travel: Lake Geneva, Switzerland

budget trips, holidays, lifestyle, travel

Geneva, the capital of fondue, chocolate, luxury watches, Swiss Army Knives, and world peace.

They all sounds great. But an $8 coffee, not so great. We are budget travelers and our friends lovingly warned us about the prices.

Telling others that you are going to Switzerland on “a budget” just before Christmas, gets you some sympathetic head-nods and half grins. Switzerland is rated the most expensive country in the world to visit, with Geneva being one of the ten most expensive cities in the world to live in!

We really did not want to skip over Switzerland until we were older (aka retired with more money). To our surprise, we found it doable and we were able to enjoy it’s many Christmas charms and festivities.

 

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Do + See

Lake Geneva: Geneva is located on the shores of Western Europe’s largest lake, and surrounded by the magnificent Alps. Unfortunately, the weekend we visited, fog and light rain followed us from Edinburgh. We had lovely views of the Alps from our plane, but not from the shores of the Lake. Glaciers in the French Alps are bright turquoise and flow directly into the deep blue waters of the Rhone River, which is fed by the lake. The two colors mix together and give the lake an extraordinary marbled look!Bike/Jog/Walk/Snack on a bench. Take advantage of the paths surrounding the lake.

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Mount Blanc: From Geneva you can usually see Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. The combined views of lake and alpine mountains, yes please! We opted for a more affordable train ride through the villages that line the shores of Lake Geneva. However, a rental car to Blanc would be the perfect day trip from Geneva, as it is only an hour away.

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St. Peter’s Cathedral: It was here, where John Calvin lead the Protestant Reformation. Inside the church there is still a wooden chair once used by Calvin (yep, Ryan got a picture with it). Get a workout by climbing the towers of the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, where you can enjoy the best view of Geneva. Only 157 steps of the north tower to experience one of the city’s most breathtaking (and oldest) views. Be sure to go to the north tower so you can go outside for an unrestricted view for nice panoramic pictures of the city and Jet d’Eau.

Jet d’Eau (Water Jet) Fountain: Geneva’s most famous landmark shooting water 140m into the air. It is Europe’s tallest fountain, which blasts 132 gallons of water. The jet is a prominent feature in Geneva’s skyline. It is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Statue of Liberty, and Big Ben! We even learned that is turned on by hand every morning by a jet caretaker at exactly 9am, according to a precise Swiss watch, of course.

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Old Town + City Centre : The Old Town should be next on any visitors itinerary. A patchwork of pavement cafés, museums, designer retail and art galleries. Geneva’s most famous shopping district is full of designer retail + Switzerland’s famous watchmakers like Rolex and Cartier. Not part of our budget trip, but still really interesting to learn more about the birthplace of watchmaking, the industry + the luxurious window displays.

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Afternoon in Carouge: Carouge is a quiet neighborhood in Geneva with colorful buildings, local cafes, and charming boutiques.It was actually spell-bounding, walking along the streets, the Mediterranean-style houses, a number of gardens and the small artists’ workshops.

Carouge takes you back in time. Many locals would introduce Carouge to you as a “small Italy”. It is one of those areas which immediately stands out from all the rest, absolutely incomparable to the rest of the city. Cool architecture. Cozy cafes. Variety of bistros. Unique antique shops and vendors. We cannot recommend it enough- an afternoon or evening stroll, go for a café or dinner here for sure.

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Montreux Christmas Market:  Christkindlmarkt. Marché de Noël. Weihnachtsmarkt. I am obsessed with them and a bit of a Christmas market ‘junkie’. Most are full of wooden huts, homemade delicious treats, stunning decorations and unique gifts. I love to embrace the festive atmosphere. Slowly strolling. Amazing scents. Herds of jolly market-goers. Regional specialities- completely overwhelmed by auras of waffles, fondue and spices.

