Autumn Harvest Comfort Foods

There’s something wonderful about autumn, the crispness in the air, the brilliant colours on the trees, and for me, the vibrant colours at the local vegetable market. Switching to the comfort foods of roasted veggies, soups, stews and chilis has a wonderful warming effect. Here’s what inspired me at the market this week…

I’m a fan of squash in all shapes and sizes. Butternut is excellent mashed with butter or cubed, roasted and tossed in a salad. Spaghetti squash is versatile as well. I often use it in place of pasta smothered in a hearty tomato meat sauce with added broccoli florettes and shredded zucchini, which is a great way to sneak in additional vegetables without the family being any the wiser.
more squash

If you’re like me you spent most of your life thinking a pumpkin was something you carved and then tossed when Halloween was over. In the past few years, however, I have discovered the joy of eating pumpkin so carving it up to leave on the doorsteps seems such a waste. Baking is a no brainer, from muffins to loaves to pie, but I’ve also found it’s a wonderful addition to soup. It acts as a thickener, giving it a heartier feel without having to add cream or flour. And because it’s pureed, it’s also a “hidden” vegetable you can sneak past the veggie-phobes. I’ve added it to stews and chilis as well and its mild flavour just blends right in.

Kale. Aaaaah, kale. One of the longest growing greens because it’s so impervious to the cooling weather, kale is delicious in the fall, even when the tender stalks suitable for salad have given way to crunchier leaves. Steamed, stir fried or, you guessed it, added to soup, chilis or stew, autumn kale loses it’s tougher texture without losing all the vitamin goodness it offers.

I love experimenting with food and this is my next adventure, raw fermented sauerkraut made with savoy cabbage. I might even try kimchi, too. Cabbage is highly underrated as a vegetable. Did you know it has scads of Vitamin C?! It’s also high in fibre which seems surprising when you compare it to bran–they have nothing like the same texture. (Ok, it has WAY less fibre than bran, but still.) Prettier than it’s more commonly known cousin, the cannonball cabbage, savoy cabbage has a mild, earthy flavour. Steam it up it with some butter or sauté lightly in a stir fry and feel the goodness warming you from the inside. Oh yeah.
savoy cabbage

Be sure to check out your own local market for all of the autumn harvest comfort foods available and don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never tried before. You might just discover as I did with pumpkin, it’s delicious as well as attractive.

Hooked on Kombucha

I have a secret addiction. I’m also sort of a pusher. Thankfully, it’s pretty healthy, as addictions go. And as secret addictions go, it isn’t actually all that secret either. Let me explain.

PrettyJarOKkombuchaI got into cultured food a year or so ago and tried a variety, first diary kefir, then water kefir, then fermented veggies such as green beans and cabbage (sauerkraut). The latest and most enduring culture-al trend in my house is kombucha, a fizzy drink made from a blend of black (or green or white) tea, sugar, and a blob of culture called a scoby, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Yes, it sounds weird enough to strike fear in the hearts and minds, possibly stomachs, of many. But, a fair number are willing to try it and some have even become converts. You may have become aware of the kombucha trend in health food stores, which carry a highly sweetened, often fizzier version of the drink that substitutes for carbonated soft drinks. Continue reading

Addicted to Weeds…and Seeds

I’m addicted to Weeds. Oh stop it, you. If you’re from British Columbia you’ve read that as “Weed” and that’s not what I said. What I said and mean is Weeds. Weeds & Seeds, actually.

Weeds&SeedsCerealI discovered Weeds & Seeds at the Vancouver Wellness Show, a showcase of products meant to promote health and wellness. I do mean products that promote health/wellness, though not necessarily actually produce it.

After cruising aisle upon aisle of nicely packaged, well-marketed products, many from healthy-sounding companies, it became very clear that if you want to be healthy you’d better take your health education into your own hands and not rely on branding, marketing and sales brochures to ensure your wellness. But I digress. Continue reading

Fancy Food Packaging Doesn’t Mean Healthy

VancouverWellnessShowI had a great day wandering the Vancouver Wellness Show and came home with a bag of goodies to share. That’s the sign of a successful tradeshow visit, isn’t it? Well not exactly, but getting free stuff always feels good. Which is what promotions people are counting on, that the goodwill of getting free stuff will make you feel good about the products they are promoting. But even at an event called The Wellness Show you really must keep your wits about you. Continue reading

Deciphering Food Labels

Deciphering Food LabelsI’m a big fan of my local health food store/grocer. Nature’s Fare Market has a great selection of products and is staffed by well-informed staff, especially in their vitamins and supplements department. In addition, they are involved in the community and regularly offer educational seminars. Another of their great educational tools is their newsletter, The Good Life. In an issue this past summer they included a great explanation of food labels that was so clear and thorough I am reprinting here, with permission.  Continue reading

Bottled Water Builds an Island

In Vreni Gurd’s article the other day, Another Reason Not to Drink Bottled Water, she touched on the issue of where those plastic water bottles end up. It may be much worse than you imagined.

trash-islandEver heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Yeah, I didn’t just make that up, it’s real. A giant (and I do mean giant) garbage dump floating in the North Pacific Ocean, made mostly of plastic. And it’s not going anywhere fast. Because plastic doesn’t break down and decompose. Continue reading

Another Reason Not to Drink Bottled Water

bottledwaterA couple of years ago I went on a bit of a rampage about bottled water (click “Water” in Categories to see a list). I knew it was more than a little ridiculous to pay for something you could get for free out of the tap, but the more I learned the more than ridiculous I realized whole affair has become. Continue reading

How to Beat the Worldwide Food Shortage

Overpopulated_EarthWhen I talk with people about accessibility to food (a key element in food security) I’m often reminded by them that there are too many people on this planet and not enough food and THAT is the problem. This is “common knowledge” after all. Right? Well actually it’s a more a common misconception. The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough food, it’s that what we have isn’t used very wisely. Continue reading

Learning More About Animal Welfare

Professor Natalie WaranAfter the rise in awareness of animal abuse in the dairy industry in recent weeks, I’m very excited to have just completed the first week’s assignments of a FREE 5 week online course on Animal Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. I am very interested in animal behaviour and want to understand more fully what truly constitutes animal welfare from their perspective, so coming across this course was a great find. Continue reading