What Works: April 2016

What works: April 2016

7 THINGS THAT WORK THIS MONTH:

  1. 5 Kitchen Must-Haves // Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Joe asked this question: “what are five things in your kitchen you’d never be without?” I found this question both fun and perplexing – I had no problem coming up with my kitchen must-haves, but felt tortured to narrow my list to only five. I ended up with: eggs, butter, navy beans, parsley, and hot sauce. What would be on your list? [A Cup of Joe]
  2. Spring Vegetable Tart // I made this asparagus and goat cheese tart/quiche for an Easter brunch and it was a hit. It would be the perfect thing to make on a weekend and eat a slice for breakfast each day of the week. If you’re looking for a good quiche crust recipe, I like this one from Urban Poser. [Bon Appetit]
  3. Helping Others Change Habits // It’s great that you want to help others develop more sustainable habits, but are you making a classic mistake? There’s one damning phrase that we tend to say when we’re trying to push our own habits and personalities on someone else. [Gretchen Rubin]
  4. Smoothies // So many of my clients find themselves subconsciously avoiding their beloved morning smoothies during the winter because it’s just too cold. With the onset of spring and sunnier mornings, I’ve found myself embracing the morning smoothie once again. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can find my favorite recipes on Pinterest.
  5. Regulations for Ultra-Processed Food // The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization has released nutritional profile standards that help governments distinguish fresh or minimally processed foods from ultra processed foods. There’s a lot of work to be done, but these guidelines can eventually help regulate food marketing to children as well as food served in schools, inform warning labels, assess government subsidies, and a lot more. [Food Politics]
  6. Closed-Loop Cooking // Have you ever considered the amount of waste we produce when cooking? One woman’s story about reducing waste and eating well may inspire you to survey your trash. [Grist]
  7. Cooking Tips from Thomas Keller // Thomas Keller is the famed chef of The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc and he shares three simple tips for the home cook. Hint: it’s always about salt and heat. [Splendid Table]

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

What Works: March 2016

7 Nutrition tips for March 2016

7 THINGS THAT WORK THIS MONTH:

  1. A Clean Kitchen // Apparently messy kitchens, rooms, and desks can cause us to eat more, particularly more sweet foods. Based on this research, an interesting resolution would be to focus more on keeping a clean kitchen than on a specific dietary regime. [NPR]
  2. Cold Pans // I tend to operate with the assumption that, when cooking, I should start with a hot pan. This isn’t always the case and Bon Appetit breaks down when it’s best to start cold. [Bon Appetit]
  3. Collagen // We tend to focus on muscle meats which contain all the essential amino acids, but apparently the non-essential aminos may be important too. Here are 10 reasons to eat more collagen-containing foods like bone broth, skin, shanks, ribs, and powdered gelatin. [Mark’s Daily Apple]
  4. Bare Bones Broth // Speaking of collagen, bone broth is a great source of collagen and glycine and is one of my favorite, nutrient-dense, secret ingredients. I aim to drink 1 cup per day and it’s hard to always have homemade stock on hand. I’ve been enjoying ordering from Bare Bones Broth – they make “sippable” broths combined with either rosemary + garlic or tomato + clove. They’re delicious and my freezer is full of them.
  5. The Language of Food: A linguist reads the menu // I’ve been listening to this fascinating book (I downloaded the audio version to play while I cook) by Dan Jurafsky about the words we use to describe food and its associated flavors. From marketing tactics to the evolution of recipes, looking at food from the mind of a linguist illuminates an often surprising history.
  6. Oatmeal Cookies // They’re free of white sugar and processed flour, meaning they’re perfect for breakfast. I’ve been using this recipe, but switching out the chocolate chips for dried apricots, walnuts, and ginger.
  7. Still Not Working: Plastics // Many manufacturers have stopped using Bisphenol A (BPA) to strengthen plastic after animal studies linked it to early puberty and a rise in breast and prostate cancers. Many companies are now replacing BPA with BPS in their “BPA-free” products, which may not be safer. New research suggests it’s still best to stick with glass, wood, or stainless steel products. [Science Daily]

