happy roasty halloween

pumpkins.jpgI love Halloween. Every year I want to go all out, but have been holding back, as it’s been just me, my husband, and our pets. Soon, now that we are expecting our first child, Halloween will become what I’ve always dreamed it would be – that magical, festive, spooky celebration that I remember from my youth, for which I can go overboard with treats, parties, and decorations! This year it’s especially poignant, as I can feel a new life inside me who can’t yet enjoy this favorite night of mine. So one last time, we did the traditional 2 pumpkin carvings, and I’ll enjoy spreading a little love around tonight when the goblins come knocking.

There’s been some interesting news about pumpkin seeds floating around lately, and I also just completed some food research, so the benefits of pumpkin seeds were top of mind during the carving. Here’s a few highlights: pumpkin seeds are high in minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc, which are essential for your health. They promote prostate health, may be beneficial in cases of arthritis due to anti-inflammatory properties, and can help reduce cholesterol levels due to their phytosterol (a plant compound) content. They make a great snack, can be added to trail mix, salads, or a rice pilaf. So of course I couldn’t let these gems go to waste – I looked up some instructions for roasting and got busy.

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I remember having roasted pumpkin seeds as a child, and they were savoury (you can find recipes which have sweet or citrusy seasoning) so I used a bit of sunflower oil, salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne pepper. The most time consuming part was the washing/drying of the seeds – they are sticky, slippery buggers. The lower temperature you roast them at, the more preservation of their healthy oils – but I followed a recipe I found for 325 F for 30 minutes. They are cooling as I type. The house had an amazing aroma of cumin as they cooked. I’m looking forward to snacking on these later.

I hope you all have a fun and devilish Halloween tonight. And if you have any tips on other ways to use pumpkin seeds, please share!

how to make soup – a pictorial

lentilsrice1.jpgAs many of you now know, making soup is a new feat for me. I’m betting that there are a lot of you out there like me, who have never made soup. So, I wanted to show you a few of the main steps in pictures, so you can try it out – it is so easy! Soup is a great thing to make on the weekend, then keep in the fridge/ freezer for throughout the week. Depending on what kind you make, you are most likely looking at a big bowl of nutrition as well (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, herbs.)

The first step of making soup involves making a flavour base, which usually includes things like garlic, onion, carrots, celery. They are cooked first for a few minutes until soft, then herbs/spices are added and it is cooked another minute or two. Here is a picture of the base for my red lentil/rice soup (garlic, onions, carrots) before I added all the spices.
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Then it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients which need to cook for the main portion of the cooking time – in this case the lentils and rice – plus liquid. Other examples of things which take a long time to cook would be potatoes, or other root vegetables, or meat. Tender vegetables like dark greens (spinach, kale) would be put in closer to the end since they cook very quickly. Here’s a pic of the lentils and rice, mixed with the base, before I added the liquid.
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So once you add your liquid, you bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn it down to simmer for the time the recipe states. Things like fresh herbs (basil, cilantro) would be added at the end when the soup is cooked. Here is my finished product:
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So for the most part, this seems to be the basic formula for making soup. Why not look up some recipes and experiment! For some great pictures and to get a ton of ideas, check out this soup challenge roundup at the blog running with tweezers which I participated in with my very first soup, kale and chickpea.