Holiday offerings

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

In some families or groups of friends, getting together to cook is one of the best parts of a celebration. Enjoy this stuffed, baked squash and gravy with the people you love.

Holiday winter stuffed squash
makes about 8 servings

1 winter squash such as Hubbard, butternut or acorn, about 5 lbs 
1 recipe for Quinoa stuffing

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce the top of the squash with a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle 2 inches over from the top. Pushing the knife blade away from your body, cut around the top of the squash and remove the cone-shaped top piece. Remove any fibrous material from the cone and set the top aside. Remove the seeds and pulp from the cavity of the squash with a spoon. Put the top back on the squash, put on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash cavity. Set lid in place, return squash to baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick can be easily inserted into the side of the squash. Leftover stuffing can be placed in a loaf pan, sprinkled with 2-3 tablespoons of water, covered and heated in the oven for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time for the squash. Remove the squash from the oven and place on a warm serving platter. Slice into wedges and serve.

Rosemary gravy – makes 3 1/2 cups

1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 cup each of diced onion, carrot, and celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
3 cups vegetable stock
2-3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp pepper
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat; add onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir flour into the vegetable mixture to absorb the oil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent flour from burning. Add stock gradually until it is smoothly mixed in, bring to boil, decrease the heat to low. Add tamari, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If gravy is too thick, add more stock; if too thin, simmer uncovered to let some moisture evaporate. Season to taste; serve.

Quinoa stuffing – makes 5 cups

1-1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp lime juice
1-1/2 tsp each of basil and dill
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp pepper

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a small pan. Stir in quinoa and salt, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Put into a large bowl and allow to cool. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and celery and cook for 3 minutes then add to the quinoa along with the corn, red pepper, sunflower seeds, parsley, lemon juice, tarragon and pepper.

Recipes are from the new Cooking Vegetarian by chef Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina (Wiley Canada).

What’s on your plate?

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Biotech corporations are in cahoots with government to feed the world with genetically modified food. Canada’s regulatory system requires new biotechnology products to undergo science-based safety assessments. However, in the case of Monsanto’s MON 88017, glyphosate-tolerant corn, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reviewed studies undertaken by Monsanto and deemed them to be “a full, comprehensive and rigorous safety assessment” on which to permit “unconfined release into the environment and livestock feed use.”

GM foods were introduced in 1996. Today, seven out of 10 processed foods in our grocery carts contain GM ingredients as a result of this lax regulatory position. Experiments have been conducted on our food supply without our consent or knowledge. To date, there have been no studies assessing the long-term effects of GM foods on either human or environmental health. Claims that GM foods increase yield and are needed to feed the world’s increasing population have been decried in the Union of Concerned Scientist’s 2009 report Failure to Yield.

GM plants have mostly been modified to withstand applications of the herbicide Roundup and to produce their own Bt insecticide in every cell, including pollen. We eat Bt toxin with every bite of Bt corn or processed food containing Bt corn. From 1996 to 2008, US farmers increased their use of herbicide by 383 million pounds, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. Overuse of Roundup results in “superweeds,” which are resistant to the herbicide, which causes farmers to use more Roundup every year. The widespread use of glyphosate is causing negative impacts on soil and plants, as well as on animal and human health.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a strong immobilizer (chelator) of essential plant nutrients, as well as a powerful biocide that harms beneficial soil organisms. Consequently, glyphosate has deleterious effects on the nutritional quality of the crop produced and increases disease susceptibility. And GMOs cross-pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool.

Health problems have increased severely since GMOs were introduced 15-years-ago. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from seven percent to 13 percent in nine years; food allergies have skyrocketed and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders and digestive problems are on the rise. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine tells us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, especially our children who are most at risk.

Public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries, including China and in the European Union, GMO labelling is mandatory.

Take a stand and join communities around the world to declare your community a ‘GE-Free Zone’ and while this is in process demand your grocery store puts ‘GMO-free’ stickers on processed food. Get to know what you are being dished up today by using the true food shoppers guide. See

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing).

Keeping up with time

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

We were not designed to live by a clock. In the beginning, humans took life as it came. There was time to hunt, eat sleep and mate. The day started when the sun came up and ended when the sun went down. Before there was language, man was right-brain dominant, with more feeling and sensing than analytical thinking. There was little thought about the past or the future.

