Carrot Ginger Tahini Soup

Photo and recipe courtesy of Emma Kula

The addition of tahini adds a delicious, nutty creaminess to this wonderful carrot soup. It’s super simple to prepare and makes the perfect light dinner for these first days of spring. Don’t forget to top it with some crunchy sesame seeds (or chopped nuts) and plenty of fresh herbs!


1 tbsp. coconut or olive oil

½ large sweet onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled + minced

5-6 large carrots, chopped into 1-inch chunks

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. curry powder

4 c. veggie broth

1 c. full-fat coconut milk

3 tbsp. tahini

Fresh black pepper, sesame seeds + fresh herbs, for topping


In a large pot, heat your oil over medium. Once hot, add in your onion and saute for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add in your garlic, ginger, carrots, salt and curry powder and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Pour in your broth, then bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots are quite soft.

Transfer the soup to a blender with the coconut milk and tahini and blend until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt + fresh pepper as needed.

Holiday (or anytime!) Harvest Salad

Photo and recipe courtesy of Emma Kula.

This hearty + flavourful salad combines caramelized roasted squash, crisp apples and crunchy, salty pecans – a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for the family! Everyone will love this nutritious + delicious side dish paired with dinner.


4 c. mixed greens of choice (arugula + spinach are lovely)
1 small delicata squash, sliced into ½ inch rings
1 small acorn squash, chopped into cubes
2 large honeycrisp apples, chopped into cubes
½ c. pecans
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder

⅓ c. olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ c. fresh apple cider
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp salt
Fresh pepper


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat all of your squash pieces in the olive oil, salt and garlic and place on a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the squash pieces are lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside.

Make your dressing by whisking together all ingredients in a jar. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Toast your pecans either in a dry pan on the stovetop over medium heat until browned and fragrant, or on a tray in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Season with a bit of sea salt and set aside.

To assemble the salad, place your greens in a large serving bowl. Add in your cooked squash and chopped apples. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with toasted pecans before serving.

Ask Reece

Dear Reece,

I joined Karma Co-op recently as I’m trying to eat more fresh food in the hopes of losing a few pounds. I’ve been stocking up on natural groceries, seeing the dietitian regularly, and watching videos from my dietician about the dangers of eating processed food and eating out. It’s been three months, and nothing has changed: my dietitian is frustrated with me, I can’t stick to the meal plans he sets up, most of the produce I buy goes bad before I use it, and I just end up feeling guilty. I want to change my behaviour and am trying, but somehow it never quite pans out. How can I improve my eating habits and lose weight?


A New Member


Dear New Member,

First, I am sorry to hear that your dietitian is frustrated with you. Health professionals should be equipped to provide support and information, not judgement.

I took a look at what evidence-based studies have to say about changing eating behaviour, and it’s fascinating, complex, and sometimes counter-intuitive. ​For example, a 2016 paper writes that “health consciousness” — having information about the health effects of food — does not correlate with healthy behaviour. Knowing what is healthy doesn’t prompt body-size change in most cases, and, at best, only shows a weak association, such as increased consumption of organic food. Actions related to health, like meal-planning, also don’t correlate to improved eating but may contribute to anti-fat bias​ (Wood 2016).

An article your dietitian could take a look at talks about the causes of food choice behaviour — examining the variables other than intention that affect what we choose to eat, including beliefs, marketing, food literacy, taste, culture, and more (Scott 2017).

So, if intention and health education don’t work to change eating behaviour, guess what does? Being curious (i.e., non-judgmental) and in the present, and paying attention to the process of eating. Yes, it’s mindfulness, and yes, that can feel a little like cheesy pop-psychology, but it’s been shown to work to change eating behaviour in relatively large trials (Hendrickson 2017). Plus, it’s a lot more inclusive and less shame-inducing than the alternatives. I would add that eating habits are only one small part of what affects weight: genes, intestinal microbiome, and other factors play important roles; though, contrary to popular belief, exercise does not (Science Vs. podcast episode).

My point of view? Relax about weight/weight loss, focus on enjoying quality food, and avoid people (especially professionals) who are judgmental about weight.


Ask Reece is the e-Chronicle’s advice column by Karma working member Reece Steinberg, a health sciences librarian and food enthusiast. Reece provides advice with input from a variety of sources, including anything from traditional etiquette columns to peer-reviewed scientific articles. He answers Karma member questions about dietary lifestyles, food science and fermentation, eating etiquette, and anything else food-related. Please email your questions to

Pfenning’s and the business of organic growing

Farming is a strange business these days. Steeped in tradition and rooted in love of the land, vegetable growing now involves layers of regulations, packaging and brand development, processing infrastructure, logistics, accounting, and supply chain relationships.

We consumers demand vegetables year-round, while southern Ontario fields yield fresh produce for about half that time. And we want clean, crisp, unblemished product, necessitating a mix of washing, packaging, refrigeration, efficient transport, and much product discarded. Hours spent by farmers on the business of selling product is time away from growing and harvesting it.

