April's Sweet Showers
by Kathy Humphrey
Chaucer’s opening line in The Canterbury Tales inevitably comes to my mind as April looms on the horizon. “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote, of March hath perced to the roote.” Is everyone up on their Middle English? “Sweet showers” aren’t what I think of when I see the grey drizzle besieging us these days. No, I am reminded of sweet things to eat.
Get your minds out of the candy jars, people. Many foods taste sweet without depending upon processed sugar to give us a lift of spirits. Cast your minds out a bit and think of sweetness that is born and not made. Fruit is an obvious source, which is one of the reasons that fruits are commonly considered treat and snack items. Yes, they contain more sugar than your average kale leaf, but they are also full of fibre, juice, vitamins and other great things (anti-oxidants and taste, to name only a couple). Dried fruits have all of the goodness of their fresh counterparts (barring the juiciness), with the sweetness intensified.
Trail mix, the time-honoured classic, leaves no necessity for improvement with its combination of dried fruit for the sweet carb boost and nuts to give a protein punch. Fruit of any kind, dried, fresh or frozen, makes a mixed salad more interesting. Plain yogurt mixed with generous amounts of fruit and a sprinkling of granola works as a healthy, sweet snack.
There are veggies out there with higher sweetness ratios, too. My great-grandfather was under strict rations for his carrot and pea intake, to keep his diabetes under control. Toss steamed carrots with orange juice and a bit of butter to give them a sweet sauce. Beets make a lovely salad when grated raw and tossed with chopped dill, then drizzled with olive oil and vinegar whisked together and seasoned to taste. Remember, sweet is all around—enjoy!
Strawberry Spinach Seed Salad
8 cups spinach, washed and sorted
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1 orange, peeled and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted until golden
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted (as above)
1 small log plain chevre (goat’s cheese)
Scatter spinach in large bowl. Drop strawberry slices and orange bits over, scatter with nuts. Crumble chevre over all, using hands. Drizzle 1/3 cup of dressing (recipe follows) over; toss well and serve.
Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp liquid honey
4 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
In small bowl, whisk together yogurt, honey, lemon juice, poppy seeds, mustard, paprika and salt until smooth. Makes 2/3 of a cup. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Tootie Fruittie Dessert
3 cups assorted fresh fruit, chopped into bite-sized pieces (peaches, bananas, grapes, cantaloupe, apples, kiwi, etc.)
1 cup berries (blue, black, rasp, and so on)
1 package (about 3 dozen) vanilla wafers, or amaretto biscuits (to taste)
500 ml full-fat sour cream
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar
Stir fruit together until well combined. Spread evenly in pie plate or flan pan. Crush wafers until reduced to crumbs. Scatter crumbs evenly over fruit mixture. Spread layer of sour cream over the top of crumbs. Cover lightly and place in fridge for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to settle. Just prior to serving, remove from the fridge and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the cream. Broil until golden brown and slightly crackling: serve.
Carrot Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large carrots
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 tsp ground ginger
6 cups stock (non-tomato based vegetable or chicken)
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat: sauté carrots, onion, garlic, red pepper and ginger until softening (about 5 minutes). Add stock and lentils: bring to boil. Cover and simmer 20 minutes (until carrots are tender). Puree in batches, return to simmer. Stir in lemon juice and salt: serve.
4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, or combination)
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup liquid honey
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 Tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 300˚F. Combine dry ingredients. In small bowl, mix milk with oil, vanilla and honey until well combined. Toss with dry mixture. Spread on baking sheet, about 1/4" thick. Bake for 20-30 minutes (until golden brown), stirring 2 or 3 times during baking process. Cool; store in airtight container.
Kathy Humphrey lives in Victoria with her husband and two children. She tries to see cooking for a family not as a chore but as a creative outlet.