Good Food Box Ottawa, recipe one: Pumpkin apple soup

Yes, I know, I know, enough with the pumpkin already.

Before you continue with your inaudible web whining, you should know that this one was for a good cause. Last month I saw a tweet from Ryan asking if any food bloggers were interested in receiving a food box from Good Food Box Ottawa.

Here’s an excerpt from their website to tell you more about the program:

We are a non-profit community-based initiative bringing neighbours together to buy a variety of delicious and nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. Our goal is to purchase food that is in season and is grown as close to home as possible.

Pretty rad, huh? Good Food Box is an especially good program for students, and I’ve heard of people splitting one of the large boxes with their roommates. The program has pick-up locations on both the Carleton and University of Ottawa campuses, which means you can avoid a produce run to the grocery store. Does it get much better than that?

A sample Good Food Box

Why yes, yes it does. The boxes can be easily bought online and the produce contained within each varies based on the time of year. Access to fresh food has never been easier. The normal boxes run from $10 to $20 and there’s a $5 fruit bag and $25 organic box as well.

Now, as you can imagine, I quickly messaged Ryan back and requested a Good Food Box of my own. After a slight mishap in which I picked up the box a few days late (I have scattered mind/scattered calendar syndrome), I made it home and examined my options. Since I plan on making a few more recipes with what was in my box, I won’t reveal all the goodies just yet.

I will, however, tell you that I made quick use of the pumpkin and apples (speaking of which, I looked only slightly ridiculous carrying a baby pumpkin across campus last night). I have been wanting to make a recipe like this since last October and had just never gotten around to it, so my Good Food Box gave me the perfect opportunity. After searching a few of my favourite recipe source sites (Canadian Living, Tastespotting) to get inspired, I decided to create a soup of my own.

But first, the preparation. Like I said in my previous blog post, it is completely against a pumpkin’s nature to want to be peeled. You think I would have learned better, but alas I did not. The difficulty it gave me was worth it, and the roasted pumpkin came out smelling and looking like a delicious cross between butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

The soup turned out great and I garnished it with a few seasoned pumpkin seeds that my roommate had made earlier in the week. They had cinnamon, salt and nutmeg on them, and added a crunchy surprise to the top of the soup. A pie in soup form. Awesome.

The sunny afternoon meant that I needed to crane my body over my meal setting in order to take pictures that weren’t harshly lit. I was out on the front patio for so long that (a) I had to reheat my soup after the photo shoot, and (b) I attracted the most annoying cat EVER. The little grey feline refused to leave, and insisted on brushing coyly up against my leg, eyes flickering towards my open dish of pumpkin seeds. You shall not induce my allergies today, punk. After much shooing and jumping about on the deck as though there was an earthquake, kitty retreated, choosing to sit instead at the end of our front path.

He may look cute, but this neighbourhood cat is NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (okay, so I'm not a cat person...)

Back to the soup: Of course, it is required that you serve such a meal in a pumpkin. Even if you cheat and keep the actual liquid in a bowl (I won’t tell if you don’t).

I can’t wait to decide what to make next with my Good Food Box finds. Hint: it will likely involve cranberries.

PS: don’t you just love it when your house has random planks of wood and bricks lying around that are perfect for food photo shoots?

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Autumn defined in one meal: Pumpkin and meatball risotto

As you have witnessed over the past few posts, Thanksgiving home time gave me the excellent opportunity to reboot and rekindle my dearly beloved blog. This pumpkin and meatball risotto was the final meal I made for my family on the Monday evening before returning to Ottawa.

It, of course, used pumpkin, my favourite food during Thanksgiving and the subsequent October weeks. Like many wonderful things, I found the recipe on Tastespotting, and quickly worked to recreate the masterpiece as best I could.

And as per usual, no dish is made without its challenges. As soon as I saw a mention of meatballs, alarm bells went off. The last time I tried the make the spherical delicacies at home, bad things had happened. Many things could have factored into my previous failure, including a lack of non-stick pan, my mom’s psychotic cycling heat oven, too much egg in the meatballs or all of the above. That batch of meatballs became meatcubes became meat pancakes. Before I knew it, things weren’t looking so hot. Many cautions were taken this time around to avoid duplicating what is now known as the famous Swedish meatball incident.

September 2010's failed meatball attempt. Womp womp.

The first of these precautions was to use my mom’s only non-stick pan. I knew from the start that this medium-sized pan was not going to be large enough to make the entire meal, and that transferring the meatballs over at some point would be inevitable.

Happy, cooking meatballs

Luckily, my choice was a good one. Perfectly shaped meatballs bubbled and bounced about in the melted, popping butter. Potential disaster number one: averted.

My second issue: in no way does pumpkin enjoy being grated.

Like, not at all.

Being the sometimes (read: always) unprepared amateur chef that I am, I left the pumpkin preparing until the last second. As in about four minutes before I was to add it to the already cooking, half-completed risotto.

I quickly realized that I had to both hull and peel the pumpkin before going any further. I swear, you have never seen a girl scoop the innards out of a pumpkin so quickly. Then, it was time to grate. You know how sometimes you grate something and more ends up on the front of the grater than in the back, grated pile? Yeah, well that happened. A mess was made and half of the kitchen counter was covered in a light, pumpkin dandruff. I paint an appetizing picture, n’est ce pas?

Anyways, about 15 minutes later, the pumpkin was done, and added to the mix. Finally.

Just for good measure, I added in some nutmeg, which, combined with the white wine, led to an extremely flavourful dish.

Speaking of flavour, my dad paid me a lovely compliment that went something along the lines of how my food is no longer just nice looking, but now also has complex and delicious flavours as well. He says I’ve improved. I am proud.

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