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

What Works: February 2016

Nourished Living in February 2016

8 THINGS THAT WORK THIS MONTH:

  1. No food is healthy. Not even kale. // This article by Michael Ruhlman calls out the confusing nature of food claims, reminding us that food can be nutritious, but not healthy. Understanding this rhetoric can help us make wiser food choices and feel more comfortable in the gray area between “good” and “bad” foods.
  2. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work // I’ve been listening to this audiobook while I cook (see How to Enjoy Cooking Part 2 for why) and I’ve been fascinated by the wildly different daily rituals of prolific and esteemed creators and thinkers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by trying to make your routine as productive and “healthy” as possible, this book might give you the freedom you need to chart your own course.
  3. Instacart // If you’re one of my personal nutrition clients, you probably already know how much I love Instacart. Groceries delivered to my door within 2 hours? Yes, please! This is one of the tools that really keeps me on track with cooking meals consistently at home. If you’re lucky enough to live in an instacart delivery area, I encourage you to try it – it just might change your life. (Use this link for $10 off your groceries)
  4. Pressed Juicery’s Greens 1.5 // I don’t drink a lot of juice, but Pressed Juicery’s Greens 1.5 has been hitting the spot after my workouts. I specifically like Greens 1.5 because it’s full of low-glycemic vegetables and contains a pinch of sea salt to replenish electrolytes. It provides great hydration and holds me over until I can get home and eat a meal.
  5. Hot Yoga // I’ve never been one to commit to one exercise method as a lifestyle, preferring rather to jump around and do whatever feels best for my body at the time. That said, I’ve been enjoying hot yoga (Bikram) for some time now because it’s such a great way to do some good sweating. I go once every 1-2 weeks and am sure to drink tons of water starting the day before my class so I’m well hydrated. The hot room is beneficial for circulation and flexibility and sweating is actually great for your skin, as long as you shower it off right away. (For you locals, I recommend Yoga Source in Palo Alto)
  6. The Kinfolk Table // This cookbook was published in 2013, but I finally got my very own copy this past Christmas. Kinfolk is unique in that it profiles home cooks from all over the world and tells stories about what a meal shared with friends means to them. The recipes are special and the flavors span the globe. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for inspiration for small gatherings.
  7. Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Olives // I’ve been obsessed with this recipe for a couple of months now, making it pretty much every time I have guests over for dinner. It’s an easy recipe that can be put in the oven before guests arrive and the ingredients are perfect for winter. I serve it with a simple green salad and Forbidden Rice Pilaf.
  8. A Perfect Green Salad // I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out, but the trick to a perfect green salad is to remove the ribs from the lettuce, using just the light, fluffy leaves. It’s so easy to buy a box of pre-washed salad greens, but if you really want to impress your friends, buy a head of green or red-leaf lettuce, wash and dry each leaf, tear the leaves away from the ribs, and dress with a simple vinaigrette.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

What Works: January 2016

What works January 2016

8 THINGS THAT WORK THIS MONTH:

  1. First Bite: How We Learn To Eat // Bee Wilson’s book on how we develop and can change taste preferences is a must-read for picky eaters, new parents, and anyone interested in redeeming tangled histories with food.
  2. The Norwegian Secret to a Long Winter // Many of my clients notice at least a little bit of seasonal affective disorder during the darker months. If we experience this here in sunny California, imagine what it may be like in northern latitudes with little to no sunlight during certain months of the year. This article about the attitude of Norwegians is encouraging.
  3. Saltverk Sea Salt // I fell in love with this salt in Iceland and found that I can order it on Amazon! The flaky sea salt is fabulous, but if you’re up for adventure try the lava or birch salts.
  4. Forbidden Rice // I made a delicious forbidden rice dish to share at a Christmas potluck and I got hooked on this tasty black rice. The dark color comes from the same anthocyanins found in blueberries and acai berries and has been linked to health benefits like reducing inflammation, healthier arteries, and better insulin regulation. Look for “black” or “forbidden” rice at your local grocery store.
  5. Bon Appetit // This magazine has been around for a long time, but I’ve recently subscribed and I’m impressed. It’s not touted as a “healthy” magazine, but the best recipes don’t need to rely on heavy amounts of cheese, salt, or sugar for flavor. I’ve found wonderful vegetable, meat, and grain recipes in the pages of Bon Appetit, along with lots of inspiration to try something new.
  6. Lip Sheers // Beauty Counter’s Lip Sheers were my go-to Christmas gift because, not only do they look and feel great, but they also have a “1” rating from the EWG which means they’re good enough to eat (which you’ll end up doing if you wear them on your lips all day).
  7. 2016 Food Trend Predictions // Yahoo Food has predicted 16 food trends for the upcoming year, some of which I’m very excited about! Things like poke, fermentation, seaweed, and waste-free kitchens make me want to eat lunch with the cool kids.
  8. Sugar Still Doesn’t Work // Researchers at the University of Texas Cancer Center have found that “fructose, in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, was responsible for facilitating lung metastasis and 12-HETE production in breast tumors.”

