Maple Shallot Squash ~ A Festive Side Dish

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Winter has officially arrived in Ontario. As we count down to Christmas, roasting squash, or any vegetable for that matter, is such a simple way to prepare a side dish. Here is a recipe which pumps up the flavour of your favourite squash with shallots and Canadian maple syrup. Shallots are a member of the allium family like onions and garlic, but have a sweeter richer flavour and pretty white and purple flesh. Prepare this recipe using any type of squash. Cut squash crosswise or lengthways, whichever you prefer, or whichever fits your baking dish or pan. Pictured is a spaghetti squash, because that’s what was sitting on my counter, but I would probably prefer a butternut or acorn squash using this recipe.

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[TIP: You can roast almost any vegetable in your oven. This is fantastic for hard-to-peel things like yams/sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin. For Squash (any type) pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Wash the outside of the squash and pat dry. Carefully cut in half using a heavy chefs knife, and scoop out seeds. Place halves in roasting pan or oven-safe baking dish. Brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, himalayan pink salt, or seasoning salt of choice, and a dash of fresh ground pepper. Bake covered (use lid or tinfoil) for one hour.
To roast sweet potatoes, pat dry, poke once with a skewer or fork, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and place in a roast pan, or on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Place in 400 degree F. oven for 1 hour. They do not need to be covered. If you cover them lightly with tinfoil it will slightly decrease the roasting time, so check after 50 minutes. Remove & allow to cool. Left in their skins roasted cooled sweet potatoes will peel easily (the skins will pop right off!) Store them in their skins in refrigerator for up to two weeks – use as needed for baking, soups, or reheat as a side dish.]



1 squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, or variety of choice), cut in half, pulp & seeds removed.

3 to 4 Tablespoons Extra virgin Olive Oil

3 ro 4 shallots, peeled & slivered [Note: to peel shallots, cut a tiny bit off each end, slice in half lengthwise, and peel off the shiny brown skin and outermost layer of each shallot].

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked or coarse ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup raisins (Sultana or Thompson)

1/2 cup boiling water

3 Tablespoons maple syrup

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (200 C). Prepare fresh squash as directed above. Place in oven proof roasting pan or baking dish.

Boil water in kettle. Pour hot water over raisins in separate bowl and set aside.

Brush inside flesh of squash with olive oil, not the outer rind. Reserve 1 teaspoon of olive oil (set aside).

Drain soaked raisins. Sprinkle squash with slivered shallots, salt, celery salt, cloves, pepper, and softened raisins. Mix maple syrup with leftover teaspoon of olive oil. Drizzle syrup mixture over squash.

Cover with lid, or cover lightly with tinfoil. Place in oven ~ and forget about it for an hour. If baking in cast iron check after 40 minutes. Remember to set a timer, but you’ll smell it when it’s done ~ so you can’t really ruin this dish!

If liquid accumulates in the squash halves while baking, this is a good thing! When you remove the squash from the oven, spoon the liquid out of the squash halves into the bottom of the pan to deglaze some of the caramelized drippings, and spoon these tasty drippings back over top of the squash to finish.

Serve hot as a side dish. Compliments pork, ham, lamb, or poultry.

Number of servings depends on size of squash. Average squash serves 4 to 6 people. Larger varieties serve 8 to 10.

with joy of the season year around,

Diana E. Natalie

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All ingredients except squash & shallots, and including fresh local maple syrup are available at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St., Peterborough, ON.

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Pumpkin Spice Granola

Happy Thanksgiving 2014 from

This is our 70th post! You may be surprised we chose something simple and ‘non-dinner-menu’ like…granola?! After recent posts of wild duck, peach pie, and seafood cannelloni, it’s time to bring things down to earth. We hope you enjoy this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in community and with thankful hearts. “Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity”, writes Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter To Life Around The Table, with recipes. “If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating centre, the sustainer of life and health.”

