Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup

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Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada! I made big turkey dinner for my family last night and then we watched the Blue Jays’ baseball game together. It was fun family time and the Blue Jays won, so we had much to celebrate.

Many people take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to mention all of the things that they are thankful for. I have a long list of family and friends who make my life special and I hope they know who they are. I also have a passion for photography and food, and the joy that sharing those passions brings me. I am thankful for those blessings every day, not just today.

One of my blog followers asked me to feature a fall soup so I tried out this vegan version of Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear soup. It is a compilation of a few recipes. I really like the complex flavour that adding coconut milk adds to the recipe. The consistency is lighter than other butternut squash soups that I have made but, it is still packed with flavour.

I hope you enjoy the soup. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!

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Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium leeks, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced finely

6 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk

Fresh thyme sprigs and pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

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Directions:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and ginger and sauté until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Add the squash and pears and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes until squash is tender.

Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Puree the soup in a blender in batches and serve with your choice of garnish.

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Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup to Warm Your Heart

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For those of you who live in warm climates, I am envious. Canada and the Northeast U.S. has been pummeled with snow for the past few days. Our poor neighbours south of the border in Buffalo, NY had 4 feet of snow fall on them. Yes, you read that correctly, that was 4 feet not 4 inches. It is only November and I am already dreaming of flying to warmer climates. I often wish I could live in Canada during our warm season and New Zealand during theirs. It would be fun to switch hemispheres every 6 months.

Even with the cold, I am starting to get excited about the holidays! My grandson is in kindergarten and has his first school concert next month. The holidays are so much more fun when you see them through the eyes of a child. They still believe in the magic of the season. They believe that if they wish for something, it will come true.

In the spirit of the season I have 3 wishes:

I wish that we could truly have peace on earth.
I wish that those who are less fortunate are able to find warmth and food this winter.
I wish that we could each take time out from our day to do something good for someone else.

If you could have 3 wishes what would they be? If you could help someone this holiday season, what would you do?

To warm up from the weather outside, I made a wonderful version of my favourite soup, Vichyssoise. This is Yotam Ottolenghi’s version from his cookbook called Plenty which adds asparagus for even more dimension. Once you taste this version you may not go back to the original.

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Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 leeks
1 pound asparagus
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups organic vegetable stock
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 tbsp. Greek yogurt
Grated zest of ½ lemon

Directions:
Peel the potato and dice, roughly. Chop off and discard the green of the leeks, cut them in half lengthways, wash and slice. Cut off and discard the woody base of the asparagus, then cut into ¾ inch pieces; keep the tips separate. Reserve a few whole spears.
In a big pan, sauté all the vegetables, other than the asparagus tips in butter for four minutes, taking care they don’t colour. Add stock, sugar and a little seasoning, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 40 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook for and additional 10 minutes.
Once done puree the soup in a blender until smooth, fold in the cream and half the yogurt, leave to cool to room temperature, then chill. While it’s cooling, bring a pot of water to the boil, blanch the reserved asparagus spears for 30 seconds, drain.
To serve, pour the chilled soup into bowls, add a dollop of yogurt and swirl with the tip of a skewer. Place some blanched asparagus pieces in the centre of the soup and garnish with lemon zest.

Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Fresh Summer Salad of Cucumber, Fennel and Ricotta

What an eventful summer this has been!

I have been busy working on projects for my business including contributing to an article that will be featured in Resource Magazine’s fall issue on food photography. I have also been adding some lifestyle photography to my portfolio. I seems like the work has been non-stop and I am loving it!

The thing about being so busy is that I need to take some time to smell the flowers and enjoy the moments. After all, if we don’t take the time to look around us we lose our creativity and our sense of place.

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My favourite flowers for this time of year are sunflowers. These shots were taken a while ago in Prince Edward County. I happened upon a field of sunflowers one day, I pulled over and just started shooting. There was a massive sea of yellow shining in the sun and the sight of it all was glorious!

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When I am busy I have trouble finding fresh ideas for my blog. When I need a shot of inspiration I read one of Nigel Slater’s books. Nigel is a talented British food writer and cook who has a way of making a simple dish come together like a symphony. I only discovered his work in the past year and I love it. The interesting thing about his style of cooking is that he says recipes are only guidelines and one should make them to their own liking, adding and subtracting ingredients as they wish.