We spent a good half day in Montreux. As daylight gently turned to night, Montreux started to sparkle. Before roaming the market we sat on a bench looking at the lake, people watching and soaking it all it. Each little cabin, boutique and restaurant glowing with lights, gave us that warm Christmassy feeling despite the cold weather. We loved indulging in the fragrant cocktail of cinnamon, fruit and spiced wine, treating ourselves to a warming mug of Glühwein. Vin Chaud. Glögg. Mulled Wine … delicious!

The Christmas market at Montreux was highly recommended as an absolute must see. A touch of class and a whole lotta sophistication. If you like dramatic scenery and Christmas ambience mixed with some light shows, pots of fondue + music, then you will love it too!

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Day Trip to Vevey: A charming town on the north shore of Lake Geneva.  This French -speaking town created milk chocolate (1875) and was the final home of Charlie Chaplin. Vevey is known for its outdoor market  on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Buy a glass of wine, listen to brass bands + Swiss folk music, and watch traditional craftsmen at work in the market.

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Eats + Drinks

It is easy to indulge/overindulge in Switzerland. Everywhere you turn there are places to try raclette, fondue, truffles, sausages, chocolate of every variety, wine and pastries. We were surprised by all the international restaurants but I guess it makes sense with Geneva being such an international hub for the UN and where it is located geographically. Like always, we relied on Happy Cow to find good gluten-free options and local coffee joints.

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Geneva was such an unexpected surprise.

There were so many fun things to see and history to learn. We brought home the best souvenirs — fine Swiss chocolates, an antique clock for our mantle and Santa mugs from our mulled wine at the Christmas market.

Have you traveled to other countries during the holidays?

We hope you are enjoying a lovely holiday season celebrating with friends and loved ones, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Blessings and peace as you begin 2017!

x

 

 

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travel: Lisbon, Portugal

budget trips, holidays, lifestyle, travel

For my husband’s birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Lisbon, Portugal.

Lucky for us, our wedding anniversary, birthdays and Christmas are within weeks of one another. So, taking a trip is a good way to pack in all of the celebrating.

We thought that anywhere in the world might be dryer, a little brighter and warmer than Edinburgh in December. We were kind of right… Portugal in the winter is still a little brisk

We had some rainy days, soaked socks, but we absolutely made the most of it. We had to buy umbrellas one day, funny joke to us visiting from the UK, but a little rain did not ruin our party!

Traveling to Europe in the summer is wonderful but we have learned that winter also has perks. Fewer tourists. Affordable airfare. Available accommodation. Quieter low seasons. And my favorite part, seeing what Christmas looks like in other countries!

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Our adventure started the moment we left the Lisbon airport. We were instructed by our Airbnb host to 1. board the tram to a bus stop 2. walk from the bus stop to the flat.

Directions were a bit vague and by tram we had no idea that she meant super-awesome and rickety-old-trolley. It was dark out, we could not see the street signs, so we got off where it “felt right” and got out our city map. Yep, looking like true tourists, no shame and totally embracing the paper map.

We eventually found our flat and were clueless about the view we would wake up to the next morning. The silver lining of arriving at night… we got a surprise the next morning.

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We stayed in the Alfalma neighborhood. All you need is a short wander to realize how WOW it is.  There are several quaint spots for a romantic sit on a bench. These viewpoints, called miravistas, give you stunning views of the water and buildings stacked on the hills. It is easy to be out on foot for long days and nights exploring the many street-side cafes, live music at hidden bars and beautiful little squares with fairy lights and blankets.

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If you plan on walking and wandering around, plan on bringing a comfortable pair of shoes. Those travel books are not lying when they say there are some good inclines. If you need a break, hop on the trolley system!

We spent our days wandering different neighborhoods, a walk down to the coast, popping into café’s for a coffee and baked good. The Pois Café was our favourite spot, books covering every nook and cranny and a healthy, organic range of food and snacks.

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Eat + Drink

Seafood. Custard tarts. Cheese. Wine. That is all you really need to know.

Portugal has a rich tradition of cheese-making and different regions have their own types, much like Portuguese wine. Portuguese food combines a variety of fresh seafood with the flavours from the hillside. There is a lot to discover in both food and wine.

