until the carrots, potatoes and beans are cooked, about 20 min, add the chickpeas and kale and cook for another 15 minutes until the kale is cooked and the flavours start to blend together

This soup is harty enough to be served on its own but if you have a larger appetite you may want to make a sandwich on the side.

Enjoy!

Fresh From the Farmers Market

Currently I live in Prince George, BC. For those of you who don’t know anything about this town, it is a small town in the northern interior of British Columbia. Needless to say the growing season up here is quite short and the treck for produce travelling from Vancouver or Edmonton to Prince George (about 800km) is not a short one.

Earlier I blogged about the whoe’s of living in a town where good fresh produce is scarce and how I’ve started to increase my frozen produce consumption. Now I come to you fresh from the farmers market.

I am not trying to preach here but shopping at a farmers market is the best way to decrease your ecological foot print, help support local growers and producers and lets face it, food that is picked when perfectly ripe because it doesn’t have to travel far is way tastier!

Every Saturday in Prince George local vendors line up inside and outside (in the summer) to show off locally grown and made food and crafts. Now that September is here the local produce at the farmers market will start to dwindle and the outdoor vendors will be closed for the season but while the farmers market is still open in PG (and in your local community), you should take advantage of some of the best fresh produce you will get all year.

And take advantage I did! My excersion ended with a large bunch of kale, a huge bag of mixed coloured carrots, a big bag of yellow beans, some tomatoes, zucchini, beets, lots of okanagen fresh fruit (not so local but as close as it comes to PG), farm fresh eggs, onions, a fresh baked loaf of bread (it was still hot), fresh salsa and even four fresh cut steaks.

I’ve made a number of recipes with these items but I wanted to share with you one of my favourite recipes for yellow wax beans.

Image

I will just post the ingredients I used, you feel free to choose the amounts based on how much you’re making and experiement with different spices.

Yellow Wax Beans

Ingredients:

A few carrots, diced
Lots of Yellow Wax Beans, cleaned and cut into quarters
1/2 – 1 onion, diced
1tbsp coconut oil, or any oil or butter
Chilli Powder
Dried Dill
Salt and Pepper
1 Tomato (fresh, canned or paste), diced
1/4-1/2 cup water

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan melt the coconut oil and sautee the onion until translucent
2. Add the chopped carrots and sautee a few minutes more
3. Add the wax beans, tomatoe, chilli powder, dill, and salt and pepper and saute a few minutes just to blend all the flavours together, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (you want a bit of juice at the end),
4. Cover and cook for about 20-25min or until the wax beans are cooked, you may need to add more water during the cooking process

Sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve with a fried egg and a piece of toast with tomatoes.

Back to School Cool…Lunches

It’s that time of year again, September is just around the corner and that means back to school and back to packing daily lunches. To get your kids off to a good start make sure you pack them healthy balanced lunches to ensure they have the energy to play and learn at school.

A healthy lunch will contain at least 3 out of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide (Vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives).

Lunches should contain two servings from the vegetables and fruit group daily. Get creative in ways to introduce new fruits and veggies into your kids lunches. Try making fruit or vegetable skewers, a fruit salad or pack a dip to go along with the fruits and veggies (try hummus, low fat yogurt dip or cottage cheese). Also if your child sends back cucumbers 2 days in a row, don’t get frustrated and stop packing vegetables; it takes some kids up to 20 times of trying a new food before they enjoy it. So keep packing cucumbers (and other veggies) but maybe try it in different ways such as sliced into a sandwich, cut up into a Greek salad or sliced to dip in hummus.

When it comes to grains, change up the boring same old meat and cheese sandwich with a half a whole wheat pita filled with cheese, meat and veggies, wrap sandwich fillings in a small whole wheat tortilla or pack some toppings and let your kids build their own pita, wrap or sandwich. Get creative with different breads try whole wheat sandwich buns, pumpernickle or rye breads instead of just plain whole what sliced bread. Kids like to have fun with their food so try making shapes from food using cookie cutters for sandwiches or building smiley faces using veggies and fruits. Or try something completely different and pack a grain salad try a vegetable and pasta salad or a quinoa salad.

