November 18, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Like so many others in a four season climate, I always start this time of year in a love affair with autumn. It feels refreshing to step outside, the changing leaves inspire creativity, sweaters feel comforting and my excitement over a to-do list of squash recipes is unending. But then, somewhere along the way, a shift begins. Did that gust of wind just take out every leaf on that tree? Not a single pumpkin left in your whole store?  What do you mean, the city's coldest October day on record? Is that a Christmas song?!

I try to stay focused on thoughts of snuggling up with tea and skipping through the leaves, but it gets harder and harder as the hours of daylight fade away, and I wake and return home from work in complete darkness. I once read a book called Edge Seasons, by Beth Powning. She referenced the term metaphorically, in her life transitions, and to give a name to the space between the obvious seasonal markers. I often think about the term before and after the snow falls. We can easily spend a great deal of time in autumn and spring, not with the obvious signs of renewal and growth, but in gloomy gray and brown landscapes. Sometimes it's comforting to remind ourselves that it is what is needed for nature in this part of the world to survive.

In an effort to avoid turning into a hibernating human between the hours of 5pm-7am, I am busying myself with the comforts of this season's produce. Farmers' markets are still thriving, with plenty of root vegetables to keep my spirits up. This soup was one of my favourites.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

1 pumpkin
1 cup sweet potato
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 apples
4 cups vegetable broth (gluten-free and tomato-free, if necessary)
1/4 cup maple syrup

For the seeds: 1 tsp each garlic powder, cumin and oil of your choice; dash of salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the centre and seeds. Set the seeds aside if you plan to toast them.

Lightly oil the flesh of the pumpkin, and roast face-down in the oven for 25 minutes. While the pumpkin is roasting, peel and chop the sweet potato, onion and garlic, and sauté them on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until onion has softened.

Stir in the ginger, coriander, nutmeg and apples. Cook for 5 more minutes, until apple has softened. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to let simmer for 10 minutes.

When the pumpkin has cooked, remove the flesh and add it to the soup with the maple syrup. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Blend with a hand blender or food processor.

If toasting pumpkin seeds, toss them with the garlic powder, cumin, oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes, stirring a few times.

August 31, 2015

DIY Pallet Board Coffee Table with Hairpin Legs

Woodworking does not come naturally to me.

You would think that I had learned by now that the confidence of other bloggers should not reflect my own. Statements declaring that they have never built anything in their life ever, yet whipped up a kitchen island in one afternoon, should not fool me into thinking that I too can adopt the same, suspiciously nonchalant attitude toward designing and building sturdy furniture. And yet, my determination to tear apart our third-hand Ikea pressboard coffee table and replace it with a low-cost, DIY table was too strong for the small, meek voice of reasoning in the back of my head.

Everyone else's designs seemed to complicated, so I made up my own. Then, after I had cut and laid out the wood, mine seemed just as complicated as everyone else's. I'm not even sure I can tell you how I did everything. What I can say is that I managed to split a lot of wood, snap a few screws, and un-drill and re-drill multiple pieces, multiple times.

Using scavenged pallet wood and leftover stain from other projects, the overall cost was fairly low. The most expensive aspects of the project by far were the hairpin legs, so if you're looking for a project under $100, I would suggest exploring other options for the base. At the very least, know that even if you have never built a coffee table in your life, even if you are sanding each board lovingly by hand from your balcony then spending a considerable amount of time removing the cat fur from your newly stained boards, and even if it takes you a very long time to finish it, you can do it.

April 20, 2015

Welcome Spring: Rainbow Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Garlic Tahini Dressing

 Every now and then, you and you alone need to give yourself a confidence boost. It may be after your partner tells you that your new sunglasses remind him of the fly villain from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or, it could be that it's spring, and you're recovering from a long, downward fashion standards spiral that went from wearing elastic-waisted pants, to leggings, then sweatpants, and finally, pajama pants, in public. For the record, I have no regrets.

Sometimes I get that confidence boost when a recipe turns out just the way I'd hoped it would, the first time around. This recipe was inspired by the appearance of greenery around the city, and a craving for bright, cheery things after a long, record-breaking cold winter. We may have felt like wearing mittens and a tuque while we hopped around the barbecue, waiting for the accompanying entrees, but we still barbecued- and this was a welcome splash of colour to the beginning of a long, beautiful reunion with the dog days.

Rainbow Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Maple Garlic Tahini Dressing   


For the salad:
5 1/2 cups sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 avocado
1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
1/2 red and yellow pepper
3 green onion stocks
1/4 cup thinly chopped red cabbage

For the dressing:
1 large clove of garlic; crushed and finely diced or grated
3 tbsp tahini 3
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp water

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Peel, chop and toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper 
  • Spread sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet, avoiding overlap where possible, and roast for approximately 20 minutes, stirring them halfway through (I roasted them for two extra minutes at the end to let them crisp up a bit)
  • Whisk ingredients for the dressing until well blended and thickened
  • Once the sweet potato has slightly cooled, gently toss all salad ingredients together
  • Drizzle over the salad and serve warm or cold - serves 4-6 as a side.