Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Apple & Fennel

roasted cauliflower soup with apple & fennel

Checking out of the Safeway this weekend (the undisputed hub of sociological observation), I was reminded that fall means different things to different people.

I’ve already confessed not knowing very much about this well-loved game, but I nevertheless relish every bit of lively banter emerging from the lips of patrons and clerks as I catch snippets of information and predictions.  I also find myself anticipating the somewhat corny but hopelessly contagious sounds of the high school marching band booming across the street from us during Friday night home games.

A new season, a new reason to cheer.

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So what does fall mean to you…

I think about picking apples with my younger boys, mountains lit with orange and red, and the smell of wood burning.  I picture brooding skies, harvest moons and autumn rains soaking into my shoes.  Lazy afternoons wrapped in over-sized blankets, the scent of vanilla, cinnamon and clove but most of all maybe, autumn comes to me in the morning.  The cold under my feet when I first touch the floor, the wind lashing at my cheeks, the warmth of tea in my cupped hands.

roasted autumn cauliflower soup with apple & fennel

Soup is one of those pleasures I rarely tire of.  Rewarding and delicious, it’s easy to make in batches for a large number of people (great for the holiday season) and it freezes well too.

This particular recipe takes advantage of a simple oven roasting method to draw out flavor. The result is as a gently sweet autumnal soup with delicate notes of anise and nutmeg coupled with the aromatics of garlic and onion.

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If you’re not familiar with fennel bulb, it has a subtle anise (licorice) flavor that is not especially punchy in this soup but adds some nice dimension.  It’s very easy to work with so don’t be intimidated.  Treat it much like you would a yellow onion in this recipe by cutting away the bulb portion from the celery-like stalk and simply chopping.

The flavors in this soup develop over time so consider saving a little for later to compare.  As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results and substitution ideas.

Welcome Autumn.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Apple & Fennel
Prep time
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Total time
A gently sweet autumnal soup with delicate notes of anise and nutmeg
Serves: Serves 6-8
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • ⅓ tsp fresh grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder
  • 2 seasonal apples of choice (I used Fuji but wish for McIntosh), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 2 Tbsp or so olive oil
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 4 + ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Place cauliflower florets in a mixing bowl and add: 2 Tbsp of olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt and coarse black pepper. Using your hands or other implement, toss to combine making sure the florets are well saturated.
  3. Invert greased and seasoned florets onto a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to spread them out so that they are not touching (this ensures proper roasting).
  4. Place the tray in the oven and roast the florets for approximately 35-40 minutes until they begin to take on some nice coloration and gentle searing, shaking the pan once or twice as they cook. Remove tray from oven and allow the florets to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, in a pan large enough to accommodate soup, sauté onion, fennel and garlic with some olive oil over low-medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften (about 8 minutes). Sprinkle the vegetables with nutmeg as they cook.
  6. To the same pan, add vegetable (or chicken) stock and apples. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point then reduce heat immediately to lowest setting and simmer until the apple is just beginning to soften (about 10 minutes).
  7. Remove from heat, add roasted cauliflower florets to the pan and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  8. Working in batches, carefully transfer contents (including liquid) to blender (or food processor) and blend until desired consistency is achieved (there may still be some texture/bulk to the soup but it should be mostly smooth). Transfer each puréed batch back to the original pan as you go along.
  9. Allow flavors to gather for 10 minutes or so, taste the soup and make any seasoning adjustments desired. If you feel the soup isn't quite as sweet as you would like (depending on the variety of apple and its ripeness) you can add a scoop of apple sauce to the mixture. Apple sauce has the perfect consistency for this kind of soup.
  10. If you wish, you can add some chopped herbs directly into the soup or simply garnish with them. I used thyme here - it complements the soup beautifully and I also happen to have a jungle of it growing outside. Tarragon and sage would also be delicious here.
  11. When ready to serve, reheat the soup and enjoy.
  12. You can store the fully cooled soup in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days ~ it also freezes well.
Why Roast Vegetables: roasting is an excellent way to enhance the flavor of vegetables by concentrating their sweetness without adding sugar. This is particularly apparent in soups where vegetables get to play a starring role.
Use a Baking Sheet not a Dish: Vegetables contain a significant amount of water - a flat cooking surface allows that water to evaporate more effectively than higher/curved sides which may have the unintended result of steaming your vegetables = mush = yuck.
Developing Flavors: like many sauces, soups and stews, the flavors in this soup just get better with time. I found it ideal and most flavored the day after making it.
Nutmeg: The amount of nutmeg in this recipe is modest but its flavor is unmistakable. It strikes a lovely note in tandem with the apple and roasted cauliflower but with certain high potency spices, it's best not to kill with kindness. A little permeates a long way with this gem so go easy and see what your personal response is.
Substitute for Fennel: if you know that fennel is not your thing, leek would make an excellent substitute here.
Substitute for Thyme: You can play with different fresh herbs of choice but sage and tarragon might work especially well here in place of thyme.

Roasted Cauliflower soup with fennel & apple

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Millet Porridge with Fresh Fig & Hemp Seed

Millet Porridge with Fresh Fig & Hemp Seed

Every once in a while it’s nice to be reminded that the universe is working in your favor; even when it comes to something as seemingly insignificant as a fig.

And so it was on an early Saturday morning when I was preparing to head across town in pursuit of the not-so-common, common fig.

I had just made a similar trip the week before and was feeling a bit sheepish about the expense and the weekend departure from the family when the doorbell rang.

Fresh Fig & Millet Porridge

It was a neighbor who had never dropped by before.  With a bag swinging from one hand and a smile on his face, he let me know that his fig tree was flush with fruit and would I, by any chance, have any use for fresh figs.

Even my husband, about as pragmatic as they come, couldn’t quite get over it.

Millet Porridge with Fresh Fig & Hemp Seed (GF)

My breakfasts have been remarkably consistent over the past decade or so.  Sure, on the weekends I might vary outside the fold with some eggs, feta, coleslaw and apple cider vinegar but generally I’m an oatmeal for breakfast kind of gal.

I love the warmth and comfort it fills me with while supplying just the right amount of energy to get me through a workout without bogging me down. I often toss in nuts (walnut is a favorite) and seeds (ground flaxseed is my go-to) and some fresh berries or seasonal fruit. It may sound involved but really the whole affair takes about 15 minutes.

Millet Porridge with Fresh Fig, Honey & Hemp Seed

Lately I’ve been having fun experimenting with different textured whole grains including millet (not just for the birds!).  Naturally gluten-free, millet is a versatile grain with a mildly sweet and nutty flavor — you can prepare it as you would rice and enjoy it as a side, toss it into salads and burgers or enjoy it as I’m doing today, in a warm cereal.

