Recipe: Cranberry Apple Cider

Cranberry Apple Cider

Honestly, being loved so well saves my life every day. I am so grateful for Sexy Husband and how he knows me and loves me so well. This morning I woke up on day 4 or so of being utterly despairing of the grey and snow. We lived in Victoria for awhile. And while it was breathtakingly beautiful with all the greenery and gardens and cherry blossoms…the few months in the winter without much sun were so hard on me. I can embrace the pink and burning cheeks, the tears from blinding snowy sunshine. I can embrace fur trimmed down coats, and 200 (mismatched) little girl mitts. But the grey days are just no fun. Anyway…Sexy Husband called on the way home from running some errands and said, “coat on. We’re gonna play.”  Full costume change later, we were out in the snow, laughing, running, breathless from carrying Baby and pulling Little Girl on sleigh. The endorphins worked their magic, the grey lifted, and mercifully, the sun broke through for the first time this week. We came home to warm sourdough bread, homemade vegetable soup and a happier heart.

This afternoon, still feeling much more accepting of winter, I whipped up this seasonal drink. It is perfectly sweet, perfectly spiced. Perfect tea-party-on-snowy-day material. Enjoy!

Cranberry Apple Cider

Makes 2 mugs worth

1 apple, skin on, coarsely shredded

1/2 cup cranberries, halved

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1.5 cups water

1 tbs honey

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch of cinnamon

In a pot, simmer together all ingredients. I let it simmer for about 10 minutes, but I’m pretty sure the longer it simmers the better. Strain through a fine sieve into a large mug. Enjoy (careful! hot!)

**Tracey, my best-friend-neighbor, tried it and said she thinks it tastes like a fruit roll up! So unofficially we’ll call it Fruit Roll Up Cider**


Recipe: Autumn Pear Cake

autumn pear cake

I follow quite a few food blogs. There are some incredible, beautiful, inspiring writers out there whose food is secondarily beautiful to the spirit they write in. It’s amazing to see that there are some similarities between pretty much all the food blogs I follow. Most are committed to healthy food, and even if they’re a bit indulgent, the food is prepared in a fresh way, with fascinating combinations, beautiful colors, and seasonal palettes. I’ve noticed several autumn-themed recipes: pumpkins, squash, pear, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and really, who doesn’t want these cozy and homey ingredients when the wind has a chill to it, and the sun sets earlier and earlier. I love the idea of eating seasonally. I don’t really think about watermelon in the winter. And I don’t really think about stew and biscuits in the summer! The smell of cinnamon makes me dream of Christmas, the sight of new asparagus brings hope of spring. It’s a miracle really!  So all the talk of seasonal food and the particularly nippy breeze made me think something along these lines today: cinnamon + pears + nuts = autumn pear cake. Enjoy!

Autumn Pear Cake

makes one loaf pan

3/4 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup almond meal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

6 tbs butter, melted

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 large pear grated

1/2 cup chopped nuts

sprinkling of brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Butter one loaf pan. Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until barely combined. Stir in pear and nuts. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle top with brown sugar. Bake until golden around the edges and set, approx 45 mins.  This cake is so moist and delicious, it is much easier to cut if you allow to cool somewhat. Slice and serve!

IronSister Says:

Thoughts On Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs):
Like I mentioned last week, I wanted to dedicate this week to talking about fats.  Fats are always categorized as the enemy and we spend much of our time finding ways to fight these bad guys.  In fact, Canadian food guidelines as well as most health care practitioners are constantly reminding us to reduce our fat intake.  Considering the sky-high obesity rate in North America, we can easily understand why we are constantly reminded that our fat intake should not exceed 15 – 20% of our daily caloric intake.  Unfortunately it is very rare that people take the time to differentiate the artery-clogging-heart-stopping fats from the life-giving-essential-nutrition fats that we need.  So for this week, let me challenge you to not focus on the quantity of fat in your diet, but the quality of fats.
The focus of “fat education” is generally geared towards saturated fats and cholesterol, and it is true, these are our enemies.  Briefly, saturated fats are stable molecues of fat that are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms.  This means there are no empty spaces for them to be altered, making them stable and less susceptible to oxidization and free radical production.  Unfortunately these saturated balls of blubber make our blood sticky, clogging arteries (atherosclerosis) and leading to heart disease.  Also, saturated fats increase “bad cholesterol” in our blood, which further aggravates heart disease issues.  Sources of saturated fats include: animal fats, dairy fats, tropical oils, cocoa butter and hydrogenated fats.  Although not all of these fats are created equally, essentially this is the fat that our bodies have no need for and are found in over-abundance in the Standard American Diet.  Any of the saturated fat that we eat and do not burn off is the fat that we are constantly being reminded to cut out.  The leftovers settle nicely on our hips or bellies or in the very important vasculature that pumps blood to and from our hearts.
The next bad one that we all hear about is cholesterol.  This fat is highly misunderstood, as it actually serves many purposes in our bodies.  Cholesterol is needed to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile acids.  Cholesterol is a necessary component in such things like our cell membranes and our brains and cholesterol cushions our organs.  The misunderstanding comes from the difference between “blood” cholesterol and “dietary” cholesterol.  Blood cholesterol (HDL), our bodies manufactor and are used for the important things stated above.  Dietary cholesterol (LDL) are the bad guys that tend to work like saturated fats.  Additional dietary cholesterol is not really needed and therefore must be limited or better yet eliminated.  Interestingly only animal-derived foods contain cholesterol, plant foods are cholesterol free.  (I suppose this fact alone will give us the answer to dealing with cholesterol if it is an issue for you.  If you aren’t ready to take the plunge into the vegetarian world – I can highly recommend it! – soluble fibre intake increases our body’s ability to remove cholesterol.  Some interesting facts: For someone with an elevated cholesterol 2x’s normal values, 1 month of a strict vegetarian diet will lower your cholesterol to below normal values.  Also an average meat eater has a 40-50% chance of developing heart disease, whereas vegetarians have only a 0-10% chance (Pass the lentils please!).
Enough about the bad guys, lets talks about the good guys!  Omega 3 essentail fatty acid and omega 6 essential fatty acid are 2 of the 50 essential nutrients that our body must have to survive but cannot make.  Therefore, we must find them in our diets.  This is a condensed list of what EFA’s do for us: essential for circulation, hemoglobin (blood) production, membrane (skin) function, recovery from fatigue, prostaglandin (hormone) synthesis, growth, cell division, brain development, immune function and anti-inflammatory response.  That’s quite a list!   Even further, there are other factors that add to our EFA deficiency, including: stress, caffeine, alcohol, drug usage, smoking and pollution.  An astounding amount of research has suggested that many of the symptoms of degenerative diseases (amoung many, includes heart disease and cancer) are due to a deficiency in either or both omega 3 and omega 6 EFA’s.
This sounds depressing…. but I am a firm believer in being well informed.  With this information it so much easier to make some changes!  Not quite ready to cut out all of those steak dinners?  At least make some adjustments to ensure that EFA’s are included in your diet.
What can you do?
I have eaten a vegetarian diet for nearly a decade, I do believe it is the best diet I can follow, however it may not be for everyone.  If that’s the case for you, then here are some examples of foods that are high in omega 3 and omega 6 EFA’s, it would be highly benefical to adjust your diet accordingly to increase these food items:
Omega 6: safflower, sunflower, hemp, soybean, walnut, pumpkin, sesame and flax oils, nuts, seed and wheat germ.
Omega 3: flax, hemp, canola, soy and walnut oils, nuts, seeds wheat germ and dark green leafy vegetables.
Also, keep in mind, EFA’s are considered to be “super-unsaturated” fats, meaning that unlike saturated fats, the molecular makeup is highly unstable.  There are lots of open spaces for their chemical makeup to be altered, and this will oxidize them and allow for free radical production.  These oils are heat and light sensitive, should be stored in the refrigerator and kept in a dark container.  If you bought it off the shelf at your local grocery store, it is likely rancid, so make sure you are shopping from the refrigerated section.  Furthermore, these oils can be affected by the heat that they are cooked at, the following temperature chart should be referred to when you are cooking:
Cold Prep: do not heat (120F/49C), super polyunsaturated (flax oil, walnut oil).  Uses: blender drinks, salad dressing, condiments
Low Heat Cooking: (212F/100C), polyunsaturated (pumpkin seed oil).  Uses: light sauteing, baking, salad dressings
Med Heat Cooking: (325F/163C), poly and monounsaturated (sesame oil), monounsaturated (extra virgin olive oil).  Uses: Light sauteing, baking, salad dressing
High Heat Cooking: (375F/190C), high in monounsaturated (sunflower oil), saturated (coconut oil, ghee).  Uses: browning, frying, baking

Don’t forget…every day we make choices on how we live and the foods we will put into our bodies. We can make wins in every single little decision during the day. That can be a lot of wins!

Pretty Things: Squash Vases

squash vase arrangements

My beautiful and fabulous friend Marican, Culinary Girl herself, asked me to do some arrangements for a Thanksgiving Dinner she is catering tonight. I never turn down an opportunity to work with someone so talented and amazing, so I went out to get some flowers. I had initially intended to use pumpkins as vases, but lo and behold…it’s a bad year for pumpkins and I wasn’t going to run all over the city to find nice ones. So…I used squashes! They turned out to be so festive. Here is a very easy tutorial on how to make pretty squash vases!

1. Wash squashes. Cute about a 4 inch whole in the top of the squash.

scoop out seeds

2. Using a spoon, pop off the top and scoop out seeds.

3. Fill with about 2 inches of water

4. Arrange flowers inside squash. I used a variety of greens, sunflowers and roses.

The next time you need a festive arrangement or gift…Give it a try!

Thoughts On: Happy Thanksgiving

To all my Canadian friends, family and readers…a most beautiful and happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope you all have someone to share a meal with, and hope that the weekend provides even a few moments of reflection on the blessings in our lives.

This year I am grateful for many things….

For Sexy Husband who I couldn’t possibly love more, yet somehow will by tomorrow

For Picky Princess, my Wonder and Foodie Baby, my Delight

For Friends who are Family and Family who are Friends

For good health, a safe home, and freedom to live and love how we choose

For good coffee, good wine, good food and good people to share it with.

Happy Thanksgiving to You!