Healthy Tips for 2016: Bon Appetiit Magazine

Saltverk Icelandic Sea Salt

Beauty Counter Lip Sheers

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • Mise En Place: I shared my experience with this helpful kitchen prep technique and how it can turn you into a capable cook.
  • Travel + Well – Iceland: My time in Iceland was life-changing and I’ve shared my best tips on I stayed nourished during my trip. Click over for what to eat, where to stay, and what to do in Reykjavik and Selfoss.
  • Potatoes: The potato has a long and storied history, which I’ve detailed here along with how to select, store, and prepare potatoes in the most nourishing way.

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2016!

Travel + Well: Iceland

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide

Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my and my husband’s bucket lists for some time so when it came time to plan our tenth anniversary celebration, our goal was to check it off the list. Iceland did not disappoint! We spent 10 days adventuring, eating, and taking in the sights, including the Northern Lights – twice!

So many of my clients are part of the jet-set crowd and we work together to create plans to keep them healthy and energetic while traveling. Most of my suggestions come from my own experiences as well as sourced from the tips you all have shared with me. With this spirit of sharing in mind, I wanted to share my Icelandic travel experience with you so it might inspire you to travel healthy and well on your next trip!

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Restaurants   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Restaurants

TASTE

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Much to everyone’s surprise, the food in Iceland was delicious! There’s not much variety, with Iceland being an island in the arctic and all, but the Icelandic attention to detail and commitment to craft comes through in every aspect of the dining experience. Nordic cooking focuses on using the best quality, local ingredients and on most menus you’ll find fresh fish, lamb, wintry vegetables like potatoes, kale, cabbage, beets, and fish soup. The fish soup was to die for – a delicious blend of butter, wine, and wild-caught fish and shellfish. I can’t wait to try making this at home!

Every restaurant I visited was delicious, with special mentions going to Kol, Fish Company, and Snaps (I ate brunch here twice!). Eating out is fun, but I try to eat some meals in when I travel, even if I’m staying in a hotel without a kitchen. In Iceland I took advantage of their traditional Skyr yogurt for breakfast along with some fresh fruit found at the store and some granola that I had brought from home. When I went out to breakfast, I typically enjoyed some smoked salmon or trout, a green salad, and roasted root vegetables. Juicing is quite popular in Iceland, so I would order a nice green juice along with my meal.

In such a dry environment, it’s important to stay hydrated. The tap water in Iceland is some of the purest water in the world, so I enjoyed filling up my water bottle straight from the faucet. I always travel with my own Life Factory water bottle so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles during my trip.

Iceland is known for its artisanal salt production and uses geothermal energy to harvest the salt from the seawater. I’m a little bit of a salt fanatic (you can read my thoughts about salt here), so I was stoked to load up on specialty salts from Saltverk during my trip. Along with a variety of different flake sizes of sea salt (I know, I know!), I was also tempted by lava salt, birch salt, and arctic thyme salt. I couldn’t fit them all in my suitcase, but I’ve discovered that I can buy them on Amazon here in the United States!

Healthy Iceland Guide: Downtown Reykjavik   IMG_5158 Healthy Iceland Guide: Ion Hotel   IMG_5555

STAY

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Because my hotel is my “home away from home” while I’m on vacation, I try to select one that will help me maintain some healthy habits. The first factor I consider is location. I love staying somewhere that allows me to walk most places and explore the city. Because my regular exercise routine is typically disrupted during travel, I like to incorporate a lot of walking into my vacations. Due to the cold temperatures in Iceland, I also wanted to stay somewhere with a hot tub or sauna – a way to warm up after a cold, outdoor adventure. I also typically look for a hotel with a workout facility, but this trip was so full of outdoor physical activity that a hotel gym wasn’t necessary.

Our first stay was at 101 Hotel in downtown Reykjavik. It was a small, urban hotel located within walking distance of the entire city. The design aesthetic of the hotel (as well as all of Iceland) was so on trend. The minimal, white decor with black accents, wool blankets, doorless showers, and wall-to-wall mirrors made me feel like I was in a cool girl’s Instagram feed. The hotel had a private spa downstairs with a hot tub, shower, and sauna which I used daily to practice hydrotherapy – the practice of alternating hot and cold water – to improve circulation.