For over 50 small ecological farmers, one solution is to sell their vegetables to Pfenning’s Organic Farms. Pfenning’s has emerged as a major packer and distributor of organic produce in southwestern Ontario, as well as growing carrots, corn, and peas on 700 acres in New Hamburg, west of Kitchener.

I spoke to Jenn Pfenning, whose parents-in-law, Wilhelm and Barnhild, founded the business. She told me that they immigrated to Canada in 1981, after the fields that Wilhelm’s family had farmed for generations in Germany were expropriated for a new highway overpass. Slowly they formed sales relationships with Ontario’s pioneering health food stores of the time, including Karma.

In the 1990s, their sons Wolfgang and Ekk (Jenn’s husband) took over the farm but shifted from direct sales to a distributor. That distributor did not have a strong connection to the local farm community, so Ontario growers were forced to compete with low-cost California imports even in peak season. Meanwhile, retailers were calling Pfenning’s for local vegetables that distributors didn’t offer.

In 2004, Pfenning’s returned to direct sales, offering their own produce and a little imported product to fill the gaps. The business evolved as other farmers started offering their product at wholesale to sell. Pfenning’s has the infrastructure to store, wash, and pack produce, and sell it under their brand—all operations that require scale.

Pfenning’s does not require contracts or acreage commitments, nor do they set yield expectations for their growing partners. Pfenning’s asks only that their partners record time and materials inputs for fair pricing. They also sell other farmers’ brands, such as HOPE Eco-Farm, so those farmers can minimize their own accounting and logistics work.

Jenn explained that Pfenning’s has a range of import relationships with small family farms and like-minded distributors in California, Florida, and Georgia, but maintains an absolute dedication to local first. The provenance of their vegetables fluctuates, but the bulk are Ontario-grown and over half are from their own fields.

Each summer Pfenning’s hires 25 men from Jamaica (20 per cent of their peak season workforce), under Canada’s seasonal agricultural worker program. Jenn advocates for human rights and better treatment of migrant workers as an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

I visited the centre of operations at Pfenning’s, a huge old barn converted into an industrial-looking packing facility, with warm spacious timber-framed offices taking up much of the second floor. A river of beets and rainbow carrots covered the two conveyor belts that morning as three-person teams sorted and packed them into bags. Bins of brightly coloured vegetables were moved by forklift. Upstairs, there was a quiet buzz from people on phones and computers. Two dogs greeted office visitors. Barnhild, now in her 80s, occupied a recliner near Ekk’s standing desk.

In winter, 40 or so people are employed in the office and warehouse, on packing lines, and driving trucks. Wolfgang and his wife, Regina, live in the house next to the barn, while Ekk and Jenn live across the road. Some of their young adult children work with them. Ekk is the logistics mastermind; he manages import licences and trucking contracts, and arranges deliveries to approximately 100 retailers. It’s a long way from the family’s fields outside of the medieval-era German village where Wilhelm started farming—and not just in a geographical sense.

Amy Stein is writing a series of articles about Karma’s farm-based suppliers.

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.

Good Karma, good vibrations

My journey at Karma began with a search for miso paste.

I was researching where to buy miso paste in Toronto, and came across several familiar store names. Karma Co-op was also on the list, but I had never heard of it. I dug into their (our!) website and I liked what I saw. One of my interests is community development, and I noticed there’s a committee devoted to this. I wanted to contribute but had to join as a member first. So on February 1, I had my member orientation at Karma.

Among the first things that struck me about the quaint, cozy, and intimate co-op were the friendly staff and members who all seemed to know each other’s names and faces as they effortlessly made conversation. It endowed me with a wonderful sense of community to be surrounded by like-minded people who share common values, such as environmental sustainability, health, community-building, and organic and ethical products.

One of my favourite things about Karma is that it does not feel overcrowded—there are no excessive products, no waste—just the right amount to keep you satisfied. It all started with miso paste but I will continue to be a member at Karma because, as an organization, its values align well with my own. Here at Karma, it is not just organic produce that is cultivated—a conspicuous attempt at cultivating relationships with food and people is also present. I feel closer to the people, and closer to the food that will nourish the cells of my body.

Another major factor for me is democracy. Walking around Karma and being introduced to this non-profit organization immediately set Karma apart from mainstream, big-box grocery stores. As a member, I can participate in how the co-op is managed, including which products it stocks.

Ultimately, I leave feeling like an empowered consumer—someone who has a say in shaping my relationship with food and who is equipped with more information than I can find at a big-box store. That feeling alone makes it worth being a member at Karma. I wholeheartedly support food co-ops; and since finding one for myself, I feel it is the only way of grocery shopping that makes sense.

Simmy Saini lives in Mississauga and commutes to Toronto for work, after graduating last summer from University of Toronto with a major in environmental studies.

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.