My office phone rang last Wednesday afternoon with a call from a delivery man. He had something for me, so I directed him to my workplace and got excited for a fun birthday delivery from a mystery person!
Well it arrived, and I got spoiled, big time. My parents sent me an AMAZING fruit, veggie, and chocolate gift basket from the local fancy-schmancy grocery store, called Pete’s Frootique. It is a beautiful place to buy fresh local, and interesting imported foods. Shopping at Pete’s is a treat.
This humongous basket blew my mind, with it came an adorable little aloe vera plant and a bouquet of beautiful flowers! My otherwise very bland desk space is now all gussied up with greenery.
At the core of this basket, acting as a base on which the rainbow of exotic fruits and veggies was resting, was this thing:
I was pretty sure that it was a celery root (aka celeriac) but honestly, I did have to google image search it just to make sure. Sad? Kinda. It looked likely something out of a Goosebumps book to me. I envisioned its gnarly, coiled appendages slithering and writhing, getting completely out of control and gobbling up everything within reach of its insatiable celeriac tentacles. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I think I roasetd it before it started on its veggie warpath. Phew.
I peeled this sucker and chopped it into small cubes, and did the same to a small butternut squash and a couple of yellow potatoes. I tossed them all in some simple seasoning, just salt, pepper, and olive oil – let me tell you, the smell in my kitchen was fantastic. I love the aroma of slow-roasted root veggies!
I roasted the butternut squash separately for another dish that I made, look how pretty it is! Like little bites of vegetable candy. Eff sakes I love squash. This dish is so great, any time of day. I had it for brunch this morning, post-workout, and it kept me full for hours. Feel free to tamper with the proportions of veggies, adjusting to your tastes/supply!
Roasted Root Vegetable Hash with Poached Egg
Toss chopped veggies in olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices. Bake on a baking sheet at 400F for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. Divide between two plates. Poach four eggs to your liking, and place atop veggies. Enjoy with a dousing of your favourite condiments; hot sauce and balsamic reduction are my favourites!…
So, now that I’ve regained my composure, and am no longer in a blinding rage due to the original post for this recipe evaporating into cyberspace…let’s talk soup.
Soup and I have been on rocky ground as of late. I used to whip fantastic-tasting soups out of nowhere. In retrospect, I certainly took those strokes of culinary luck for granted, until I produced 3 batches of duds. My ego was beaten down and not until now have I been ready to open my heart up to another bowl of warm, wintery lunchtime love.
Soups are hugely convenient for me, as I work close enough to my house to walk home for lunch. I can just pull a serving out of the fridge and heat it up in no time flat, that gives me ample time to watch The View….err….I mean, plan my afternoon’s work at the office. Riiiiiiiigghht.
Since my confidence in winging soup recipes out of nowhere was at an all-time low, I decided to consult my new favourite cookbook for guidance. It’s one that I compiled as a fundraiser for the Banook Canoe Club, where I’m a member and fundraising chair. If I do say so myself, it’s awesome. So many people from the community pitched in; it has an awesome selection of recipes, with over 200 in total.
From the ‘Soups and Sides’ section, one in particular caught my eye. It was a submission from my friend/owner of Core Essentials Fitness Studio, Laurissa Manning. She and I spend a good portion of her classes chatting (in between gasps and grunted profanities) about restaurants, recipes, and products that we love or would like to try. She’s super knowledgable about nutrition and fitness; her contributions to the book are clean, and easy to make. Just the kind of recipe I needed to restore my faith in the power of a good soup.
The ingredients are pretty simple, but one in particular, the garam marsala spice, really sets this ahead of the pack. I’ve never used garam marsala before, so I picked some up a the Bulk Barn (many grocers likely carry it too, if not in the spice aisle check ethnic/indian section). It’s a warm spice, with a hint of cinnamon and cumin, and would do wonders for a curry or even sprinkled atop roasted sweet potatoes. It’s gonna get a lot of love in my kitchen!
The raita is optional, but adds a nice little contrast in flavours. Raita is similar to tzatziki, and is made simply of a yogurt base with diced cucumber and spices. I used mint and cumin. Not sure how authentic that is but it was friggin tasty. The cool, fresh flavour balanced nicely with the mellow earthiness of the soup.
Nutritionally, this soup is the bomb. Lentils are a great source of belly filling fibre and protein, and iron, which ladies, we can always use more of. Butternut squash has got loads of Vitamin A and C, as well as a nice little dose of fibre too. With only a tbsp of (healthy!) coconut oil, this soup has a negligible fat per serving and if made with low-sodium broth, will put store-bought soup brands to shame. Spend a little time making it this weekend and you’ll be SOUPER happy you did!