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There is this huge shallow drawer in our refrigerator beneath the crisper drawers. I think it may have been designed for deli meats and cheese, but in our kitchen it’s used for nuts, seeds, and dried fruits of all kinds. A lot of odds & ends accumulate in there, and a good way for me to clean out the drawer and use them up on this rainy autumn day, was to concoct a delicious granola which could be doled out to family and friends this Thanksgiving, for the famine-after-the-feast, you know, as well as nutritious breakfast or bedtime backup for yours truly.

I revamped a recipe which I originally had published in October 1998 in a compilation cookbook, What’s Cooking In The Neighbourhood! Substituting coconut oil for half of the butter in that recipe, and adding extra spices, this new version takes it’s name mostly because of the flavour, as each of the pumpkin pie spices were combined with the customary cinnamon in the mix. In my mind the chopped apricots substitute for dried apple which I didn’t have on hand, and pretend to be tiny pumpkins. The only part of a pumpkin actually present in the granola is the noble pepita, or pumpkin seed.

A half cup of Chopped dried apple would have been a nice addition to this super nutritious, high fibre, low sugar PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA, so it’s listed in the recipe as ‘optional’. You may wish to use a food processor to make your coconut finer, or to chop the apricots, almonds, or apple. I prefer to buy fine unsweetened coconut to start with, and chop the other things by hand, because I like bigger bits and chunks in my granola.

TIP: when you chop the dried apricots, sprinkle them with some of the measured sprouted ground flax seed to keep the bits from sticking together.

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6 cups rolled oats

1 cup fine (unsweetened) coconut

1/2 cup sprouted ground flax seed

1/2 cup hemp hearts

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (raw pepitas)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 whole flax seeds (brown or golden)

1/4 cup whole chia seeds (white or black)

1/3 cup chopped almonds (skins on: roasted no salt, or raw natural)

1 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup coconut sugar OR Sucanat ~ both are low glycemic whole food alternatives to refined brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon mace

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1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup liquid honey (buy local if possible)

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup raisins (we used Thompson)

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Combine the first ten dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the spices into the coconut sugar or sucanat with a fork or small whisk. Add sugar & spice mixture to the rest, stirring well to distribute the spices throughout the batch.

In a heavy bottom pot on stovetop over low heat, combine butter, coconut oil, liquid honey, water, salt, vanilla and almond extracts. Increase heat until bubbling, stir well, and shut burner off / remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 F. (325 F. for convection oven).

Pour liquid mixture slowly over the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir in thoroughly. (It’s easiest if you do this in 3 parts, mixing thoroughly into the batch between each addition.)

Dump enough of the mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet so that it will spread thinly and evenly (no more than 1/2 inch thickness on your cookie sheet). Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully turn over with spatula – return to oven and bake another 5 minutes. Oats should be crisp and browned. Coconut or other ingredients should not be burned.

Repeat 3X to complete the batches, dumping each sheet of baked granola into a large bowl to cool.

Stir in raisins, cool thoroughly, and place in Mason jars or airtight containers and store in refrigerator.

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with joy and THANKFULNESS for YOU, for life around the table and for all God’s grace and bounty in the big and small and leftover things.

Diana E. Natalie.

granola in jar








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Wild Duck in Nectarine Mirepoix

cause & effect

Why?: The cause, early on this dewy autumn Saturday morning …

Adj Wood Duck Sept 27 14

What?: The effect this afternoon …

Wild Duck in a Nectarine Mirepoix served over steamed Jasmine rice.

duck finished

How?: Staring down four fresh duck breasts in my fridge, I thought about what flavours traditionally pair well with water foul (savoury, fruity things) and how to keep the meat moist and tender in a recipe. The challenge of the why made me focus on how, and inspiration from too many nectarines on my kitchen window sill caused the best what to happen.

Note: My husband or son generally clean the birds and are careful to remove all of the fat & membrane from around the meat and any shot or pin feather residue ~ if your duck breasts still have any shiny membrane or fat left on their surface after cleaning, be sure to careful remove it with a sharp filet knife. The ‘wild’ flavour is mostly in the fat. Remove the fat and you get rid of the wild taste, and are left with a flavourful dark meat similar in density to tender beef or pork when cooked. The key is not to overcook duck, and to keep it moist during the cooking process.