Frango Piri Piri  (Chicken Piri Piri)

Grilled to perfection with a secret blend of spices, this is one of the most popular dishes for visitors and has to be tried at least once. Served with a fresh salad and home-made chips, affordable dinner winner!

Bacalhau (Salted Cod Fish)

Cod is a staple of Portuguese cuisine and they say there is a different cod recipe for every day of the year. Cod is a very versatile fish and is usually the star of the show on Portugese Christmas dinner tables.

Caldeirada  (Fish Stew)

A mixed fish stew usually containing some shellfish and white fish with potato, tomatoes, peppers and onions as the base. White wine and lots of herbs completes the recipe. They say that the secret to a good Caldeirada, apart from the fish, is the correct layering of the various ingredients so that the flavours mix properly. I would love to make a version of this at home.

Pastel de Nata (Custard pastry)

Portugal’s favorite sweet treat. Small open pastries with a sweet custard filling and a caramelised sugar topping, you can find Pastel de Nata is every coffee shop in the city. They say the pastry should be flakey and light, the filling creamy, eggy and sweet. This was our birthday cake abroad.

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Do + See

Lisbon, Portugal is a cool city.  Artsy. Quaint. Windy roads. Hills. White buildings. Red roofs. Colorful tiles. Cobblestone. Churches. Street art. Seafood. Produce. Vintage markets. Trollies. Cathedrals. Tuk-Tuks. Alleyways. Motorbikes. Street artists and antique vendors. Like I said, cool.

Campo de Santa. Be sure to visit Campo de Santa, a lovely flea market in the old city. Take good carrier bags to stock up on amazing vintage Portuguese kitchenware, decor, and ceramics on sale in little shops for great prices.

Trollies. The trams that trundle up and down the streets are charming. Tram 28 is said to be the best. Begin at Largo Martim Moniz to get a seat in the wood panelled carriage.

Souvenir. One thing everyone will notice about Lisbon are the beautiful ceramic tiles that cover literally every wall, café’s, flats, storefronts, park benches and city fountains. There are brand new varieties you can pick up in a tourist shops but even more charming are the antique and funky varieties you can find in flea markets and vendors. We chose a green and white one from the 1950s, easy to get back home and a totally memorable part about Lisbon.

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The waterfront and Praça do Comércio square was home to the Royal Ribeira Palace before it was destroyed in 1755. Lots of locals like come out for a stroll, especially in the early evening and lots of Christmas decorations and a small Christmas market to enjoy.

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Day Trip to Sintra. We decided to spend one day on a train going outside of the city. A friend recommended that we visit the nearby village of Sintra. I am so glad we took her advice. Sintra is normally buzzing with tourists, but thanks to the rain, we were two of ten people up there that day. We were soaked but it was well worth it. We visitied the grotto gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira Palace, a 19th century gothic mansion that is surrounded with some of the most elaborate gardens we have ever seen.

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Have you taken a special birthday trip? And what has your experience been traveling in the winter months?

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

peace + grace

paleo pumpkin bars

breakfast, holidays, snacks, treats

They started off as a weekend treat. Then a quick breakfast option and onto an after-gym snack. They are pretty much just always around these days.

This pumpkin bar recipe from the Detoxinista has been a weekly staple for us this season. Canned pumpkin is hard to come by in this city but we had some generous visitors come through Edinburgh and they brought us canned pumpkin from the States… they know me too well!

They are moist. Pumpkiny. Warm. Comforting. And the closest thing I got to pumpkin pie, that is GF, DF, and refined sugar-free this year. They have been the perfect alternative and great with a morning cup of joe.

I have successfully reintroduced a couple of key spices here after following the AIP. If you have yet to incorporate nutmeg and clove into your diet, look at the link here for a vegan and AIP-friendly recipe for pumpkin bars from Cook It Up Paleo.