I did not change this recipe as I wanted to taste the fresh, vibrant flavours of the avocado and fennel with the cucumber. I also love ricotta cheese when it is fresh and light. I enjoyed it as a main course for lunch but it would also be a fresh side dish at dinner.

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Cucumber, Fennel and Ricotta Salad

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
2 few drops balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 sprigs fresh dill
1 English cucumber
1 avocado
1 small bulb fennel
¼ cup ricotta cheese
sprouted seeds

Directions:

For the Dressing:

Pour the lemon juice in a small bowl and add salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and sunflower oil. Add the balsamic vinegar and dill. Taste to check the balance. It should be fresh but not sharp. Add more vinegar if necessary.

The salad:

Peel half a cucumber and remove the seeds with a spoon and cut into thick slices. Halve and finely slice the fennel bulb.

Peel and thickly slice the avocado and fold all of the ingredients into the dressing. Refrigerate for half and hour.

Sprinkle with tufts of sprouted beans.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with a large spoonful of the ricotta cheese.

Recipe from Eat by Nigel Slater

Warm Spring Salad

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What a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather is beautiful and we have 4 days off to enjoy it.

I have been car shopping for the past few weeks and I must say that it is an arduous task. It takes days to compare all of the models and brands and then consult all of the review sites.

Do I buy new or save and buy a few years old?

Do I want a car to move things around or something more sporty?

Do I care about what colour it is?

All of these questions and more have been running through my head, endlessly. It’s driving me crazy!

Since I live in downtown Toronto I could almost get by without a car. There is public transit that will get me anywhere within the city. Then there are the car-by-the-hour places that can supply wheels to go, if I choose to venture further.

I have decided to walk away from the car shopping and the big decision, for a while. I will take my new bicycle for a ride. I will turn off the computer and get outside to enjoy the sun.

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season and that you are having a great weekend!

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On holiday weekend like this, it is easy to over indulge on sweets and heavy foods so I try to serve healthy side dishes to my meals.

I am featuring a vegan recipe that is simple to make, beautiful to look at and delightful to eat.

I found this recipe on a local vegan blog called Oh She Glows. I modified it by blanching the asparagus and adding sugar snap peas which are also blanched. I love how blanching brings out the rich green colour while leaving a bit of a crunch in the vegetables.

The salad would be great as a side dish or as a main dish. Either way, it is delicious and healthy,

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Warm Spring Salad

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leak, sliced into rounds or half moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, ends broken off and chopped in to 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest for garnish, optional

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Blanch the snap peas and asparagus in separate batches by inserting them in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, sate leeks and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the asparagus and snap peas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the parsley and strawberries. Heat for 1- 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

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Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, ¼ tsp. sea salt). Pour dressing over the cooked quinoa.
In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and the skillet mixture together. Can be served warm or cooled.

Recipe adapted from http://www.ohsheglows.com

Wonderful Vegetarian Corn Soup with Avocado and Lime

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Why are there so many competitive cooking shows on TV?

There is Master Chef, Recipes to Riches, Cutthroat Kitchen, My Kitchen Rules, just to name a few. What happened to educational programs like Cooking with Julia or Jacques Pepin where the chef prepared dishes and explained classic techniques as they went along.

What are we learning from watching people compete against one another to win cash or titles? Are the people who are disqualified lesser chefs, or did they just not do well under pressure? Are we learning how to cook or how to compete?

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a program filled with fresh ideas, demonstrations and tips on how to make the dish work. Show me a chef with a passion for food and some amazing ingredients. Then show me how they can turn those ingredients into mouth-watering dishes and I will give you my attention and I will come back for more.

I find my cooking inspiration from great chefs, home cooks and wonderful cookbooks. I am often found sitting curled up in an arm-chair, sipping a cup of tea, and pouring over a good cookbook or a beautiful magazine. I imagine the taste of each recipe and how I might tweak it to make it my own. I look for ones that include seasonal ingredients so the flavours will be fresh and delightful. I mark my favourite pages with sticky notes so when it is time to go shopping I can refer back to those recipes, easily, to make my list.

When I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was immediately inspired. I have changed the ingredients to suit my taste and to make it work as an easy vegetarian soup that is perfect for this time of year. I love the combination of the tomato and corn based soup with the freshness of the lime and avocado.