4 Duck Breasts  (fresh, or thawed), Butter – to make it dairy free use Ghee (clarified butter), Nectarine Mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery, green pepper, nectarine, green onion, garlic, parsley), Chicken Stock, Orange Juice, White wine, Smoked Paprika, Rubbed Thyme, Bragg Liquid Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Arrowroot ‘flour’ (to thicken), Steamed Jasmine Rice.

Nectarine Mirepoix Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions diced

2 carrots (scrubbed, unpeeled) diced

2 celery stalks diced

1/2 green pepper diced

1 nectarine pitted and diced

1/4 cup green onion finely chopped

1 garlic clove minced

1 sprig fresh parsley chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley

Liquid Ingredients:

1 cup chicken stock (homemade). If using store-bought – choose low sodium type.

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup white wine

1 Tablespoon arrowroot ‘flour’

2 Tablespoons cold water

Additional Herbs, Spices, Seasoning:

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme

1 teaspoon salt (Himalayan Pink Salt, or sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns

1 Tablespoon Bragg Liquid Seasoning

4 clean Duck Breasts, cube approx. 1/2 inch pieces + 1 additional Tablespoon Butter



Prepare your mirepoix produce (Dice up all the veggies & your nectarine – begin by making sticks, then cubes. The sharper your knife, the easier & finer your end result will be!)

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This is also a good time to begin steaming your rice. I used Jasmine Rice with this recipe but you can use Basmati, or your rice of choice.

Saute the veggies & nectarine in 1/4 cup butter + 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, and adding the green onion, parsley, and minced garlic.

As soon as the mirepoix begins to soften reduce heat to low (or turn off completely) & set aside.

If you haven’t already prepared the duck breast meat, cube it up now. Place 1 Tablespoon butter in preheated separate fry pan and toss the cubed up duck in the butter for a few seconds until it just begins to brown. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt & fresh ground pepper, and immediately add the chicken stock, orange juice, and white wine.

saute duck

Remove duck pan from heat and add the duck and all the liquid to the mirepoix pan.

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Stir in the smoked paprika and Bragg Liquid Seasoning. (Note: both of these ingredients as well as chicken stock, pink salt, rubbed thyme, fresh pepper, garlic, parsley, butter and olive oil are available at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St. Peterborough, ON).

Simmer 10 minutes, while preparing thickener.


Place arrowroot in a measuring cup or small bowl, add 2 Tablespoons cold water + 1/3 cup hot liquid from mirepoix duck mixture and whisk together until smooth. Stir arrowroot mixture back into hot pan on stove to simmer and thicken 5 minutes longer. Turn off heat and keep covered until serving over a bed of hot rice.

duck finished

with joy over culinary cause and effect,

Diana E. Natalie

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Peach Pie

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This was declared “Learn How To Make Pie Weekend” in my kitchen. That’s right, a ‘foodie’ who blogs about everything but pastry because she has feared trying her hand at it for some thirty years! You have to understand that my mum-in-law and sisters-in-law have always been the pie makers in the family, and I have happily turned out the muffins, loaves, and cookies instead. The wonderful thing about the world of food blogging, however, is the unwitting support we draw from one another…and Deb Perelman over at the Smitten Kitchen gave me the confidence to finally. try. pie.

After all these years of not knowing how, I scoured Deb’s entry all about making Peach Pie, and followed her directions almost. to. the. letter. To thicken the peach pie filling I used the minute tapioca (finely ground in the coffee grinder) rather than corn starch. I chose to make the regular lidded pie, rather than the lattice top pictured in her blog. It’s all over there at The Smitten Kitchen ~ Peach Pie, and pictured here is the result. I used fresh Ontario Peaches, unbleached All Purpose flour, and salted butter (cutting the amount of added salt in half).