When it comes porridge, millet is prepared much the same as oatmeal by cooking it on the stove top in its whole form or by grinding it into a powder/flour for a creamier texture.  I much prefer the whole form (pictured below).

Whole Millet Seed Porridge

While it’s different from oatmeal (more textured and lumpier – a bit like a rice pudding) the cooked ground millet by contrast, is pasty — almost gag-inducingly so.  Soft is good, wallpaper pasty not so much.  But it’s all a matter of personal preference so forget what I think and try it out to see what you like!

More information on the nutrient profile of millet and preparation tips in the Notes section below.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Millet Porridge with Fresh Fig & Hemp Seed (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
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A warm and comforting porridge made from nutritious whole grain millet.
Serves: Serves 2
  • ½ cup whole grain millet (I used Eden organic yellow millet), whole or ground as preferred
  • 1 cup almond milk or milk beverage of choice
  • ¾ cup water
  • The seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp honey (I used The Spartan Table)
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 6 fresh figs, chopped into small pieces or segmented however you wish
  • Other optional toppings: toasted shaved coconut, dried cranberry or apricot.
  1. Place milk and water in a saucepan on the stove.
  2. Add dry millet and vanilla bean seeds (or extract), mixing to combine with liquids, and turning heat up to medium.
  3. Bring liquid just to the boiling point, stir, reduce heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot - allowing the cereal to simmer for about 12-15 minutes or until most of the liquid has soaked into the grain. Remove from heat.
  4. Add honey and more liquid to the cooked millet, as desired.
  5. Divide millet porridge between two bowls, adding more milk if desired and topping each bowl with one Tbsp of hemp seed, fresh fig (or fruit of choice) and any other toppings of choice.
Millet: millet has an impressive nutrient profile that includes 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per ¼ cup uncooked (similar to an egg). It is high in manganese and a good source of magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant), zinc, plant-based iron and a host of B vitamins.
Grinding: if you would like to try grinding the millet prior to cooking (I know, I really sold it in the post), you can do so by using a coffee grinder or other small grinder. The end product will resemble flour.
Toasting: whether you decide to boil the whole millet or work from ground, toasting the millet seeds prior can add a delicious punch of nutty, roasted flavor.
Vanilla Bean: don't be intimidated by vanilla beans if you haven't worked with them before. My favorite method is to toss a bean in a small bowl, cover it with boiling water and allow it to soften for a minute. Carefully remove the bean, snip one of the ends with a knife and then run the flat side of your knife along the full length of the bean and watch the glorious black paste emerge (aka: VB seeds). Scoop up the seeds and toss them into the recipe.

millet porridge with fig & toasted coconut (GF)

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Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (GF, DF)

I had planned a warming porridge for this past week’s post but a combination of weather (oppressively hot) and a new baby (not mine) queered the pitch.

That’s alright because in the process of being derailed, I discovered these obscenely delicious cookies. So I hope you don’t mind me interrupting your Sunday evening to bring them to you.

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (Gluten Free)

I still get nervous whenever I share cookies of this nature (you know, the weird unconventional kind) with another living being outside our family so it was not without some relief (and a great deal of pleasure) that I received a message (the very next day) from our lovely neighbor — and new mom — letting me know that there were no cookies left and could she please have the recipe.

With only 3 base ingredients in the batter, it’s the kind of recipe you look at and think, really? How is this ever going to work… and yet, it does. Every time. The cookies firm up on the exterior just like conventionally baked ones while remaining gorgeously moist and melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside.  A concentrated protein snack that delivers all the yumminess we occasionally crave without the usual load.  And, it might take about 7 minutes to pull together.

My husband, who describes these nut butter bites simply as wicked, insisted that I blog the peanut butter/chocolate chip version (his favorite and the variety we made for our neighbor) but of course, you could experiment with other nut or seed butters here and play around with add-ins of choice.  One of my favorite variations is with dried cranberry and shaved coconut in place of the chocolate and I also like to make these with almond butter ~ more expensive but another delicious and nutritious option.

For best results, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below and I invite you to drop in to let me know about your own variations and reactions to these kookie cookies!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)
Prep time
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Total time
A flourless and naturally sweetened peanut butter cookie with a gorgeously moist interior.
Serves: About 16 cookies
  • 1 cup all natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  • scant ½ cup dark chocolate chips or alternate add-ins of choice: dried cranberry, apricot, cherry, raisin, coconut shavings, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Place peanut butter, egg and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fully integrated (only about 15 seconds).
  3. Add chocolate chips and mix by hand (with a spatula or wooden spoon).
  4. Drop the cookies by tablespoon full (or so) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, allowing at least one inch between the cookies (they don't spread a great deal).
  5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until they are firm to the touch and just starting to take on a golden exterior.
  6. Remove the cookies from oven and allow then to cool on a rack before enjoying.
  7. Store any remaining cookies (!) in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The cookies will darken somewhat but will be equally (if not more) delicious.
Avoid Oily Runoff: If you are using an unmixed natural peanut butter (one that naturally separates with the oil on top), be sure to fully stir the PB before measuring out the cup - this will help avoid oily runoff while the cookies bake. I use a flat knife and stir like the dickens (great workout!). If you still get some oil in the baked cookies, just rest them on a paper towel to absorb excess. It will dissipate quickly.
Unsweetened PB: I used an unsweetened natural peanut butter in this recipe and determined the amount of maple syrup accordingly. If you are working with a sweetened PB, you may wish to adjust the syrup content (although this can sometime influence the result - the syrup assists with binding) so my best suggestion would be to wait until you need more nut butter and opt for unsweetened for the purposes of this particular recipe.
Allergies & Preferences: As mentioned in the post, you can experiment with any nut or seed butter here so don't be deterred by the use of peanuts in the demo recipe. Both sunflower seed and pumpkin seed are low allergens.
Additions & Substitutions: As mentioned in the post, feel free to sub other fruit/nuts/seeds in place of the chocolate in this recipe. Adding liquids (lemon, mint, vanilla, etc.) may influence the outcome though, so you might wish to start with increments (1 tsp for example) and see how the recipe responds.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 30 grams (1 of 16 cookies) Calories: 139 Fat: 9.3 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 9.9 g Sugar: 6.4 g Fiber: 1.2 g Protein: 4.2 g Cholesterol: 10 mg

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

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5 Keys to Bone Health

I broke my wrist on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in the park.  I was doing backflips off the monkey bars with my boys and I might have gotten carried away. I over-rotated the landing and was heading right for my tush (which is what I should have let happen) but instead, I stretched out my hand to protect my fall and landed with the full force of my weight on my wrist — my bone didn’t stand a chance.

