stuffed mini pumpkins & the city of edmonton

Surprisingly, one of our favorite destinations on our 2 week vacation was Edmonton. Surprising because we were thinking of it solely as a stop over – 2 nights in Edmonton to allow us to pack some action packers FULL of groceries and regroup before returning to the North. We expected it to have big city syndrome, causing stimulation overload. But it was quite the opposite.


The city, just over half the population of Auckland, is sprawled over a huge area with no real center point. Markets, boutiques and cafes are scattered around the city, allowing you to head exactly to where you want to go, and park for free (on weekends anyway – how rare in this day!). We are well used to snow by now, but strolling and shopping on snow lined streets was something special.

topped with garlic yogurt

With a huge push for “local and sustainable“, Edmonton has become a gourmand’s delight.

- Order a perfected espresso, using beans from the farm of your choice, at Transcend Coffee (they even offer Flat Whites!) and watch videos of the passionate coffee farmers at work. Yes you will pay $4 for a coffee (considered pricey in Canada), because the crew harvesting the beans are not being exploited, instead they receive a decent wage (higher than that set by Fair Trade) and the work conditions us first worlders would expect to receive.

- Enjoy a totally organic, local and raw meal at Noorish (Jesse and I were skeptical too, but boy was it an unforgettable experience) and leave feeling satisfied, nourished and energetic.

- Best of all, head to the Old Stratchcona Farmers markets, held every Saturday morning (indoors in winter). We were bombarded with local produce, classy homemade jams (so hard to find real fruit jam up here so we stocked up!), handcrafted woodwork (we treated ourselves to some artwork for our home), homemade granola bars and treats (to share on the flight home), pastas and pestos (quick, fresh dinner on arrival at home), and beautiful organic meats. We went to town, stocking up big time for our return to the land of non-local, non-organic and non-fresh.

wheat berries

I thought these little $1 pumpkins were such a treat. The young lad at August Organics talked me through the tastes and uses for the huge variety of squash on offer. These ones are apparently sweet, quick to roast and perfect for one person (great with Jesse away so much). I have no idea what these little pumpkins are called, but to my surprise it turned out to be a spaghetti squash. No biggy, shredded pumpkin it will be.

A few vendors down and we faced an array of locally grown grains from Gold Forest Grains. Who knew there were hectares of ancient grains being grown, harvested and milled on the outskirts of Edmonton? Wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats, buckwheat, flax… I could have bought a bag of them ALL, but settled on wheat berries this time round (it’s not cheap producing real food).

ready to roast mini pumpkin

Roast Pumpkin with Wheat Berries, Mushrooms and Spinach
Recipe loosely based on 101 Cookbooks
Serves 1

Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic. Roasting takes away the strong aroma, and it has fantastic anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties! Perfect for these mid-winter snivels…

1/2 cup wheat berries
1 mini pumpkin (any pumpkin/winter squash will do)
1 handful mushrooms
large handful spinach
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp almonds, roasted
3 tbsp plain, unsweetened yogurt
2 spring onions

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Place 1 1/4 cups of salted water in a pot with the wheat berries and bring to the boil. Cook for 45 minutes until al dente.

Prepare pumpkin as desired. If using spaghetti squash, cut in half, remove seeds, drizzle with oil and season. Place unpeeled garlic bulbs in the cavity and roast until cooked, 30 minutes or so. If using butternut squash, peel, dice, toss with oil and unpeeled garlic and roast until cooked.

Meanwhile, slice mushrooms and and add to roasting dish when 10 minutes remain.

When pumpkin is cooked, remove from oven, shred the spaghetti squash with a fork, leaving the pumpkin shell intact. Squeeze garlic out of the peel into the yoghurt and mix with a fork.

With 1 minutes left on the wheat berries, toss the spinach into pot and let wilt. Remove pot from heat and drain wheat berries (and spinach). Return to pot and toss through the mushrooms, shredded (or diced) pumpkin, salt and pepper. Push wheat berry mixture back into empty pumpkin shells and return to hot oven until warmed through.

Top with garlic yogurt, toasted chopped almonds and chopped spring onions.


13 thoughts

  1. That mini-spaghetti squash is really cute! And the stuffing sounds delicious.
    I enjoy reading about your life very much; I would have been just like you at the farmer’s market: wanting to get EVERYTHING!

    • Ha, frustrating huh, especially when there are weight restrictions for bringing things back on the jet. Oh to live near a farmers market… Do you have one near you? I imagine they are popular in France.

      • There are many different kinds of markets in France, and the one I go to most often is a mixture of sellers (selling stuff from all over the planet) and local farmers selling their own produce (+ butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, etc.). But I usually order almost everything I need directly from local farmers (via a special website), and they deliver the produce to a shop nearby. That way I eat mostly local food (not further than 200 km), and the money goes directly to the pocket of the farmers I buy from. Of course there are exceptions like the occasional orange, pomegranate or banana, which cannot possible be local, but they feel more like treats when we get them. I must admit I admire your cooking even more, knowing how difficult it is for you to get fresh produce! I am really impressed.

        • Wow that would be a dream! We loved buying directly from the farmer when we lived in NZ and miss it big time over here. Hence the excitement at the Edmonton Farmers Market! We cannot wait to be able to do that again. Of course France is the ultimate for artisan, local produce – can’t wait to visit and experience that for myself!

          • If you ever plan a trip to France and decide to spend some time in Paris do let me know! I lived there until last year and know the city very well, along with restaurants and foodie places that the tourists don’t know. If I am around, I would be happy to hang out at a market, or share a meal.

          • That sounds amazing. We absolutely do plan to visit France. Seeming as we are in Canada we will tour Quebec on our next vacation (to put our French to practice!) then eventually book a trip to your part of the world.

  2. Christina, SO glad you guys enjoyed Edmonton!! I was hoping you would. :) We will definitely have to check out Noorish once we are home. TOTALLY miss spaghetti squash over here! It’s wonderful, isn’t it? And so versatile. Makes an awesome alternative to pasta. So lovely roasted and then tossed/topped with a delish pasta sauce. Your mini spaghetti squashes are adorable, and the filling sounds fantastic. Wheat berries- sound neat! Looking forward to a future Neilson-Bartlette reunion in Edmonton. x

  3. Pingback: Fresh eyes on Edmonton. « hearts abroad

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