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Three specific pieces of advise stood out to me:  First the part about doing things by hand rather than using the food processor (so that the little bits of butter in the pastry weren’t too small before hitting the hot oven. Secondly the part about keeping everything cold during the pie-dough making process. I whisked the flour, sugar, and salt together and popped the whole bowl in the fridge while I diced up the cold butter onto a small cutting board and popped that in the fridge again whilst filling a cup measure of water with ice cubes to keep the water ice cold prior to blending everything together by hand (and arm!) with a good old fashioned pastry blender. And thirdly, the part about letting the pie cool before serving, so the filling is able to thicken and doesn’t run all over the place when you slice the pie.

pastry blender


I did the tinfoil (shiny side up) over the top crust about half-way through the baking process to protect it from getting too dark. We had some friends in to ‘try the pie’ as it was such a monumental event for me, and overall we were pleased with the pie, especially with the filling, although we thought the crust could have been slightly softer. Next time I may use Deb Perelman’s advise from another blog entry and try half shortening / half butter, instead of all butter. I may also sub in 1/2 cup Spelt Flour to the mix, as it tends to be a very lightweight, non-hybridized flour in the wheat flour family.

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with joy over pie and first try’s at anything,

Diana E. Natalie

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Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Lentil Chicken Salad with Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette


Whew! That’s a long title, but really, what could I leave out? All of the flavours meld together so well. Another hit with kids and adults alike. High protein, fibre, and nutrient value galore!


4 to 6 sweet potatoes (4 large or 6 medium)

1 1/2 cups red (or white) Quinoa

3/4 cup French Dupuy green lentils

2 cups diced cooked chicken (preferably white / breast meat)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/3 cup Toasted sesame seeds (brown, or white)


1/4 cup quality (preferably organic) extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 low sodium Bragg Seasoning (tamari sauce / soy sauce alternative)

2 to 4 Tablespoons Brown Rice Syrup (or honey)

2 fresh garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons finely minced sweet onion (fresh or dried)

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground blended pepper (or black pepper)


If you can roast the sweet potato, and cook the quinoa, lentils, and chicken ahead of time, you will be able to put this salad together in a flash!

To roast the sweet potatoes: Rinse and peel them. Cube them (approximately 1/2 inch to 1 inch cubes). Toss in large bowl with olive oil and a bit of coarse sea salt. Spread evenly in shallow roasting pan and roast at 400 degrees F. for 45 minutes, turing halfway. Cool and set aside (or refrigerate in sealed container until ready to use).

To cook the quinoa: Rinse under cold water in fine mesh sifter or ‘colander’. Place into sauce pan or heavy bottom pot. Add 3 cups cold water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer 15 minutes. Let stand until cool. Refrigerate for later use.

To cook the lentils: (Note: French Dupuy lentils are lovely and round and hold their shape in salads, soups, or stews. If you can’t find Dupuy lentils, regular green lentils may be used but may take a bit longer to cook). Rinse lentils under cold water, add to pot of boiling salted water. Cook between a simmer & a boil until ‘al dente’ tender (approx. 20 minutes) Drain, cool, and set aside. Or refrigerate for later use.

About the chicken: When I made this salad I just happened to have cooked a whole chicken the day prior. You may need to come up with the chicken part of this recipe in your own way…i.e. cook a couple of chicken breasts ahead of time, or if you’re really in a pinch, purchase a package of the pre-cooked chicken breast meat strips and cube up a couple of cups!

To toast the sesame seeds: Spread evenly on non stick cookie sheet. Place in 300 degree F. oven for 10 to 12 minutes (for brown sesame seeds). 5 to 7 minutes for white sesame seeds. You will smell them when they’re ready to come out of the oven and cool.

To make the vinaigrette: Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in glass jar with lid, or glass measuring cup & shake or whisk together well. Taste for balanced sweet – salty – acid. Add more sweet or salt or acid (vinegar or lemon juice) as needed. Allow to sit at room temperature until ready to dress the salad.