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Paleo Pumpkin Bars

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients:

15 oz. pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

Coconut oil, for greasing the pan

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 175C
  2. Grease a 9×9 baking tray well with coconut oil.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well.
  4. Transfer batter to the greased baking tray, smooth the top.
  5. Bake at for 40-45 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center is firm.
  6. Allow to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve.
  7. Share with your people, enjoy!

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Notes

  • Coconut flour is a unique GF flour to use in baking. This recipe relies on using coconut flour and a substitution is not as straight forward as you might think. If you would like to use a different flour substitute look here for an almond flour recipe from Elana’s Pantry.
  • These bars will store well in the fridge for a few days (if they last that long!)
  • Try a pumpkin pie spice blend for ease and perfect ratios.

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What healthy treats do you or your families make every year? The past few years my mom makes delicious crust-less pies for the holidays. Instead of a traditional pie crust, she makes the most delicious base of ground nuts, coconut oil and agave nectar or maple syrup. See a similar recipe here

I can attest that this recipe is a delicious addition while you are putting up your Christmas decorations. I hope you are having a lovely start to your December and Advent season.

Have a delicious week, x!

 

 

 

 

a healthy thanksgiving roundup

holidays, mains, recipes, sides

I eagerly collect recipes starting in what seems like, July… clipping things from food magazines and adding all the beautiful and inspiring food images to my Pinterest boards (drool). This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving in Belfast, Northern Island and we are really looking forward to gathering around a table with dear friends and some of our favorite comfort foods that this season has to offer.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, just a few days away, it is time for the big feast!

As anyone who follows an AIP lifestyle or any restrictive diet knows, the holidays can be a tough time. Finding delicious holiday recipes made of whole foods that do not use any dairy, gluten or grains, and nightshades this time of year can be a struggle. It can make social situations feel a bit awkward at times but there is no reason why it cannot be a celebration that includes all of us, and deliciously so, with recipes that do not sacrifice on taste or ‘specialness’. I found this article from the gals at autoimmune-paleo.com to be really helpful for this time of year, a wee guide on how to navigate the holidays and social situations when managing your disease through diet and lifestyle.

We do not have to give up on a holiday feast just because do or do not eat certain foods. In fact, many of the food most commonly enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day are perfectly fine, and just require an attention to quality, the removal of a few ingredients, and creative substitutions of others.

Here is a roundup of Thanksgiving recipes that can help make this year the most delicious, and nutritious, yet. These dishes are so tasty, you and your fellow diners may not even notice they are eating healthier a variation of their favorites!

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Bring on the Stuffing: Rather than relying on expensive gluten-free breads or flours, these two types of grain-free stuffing are made with a bounty of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. They feature all of the flavors you love in traditional stuffing, without leaving you feeling too “stuffed” afterward.

Grain-Free Stuffing

Cranberry Holiday Stuffing

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This recipe uses cauliflower rice as the base and includes fresh green apples, cranberries, bacon, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and celery, spiced with cinnamon and rosemary. The texture of this stuffing is great, and it has the perfect blend of sweet holiday spice and tart flavors.

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Bring on the Mash:  It is hard to beat a bowl of creamy, buttery, mashed potatoes. I have found that lots of mashed vegetables can be oh-so-delicious and great addition to a properly combined Thanksgiving dinner.  Over the years, mashed cauliflower has become a popular low-carb/ Paleo alternative, but it has not been high on my list. I prefer mashed carrot and parsnip, or mashed sweet potato. Have fun experimenting with different root vegetables.

Roasted Garlic Vegetable Mash

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Mashed Cauliflower “Potatoes”

Celeriac Mash

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Bring on the Sauce: Because sometimes you need to give all those sides a bit-o sauce love and get your plate a spot at the flavour disco. And unlike many of the canned cranberry sauce options, these two recipes below are naturally sweetened with honey and bursting with Fall spices. They are quite the upgrade and will make a delicious addition to your feast.

Starch-Free Gravy 

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Basil Vinaigrette Dressing 

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Cranberry and Orange Relish

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Paleo Cran-Cherry Sauce – Cranberries, cherries, ginger: it is a delicious high-five of powerful antioxidants that happens to go well with roasted turkey.

