Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Fun-Filled Halloween Weekend!

Halloween is always my favourite time of year, and like every year it usually involves me running around like a crazy person, trying to get everything done for our party right down to the last detail.  This year was no exception, we went all out and it was amazing!

The theme this year: Classic Scary Movies! My only regret, is that I didn't take better photos or get enough photos.  On the plus side however, we did capture a lot of video footage.  Nonetheless, the important thing is that everyone had a great time and the food was delicious.

Thankfully this year I had some amazing produce to choose from, from ManoRun Organic Farm, some pictured above: black radishes, baby carrots and young parsnips.

Our food table, with a film projector, crows, spiders, snakes, worms and more ... luckily, those were not  the edible bits.  What we did have on the menu: chocolate cupcakes, crackers and veggies with hummus, roasted root vegetables, nachos and salsa, sangria, figs, prunes, candied pecans, and of course, more chocolate!

I thought our sangria dispenser (in the far back of photo above) with fake floating fingers inside was a nice touch. The food I kept simple yet dark and delightful. I tried to use dark coloured food or orange to add some Halloween "creepiness" to the table. Example, black olives and prunes, blue nacho chips, roasted dark root vegetables, red beets, etc.

And no party would be complete without some cupcakes! Chocolate vegan cupcakes with orange colored vanilla icing.

An idea I learned from the Martha Stewart website: glue fake black spiders to toothpicks as added decoration to the table, or to be used for picking up finger foods.

I wish I had more to show, or recipes to share but it was a hectic week/end for me and unfortunately, as mentioned I didn't get as many photos as I had hoped.  Until next time ...


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Best. Hummus. EVER!

One of my all-time favourite things about Fall is butternut squash, any squash really, but mostly I enjoy butternut.  Finding new recipes for it however, can be a challenge.  Either then turning squash into soup or roasting it, I didn't think there was much else I could do with it. Recently, however, I found a recipe for curried butternut squash hummus ... huh? Weird.  No, not weird, AMAZING! At least that is how I feel now after making it, devouring it and sharing it with every possible person around me.

Not only is this hummus delicious on bread, crackers or with any raw veggies, it was also used to make this delicious vegan lasagna (pictured below, right).

Now, the lasagna recipe is lengthy and time consuming so instead, I share with you the amazing hummus recipe and my green rice recipe (pictured above, left):

Curried Butternut Squash Hummus
Recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes

2 cups chopped roasted butternut squash
15 oz (425g) cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 large-size clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp extra-virigin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
1 heaping tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend together well until smooth.  Adjust flavour as you like it by adding salt and/or pepper or more of less of the other spices and lemon juice.

I also like to add a touch of water to really smooth it out.  Serve with crackers or vegetable sticks.

Green Rice with Kale

1/4 cup Arugula Pesto
3-4 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped into small pieces
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Serve warm to hot.  Best served as a side dish, even though kale is amazing!

The hummus I made didn't last very long to preserve but I imagine it would freeze pretty well! It would be similar to freezing pureed squash or pumpkin, I think, which I will review next week!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Carrots

I am definitely loving this pickling/canning kick I'm on.  Next up this week, carrots! The nice thing about carrots, which I didn't know, is that they actually get sweeter when the frost hits. Not only do they not die out from frost, they taste even better from it.

Pickling Carrots
Original recipe from Serious Eats.

What you will need: 

1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed to fit your jars
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic

Bring a small pot of water to a boil in which to blanch the carrots.

Peel carrots and trim to fit jars. Cut into thin sticks.

When the water comes to a boil, drop in the carrots in and cook for about 90 seconds if you plan on canning your carrots.  

When time is up, remove carrots from water and run under cold or ice water to stop the cooking process for about 90 seconds.


Prepare two 12-ounce glass jars by placing lids and jars in a boiling hot water for about 2 minutes.  This will sterilize the jars and soften the lids. 

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Place spices and garlic cloves into the bottom of the jar or jars.

Pack carrots sticks upright in jars and pour the boiling brine over the carrots, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.

Proceed with your canning instructions or refrigerate to enjoy for the week.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Arugula Pesto

I for one have never been a big fan of arugula, that is, until now.  Since starting work at ManoRun organic farm I have tried a lot of new things that I now love which has made the experience that much more amazing.  Arugula is one of them.  Besides enjoying it in salad it was suggested to me that it also made for an amazing pesto.  I was skeptical but did my research, found a great recipe online, and now I can't get enough of this stuff!

Vegan Arugula Pesto
Original recipe from Finally Kitchen, serves: 4-6

2 cloves garlic  
1/3 cup raw walnuts, pinenuts or almonds (I did a mix myself)
3 tbs fresh basil, roughly chopped  
2 1/2 ounces baby arugula  
2 tbsp nutritional yeast  
3 tbs olive oil  
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste 

When I made this recipe I actually doubled it and it filled about two and half 250 ml jars, which are great for freezing!
Mince the garlic cloves in a food processor, then add the walnuts and pulse until the nuts are chopped. Add all of the remaining ingredients, pulse until evenly blended and creamy.

You may need to scrape the sides of your processor a couple of times to ensure it is mixed well. Season with salt and pepper, serve with crackers, bread or pita, and enjoy!

Do you have amazing pesto recipe that you love?
I would love to hear it! Please leave a comment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Beets

Not a lot of people love beets but then again, I am not like a lot of people.  I freakin' love beets! I think they are quite possibly my most favourite vegetable of all time. I know, crazy, right? Well, besides tasting delicious, I find them to be so versatile.  Beets are great raw, cooked, steamed, sauteed, roasted, any way really.  You can add flavours and they will pick it up beautifully when cooked.