At least a half hour before serving, toss salad ingredients (except sesame seeds) together in a large prep bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette tossing it in gently as you go. Line your serving dish with fresh greens (i.e. whole leave of Kale, or Swiss Chard, Spinach, or Romaine Lettuce). Dump dressed salad mixture into middle of serving dish on top of greens, and arrange gently outward toward sides of serving dish. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds. (Note: they will get mixed throughout the salad a bit once people start dipping into it!).

Serves 10 to 12 people. Keep leftovers refrigerated and enjoy for up to one week.

All ingredients (except the sweet potatoes) available at The Main Ingredient, 326 Charlotte St., Peterborough, ON.

with joy over autumn salads and the smell of wood smoke rising in the neighbourhood,

Diana E. Natalie

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Simple September Salad ~ Tomato Basil Bocconcini

A gardener’s delight, this simple salad helps use up and enjoy one more time the fresh taste of this season’s tomatoes and basil.

tomato basil salad


Fresh garden tomatoes, washed & diced.

Fresh basil, coarsely chopped.

Pepper & sea or himalayan pink salt to taste. (Use a nice Italian or Mediterranean herb salt if you have one).

Splash of sweet white wine vinegar.

Dollop of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Desired amount of mini bocconcini cheese.


Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately.



with joy over this fresh tomato time of year in zones 4 & 5 (Ontario, Canada).

Diana E. Natalie




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Go Nuts for Dairy Free Chocolate Avocado Smoothie

avocado smoothie Alive

Here is the Alive Magazine link with the original idea & photo for this delicious ‘Breakfast Smoothie’, as well as good information regarding avocados, which are indeed one of the worlds healthiest foods.

The Stand In My Kitchen variation eliminates the greens & uses ‘cashew milk’ as a base, rather than Almond milk. You simply blend the raw cashews with water first before adding the other ingredients. You could do the same with raw or blanched almonds, or buy almond milk ready-to-go. 

My two favourite brands of Almond milk readily available in most grocery store coolers are ‘Silk – Pure Almond’, and ‘Earth’s Own – Almond Fresh’. ‘Pacific’ also has a nice shelf stable tetra boxed organic unsweetened almond milk.

I have found this breakfast smoothie to be filling & appetite suppressing. Note in the chart here that almonds and cashews are almost identical in calories and total fat. Almonds have more fiber, and cashews more saturated fat and carbohydrate. So I would suggest going the almond route if you are trying to slim down, and choosing the cashew method if you are trying to gain or maintain a healthy weight. If you are making the smoothie for toddlers and younger children, boost the omega-3 essential fatty acid content (EPA and DHA) necessary to brain and nervous system development by adding a few raw walnuts, chia seeds, or hemp hearts to the mix. Actually all of these are beneficial to brain and cardiovascular health in adults as well, so GET CREATIVE with your smoothie!


I’m not opposed to adding the greens, I’m just breaking the family in gently here…so that it starts out looking a bit more ‘chocolately’ than ‘salady’, and will sneak the greens in gradually as we go deeper into the fall and cold & flu season.

The greens add instant energy boosting and detoxing nutritional properties to your liquid breakfast!

One quick & easy ‘green’ addition (tho not inexpensive) is to add a teaspoon of Matcha Green Tea powder.


1/3 cup raw cashews (or almonds)

1 1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla (optional)

1 Tablespoon dark cocoa powder (dutch process cocoa)

1/2 ripe avocado peeled & removed from pit (wrap the other half tightly in plastic wrap and save for tomorrow!)

3 (PITTED) Medjool dates (if you can’t find Medjool’s use 1/2 ripe banana + 1 Tablespoon pure Maple syrup)

2 ice cubes


Place raw cashews into blender, add water & liquify. Add vanilla, cocoa, avocado, and medjool dates (or banana & maple syrup).

Blend, adding ice last, until smooth.


with joy over anything chocolate and nutritious for breakfast,

Diana E. Natalie.




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