Refusal to grow up aside, the incident (which happened a few years ago) reminded me of just how disabling it can be to break a bone.

beet juice and bone health

Although bone mass generally peaks somewhere in our twenties, that’s not the end of the story.  Bones are not the fixed, lifeless structures we sometimes imagine.  Instead, they are growing, living tissue that is constantly being remodeled and there’s plenty to do – at all ages – to help preserve bone integrity, improve bone strength and minimize our risk of fracture.

background & risk factors

Globally, osteoporosis — a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle — gives rise to over 8.9 million fractures annually causing both temporary and permanent disability.

Menopause is one of the biggest contributors of bone loss due to the role that estrogen plays in keeping bones healthy. As estrogen levels decline, loss of bone tissue begins to accelerate. The combination of hormone changes and lower muscle mass in comparison to men puts women at higher risk but osteoporosis is by no means a woman’s disease.  At least 1 in 5 men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime (and 1 in 3 women).

The two most important factors we can control in managing our bone health (other than staying off the monkey bars in our forties) are exercise and diet ~

1. Build Muscle Mass

Building muscle mass helps support and fortify the structures surrounding our bones. Spinal fractures, for example, are often caused by forces (or loads) on the vertebrae that are greater than what they can physically withstand. Exercises that target the muscles along the back can help strengthen the spine while improving posture.

Muscle also generates the force (mechanical stress) needed to keep our bones healthy, strong and responsive. When muscle mass declines, less stress is exerted on our bones which eventually makes them weaker and accelerates decline.

We build muscle mass through strength training which commonly comprises of weight lifting (with free weights or weight machines) and resistance exercise (with equipment like rubber bands and balls or by using the body’s own weight to create resistance: push-ups, planks and dips as well as squats and lunges).  These exercises can be done at home or in a gym environment. Most fitness classes now also incorporate elements of weight-bearing and resistance exercises such as Pilates, yoga and interdisciplinary cardiovascular training.

2. Practice Balance & Stability

Balance and stability are key to improving movement, fluidity and coordination with a view to reducing our risk of falling ~ especially for those of us walking on ice surfaces 8 months of the year. Balance exercises can be practiced at home and many interdisciplinary group fitness classes also incorporate elements of core stability and balance. The gentle, low-impact art of Tai Chi (meditation in motion) is especially well known for cultivating balance and as a mind-body discipline, it’s also be very helpful for reducing tension and promoting calm.

3. Ensure adequate Calcium from a variety of sources

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is vital for building strong bones (and teeth) in childhood and maintaining bone health as we age.  Our bodies cannot make calcium, it must be acquired through our diet. Calcium-rich dietary sources include plant-based foods, dairy and fish.

Current calcium requirements for adults aged 19 to 50 are 1,000 mg daily with women over the age of 50 requiring 1,200 mg. Children aged 9 to 18 require 1,300 mg of calcium daily.

🌱 Plant-Based Options — most of us think of dairy first when it comes to calcium-rich foods and there’s no question that the concentration of calcium by typical serving size of dairy food is impressive.  But there’s a couple of reasons why I like to focus on plant sources.  For one thing, if you’re a vegan or have an allergy/intolerance to dairy foods or simply prefer to vary your diet outside the dairy fold, it’s important to be aware of other sources of calcium. Another element is that many plant options not only provide calcium they also deliver a whole range of nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.  Some of these nutrients also happen to be very helpful for bone health.

For example, calcium containing greens such as spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, bok choy (pictured below), rapini, beet greens and kale, have the added advantage of being rich in vitamin K, a nutrient needed to maintain healthy bones. Studies have linked higher vitamin K intakes with a lower risk of bone fractures.

baby bok choy for bone health

Tipto maximize calcium absorption from greens, it is generally advised to steam/cook them to break down the oxalic acid – a natural compound that binds calcium and reduces its absorption.

Other plant-based sources of calcium include: tofu that is produced with calcium (look for calcium sulfate on the ingredients list); beans, almonds, blackstrap molasses and sea vegetables. Alternate milk beverages such as almond, rice, hemp, coconut and soy milk for example that are calcium fortified are also concentrated sources (generally in the range of 330 mg of calcium per cup).

🌱 Dairy Options — when it comes to dairy, some of the best sources of calcium can be found in milk, yogurt and cheese. One cup of milk, 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1.5 ounces of cheese each contain roughly 300 mg of calcium.

🌱 Fish Options — rich in calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, canned salmon and sardines are an excellent and affordable option.  3 ounces of canned salmon with bones delivers approximately 190 mg of calcium while 3 ounces of canned sardines with bones delivers in the range of 325 mg of calcium.

Salmon and sardines also happen to be one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D which is essential for absorbing calcium (more below). Although the calcium in fish comes primarily from their bones, you can grind them up in a blender and combine the paste with a little hummus, natural mayo or your own favorite spread to enjoy in a sandwich. Sardines have a delicious umami flavor that adds great taste to recipes.  The small fillets can be chopped up and tossed into salads or ground up entirely and incorporated into soups, sauces and dressings.

👉 For a full breakdown of calcium concentration by food item search the National Nutrient Database.

4. Dose up on Vitamin D

In addition to its potential role in disease prevention, vitamin D is crucial for absorbing calcium.

Very few foods contain vitamin D naturally (though milk, alternate milk beverages and many orange juice brands are fortified with vitamin D) ~ our best source comes from the sun. During the non-summer months, when the northern latitude sun is not sufficiently strong, supplementation becomes necessary for most individuals. Adults are advised to take at least 1,000 IUs (international units) of vitamin D per day while older adults, those with dark-coloured skin and those falling within certain risk categories may require more. Be sure to speak with your health care practitioner regarding appropriate supplementation and keep in mind that your vitamin D levels can be easily tested through bloodwork upon request.

5. Best Practices

Our bodies lose calcium every day through sweat, urine and bowel excretion which needs to be continuously replenished. Certain foods, and food practices, can promote calcium loss while others inhibit absorption. Here are a few of the more common ones to keep in mind:

Sodium: excess salt can cause calcium to be excreted from our body. Most excess salt does not come from our salt shakers but rather from a heavily processed diet.  Try to focus on whole foods in their natural state and be especially mindful of sauces, soups and dressings (in both liquid and powder form) that are sodium saturated. Be sure to read labels and opt for low-sodium options whenever possible.