1 tbsp coconut oil (olive or other vegetable oil will do)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder (optional, omit for a mild soup)
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 cup dried lentils (or about 3 cups canned)
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic, onions, and spices. Heat until onions are soft and fragrant. Add broth, lentils, and squash. Bring the soup to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 35-45 minutes, or until squash and lentils are soft. Once everything’s cooked through, remove from heat and let it cool a bit before pureeing, in batches, in a blender or food processor. I think it could be great without blending too, I’d love to hear some feedback if anyone tries it chunky!
Calories from Fat 37
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.1g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.7g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 140mg 6%
Total Carbohydrates 42.0g 14%
Dietary Fiber 14.9g 60%
Vitamin A 298% • Vitamin C 55%
Calcium 10% • Iron 24%…
A couple of weeks ago, with the best of intentions, I bought a bag of gorgeous heirloom carrots from the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. I love the idea of using heirloom varieties of produce as often as they are available!
A heirloom variety seed means that it was commonly used and farmed many years ago, and those same varieties have been passed down from generation to generation. The original seed’s genes/traits are kept intact by dedicated farmers in smaller agri operations and gardeners, and often a product of open pollination practices.
Imagine that! REAL bugs doing buggy things and pollinating plants! Those little matchmakers! Hurray for Ma Nature.
Most produce comes from seeds that are genetically engineered for characteristics that we typically find ‘attractive’, like specific flesh and rind colours, textures, as well as improved transportability – being able to keep on the long treks from farm to grocery store and into your kitchen. So something about the heirloom varieties feels a little more homey and traditional; more natural. The way fruits and veggies are meant to be!
Anyway, about my lovely carrots. They’re beautiful, in hues of deep purple, yellow and vibrant orange. They were so pretty, that I had convinced myself that I had to do something really spectacular looking with them. Nevermind that they are so sweet and tender; I felt like I needed to primp these up like the little beauty queens they were!
Two weeks went by and they were still sitting around, unused, and batting their eyelashes at me. And by eyelashes I mean sprouts. I left them sitting around for so long that they had actually started to re-grow leaves and sprout. Alright, ladies, point taken.
Because I have very little self-control around baked goods, I ruled out making carrot cake. My gym isn’t open enough hours in the day to offset the damage I can do when left home alone with a whole cake.
Maybe soup? Soup and I are on a break. No soup for me (insert angry Seinfeld-character accent here).
I started thinking back to the sweet potato bars that I made a few weeks ago, and how freaking tasty even the plain sweet potato puree was before I added it to the other ingredients….hmmm….so away me and the pretty carrots went. It was go time.
This creation was a shot in the dark. Although it might not do the beautiful heirloom carrots any physical justice, this stuff is goooooood. A sweet carrot puree, spiced warmly with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of maple syrup that your morning oats, yogurt, and pancakes are just dying to be slathered in. I even had it on toasted brown bread with a smear of cream cheese…heavenly. Stir it into some cottage cheese and sprinkle with walnuts and coconut…bam. A healthy bowl of carrot cake cheesecake.
Don’t give me a hard time about this maybe not being a typical ‘butter’ because clearly, it’s not! It’s more of a carrot sauce (as the texture is just like applesauce) but I couldn’t bring myself to slap that handle on it. Carrot sauce sounds about as appealing as a punch in the gut. So Spiced Carrot Butter it is!
Peel, wash, and chop the carrots. Put them in a heavy-bottomed pot and add juice, and enough water to just cover them. I had to use about 1.5 cups of water to get them submerged. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer. You need to keep an eye on them at this point, checking in to make sure they have just enough water to boil in, but not much more. Add water little by little as necessary until all the carrots are cooked through and tender. They will be easy to pierce with a fork when they’re all done. Take them off the burner, and let them sit for a few minutes to cool down. Putting hot liquids in a blender is something to avoid if you can!
Pour the carrots, their liquid, and the maple syrup in to the blender. Puree the carrots, adding water (only if needed) little by little until it begins to blend and form a thick puree. You might have to pulse/scrape down the sides of the blender to ensure that everything gets mixed up without having to add too much liquid. Once it’s to the consistency of a thick applesauce, pour it back into your pot and add the spices, stirring, and taste testing along the way. Everyone likes different levels and types of spice, so this part is really up to you! The recipe above shows (about) what I put in mine.
Now I’m no ‘canner’ so I just made sure to put this in a clean mason jar, and will be keeping it in the fridge; I’m thinking it’ll keep for a week or two.…