Corn Soup With Avocado and Lime

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

6 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
14 oz. can Plum tomatoes, drained
1 Spanish onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups frozen corn
2 avocados, coarsely chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
1 fresh lime, cut in wedges for serving
1/2 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
Hot sauce, optional-add to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place tomato halves, skin side up on a cookie sheet, add onion and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Place tray in the oven and cook 5 minutes or until the skin starts to blister. Remove the pan from the oven and remove skin from tomatoes.

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until tender. Add stock, roasted vegetables, canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Season and simmer 10 minutes.

Pulse in the blender in batches until it is a coarse puree and return it to the pot. Add corn and bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the corn is tender.

Coarsely crush the peeled avocado in a bowl, add lime juice and coriander.

Serve soup in individual bowls topping each with the avocado mixture and serving with extra lime on the side.

Hot sauce can be added to taste. I left it out since I prefer a milder soup.

Recipe inspired by Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook-2013 Collectors Edition

Wheat Berry Salad with Tuscan Kale and Butternut Squash

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The weather outside is moody and thick with fog. Looking out over the city makes me think of old movies set in London, England or on the Scottish moors. Deep gray mist hangs over Toronto’s skyline as warm and cool fronts meet. Have you ever seen some of those old episodes of Sherlock Holmes where they chase the villains through the foggy streets of London? You can sense evil is lurking around every corner but you cannot see it. There you go. I have you feeling frightened already and it is not even Halloween.

Seriously, it is a little odd for us to be having such warm weather just one week before Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Usually, we would be wearing fall jackets and pulling out the winter clothes by the middle of October.

Nevertheless; I am already starting to crave some of my favourite fall foods. One of my very favourites is Butternut squash. I love it in soup and salads and roasted as a side dish.  The recipe of Wheat Berry Salad with Tuscan Kale and Butternut Squash is just great on its own but it would make a great side dish for Thanksgiving dinner or for a dinner with some roasted lamb. The wheat berries could be swapped for quinoa to make the dish gluten-free. Any way you decide to make it will make you a healthy and delicious fall salad.

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Wheat Berry Salad with Kale and Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

1 lb. peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups whole wheat berries
10 oz. Tuscan kale, stemmed, leaves sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick (4 cups)
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash with 2 tbsp. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the wheat berries with 5 cups of water and 1/4 tsp. of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until tender, 25 minutes.

Add the kale to the wheat berries, cover and remove from the heat; let stand until the kale is wilted, 5-10 minutes. Drain well and add the wheat and kale to the squash. Add the vinegar and 2 tbsp. of the oil to the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss.

In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until evaporated. Scrape the shallot and garlic into the salad and toss.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe modified from Food and Wine Magazine-October 2013

Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar for a Gluten-free Life

Do you know anyone in your life that has a gluten allergy or has been diagnosed as a celiac?

I have more than a few relatives and friends who have had to change their diets due to one of these conditions. At first the idea of changing their eating habits was daunting but with a little research and the help of a few specialty stores they were able to get started. What I have noticed is the growing variety of Gluten-free and even Vegan Gluten-free products that have been showing up, even in the mainstream grocery stores.

A few weeks ago we went to a pop up market called Gluten-free Garage that was held at the Artscape Wychwood Barns in Toronto. Dozens of food suppliers, bakeries and caterers were on hand allowing visitors to taste their products and ask about ingredients. We had attended the event in the hopes of finding a bakery that could offer gluten-free, dairy free and egg free cupcakes for my granddaughter’s first birthday party. Surprisingly, there were a few excellent choices that offered tasty solutions.

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While wandering the fair I spent some time chatting up a few of the vendors to get a sense of what each vendor had to offer this niche market. I came across two vendors who were offering classes in gluten-free cooking. Since I am so interested in new styles of cooking I immediately gravitated to their booths for tastings.