After spending time in the city, we wanted to get out and explore the Icelandic countryside. We rented a car and ventured out to Selfoss for a stay at the Ion Hotel. Pretty much everywhere you go outside of Reykjavik will feel remote, and the Ion Hotel made me feel like a James Bond villain in a secluded hideaway. Again, the location was awesome as it was just a short drive to some of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls and geysers and a short walk to incredible hiking and hot springs. The outdoor pool pumps in hot water directly from the local spring and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from the water. Because we were so remote, our only real dining option was the hotel restaurant. Luckily, the food was very good and they were able to prepare gluten free meals for us without a problem. Regardless, I came prepared for the worst and brought with me bags of jerky, trail mix, yogurt, bananas, granola, and dried fruit.

Healthy Iceland Guide: Northern Lights   Healthy Iceland Guide: Diving Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Blue Lagoon   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking

DO

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Iceland is beautiful – there’s so much to see (in every season!) and I feel like I only say a small portion of it. As I mentioned, my main goal was to see the Northern Lights – they did not disappoint! They’re a bit elusive so I suggest going with a guide to make sure you have the best experience. I was very excited to find a photography guide who not only took us to a prime viewing spot, but also taught me how to capture incredible images of the aurora on my camera. It didn’t happen if you don’t get a picture, right?

The other really unique thing I did was a dry suit SCUBA dive at Silfra. Silfra is the fissure between the North American continental plate and the Eurasian continental plate. It’s full of some of the clearest fresh water in the world and it is COLD. I was fitted for a dry suit, which keeps you toasty warm and dry. I clearly survived and the whole experience made me feel super tough – so tough that I don’t feel like I can complain about the cold anymore (though I probably sill will).

Iceland is a hotbed of geothermal activity (pun!), and the natural hot springs are a welcome respite from the cold air. Hike to a natural hot spring, or buy a ticket to the Blue Lagoon and indulge in a silica mask. Both hiking and driving by car are great ways to take in the natural beauty of Iceland. Be sure to take a drive around the “golden circle” to see the Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Golden Circle Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Golden Circle   Healthy Iceland Travel Guide: Hiking

Overall, Iceland was a magnificent experience and I highly recommend making the trip to anyone who shows even the slightest interest. With such clean air, water, and food, my body felt great during the entire trip. It’s a great place for adventurers, photographers, and introverts (!). I hope to share more travel recommendations with you in the future, but in the meantime, will you share your travel recommendations with me? Let me know how you stay healthy away from home either in the comments or by tagging #parisinutrition in your posts!

Loving This {June}

June Loving ThisJune has been the “month of fun” for this post-graduation couple and has consisted of many afternoons at the pool and meals with friends. All this sun and eating has definitely influenced my list this month, so read on for my summer favorites.

What’s working in June:

Life Factory Water Bottles: It’s been hot here and I’ve been trying my best to stay hydrated. My neurotic side only likes drinking water out of clear containers so the BPA-free glass Life Factory Bottles are perfect.

Bulletproof Coffee: I’m not a coffee drinker, but I really like the idea of adding nourishing fats to coffee by way of grass-fed butter (a.k.a. Bulletproof Coffee) so I finally had to try it for myself. While I don’t see myself becoming a regular coffee drinker for it, I thought it was tasty and definitely recommend giving it a try.

Freezing Berries: It’s been a goal of mine this summer to freeze enough berries to last me through the rest of the year. It’s been much easier than I expected and much cheaper than purchasing organic frozen berries.

The Well Nourished Body Basics Guide: I finally put all my basic dietary advice in one place and am so happy I did. You can download the guide by subscribing here.

Grain-Free Quiche: In a late-night flurry of energy I made this quiche crust (only about 5 minutes of prep + bake time) and filled in the eggs and vegetables the next morning. It made the most delicious breakfast over the next few days – definitely a recipe I will revisit about once per month.

Burn Out Sunscreen: After reading through EWG’s sunscreen guide, I’ve tried many new sunscreens and found most of them to be thick, chalky and unattractive. Ironically, last year’s favorite remains my favorite still: BurnOut Eco Sensitive Sunscreen. Here’s a tip: thick, pasty sunscreens apply more easily to moisturized skin, so apply coconut oil or lotion before sunscreen.

What’s been working for you?

This post has been shared on the What I’m Into blog link-up. Hop on over to check out some other posts you might enjoy!