So, on my mission to master the art of preserving, I of course had to include beets.  This week, I found a great recipe at for pickling and canning red beets.

Pickling Beets for canning

The original recipe was found on, however, I adjusted some of the measurements because I found the original ones weren't working for me.  I wanted to make sure I had enough liquid for the 10 pounds of beets I used.

10 pounds fresh small beets, stems removed
3 cups organic cane sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp pickling salt
4 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup whole cloves

Step 1: Wash and clean about 10 pounds of beets.  I used a scale to get an accurate measurement.

Step 2: Wash beets further, scrubbing well and removing any rough skins or roots.  The original recipe called for peeling the beets after they were cooked but I skipped that step and left the skins on.  Chop beets into quarters or chunks.

Step 3: Fill a pot with water and beets, bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or just until tender.

Step 4: Important: Drain the beets but reserve at least 3-4 cups of the beet water.

I used at least 3 cups (or more) of the beet water to make the pickling brine but it may depend on your preference and how many jars you want to fill.

Step 5: Fill each jar to the neck with the hot, cooked beets.  Toss in several whole cloves into each jar with the beets.

Once that is complete, move onto making the pickling juice ...

Step 6: In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, beet water, vinegar, and pickling salt.  Bring to a rapid boil then remove from heat and pour the hot brine over the beets in the jars, and seal lids.

Step 7: Get your pot ready for canning.  Fill a huge pot (not large, a huge pot) about halfway with water and bring to a boil.

Step 8: Fill your canning rack with your prepared and lightly sealed beet jars.  A canning rack makes the whole process so much easier, so you will definitely need one.  Now, some people don't cover the jars completely with water but in this case, I did.  I made sure there was about an inch of water over the top of each jar.

Sit the jars in the boiling pot for at least 10 minutes or so.  Remove from the rack and jars from the water and sit them upright in a place where they will not be disturbed for at least 24 hours.  You will start to hear the lids popping immediately and if they haven't yet they will do so as the jars cool down.

For me, 11 out of 12 jars popped, so it was a very successful first canning night!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Apples into Applesauce

'Tis the season for preserving, which is what I hope to be doing a lot of this month.  Two weeks ago I learned to blanch green beans to prepare for freezing and last week, I made applesauce, which is also good for freezing or canning.  This week, I hope to pickle beets and carrots for canning, which is something I still struggle with but I swear I will master canning!

Making applesauce is possibly one of the easiest things to make and a healthy treat to enjoy, so it's a win-win.

Step 1: Wash and chop apples into small pieces - the smaller they are the faster they cook.

Step 2: Add apples to a pot on medium-high heat.  Add a few dashes of cinnamon.

Step 3: Cover to cook for at least 10 minutes on medium-high heat.

Step 4: Check on apples every few minutes and stir them to prevent from burning or sticking and check for tenderness. Cook for at least 12-15 minutes, until completely soft.

Step 5:  Once cooked and completely soft you can now start mashing the apples.  I used a potato masher but a fork could also work.

Step 6: Once mashed transfer apples to a food processor to puree them further, to get a smoother consistency.  This step is optional, if you like your apple sauce chunky then skip to step 7.

Step 7: Fill a mason jar with your apple sauce, securely seal it and add it to the freezer.  I am pretty certain you can freeze applesauce without pressurizing the jar but if you fell better canning, by all means.
Any tips or tricks you can offer me about preserving, freezing or canning, I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Farm Life Part I: Earth to Table

Recently, I quit my job.  Actually, I quit my job to work on an organic farm for a couple of months as an farm intern.  My job now, working in the field, harvesting, planting, weeding, processing, selling, and helping with animal chores, etc. etc. ... basically anything you need to do to run a small farm.  The experience so far has been so satisfying and amazing.  It is an experience that I would one day love to turn into a full time career.

The farm is ManoRun Organic farm, located in Copetown, Ontario.  Only a month in and it's already been a great learning experience, every day is different and every day I learn something new.  I've also been gaining the skills and confidence I need to someday run my own organic ... hopefully, someday soon!

One of my most favourite aspects of the farm are the animals! I especially love how happy I feel when I am around them and the bond I am creating with some of them.  That for me was expected however,  I always loved animals as a child and especially loved cows.  This is me with Trish, their dairy cow leading her out to pasture.

I also love all the wonderful produce we harvest every week and get to take home.  That was also a given though, I love fresh, organic food!

What I didn't except was the feeling I now get when I prepare and eat the food that I harvest with my own hands.  It's a feeling of true contentment and satisfaction.  I feel as though I have a deeper connection with my food right now, especially when I get to watch it grow, get to pick it, prepare it and then share it with friends and family, it's an amazing feeling.

I just love these pigs and had to show them off.  I never thought I could be so entertained by such an animal but I am, every time I see them. I love giving them treats (tomatoes) and watching how quicky they scarf them down, they really make a lot of noise too.  They're so curious and playful, but very shy and stick close together as a pack.

Pigs are like dogs really, but they just don't get the same attention or respect unfortunately. These pigs however, live very happy lives and it's great to be a part of that right now.

How connected are we to the food we eat?  If you asked me, not connected enough! I feel most people shop so mindlessly for their food, whether it's because they are just too busy, too broke or they don't care, most do not take the time to really see what is being put into their bodies or where it is coming from and how that might make a difference.

It could take something as simple as visiting a farmer's market once a week instead, or going directly to a farm, meeting the farmer and asking him questions to get more connected with your food.  Believe me when I say, and I speak from experience, that having a better understanding of what you put into your body and where it comes from can make a world of difference on your physical, mental and spiritual health.

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