Arvinda’s offered us a lentil curry dish that was truly remarkable. They are suppliers of Indian spices through retail and online sales. Chefs Arvinda Chauhan and her daughter Preena teach classes in home-style, healthy and traditional Indian cooking at Nella Cucina in Toronto. I see an Indian cooking class in my future.

http://www.arvindas.com

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Pimenton offers cooking classes and catering for gluten-free events. Chef Jose Arato was serving up some Paella Vegetariana for those who like a little Spanish in their lives. Chef Jose was telling me that it was his birthday and he was having a great time meeting people at the market.

http://www.pimenton.ca/

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Other vendors who we spoke to were suppliers of ready-made gluten-free dinners for those who were looking for quick meal options. We particularly enjoyed the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free Gnocchi from Antipastos Kitchens.

http://www.antipastoskitchen.com/

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I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the event even though I am not on a gluten-free diet. I found out more about these diet restrictions and what is available to accommodate those whose health is affected by them.

I have learned over the past few years to make a few gluten-free dinners that are not only tasty, but healthy options for everyone. This Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar is one of my favourites from Quinoa Revolution. Like many of you, I have added Quinoa to my diet for its health benefits but also because I like how it tastes in salads and baking. This recipe has a great blend of fruit and cucumbers with the Quinoa that tastes fresh and light.

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Berry Cucumber Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) water

1 cup (250 ml) quinoa

¼ cup (60 ml) white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. (15 ml) pure maple syrup

1 tbsp. (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup (250 ml) fresh blueberries

1 cup (250 ml) fresh strawberries, quartered

1 cup (250 ml) diced English cucumber

½ cup (60 ml) thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup (60 ml) sliced blanched almonds

Directions:

Combine the water and the quinoa in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil;. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl and cool completely.

Whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil; stir into the quinoa. Gently toss in the blueberries, strawberries, cucumber and red onion. Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

Recipe from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

 

A Little Taste of Paris and Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

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Elora reflections

A few weeks ago we were in an area north of Toronto for a family wedding. On the way home that Sunday we decided that since we were already in the area, why not go exploring some of the places that we never get to see. One place that came to mind was Elora, Ontario.

Elora is a historic village  1 1/2 hours north-west of Toronto that is nestled along the Grand River. It is well-known for the Elora Gorge Park and Quarrie, The Elora Festival and The Elora Mill Country Inn and Restaurant.  The village has become home to numerous artisans and performers and is a favourite spot for a weekend getaway.

The Elora Mill, at the head of the Elora Gorge, was constructed in 1833. It is considered one of Ontario’s finest historic mills and was made famous in the 1930s by a painting by Canadian Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. When the mill ceased operating in 1974 it was turned into a lovely country inn and fine dining establishment.

Our original intent was to have lunch at the Inn while looking out over the river, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. Still hungry, we started to wander along the shops that back onto the Grand River on Mills St. and came upon a quaint little spot called Cafe Creperie.

After choosing a cozy window seat we were greeted by a charming French gentleman who inquired as to whether we had tried their crepes before. We said that we had not and he just smiled and told us we were in for treat. As we waited I glanced around the room at the warm, rustic decor and small intimate tables. There was a collection of photographic portraits on the walls that showcased Elora’s talented artistic community.

The menu offered a variety of sweet and savoury crepes with wonderful fillings like goat cheese, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, etc. I ended up choosing the Provencal and my friend ordered the Tuscan crepe. Minutes later we were served the most delightful lunch. Let me start by saying I am a crepe lover from way back and I have tasted crepes in Canada and France many times. The crepes that we had this day were the best I have ever had!

The batter was exactly the right consistency and each crepe was topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper. It was light and flavourful and so very French. It was a little taste of Paris in Elora, Ontario.

As it turns out; our charming server was actually the chef, Jacques Dion. His warm demeanor, delightful smile and culinary prowess are a treasure to find in this little village. The restaurant often hosts artists works and musical events and contributes regularly to other village events. It is worth the drive next time you are in the area.

Crepe chef Elora

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Although I was not able to get the recipe from Jacques for his wonderful crepes, I was able to find this one from one of my favourite cookbooks. These Quinoa Crepes with Warm Apples are a healthy option served with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and are vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

Apple Topping

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. (30 ml) non hydrogenated margarine

4 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup (125 ml) brown sugar, packed

½ tsp. (2 ml) ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups (125 ml) low-fat vanilla yogurt

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions:

Prepare Quinoa Crepes (see recipe below).

Add the margarine to a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent.

Add the brown sugar, stirring to coat the fruit, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble.