Soft Drinks (cola): both diet and regular soft drinks (though not sparkling water) have been linked to lower bone density. Some experts suggest this is because overconsumption of cola displaces milk in the diet (a primary source of calcium and vitamin D), but other studies point to the phosphoric acid content in cola, a flavour additive/preservative that can interfere with calcium absorption by binding calcium in the intestinal tract and preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.  When blood levels of calcium drop too low, the body draws calcium from the bones to maintain balance.

Divided Doses: while it is generally preferable to obtain calcium from food sources first, if you are supplementing keep in mind that the body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at any one time.

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.

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Blueberry Burst Breakfast Muffins

blueberry burst muffins with spelt & flaxseed

Not so long ago it seems I was making muffins for our family on a weekly basis.  I’d bake a batch or two on the weekend (sometimes making extra for my mom) and the boys would enjoy them throughout the week — in their lunchboxes, after school or as a grab-and-go on their way out the door. But muffin making eventually gave way to bars (a dragon lives forever but not so little boys) and over the past couple years, I think I’ve only made muffins once or twice.

Something about the return to school this week had me feeling nostalgic about this quick bread and when that feeling collided with a stand of gorgeous seasonal berries spreading blue, well, these happened.

blueberry burst breakfast muffin_protein rich

If you haven’t had a chance to experiment with spelt flour yet, this simple and tasty recipe may be a great place to start — and you won’t have to drive all over town looking for it either; you can find spelt flour in just about every grocery store now (Bob’s Red Mill is a popular brand).

Once a European staple, spelt is among the oldest cultivated grains — it gained popularity in the West over the past decade mainly because of its nutritious properties but also because many find it easier to digest than its distant cousin, wheat.

Like wheat, spelt contains gluten (and would therefore not be appropriate for individuals with celiac disease) but the protein in spelt is different from the protein in wheat and many individuals with sensitivities find it easier to digest. The water soluble characteristics of spelt are also said to make the grain’s impressive range of nutrients more bioavailable (easier to absorb).

blueberry burst spelt muffins

From a foodie point of view, one of the things I love most about spelt is its soft, silky texture.  It works beautifully in baking and also imparts a subtle nutty flavor.  Its gluten content also means that you can substitute spelt flour for wheat flour 1:1 without compromising the texture of baked goods.

blueberry burst spelt breakfast muffins

I’m calling this a breakfast muffin but of course you could eat it any time of day.  If you know someone who is a reluctant breakfast eater though, these delicious bites might just do the trick while quietly being a nutritious choice. The spelt in tandem with flaxseed, milk and egg, delivers a solid amount of protein to these muffins with natural bursts of flavor coming through in the banana, abundant blueberry, maple syrup and vanilla.

In terms of texture, if you haven’t baked muffins/bread entirely from whole grains before you will notice a difference. Or, as my husband might say, you’ll know you’re eating something healthy (wink). I’ve been baking with whole grains for over 15 years now and I find the texture the most appealing part but what I often recommend is to take it in steps – using half whole grain and half regular flour and simply increasing over time as you habituate.  The sweetness is also very mild (which makes you realize just how much sugar is in standard baked goods because there is plenty of natural sweetness going on in this mix) but this too can be modified over time.  Eating well isn’t an all or nothing proposition. I’m a big fan of slow and steady.

blueberry spelt breakfast muffins

I hope you enjoy discovering spelt flour within these bursts of juicy berry and be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results.

To all of the moms and dads who are sending sons and daughters off to school this week, I’m sending you all a big hug and dose of encouragement – it’s a busy and full week for all ~ ❤️ ~

5.0 from 1 reviews
Blueberry Burst Breakfast Muffins
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A protein-rich blueberry breakfast muffin made from stone ground spelt, flaxseed, whipped banana and a touch of vanilla.
Serves: 12-14 muffins
  • Wet Ingredients:
  • ½ cup milk (or milk substitute)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe bananas, in pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  • Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 + ¾ cups whole grain spelt flour
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 + ½ cups fresh blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine: banana, vanilla, olive oil and milk. Using a mixer, blend the ingredients together until creamed - the mixture should take on a lighter and fluffy appearance.
  3. Add the egg and maple syrup, and blend to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl combine: spelt flour, ground flaxseed and baking soda, using a spoon to hand mix.
  5. Add in 1 cup fresh blueberries to the dry ingredients, mixing gently to combine and taking care not to mash the fruit.
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredient bowl and mix only until combined. Try to avoid over-mixing as this hardens the batter.
  7. Spoon the muffin batter into a nonstick muffin tin (with or without cups) about ¾ full.
  8. Divide remaining blueberries on top of batter (dropping them here and there).
  9. Bake the muffins for approximately 20-24 minutes or until the muffin tops have gently browned and are firm to the touch.
  10. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow the muffins to cool and collect their flavor for 15-20 before unmolding and enjoying.
  11. Makes 12-14 standard size muffins.
Sweetener - although you could use coarse sugar in place of the maple syrup (adding it to the dry ingredients), I like the taste of maple syrup and find that it adds to the moistness of these muffins.
Banana Whip - blending the banana thoroughly with the other moist ingredients not only distributes the flavor throughout the muffins it is also another great tool in creating levity and moistness in the whole grain batter.
Molds - I used paper cup liners for the photos in this post however I find silicone muffin molds the most practical and useful - (no tugging and no muffin left behind, everything slides out easily in one piece) - a worthwhile investment and you can find them at many hardware stores at a very reasonable price.
Flavor - I find these muffins gain flavor over time. Be sure to allow them to sit for at least 15 minutes after you take them out of the oven to allow the muffins to cool and the flavors to develop.
Storage - you can store these muffins in an airtight container or ziploc bag in the fridge for up to 3 days. The muffins also freeze beautifully.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 83 grams (1 of 12 muffins) Calories: 127 Fat: 5.7 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 17.6 g Sugar: 10 g Sodium: 11 mg Fiber: 2 g Protein: 2.3 g Cholesterol: 14 mg

blueberry burst breakfast muffins for back-to-school

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Black Bean Tacos with Mediterranean Salsa (Gluten Free)

black bean tacos with salsa

We’ve been doing some collaborative cooking in our home lately.

Last week our youngest made this dish ~ a fairly detailed and somewhat laborious recipe for a young cook and I was happy to partake in both the result and the journey.  He managed it with quiet confidence and persistence working through each of the steps and even made a second trip back to the store on his bike when he realized we didn’t have sour cream (I suggested Greek yogurt but was overruled – he made the right call). I have to admit I enjoyed the mom break ~ so nice to have someone else prepping food for a change but more than that, it was one of those satisfying moments when you see your child’s culinary prowess expand beyond spreading peanut butter (although we all know peanut butter sandwiches are tough to beat).

