A Colourful World

Have you ever run away from home? I’m not talking about when you were a child, but as an adult. Thrown a few things in a bag and started walking or driving for who-knows-where? Have you ever just needed a day to yourself: a mental health day? Last week, our family was there. We were in ‘that’ place and needed some healing time as a family and so, we ran away.

Ragged Falls, Muskoka
Ragged Falls, Muskoka

On Friday, we pulled our kids out of school and the four of us ran away for the day. We left laptops, iPods, television, and work behind, piled in the car with a picnic lunch, and drove north to Algonquin Park. What could be more healing than the beautiful colours of fall in Muskoka? Surrounded by all the colours on the colour wheel, our family spent hours taking it all in, hiking and exploring through brilliant oranges, vibrant reds, and glowing yellows. It was hard to admit that we eventually had to leave it all and return home.

Colour WheelIn the same way the colours of fall can be healing for the soul, food can be for the body. Eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables provides us with optimal health benefits, and eating plenty of them can help prevent heart disease, protect us from some types of cancer, help maintain blood pressure, and even protect us against macular degeneration. Each of the different coloured fruits and vegetables provide unique vitamins and nutrients that our bodies require, therefore eating a variety of them is essential.

So at this time of year, don’t just look for the colours in the trees. Look for them in the grocery store as well. Add colour and life to your grocery cart and you will be happier and healthier for it.

Pumpkin Pasta

IMG_0980Fall is my favourite time of year: beautiful colours everywhere, and a chill in the air that encourages you to put on a comfortable sweater or grab a blanket and curl up with someone special by the fire. Fall food is quite simply comfort food at its best. The trees are heavy with crisp apples begging to be baked, and squash is available at the local farmers market in every shape and colour you can imagine. I must admit though, it’s not even October and already I am bored with the standard pumpkin recipes: pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin lattes (ok, maybe not that one), pumpkin pancakes…the list goes on. This weekend we’re planning a hike through the fall colours, and I can think of nothing better than coming home to a warm and comforting bowl of pasta. Even better, pasta in a seasonal and colourful pumpkin sauce. So excuse me if I opt not to post a pumpkin recipe for some type of baked good you can drool over for dessert (although I highly encourage you to try some of the ones that are out there), but a pumpkin recipe you can indulge in for dinner tonight.

Pasta with Spicy Pumpkin Sauce

*adapted from recipe by Cuisine Tonight

6 oz dry pasta of choice

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp diced onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable broth

S & P, to taste

goats cheese to garnish *optional

fresh chopped parsley to garnish *optional

Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. In a medium skillet, melt butter over med-high heat. Cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Stir in onions and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add pepper flakes and pumpkin, stirring to combine. Add broth and sage and mix until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta, tossing to combine. Use reserved pasta water to thin the sauce as needed, adding a little at a time and stirring constantly. Serve garnished with crumbled goats cheese and parsley.

Raspberry Coconut Bars

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I love the fresh flavour of raspberries and so do my kids. These bars are one of their favourites and were high on the list of must-haves for back-to-school lunches this year. Don’t make them for just the kids though: these layered bars are easy to prepare and always get rave reviews from those lucky enough to taste one (or two). The tart tang of the raspberry layer blends beautifully with the sweet coconut topping and the buttery crust making them irresistible and perfect for entertaining.

These bars are a family favourite at our house and I hope they will be at yours too.

RASPBERRY COCONUT BARS

makes 18 bars

For the bars:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup desiccated coconut

2 cups all-purpose flour

200 g butter, melted (or 7/8 cup)

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

For the topping:

3 cups shredded coconut

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the sugar, coconut, flour, and butter in a medium sized bowl and mix until combined.

Press the mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13 dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Once cooled, spread the jam over the base.

Make the topping: In a bowl, mix the coconut and egg whites until combined. Spread over the jam and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.