Add the spices and continue to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the apple slices are tender but not mushy. (Recipe can be made in advance to this point. Cool, refrigerate and then reheat before serving.)

To serve, fold the crepes in quarters and place on a plate. Add a few tablespoons of the apple mixture and a dollop of yogurt on each. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add a sprig of mint to each plate.

Serve.

Basic Quinoa Crepes

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

¾ cup (185 ml) quinoa flour

3 large eggs

¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil

1 cup (250 ml) organic vanilla soy beverage

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the flour, eggs, oil and soy beverage for 10-15 seconds, until smooth and lump free. Refrigerate batter for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Lightly grease a small 7-8 inch crepe pan with canola oil. Spoon 3 tbsp. of the batter into the pan and rotate the pan around so that there is an even coating on the bottom of the pan.

Turn the crepe after 30 seconds. Crepe will be lightly browned and will be flexible for folding.

Place cooled crepes on a plate lined with parchment pepper to cool. They can either be used in crepe recipes or frozen for later use. Freeze in small amounts, placing a small piece of parchment paper between the crepes and wrapping them in clear plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Recipe from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook edited by Marilyn Smith, PHEc from the Ontario Home Economics Association.

 

 

Spring is Here or Is It?

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Spring is Teasing Us!

We had the most amazing sneak peek at spring this weekend! Could it be that the long dark days of winter are finally coming to an end or is spring just teasing us with a taste of what is to come?

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens

Yesterday we took the opportunity to enjoy the unusually warm spring weather. We picked up a gelato from our local ice cream parlour and went for a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk at Toronto’s Kew Beach. While we were walking a flock of Canadian Geese flew overhead as they came in from the lake on their journey north.

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Now that I think of it, I have noticed quite a few birds this past week. Many stop in and around Toronto before heading north while others stay right through until fall. We are a stopping off point in the migration path after crossing Lake Ontario from the warm south.

I find it amazing that two weeks ago we had such a build-up of snow that it made it difficult to get around town and now the snow is gone and the roads are finally clear.

Other signals are telling us that spring is almost here. This week is spring break for school children and the stores are filled with brightly coloured outfits for the days ahead. Next week marks the official start of spring on March 21 and we set our clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time this past weekend.

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself. “-Ernest Hemingway

I know I am getting ahead of myself but my excitement cannot be contained. Even if we get one last dump of snow before the real start of spring I can look ahead and I can see it coming. I can almost smell the flowers and see the rich green that nature paints over the lawns and trees.

This is the time of year when I start to crave lighter food and less meat in my diet. These wonderful stuffed acorn squash make a terrific vegetarian main course or side dish. They would be great at an Easter Dinner as well.

Stuffed-Acorn-SquashStuffed Acorn Squash

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

3 acorn squash (each 4 inches/ 10 cm in diameter or 2 (each 6 inches/12 cm in diameter)
2 slices of multi-grain bread
½ large red apple such as Honey Crisp, Cortland or Spy
2 tbsp. (30 ml) butter
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) onion, diced small
1 large stalk celery, diced small
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml) dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. (5 ml) chopped fresh thyme
¼ to ½ tsp. (1 to 2 ml) salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (125 ml) toasted slivered almonds
¼ cup (60 ml) dark raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 to 3 tbsp. (30- 45 ml) cold water
1 cup (250 ml) grated old cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F   (180° C)

Lightly oil a 10 x 15 inch (25x 38-cm) jelly-roll pan or spray with cooking spray.

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, thoroughly scrape out seeds and all stringy bits. Lay halves cut-side down on sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender when pierced.

Meanwhile, cut bread into very small dice, measure out 2 ½ cups (625 ml). Finely dice 1 cup (250 ml) unpeeled apple.

Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, until bubbly. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sauté 2 to 5 minutes or until onions become translucent. Stir in apples, lemon juice, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.

Add almonds, raisins and cranberries to pan; stir well. The add bread cubes; gently toss to mix in well. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until hot. Remove from heat; sprinkle with water. Mixture should feel moist. Sprinkle cheese over stuffing mixture, rapidly stirring to mix in well.

Turn over hot squash halves. Divide stuffing mixture evenly among the squash halves.

If making ahead you can cool the squash, cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Place pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot.

Serve ½ to 1 squash half person.

Recipe from the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine-Holiday 2012 edition