Our fourteen-year-old wasn’t the only one donning a chef’s hat last week though.  My husband, who is one of the most hands-on people I know (fixer, builder, forest tamer) rarely shows his talent in the kitchen (he’s an outdoorsy kind of guy) but when we recently returned home from holidays to a bazillion (maybe more) ripe tomatoes waiting for us in our garden, we decided on the spot that a salsa making party for two would ensue.

So with music playing and cervezas flowing, we went about cutting, chopping, squeezing and mixing with great gusto and had the best time.  I had forgotten how much fun it is to cook together!  And the result was delicious.

garden tomatoes_blog

(yes, those are squash growing beside our tomatoes – squee!)

Chunky, satisfying and packed with a range of lip-smacking flavors, this is a delicious and hearty salsa that harmonizes beautifully with a range of proteins. While you can certainly serve it as a traditional dip, our preference was to enjoy it heaped into our tacos (so good!).   A perfect complement to our gently spiced al dente beans.  Leaving the veggies in whole form (chopped vs pulverized in a blender) makes this salsa work particularly well as a taco filling. I served the tacos with a generous bowl of guacamole, a side of garden fresh green beans and some fluffy quinoa.

Corn tortilla shells (gluten free) have a different texture and taste than wheat tortillas and they also grill differently (they take longer to char) but with a little persistence, you can get them to crisp up nicely.  I often grill tortillas right on our gas cooktop in the kitchen – keeping a careful eye and using tongs to flip.  It works like a charm.

grilled black bean corn tacos with salsa

Alternatively, you can heat the shells in the oven covered in foil (as they appear in the main photo – warm/steamed but not charred/crisp).

I decided to give this salsa a bit of a Mediterranean twist adding green olive, lemon and fresh parsley but you can play around with ingredient choices that work best for you.  Similarly, you can substitute any desired protein in place of the beans ~ we have made this recipe a few times now and switched up the protein each time.  The grill is wonderful this time of year so take full advantage.

Experiment, have fun and consider making this recipe with others – it’s a ton of fun!

black bean tacos with salsa_blog 5

As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for helpful information and best results.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Black Bean Tacos with Mediterranean Salsa (Gluten Free)
Prep time
Total time
A chunky and full-bodied Mediterranean salsa complements lightly spiced black beans in a gluten-free corn tortilla.
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: Serves 4
  • For the Tacos:
  • 12 small (5" x 5") soft corn tortillas
  • 4 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander

  • For the Salsa:
  • 2 lbs (about 6 large tomatoes), seeded and cut into ¼" or so pieces
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers depending on heat tolerance (seeded for less heat), finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed, salted and finely chopped
  • ½ field cucumber (skin on), chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ red onion, chopped (about ⅓ cup)
  • 8 large Italian gourmet green olives in oil, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  1. Place cooked and cooled black beans in a mixing bowl. Spritz with a touch of olive oil and season with cumin, paprika, garlic and coriander. Hand mix or gently mix with spoon taking care not to mash the beans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine jalapenos, garlic, onion, cucumber and olives. The olives should be oiled. If they are on the dry side, add a touch of olive oil to the mixture.
  3. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice to the bowl and carefully mix to combine.
  4. Fold in the fresh cilantro and parsley.
  5. Allow the flavors to permeate in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. Remove from fridge, taste and make any flavor adjustments desired.
  6. Place in a serving bowl and enjoy with tacos or as desired. Store any remaining salsa in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Dry vs. Canned Beans: I prefer cooking dry (dehydrated) beans over using precooked canned beans for at least three reasons:
1) Home prep allows you to soak your beans before cooking which can ease common digestive distress associated with eating beans ~ simply soak beans overnight in a pot of covered water and then drain and rinse the next day. You can also use a quick soaking method which is to boil the beans in water for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for an hour.
2) Home cooked beans have a superior taste and texture. Canned beans tend to be overcooked and mushy - preparing your own beans allows you to cook them just to the point of being al dente so they retain their spring and resilience.
3) Most canned beans continue to be made with Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a known toxin that is used in the lining of many food and beverage cans. Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and when ingested can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.
Why Seed the Tomatoes: don't be tempted to leave the seeds in the tomatoes when prepping this salsa. The seeds contain most of the water and if included, you will end up with salsa soup :)
How to Seed the Tomatoes: my preference is to simply cut the tomato in half and then quarters and use a spoon to scoop out the seed sac in each segment - if you squeeze the tomato to extract the seeds, you will bruise the skin of the tomato which stars in the salsa.
Jalapenos: Jalapenos vary in heat. The ones I used in this recipe are from our garden and very hot. We started with two but quickly realized one was ample. You can always add more if you feel it is too mild but removing the heat is difficult. You can also experiment with other peppers (serrano, poblano, aleppo) as desired or skip the heat element all together.
Olives: I love Kalamata olives but they are so robust in flavor, I chose not to use them here because I didn't want them dominating the other more subtle and delicious flavors going in the salsa. Green olives are better team players that way ;-).

black bean tacos with salsa_blog 2

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Grilled Corn & Zucchini Ribbon Salad with an Herbed Buttermilk Dressing

cottage holiday_2015

We made it back to our cabin in the woods for the first time in two years.

It sits atop a forested hill overlooking a quiet, clean lake. We bought the original fishing cabin about 12 years ago with its bumps and bruises and have since fixed it up, little by little, turning it into something slightly more livable for our family. The functionality has improved but the simplicity remains the same.

Wifi free we disconnect from the noise around us for a while and enjoy long swims with warbling loons, sunset sails and roaring campfires that endure through the night.

One deliciously lazy afternoon my husband and I sat in a trance watching a couple of hummingbirds catch water droplets off our rotating sprinkler.  Their suspended bodies vibrating wildly as the sun hit their iridescent wings in bands of silver and gold.

Above our outstretched bodies on the dock, the night sky is clear and black and filled with winking stars.  We fall asleep to a racket of throaty frogs and wake to a most enthusiastic, and early rising, woodpecker. Even this is welcome.

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On my favorite walk to nowhere along the winding gravel road, I encounter not one but six wild rabbits in pairs of two. Observing and then eventually photographing, it occurs to me that one of them is stuck and unmoving – frozen in the middle of the road and without a friend.  Flush with guilt, I gently crouch down and then lay flat on my back to remove any perceived threat and watch the bunny bounce to freedom out of the corner of my eye.

cottage wabbit

I never realized just how high and far rabbits can jump.  I’ve only ever been up close to them in cages before.