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Bring on the Veg: If there are sides that I get seconds…  okay, thirds of, they are the veg. I love all the seasonal sides our family contributes. These are healthy alternatives to certain casserole dishes and there is no limit on how many to include. The amazing thing about veg, especially autumn harvests, is the variety. The colors, the flavors, the nutrient-density and deliciousness we can get from plant-based sources is something to be grateful for.

Clean Green Bean Casserole

This fresh green beans and caramelized onions from The Dextoxinista is just about as clean as it gets. Rather than relying on a cream-based soup, it is held together by a creamy puree of parsnips and mushrooms.

Green Bean Almondine

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Holiday Slaw with Roasted Shallot Dressing

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Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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Brussels sprouts can be a bit intimidating on their own, but when roasted with a splash of balsamic vinegar, they become a delectable treat! Tender on the inside, and crispy on the outside, these veggies are a quick and easy addition to any Fall meal.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash with Cranberries

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Cabbage, Orange + Date Salad 

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Roasted Root Vegetables 

Why limit yourself to one or two vegetable varieties? Treat your guests to the full spread of fall veggies, simply roasted and allowed to succeed on their own merits.

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Roasted Squash, Pecan + Pomegranate Salad

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Bring on the Dessert: With all of the work involved in preparing Thanksgiving dinner, we could all use simple dessert recipes that do not involve to much work or have so much sugar it feels impossible to enjoy them after a hearty meal like Thanksgiving dinner. These following recipes are all easy to prepare, and taste so decadent– with surprising amounts of nutrients and no refined sugars or unhealthy oils.

No-Bake Pecan Pie Bars

 

Pumpkin is my favorite. Always. The textures, flavors and overall satisfaction of this collection of pumpkin recipes is over. the. top. so. good. They all have the taste and texture similar to pumpkin pie, but better for you! Whether you prefer almond butter or coconut flour recipes, these have got you covered!

Grain-free Pumpkin Bars

 

Pumpkin Spice Muffins 

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Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pie Bars

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No-Bake Pumpkin Tarts

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This recipe features a sweet pumpkin filling and a grain-free crust. These mini tarts are a quick and easy seasonal dessert. Naturally sweetened with fiber-rich dates, they can be whipped up in a blender in minutes.

I have also included some additional recipes for those that would like to incorporate some seasonal fruit into the holiday mix.

Honey Roasted Pears with Sea Salt + Rosemary Cream 

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Paleo Apple Crisp

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Citrus + Pomegranate Mint Salad 

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I wish that Thanksgiving did not come only once a year. Not just for the food (but close…) but also for the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that spreads through the season. I am thankful for this season of our life. I am grateful for a God that is faithful when I am less than worthy. I am thankful for supportive family and friends that continue to pray for us and give of themselves generously. I am thankful for my job and the young people I work with. I am thankful for the Autoimmune Protocol community. I am thankful for better health, especially when I compare it to how awful I felt one year ago. I am especially thankful for my husband who supports me wholeheartedly on this healing journey and who I get to share life with everyday.

Whatever you choose to serve this Thanksgiving, I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday celebrating good food and all the things you are grateful for.

As always, let me know what your favorite holiday recipes are?  Will you be making any modifications this year?

Happy Thanksgiving, x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

citrus + pomegranate mint salad

breakfast, dessert, holidays, salads, treats

 

I don’t know about you, but when I like something I stick to it.

I can always count on my Oma to have full, juicy bowls of oranges and grapefruits around during Christmas and Easter. Maybe because she knows it is the perfect antidote to all the overindulgence of the holidays. I have fond memories of watching my Papa sit at the kitchen counter helping her to peel all of the membranes from every slice- he hated the white stuff, he was determined, and checked and re-check that every seed was out of the bowl.

This year as we celebrated Easter brunch with friends, I decided to keep the tradition going with a little twist – pomegranate and mint. Best served chilled, it is perfectly sweet and slightly tart, refreshing and very easy to put together.

