Meatless Monday – What’s up butternut?

Butternut squash is readily available this time of year. It is versatile and nutritious. Both sweet and savoury dishes are enhanced by this pear shaped vegetable.

Butternut squash belongs to the same family as field pumpkins and is rich in vitamin A and the B complex of vitamins. It pairs well with fall flavours such as sage, apple and cranberry.

To prepare, roast butternut squash and cut into cubes. Purée and use in a coconut curry soup or apple and sage soup. Keep the roasted cubes as is and add to a green salad with dried cranberries and candied walnuts and pecans. Or cook with spinach and lentils to make a warming stew.

To roast, cut the butternut squash in half length-wise. Lightly coat the flesh of each half with a neutral high smoke point oil eg grapeseed oil. Place on lined baking tray and place in a 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes. Squash should smell fragrant, with slightly blistered skin when done. Let cool then peel off the skin cut into cubes.

You can also steam the squash and purée. Use the purée to make vegan gnocchi (potato based pasta). The purée can also be used in a macaroni and cheese sauce or as part of the wet ingredients in pancake or muffin batter. And if you’ve run out of pumpkin for pie then simply substitute with butternut squash. Cinnamon also pairs quite nicely with butternut squash.

Any other ways you use butternut squash and would like to share? 


Using whole grain well

I’m down with brown and white’s not alright – the truth about whole wheat versus whole grain

There are three parts to grain kernels: germ, bran and endosperm. Whole wheat usually only contains the latter two while whole grain contains all three. Whole wheat flour is sometimes just white flour with the bran added back in. The texture is quite granular. Other brands of whole wheat flour are mildly refined (only the germ is removed) and the texture is smooth. Some breads advertise “made with 100% whole wheat” but check the ingredient list. Often these breads are made with a combination of refined, or white flour, and 100% whole wheat flour. This is an example of marketing trickery. Breads made solely with whole wheat and/or whole grain flour usually add extra gluten to help with dough structure.

If going for whole grain buy stone ground flour and store in fridge if not using right away. If using whole wheat flour, add wheat germ to the mix and store along with the wheat germ in the fridge. Wheat germ and wheat bran are readily available in most grocery stores.

In commercial flour production the germ and bran are removed resulting in protein and nutrient loss. The essential oils contained within the germ degrade with the heat from the milling of industrial machines. This along with expedient bulk production, long storage capacity and transportation requirements make the removal of the good stuff necessary.

Whole grain is a thirsty flour. Adjust liquids accordingly or add applesauce, banana or other puréed fruit (dates, raisins) to the mix to retain moisture. Whole grains also produce a denser dough. Use a small percentage of a lighter flour (eg brown rice flour, whole wheat pastry flour) to balance the heaviness. Handle the dough gently, don’t over knead and throw in some wheat gluten to help with the conditioning of the dough. The addition of a sourdough starter and some nuts/seeds also greatly enhances the flavour of whole grain loaves.

Meatless Monday – Happy 2016 Thanksgiving Canada!

“For the food we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful.”

Once again Meatless Monday and Thanksgiving collide. The modern-day cornucopia of treats and sanctioned gluttony are in stark contrast to the world of Montgomery’s Inn where I took a wood fired oven workshop this weekend.

In the late 1800s and beyond, people ate seasonally. All scraps of food were used and nothing was wasted. If food went bad, the spoiled part was cut off and the remainder eaten. Vinegar was mixed with leftover bits of vegetables and used to mask the ‘off’ taste of meat. Relish condiments were born. Beer was also mixed with water as the water in those days was ‘suspect’. This I learned from the tour guide at the Inn where the workshop was held.

Today there are a gamut of diet related illnesses ranging from obesity to malnutrition. Some places have abundant food supplies but much food waste while other areas struggle with food availability and affordability. The one common thread in food security today is…the meat industry.

Large plots of land are being used to grow mono crops (eg soy, corn) that provide animal feed for the current industrial agriculture system. A growing global population who demands more meat and larger portions of it are credited for driving this industry. With concern over health and a sustainable food system that doesn’t rely on chemicals and technology, Meatless Monday and vegetarianism have never been more popular!

Celebrate Thanksgiving and honour this time of year by eating a moderate amount of seasonal produce and canning and/or freezing the rest for winter. And if you have a hankering for a more traditional meal on this holiday, I highly recommend Gardein’s ‘stuffed turk’y’.


There are two servings per package along with two generously filled packets of gravy. Steam some organic russet potatoes and mash with some vegan mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, mustard, vegan spread and rice milk. Throw in a side of greens and some roast carrots and brussel sprouts et voila, instant meatless ‘turkey’ meal. Sodium content is 21% (not ideal but not too outrageous for an indulgent meal) with a 23g protein count per serving. For a light dessert, try hot chocolate made with pumpkin pie spices and vegan pumpkin flavoured marshmallows if you can find them.