All the things we look at but don’t see.

~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And this salad…

grilled corn & zucchini ribbon salad_blog

Full of seasonal goodness! Thin strips of raw zucchini are surrounded by paprika spiced grilled corn, creamy avocado, juicy blueberry and crunchy sunflower seeds ~ the salad is then drizzled in a soothing honey-herb buttermilk dressing.

I’ve been working on perfecting my homespun version of buttermilk ranch and I’m so pleased with the result. It only takes a few minutes to whip it up too. Be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card for best results.

And remember, there’s still plenty of summer to enjoy so let’s not rush the process.  The snow will arrive soon enough; meantime, let’s savor the green.

cottage holiday_farmers' fields

4.0 from 1 reviews
Grilled Corn and Zucchini Ribbon Salad
Prep time
Total time
Thinly sliced raw zucchini noodles are surrounded by grilled corn, avocado, sunflower seeds and blueberry and then drizzled in a soothing honey buttermilk dressing.
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: Serves 4
  • The Salad
  • 2 ears of shucked corn cooked on the grill, (or 1 cup corn kernels)
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 medium sized zucchinis, sliced thin with a mandoline
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seed
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries

  • The Herbed Buttermilk Dressing
  • 4 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp natural mayonnaise (see Notes)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp honey
  • pinch sea salt, coarse pepper
  • 2 tsp finely chopped dill
  1. At least one hour before serving time, assemble the Herb Buttermilk dressing ingredients in a container with fitted lid shaking and/or whisking to fully combine - store in fridge. Making the dressing ahead allows the ingredients time to harmonize and the flavors to develop.
  2. Brush shucked corn with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
  3. Heat barbecue to high setting and then reduce to low heat as you place corn on the grill.
  4. Grill corn for approximately 6-8 minutes, rotating as you go along and adding more paprika if you wish, until the corn is cooked and nicely browned in spots.
  5. Carefully remove corn from grill and allow cobs to cool slightly before slicing the corn off the cobs with a knife.
  6. Assemble zucchini ribbons on a serving plate and top with grilled corn, chopped avocado, blueberries and sunflower seeds.
  7. Remove Herbed Buttermilk dressing from fridge, give it a good shake or whisk and taste making any final flavor adjustments desired before drizzling over salad. Enjoy!
Make ahead option - you can prepare the grilled corn ahead of time and simply store the kernels in the fridge until you are ready to make the salad.
Mandoline - if you search the word mandoline on my site you will see all of the recipes I've made using my mandoline (a worthwhile $14 investment).
Raw Zucchini - I have come to love the taste of raw zucchini - particularly in the company of a delicious dressing - but if it's not your thing, you could grill the strips along with the corn in a vegetable basket.
Sizing - I know many of you are growing your own gorgeous garden zucchini and I have seen some the size of an adult's head! If you are working with a huge zucchini just slice enough to reasonably accommodate your salad servings.
Non-grill option - if you don't have a grill or don't wish to use it for this recipe, simply use 1 cup of sweet corn kernels (you can boil the cobs or steam from frozen). If you wish you can also sauté some corn in a skillet with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.
Mayonnaise - I prefer a simple olive oil & egg mixture for mayonnaise which can be tricky to find in stores. (Even the one's that announce that they are made with olive oil almost always list soybean oil as the first ingredient). A combination of fat fear and a preference for cheap oil means that the more traditional whole ingredients are scarce on the shelves. Empire mayonnaise is one brand available at Whole Foods but you can also try your hand at making your own mayo - it's wonderfully simple - here is one method.

grilled corn & zucchini ribbon salad_blog_2

cottage holiday_4_2015

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Blueberry Basil Frozen Yogurt ~ all natural froyo!

5 minute blueberry basil frozen yogurt_1

I’m so excited to share this delicious and refreshing little number with you before things wind down over here for summer break.

I’m always amazed to discover how a small collection of ingredients can harmonize to create such complex flavor.  And in this case, it all happens in about 5 minutes – no ice cream/yogurt equipment required and no need to spend a ton of money at a froyo shop.  You can make this in the comfort of your own home any time day or night.

For this recipe, all you will need is some frozen fruit, yogurt, whatever add-ins you wish and a simple blender.

blueberry basil frozen yogurt

Nourishing, gorgeously addicting, and hydrating too.  You can have fun playing around with different combinations of fruit, herbs and flavors.  Another garden herb we love with blueberry is mint — my son makes blueberry mint popsicles and they are seriously gooood.

Word to the wise ~ I’ve been making homespun treats of this nature for a few years now and one thing I can tell you is that these cold snacks/desserts are always best served right from the blender.  If you leave them out too long at room temperature (or even in the fridge) the frozen fruit will begin to thaw and you will end up with a little puddle.  If you try to freeze and save for later, the consistency will change and become grainy and pasty — not good.

So if there are any rules, I would say serve immediately.  Otherwise, be a rebel. You can assemble all of your ingredients ahead of time (while keeping the fruit frozen) and then just give it a whirl when you’re ready to enjoy.   You can also modify quantity, varying the batch size to suit your needs.

5 minute blueberry basil frozen yogurt_blog

Now I did try a balsamic version (just part of the sacrifices I make) — subbing balsamic for the lemon juice but, to my surprise, I didn’t like it very much.  Not much at all, in fact.  In this particular recipe, I found the balsamic contributed too much on the sweet side and not enough on the tart side – not my thing but you could certainly play around and see what suits you best.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Blueberry Basil Frozen Yogurt ~ all natural froyo!
Prep time
Total time
An all natural frozen yogurt that comes together in a snap!
Serves: About 3 cups of froyo
  • 4 heaping cups frozen blueberries (or frozen chopped fruit of choice)
  • 1 generous cup plain Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp pure maple syrup (or sweetener of choice*) depending on taste preference
  • Handful fresh basil leaves
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well combined, stopping to scrape down sides of blender, as needed. The consistency will be fairly thick but will begin to thin relatively quickly.
  2. Be sure to serve right after blending for best consistency and taste!
The consistency - you can adjust the consistency of the froyo as necessary - if it's too thick to work with, add a little more lemon juice or frozen fruit. If it's on the fluid side, add more yogurt as desired.
Use frozen fruit - you can experiment with different fruit, citrus juice/zest and herbs here but the fruit needs to be frozen in order for this recipe to work - frozen berries work especially well but you could experiment with other frozen fruit such as mango, kiwi and melon chunks to see how you like the texture.
Serve Immediately - I mentioned this in the body of the post but it's important to serve this snack/dessert right from the blender for best taste/texture results.
The sweet factor - the amount of sweetener you add, if any, will depend on your taste preference but keep in mind that fruit is already quite sweet by nature and if you choose to use a flavored yogurt, you may want to skip the additional sweetener all together.
Why Greek Yogurt - I favor Greek yogurt for its exceptional protein content and gorgeous texture. All yogurts, regardless of milk fat content, begin the same way - by adding bacterial cultures to milk. Greek yogurt begins this way but it soon departs from other yogurt brands in that the milk is strained to remove the liquid whey. According to manufacturers, this process of straining means that as many as four pounds of milk are required to produce one pound of Greek yogurt. The resulting product is a far more concentrated source of protein (from casein) and a thick and creamy texture characteristic of Greek yogurt (regardless of fat content - even zero fat Greek yogurt has a cream-like texture reminiscent of sour cream - though I generally use 2% fat content). You will pay more for Greek yogurt but I think you will find that you get what you pay for.