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This salad is a showstopper, requires very little work and feels like a fancy salad despite it only being four ingredients. It is easy enough to make for yourself for breakfast but also to serve guests. This recipe is AIP (auto immune protocol) compliant, in season (yep, November till July) and packed with nutrients.

  • Grapefruit is extra good for you this time of year with plenty of immune-boosting Vitamin C to help fight off colds, lycopene for glowing skin, and free-radical fighting antioxidants. I eat a grapefruit every day because it is perfect for hitting the metabolism-reset button. Pow!
  • Pomegranates contain high levels of antioxidants that protect against heart disease and cancer. A glass of pure pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.
  • Mint is a great palate cleanser and promotes digestion. It also soothes stomachs in cases of indigestion or inflammation.

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Ingredients

1 pomegranate

2 large navel oranges
2 pink grapefruits
Fresh mint 

Method

  • Place the pomegranate on a surface that won’t stain. Do not wear white. And follow this link for the easy way to remove pomegranate seeds. When finished, pick out any bits of the white membrane so all that remains in the bowl are seeds and juice.
  • For the oranges and grapefruits, cut a small slice off the top and bottom so the fruit can sit flat on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, work your way around the fruits to remove all peel. Carefully cut the segments cross-wise or cut around each segment.

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  • Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and fresh mint leaves over the sliced citrus
  • Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to share with your people
  • Slurping up the extra juice at the end is an extra treat

Enjoy! x

 

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Thanksgiving: herb roasted root vegetables

appetizer, holidays, mains, recipes, sides

It is time to celebrate our second Scottish Friendsgiving.

Thanksgiving is less than one week away and we are grateful to have friends to share the occasion with in Scotland. This time of year, many people find it impossible to eat healthy. This side dish is seasonal, festive, mouth-watering and it won’t break the bank or increase the waistline. This recipe is great for a crowd because you can easily double the quantity and roast baking sheets full of veggies.

This year I am contributing these delicious herb roasted root vegetables. The mix is a wonderfully colourful and comforting mix of roasted parsnip, butternut squash and sweet potato. You can use any combination of root veggies you like. If you don’t like sweet potato, you can substitute white or red potatoes. Not a fan of parsnip? Use carrots instead. It’s a great way to clear out your produce drawer, and the process could not be easier.

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Ingredients

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, halved, seeded and cubed
3 large sweet potatoes/ yams, scrubbed and cubed
1 medium yellow onion
3 large parsnip, cubed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or coconut oil), plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, chopped garlic, mixed herbs + thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Top with 2 handfuls of pumpkin seeds

* Dairy options in notes below

Method

Place 2 baking sheets in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F or 220 C/Gas Mark 7.

Cut all the vegetables into 1 1/2-inch pieces or cubes. Cut the onions through the base core to keep some of the layers in chunky pieces. Toss all the vegetables with garlic, oil, seasoning and salt in large bowl. Season generously with pepper.

Carefully remove the heated baking sheets from the oven, brush or drizzle with olive oil. Divide the vegetables evenly between the 2 pans, spreading them out to assure they don’t steam while roasting. Roast the vegetables until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Notes
-If you tolerate dairy, some sprinkled feta, parmesan, or crumbled goat cheese would be a nice addition.
– Best to keep seasoning simple in this recipe.  Root veggies have such earthy and wonderful flavors. For more flavor, you could sprinkle them with rosemary, oregano, a little cumin, or fresh chopped parsley. Be creative as you want.

-If you use red beets in this recipe, keep in mind that the roasting will release a pinkish juice that will color the other vegetables. If you’d rather not have pinkish veggies, use golden beets or omit the beets completely.

For more inspiration click here to see several healthy vegetarian side dishes for Thanksgiving from Food Network and Delish.

What do you plan to cook this Thanksgiving? I hope your day is a special and delicious time with family, friends and the ones you hold dear. May peace and grace be yours abundantly!

 

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