Summer {Food} Book List

summer 2014 headerCookbooks are wonderful, but what I really love are books that talk about food and the impact that food, food sourcing and preparation can have on an individual, family, community, or humanity at large. Through another’s stories and philosophies we can step outside our personal relationship with food and begin to widen our perspective and possibly challenge some of our own beliefs. This way of seeing food in a new light can often do more to change our diets than any recipe ever could. Some of my favorite books explore ideas like making food as a daily sacrament, a gift of love, or a practice of hospitality to others or even to oneself.

In honor of the official start of summer this week (woohoo!) I thought I would share with you my very favorite food-related books. These books don’t prescribe specific diets or wellness strategies, rather they are the stories that have made me fall in love with real food and are perfect to pack in your beach bag on a lazy summer afternoon.

Since this is my first time sharing a reading list with you, these are some old, but classic titles. Perhaps next summer my list will be more current.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (2007)

In her first nonfiction book, Barbara Kingsolver shares her family’s adventure in eating locally for one year. They leave the city in pursuit of farm life and learn a lot about vegetables, turkey sex, and family life.

Supper of the Lamb by Robert F. Capon (1989)

An amateur chef and Episcopal priest, Robert Capon has written a cookbook for life. Capon’s essays are built around recipes for lamb (he uses one leg of lamb to feed eight people over four meals), and are filled with witty and wise thoughts on everything from prayer to puff pastry; all leading to the conclusion that “the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.”

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee (2007)

This biography examines the early days of the famed Berkely restaurant, Chez Panisse and its visionary founder, Alice Waters. Like most restaurants, the history of Chez Panisse is wrought with drama, but Alice Waters’ steadfast commitment to simple, seasonal, fresh cuisine has not only helped Chez Panisse become the acclaimed restaurant it is today, but Waters’ philosophy has reached beyond the restaurant walls and started the worldwide “market culture” movement.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (2013)

This collection of essays by Shauna Niequist connects food with the value of community by beautifully and vulnerably sharing about life around the table. She intertwines nourishment of both body and soul in her meals, whether they are extravagant or simple, celebratory or sober.

Robert F Capon

Do you have any food-related book recommendations for me? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Want more tips? Download a copy of the Well Nourished Body Basics Guide by subscribing here:

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Loving This {May}

May Loving ThisSummer. I know it’s not technically summer yet, but my husband graduated a couple of weeks ago from his graduate program so he is (we are) officially on summer break! It’s been a long couple of years trying to find balance between school, work and nourishing ourselves through food, rest and play. I’m looking forward to getting back into the rhythm of a less frenetic lifestyle.

What’s working in May:

The Nourished Kitchen Cookbook. If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ll know that most recipes coming out of my kitchen lately have been inspired by my new favorite cookbook. You can read my review here.

FitBit. I’ve had a FitBit for a while now, but it ran out of batteries and got shoved in the back of my drawer. I’ve recently pulled it out and recharged it and am once again obsessed with step-counting and stair climbing. It’s a great way to get back into actively finding ways to incorporate more movement into my regular activities. If you use fitbit, let me know in the comments below and we can be “friends”!

Evening walks. With the longer days, it’s been fun to go for an evening walk after dinner. There’s all sorts of research coming out about the value of short amounts of exercise spread throughout the day (this is different than HIIT). You can read an article about walking as a digestive aid here.

Succulents. I’m a terrible gardener. I take that back. I live in an apartment that gets NO sunlight, thus, all my plants die. I’ve recently purchased some succulents and kept them alive for more than two weeks now so clearly I’m a succulent expert and should go buy more.

Handstands. I’m no fitness expert, in fact, I struggle to keep up with a consistent fitness routine. I recently remembered a previous love for handstands and decided to do a handstand everyday. What do you know? It’s actually motivated me to work on getting stronger and more flexible so my handstands will improve. Hey, whatever works, right?

Kevita. I love all raw, fermented products (kombucha, sauerkraut, etc.), but Kevita is standing out to me this month because I’ve discovered their lemon + cayenne flavor and it makes the perfect morning tonic. I pour myself a small glass each morning while I make breakfast and one bottle lasts about five days.

What’s been working for you?

Nourished Kitchen Cookbook Review & Strawberries with Minted Honey

Nourished Kitchen Cookbook by Jennifer McGrutherThis is the cookbook I’ve been waiting for. If you’ve read Nourishing Traditions and delight in the traditional food wisdom of Dr. Weston Price, you’ve been waiting for this cookbook too.

I’ve followed Jennifer McGruther’s blog for some time now where she shares recipes from her own kitchen and teaches traditional food preparation techniques (think bones, organ meats and lots of animal fats). McGruther takes the principles established in Nourishing Traditions and translates them for the modern cook all the while documenting the food with lots of pretty pictures.