To get a serving from the milk and alternatives try 1 cup of plain milk as the beverage or include cheese slices to build with crackers. Yogurt is another great alternative just watch flavoured yogurts which could be packed with sugar. Next time you shop for yogurt keep in mind that children should get no more than 14-23 grams of added sugars per day, so packing them a yoplait “Go-Gurt” with 7g of added sugars will be the equivalent of about half their daily recommended intake. Why not try some plain yogurt drizzeled with honey and cinnamon or just toss  fresh fruit in with plain yogurt. If your kids really don’t like the sourness of plain yogurt try mixing it with a flavoured yogurt to cut back on some of the added sugars.

Schools are increasingly becoming allergy aware and most schools these days are peanut and nut free making the easy go to of peanut butter sandwiches a no go. Use this as an excuse to try out new foods that your child may have not experienced before. Remember I said some children need up to 20 tries before they like a food so don’t worry if you’re first hummus and cheese sandwich comes back uneaten, just make sure you’ve packed other foods you know your child enjoys so that they don’t get hungry at school. There are a number of peanut free “peanut-butter” alternative spreads out there such as WOWbutter and other soy butters, just remember that these are pretty costly and it might be a better idea to try other proteins like low sodium deli slices, fresh cooked meats (why not cut up that leftover chicken breast and throw it into a pita) and beans (bean salad or chilli anyone?).

Food Safety is another thing to keep in mind when paking your childs lunch. Most schools do not provide fridges for kids to keep their lunches in so make sure you pack their lunch in an insulated lunch kit with an ice pack to keep the cold foods cold. If you’re packing leftovers or food you need to keep warm, pack them in a thermos already heated to desirable temperature.  Another idea for an ice pack is of course to use frozen juice boxes that your kids can drink with their lunches, however remember that fruit juices are packed with sugar and in my opinion are just like pop with added vitamins and minerals so best to save this for a treat day and pack a forzen water bottle instead.

The best way to get your kids to eat healthy is to get them involved in what their eating. Have them help with grocery shopping and picking out what they want for their lunches each day of the week. Also if your kids are old enough have them help prepare and pack their lunches.

Here are some other great ideas from one of my favourite kids eating blogs, Better Together.

Resources:

Better Together – blog about healthy eating for kids and families

EatRightOntario – run by the registered dietitians of Ontario

Kids Health

Here’s a Tip: Don’t Talk on the Phone While Baking

It’s no wonder why they’ve banned cell phone use while driving, I’m learning just how hard it is to concentrate in the kitchen while chatting away on the phone let alone driving! You think I would have learned the first time I strained black beans all over my kitchen counter that I shouldn’t talk on the phone while trying to cook. But no, I have done it countless times since then from forgetting the baking soda in my cookies, to today forgetting the egg in my blueberry bran muffins. I was talking on the phone with my friend triple checking my recipe to make sure I had all of the ingredients and I had just filled the last muffin tin, when I realized I forgot the egg in my recipe…I managed to scoop all of the batter back into the bowl, quickly whipped up the egg and threw it into my batter. Thinking I had maybe salvaged my muffins.

When I looked at them baking in the oven I could see that they had already formed peaks (not what you want in your muffins). Although they didn’t look that great they were pretty tasty at least.

My Peaked muffins, looks more like a smurf hat

muffins

Why didn’t my muffins turn out with the beautiful golden domed tops that you expect? Well forgetting the egg was only the first bit.

The Muffin Method is a very delicate mixing technique for making muffins. The gist of it is that you add wet ingredients (milk, oil, EGG), into your dry ingredients (flour, leavening agents, spices). This requires a gentle hand when mixing because you don’t want to form too much gluten, this will result in muffins with large peaks and a tunneled interior. You should only mix until the ingredients are just combined and you see no pockets of flour. Best is to sift the dry ingredients together, make a well in the dry ingredients and fold the wet ingredients in. Because I added my egg at the end after my liquid ingredients were already tossed in, I ended up having to mix pretty vigorously to ensure that all of the egg was well incorporated.

Despite my mistake and my sabotaging the muffin method, my muffins were pretty tasty and I would recommend you trying to make them.

So I will provide the recipe here:

Blueberry Bran Muffins
(adapted from Joy of Baking)

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup flour (can mix white and whole wheat, I only had white)
3/4 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup + 1tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp oil
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
1 cup fresh blueberries

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, wheat bran, salt, baking powder and baking soda, sugar)
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the wet ingredients (egg, vanilla, oil and buttermilk)
4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients, fold until just combined
5. Fold in the blueberries and line a muffin tin (3/4 full)
6. Bake 18-20min