sunset on the lake ie

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7 Natural Strategies for Healthy Skin this Summer

Our skin is our largest and fastest-growing organ.  It is our first line of defense, protecting our interior, helping regulate our body temperature and allowing us to experience the sensation of touch. And like all other body parts, our skin requires and responds to care.

Much of what we see on the exterior of our bodies is a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. You can certainly spend a great deal of money on skin care products and cosmetics that work on the surface but my view is that you will be far more successful over the long run working from the inside out.  Not surprisingly then, this feature focuses on recommendations that support our beautiful, radiant skin from the inside out ~ including, of course, our diets.

The Balance between sufficient Vitamin D & Overexposure 

Our best source of vitamin D comes from the sun.  Ensuring adequate amounts of vitamin D throughout the year is important for supporting our immune system and allowing our bodies to absorb calcium but too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation can prematurely age our skin and leave us vulnerable to skin cancer.

cottage splendor

The amount of sun exposure we require to produce sufficient vitamin D will depend on the strength of the sun (time of day/where we live), and the color of our skin.  When the sun is strong, only brief periods of exposure (five to ten minutes) without sunscreen a few times per week is generally sufficient to produce adequate vitamin D in most individuals.  Those with darker skin may require more.  During the non-summer months when our body stores begin to drop, supplementation of vitamin D becomes important (our diets cannot supply sufficient amounts).

The best way to gauge vitamin D levels is to have them tested (this is obtained through routine blood work that can be requested from your physician).


1. First things First: Ensure Adequate Protection

The best way to protect our skin and avoid sun damage is to take the necessary precautions, including:

  • staying out of the sun during the hottest times of the day
  • applying adequate sun block throughout the day
  • investing in a quality sun hat with a generous rim
  • wearing suitable clothing — this is something I have really expanded on since moving to CA – I wear light fabric cotton shirts that are not heavy but that fully cover my skin right up to the neck (no more scoop or v-necks) and have also found light weight shawls useful – the sun is relentless here.

2. Work in some Lycopene

There is a natural sun protector found in our diet that may also help prevent sun damage.  It is the carotenoid known as lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found primarily in cooked tomato (tomato paste is a particularly concentrated source) but also in watermelon and pink grapefruit.  It has been linked to the reduction of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease and more recently to the reduction of photodamage.

In a recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, scientists from the University of Manchester revealed that lycopene found in tomato paste offered skin protection against ultraviolet radiation by inhibiting free radical damage and supporting collagen production.  The study also demonstrated that lycopene reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA.  This is an exciting and promising new area of research. Tomato paste has never tasted so good in this Zucchini Pasta with garden fresh Marinara

zucchini pasta_blog

3. Get your Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that protects collagen fibers from injury and supports new collagen growth helping to firm the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  In addition to citrus, dose up on vitamin C with red bell pepper, broccoli, kiwi fruit and succulent summer strawberries.  One of my favorite wake-ups ~ Cooling Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats

Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats_blog

4. Add Omega-3s – In addition to their anti-inflammatory effect on the body, the rich emollient nature of Omega-3 fatty acids help restore hydration and prevent drying skin by supporting the skin’s ceramide barrier.  Fish based Omega-3 fats (EPA/DHA) can be found in salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, krill, anchovies and rainbow trout.  Plant based Omega-3 fats (ALA) can be found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, hempseed, hempseed oil, walnuts and Canola oil.  These simple and vibrant Chili-Rubbed Salmon Bowls are packed with flavor.

chili rubbed salmon bowls_IE

5. Savor Glorious Green TeaA study published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that the polyphenol content in green tea can protect skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation and help improve overall skin quality.  Study participants who consumed green tea beverage for 12 weeks experienced improvements in blood flow and oxygen to the skin; a reduction in UV-induced inflammation (by 25 %) and improved structural characteristics including skin elasticity and hydration.  Summer perfect Green Tea (matcha) Soft Serve

Green Tea (Matcha) Soft Serve_IE

6. Eat the Rainbow – The warm summer months are best suited to a lighter diet of fresh, water-rich foods, which is precisely what nature provides.  Fresh foods are available throughout the warm weather season, allowing us to minimize indoor heating and maximize our nutrient intake.

The glorious rich pigmented colors we see in produce come from their phytonutrient content – plant compounds that act as disease fighting antioxidants in the body.  They help support our immune system and protect us against various forms of illness and environmental harm.  Produce is also rich in health-building fibre and water which supports our hydration needs during the warm weather months.

jasmine fruit

Since different colors produce unique phytonutrients, incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables from the different color groups into the diet is key.

  • Radiant Reds: beets, cherries, cranberries; pomegranates; pink grapefruit; radish; raspberries; red apples; cabbage; red grapes; rhubarb; strawberries; tomatoes; watermelon;
  • Opulent Oranges: apricots; cantaloupe; carrots; grapefruit; mangoes; nectarines; tangerines, oranges; papayas; peaches; pumpkin; rutabaga; squash; sweet potatoes;
  • Gorgeous Greens: artichokes; asparagus; avocados; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; celery; collard greens; cucumbers; green apples; green beans; green grapes; green peppers; kale; kiwi; limes; peas; spinach; zucchini;
  • Bountiful Blues/Purples: blackberries; blueberries; eggplant; figs; plums; prunes; purple grapes; raisins; purple potatoes;
  • Luscious Yellows/Whites: bananas; cauliflower; corn; lemons; pears; golden apples; coconuts; fennel; garlic; onions; parsnips; potatoes; shallots; turnip.