McGruther’s new cookbook, Nourished Kitchen, marries the traditional foodist with the foodie providing seasonal, farm-to-table recipes that will surely delight any guest at your table. These aren’t the anemic, diet-y recipes popular in many “healthy” cookbooks today; McGruther’s recipes will leave you feeling satisfied and you’ll enjoy each nutrient-dense bite.

All that said, I’m going to share with you one of the simplest recipes from Nourished Kitchen and it actually doesn’t contain any bones, organ meats, or animal fats (though it pairs very well with heavy cream). This is a lovely way to share the sweetness of your spring strawberries with someone you love.

Strawberries with Minted Honey Syrup Recipe

Strawberries in Minted Honey Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup raw, local honey
  • 1 pint organic strawberries
  • 3 sprigs fresh mint

Method:

  1. First you’ll make a simple syrup out of water and honey. This method can be used to make simple syrup for other recipes, like cocktails, and is quite delicious. Bring the water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the honey and whisk it into the water until it dissolves fully. Continue simmering over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.
  2. Hull the strawberries, cut them in half, and set them in a container with a lid (a Mason jar works well). Pluck the leaves off the stems of mint, tear them with your hands, and drop them into the container with the strawberries. Pour the cooled honey syrup over the strawberries and mint, then cover and transfer to the fridge. Allow the berries to marinate for a day.
  3. Serve the strawberries with their syrup, either plain or with yogurt or cream (serves 2).

strawberries and syrup

Strawberries with Minted Honey Syrup

Loving This {April}

April Loving ThisA monthly show-and-tell on what’s working for me

I’ve been in Sonoma the past few days celebrating Easter with family. It’s the perfect place to be in the spring – green everywhere with signs marketing fresh, local eggs and vegetables. With its primary industry being wine production people may think of it as a fancy place, but winemakers are really just grape farmers so it’s an agricultural community at heart. The whole town dances in the rhythm of the seasons here. There’s excitement and anticipation each spring as old vines sprout new leaves and the care and feeding of plants heightens in hope that the plants will, in turn, care for and feed us. Early spring produces a tender harvest and, though often bitter, the earth serves us a celebratory feast after a long winter’s fast.

What’s Working in april:

Bitters. From bitter chicory greens to digestive bitters mixed to create an apertif, this month has been all about the anti-sweet. Bitter is probably the least liked of the five flavors, but is so important to engage and excite our digestive systems, alerting them that complex food is being ingested. It’s a tough flavor to get used to, but spring is the time as bitter greens abound at farmers markets. My first chicory experiment failed, but I found that a quick boil followed by a light sauté will render bitter greens edible. Since the bitter green season will eventually come to an end, I’ve stocked up on organic bitter tonics (like those from Urban Moonshine) to keep this trend alive.

Sunshine. It’s spring in California and from what I can see on Instagram, it looks like traces of spring are popping up where you are too. I’ve been loving the not-too-hot afternoon sun and digging out my sandals from the back of the closet. Sun exposure on bare skin is still the best way to get vitamin D, so I’ve been making it a priority to get outside in the sun for about 15 minutes each day. I’ve loved every minute of it.

Asparagus. Asparagus is such a special spring vegetable as it’s only in season for a few weeks each year. I’ve been finding the tenderest, skinniest asparagus stalks at the farmers market and eating them almost every day. They should go out of season just when I’m getting sick of them.

Omelettes. In order to have a vehicle for eating my asparagus, I’ve developed a super light and thin one-egg omelette. Stuffed with a little raw cheese, asparagus, spinach and herbs, this omelette is the best thing to happen to breakfast since breakfast tacos. Unfortunately I still haven’t mastered the egg-flip, but my sweet husband is a pro.

Shallot Gold. Cameron Diaz wrote about this in The Body Book and mentioned it on The Tonight Show. Basically, you caramelize shallots (in pastured butter for real foodies) until they’re crispy the add them to everything, or eat them straight out of the container and end up having to make more because you snacked them to death. You can find Cameron’s recipe on her Body Book blog. (While you’re there, you can read my guest article: 6 Cooking Hacks for Greater Nutritional Value!)

Epic Bars. Finally, a protein-rich snack that satisfies the Paleo, WAPF, GAPS, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free foodies out there. These “bars” are basically a traditionally prepared pemmican made from either bison, beef, turkey or lamb. I know what you’re thinking – but don’t think of them as a bar, think of them as jerky and you’ll be okay.

What are you loving this month?