Interesting, isn’t it, that, when we want to de-stress, we try to stop thinking by meditating or taking a vacation where we can be out in nature and perhaps even take off our watch. We strive to achieve a much more primitive state.

When I was growing up, there were no answering machines, no cell phones or computers and only a few television channels. All mail was snail mail. If someone called when you were out, they called back later. You didn’t have to rush and check messages. A letter took about five days to reach you so things happened more slowly: there were no e-mails demanding an immediate response.

After school, I would play with a friend and I had no idea what the rest of my classmates were doing or saying – no Facebook to keep up with and gossip could not travel at the speed of a click. Without video games or electronic devices, we were left to play outside making up imaginary games or inside working our way through the stack of books we got at the library.

Of course, I am not opposed to technology; I’m just curious about how it has changed our relationship with time. But it is not just technology that has changed things. Even in my grandmother’s day, there was no need for her to take exercise classes because she was a farm wife. Today, we take classes and have our children in multiple activities. We are always on the run whilst multi-tasking all the way.

All of this creates a constant tension and the necessity to keep one eye on the clock all the time. Even teens that may not be quite as time conscious lose precious thinking or self-reflective time, as they are constantly texting and checking their phones. They know no other way.

People sometimes ask me why I think so many people take medication for depression and/or anxiety. Certainly, for some, there are biochemical reasons. However, the pace of life has to be a contributing factor. I think we are like little lab mice running on our treadmill. Slowly, slowly, without our conscious awareness, the speed of the treadmill has been steadily increasing. We get exhausted simply trying to keep up.

How can we keep our health and our sanity? We must have regular times when we get off the treadmill. It could be a yoga class, going for a hike, or simply turning off the phone and computer and curling up with a warm cup of tea and a good book. I am not talking about once in a while, but incorporating this “slow time” into your regular routine.

No time you say? John Wanamaker said, “People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.” Ironically, it is often only after one has been touched by serious illness that it becomes important to make self-care a priority. When we detach from the clock, suddenly we have all the time in the world.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit See display ad this issue.

Harvard’s stand for nature


In early November, 70 Harvard University students walked out of their introductory economics class. They wrote professor Gregory Mankiw, saying the biased nature of his course “perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society.” Mankiw is the author ofPrinciples of Economics, a textbook used by almost every economics student in the Western world.

The walk-out was part of a larger event organized by Boston’s Occupy protest and it echoed a key element of the worldwide Occupy movement. Like these students and protesters, I’ve been thinking about our dysfunctional economic paradigm. I share the anxiety that we are sacrificing too much to a system driven by three fallacies: that well-being can only be measured in money, that distribution does not matter and that the economy can grow forever.

This economic system is relatively new. In the 1930s and ‘40s, world leaders had to address unemployment and underproduction. Many of our current economic measures were developed when natural capital was plentiful, but built capital was not.

With growing human populations and profit-driven, consumer-based economics, more land is being eaten up by development, habitat is being destroyed and degraded and resources are being exploited at unsustainable levels. Natural capital is disappearing.

For example, salmon were abundant on BC’s West Coast in 1900. More built capital, such as nets and boats, was required to harvest them for food. By 2000, there were no shortages of nets and boats, but the fish and the habitat they need to survive had become scarce.

Economists are starting to recognize human well-being depends on more than having manufactured products. A great deal of research shows things like leisure time, equality and healthy relationships are more important to people’s happiness than greater consumption. This is starting to change our economic models. But we still have far to go.

How do we address this? One tool is natural capital valuation. Putting a price on nature’s services is a complicated subject. Although nature’s full worth is unquantifiable, its ecosystems undeniably provide services to society that have real and tangible economic weight. For example, wetlands filter water and reduce natural disasters, and forests manage water runoff and provide habitat for pollinators.

By making nature’s value visible, decision makers can take into account the true benefits and costs of conservation and restoration. These economic benefits have even received the attention of the World Bank, which plans to assist countries in tracking natural capital assets and including them in development plans, in the same way we track other wealth using the GDP index.

These measures won’t completely change our current economic paradigms, but they could at least slow the rampant environmental devastation and consequent impacts on human health and well-being that are a symptom of our profit-driven corporate economies. They may also help us to think about what we truly need to be healthy and happy as humans and to see the trade-offs inherent in our activities. Until we do this, we cannot hope to address the inequalities the students and the Occupy protesters are rallying against.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation environmental economist and policy analyst Michelle Molnar. Learn more