7. Hydrate Sufficiently – A diet rich in produce will support hydration but factors to keep in mind when appropriately fueling hydration needs include: ambient temperature, activity levels (the amount of water you are losing through sweating) and general health.  Consumption of diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol, also increase urinary output requiring more water consumption to make up for this loss.

Ideas for enhancing taste — some delicious ways of enlivening the taste of water include adding fresh herbs, edible flowers, fruit and vegetables to your beverages. Some choices include: sliced cucumber,  lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, berries, pomegranate, mint, thyme, jasmine, rosemary and lavender.  You can also enjoy herbal teas and sparkling water or add a splash of your favorite unsweetened fruit juice to water. Smoothies are another delicious way to stay hydrated (and nourished).  Have fun experimenting and coming up with your own combinations.

The information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician or other health care professional directly before beginning or changing a course of health treatment.

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3 Artisan Herb Butters you will love!

Here we are at the onset of summer.  The season of warmth, abundance and discovery.

My husband and I marvel at the rate of growth and the pace of change as we walk our little garden together in the morning.

sweet bell pepper_km

Sometimes we have to crouch down low, turn ourselves upside down on the ground or slide branches sideways to get a full view of the beauty around us. Each day holds a new wonder and we do whatever we can to put ourselves in the middle of it.

flowering feijoa_blog

Whether you’re making your own discoveries in sunlit windows, on balconies, in yards or at your favorite farmers’ market, now is the ideal time to take advantage of nature’s bounty.

A few weeks ago, I shared my unexpected but happy little problem of fast growing herbs and these fragrant green bouquets I started making for neighbors to keep up with growth.

Well today, I’m sharing another way to use up these garden fresh beauties in the form of delicious and versatile compound butters — have you made them before?  Truly one of the simplest and most satisfying condiments you will ever hand assemble.

3 artisan compound butters you will love!

Compound butter is simply butter that has additional ingredients mixed in to enhance flavor (and texture) — but the amazing thing is that the combinations are truly endless.  So you can let your imagination run in all directions — savory, spicy, sour and/or sweet — depending on taste preference and what you intend to use the butter for.  I came across a rosemary, shallot and red wine version a year or two ago that had my toes curling… I mean, could you imagine a more delicious bring-along for a summer picnic?

3 artisan compound butters you will love! 1

And aren’t they cute? We just love the shape and artisanal quality of them.  (I think they would make a beautiful hostess gift bundled in simple parchment and hand tied on either end – you could add a tag identifying the type of butter and attach an herb or two to the outside.  So fun).

3 artisan compound butters you will love! 2

While olive oil is the fat that is used most commonly in our home, there are some foods for which, in my view, there is simply no substitute for butter:

lemon rosemary-oregano compound butter_blog

Am I right?

These recipes are entirely adaptable and not just in terms of herbs but other taste enhancers including the pungent allium family (onion, garlic, chive, leek, shallot) — the citrus family (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit zest) and the full gamut of spices.  So you can play around with different combinations and experiment with your favorites.

The artisan butters also freeze well so you can preserve them longer and minimize spoilage.  Perfect for picnics, potlucks, garden parties and hostess gifts.

Our favorite? We sincerely liked all of these combinations (and enjoyed taste testing them on various foods) but if I had to pick one, it might be the dark horse ~ basil, black pepper and garlic.

Basil, Black Pepper & Garlic Compound Butter


I hope you have fun with these – we certainly did. Be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for more information and best results.

3.0 from 2 reviews
3 Compound Herb Butters you will love!
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
3 Delicious Artisan Compound Butters made from Fresh Garden Herbs
Recipe type: Condiment
Serves: Makes 3 blocks of artisan butter
  • Lemon, Rosemary-Oregano & Sea Salt Butter
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 + ½ Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • ½ Tbsp finely chopped oregano
  • ½ tsp lemon zest or to taste
  • ¾ tsp sea salt of choice

  • Cilantro, Lime & Chile Salt Butter
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp lime zest or to taste
  • For the Chile Salt: ¾ tsp coarse salt of choice, pinch of chile of choice* I used ancho

  • Basil, Black Pepper & Garlic Butter
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  1. The instruction method is the same for each recipe.
  2. In a suitably sized bowl, place butter and add all ingredients mixing well to incorporate.
  3. At this stage it is sometimes helpful, if the butter is too soft, to return the mixed compound to the fridge to harden somewhat before trying to roll it (see Notes section below).
  4. Once the butter has achieved the right temperature, transfer contents onto a piece of parchment paper (about 10" x 10") and roughly shape into a log form (don't worry about the shape too much - it might just look like an awkward heap but it should roll out well regardless provided the butter is room temperature). There are a number of web based videos (youtube, etc) that illustrate how to roll compound butter if you would like a visual queue - some like rolling in plastic wrap, I prefer parchment.
  5. Beginning at one end, roll the paper around the butter until you reach the other end - roll the wrapped butter back and forth to smooth and shape and then seal the ends by twisting - once you twist you will see how compact and shaped it becomes - magic!
  6. Chill the butter in the refrigerator until firm, at least one hour.
  7. These compound butters will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and in the freezer for a couple of months.
The Butter I used a quality organic butter for these compounds. If you wish to add your own variety of salt (or create a spiced salt such as the chile-salt), be sure to purchase unsalted butter as the base.
The Temperature of the Butter You want the butter to be soft enough to mix with the ingredients but not too soft that it's impossible to roll. The ideal is room temperature. If your butter is too soft to hold any shape at all, place it back in the fridge until it achieves room temperature.
Amount of Butter I used ½ cup increments of butter in these recipes as my base but you could easily double, triple or quadruple the batch (just remember to increase other ingredients accordingly).
The Chile there are many different kinds of chile you can use for the chile-salt; it really just depends on the type of flavor impact you are looking for. Ground chile peppers such as cayenne and habanero are amongst the hottest varieties so you will want to use these chile powders carefully and in small pinches (1/8 tsp) particularly if you are new to them. Ancho chile is beautifully complex and warm (but not as hot as cayenne/habanero). Paprika and chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeno) are other favorites. The more generic ‘chili powder’ that you find in the grocery store is really a mixture of milder chile peppers with the addition of herbs/spices such as onion/garlic powder and salt and may be more suitable for youngsters and those who don't tolerate or enjoy heat.
The Raw Additions If raw garlic is not your thing, you can sauté or roast the garlic instead (same goes with onion, etc).
Herb Health - A promising study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry last year showed that both rosemary and oregano contain compounds that may assist in inhibiting type 2 Diabetes - research is ongoing.

3 artisan compound butters you will love! 3


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