Pleasant Company

Hello Summer. It’s so nice to see you again, it’s been a while. Oh, and how kind of you to bring along your Excessive Heat Warnings, too. I can’t say I appreciate that…sigh…but, welcome back anyway. I suppose you plan to stay? Well then, I’d say this visit calls for a nice, refreshing beverage, don’t you? 

And so we greet the summer season as she returns in full force, bringing temperatures in the one-hundred-and-teens and daily “excessive heat warnings”. At least she brought along her beautiful berries, too, for I do look forward to their seasonal visits! Our weekly supply of seasonal organic fruits and vegetables has been a little on the light side lately. However, our box has indeed been blessed with lots of beautiful strawberries and blackberries for several weeks now and they are sneaking into everything. Berry smoothies, berry bowls, fancy berry parfaits and super-berry lattes. Not to mention the many berry combinations flavoring the homemade kombucha these days.

I mentioned before that my kitchen adventures have been very uninspired lately. Apparently, the summer doldrums staged a coup and completely overthrew my culinary creativity. But the recent arrival of all these lovely summer berries seems to have brightened things up and stirred the spirit of the Kitchen Goddess, just a little bit. I will admit that my attempts have been limited to this one particular flavor kick lately, so it’s all things ginger and berry today. It doesn’t seem to matter the type of berry, they all pair nicely with the flavor of fresh ginger and together they are infiltrating everything around here! It all started with the kombucha. Not the homemade kind, the store-bought kind. The $4/bottle kind that prompted me to start brewing my own in the first place. I absolutely love this particular brand’s Gingerberry flavor. (To be clear, there is no sponsorship or professional affiliation here, I just genuinely enjoy consuming this product.) It is my very favorite flavor and I still buy it from time-to-time, when we find ourselves in between batches of our own home-brew. This was the original culprit, the flavor that rallied the troops, brought together the ginger and the berries and empowered them to take over my culinary pursuits.  This was the flavor that inspired one of my very first attempts at a second ferment in my kombucha brewing adventure. I experimented with both fresh and frozen berries and discovered frozen blueberries that have been thawed to room temperature become nice and juicy and produce a richer color and flavor than fresh blueberries. Our homemade Blueberry-Ginger booch was an instant success and upheld the title of Household Favorite for quite some time…

…that is, until the strawberries came along. Those sweet, stealthy strawberries quickly stole the title and currently reign as the household favorite kombucha-flavoring agent. Sneaky little fellas.

The strawberries may have taken the title, as far as fermenting goes, but the blueberries and ginger maintain a very strong bond and tend to reappear often in a few other favorites. Like the Blueberry-Ginger Chia Pudding and Yogurt Parfait. Isn’t that a fancy title! This simple, chia seed pudding is a superfood staple. It is nutrient-dense, gut-friendly, so open to customization and you can flavor it with just about anything. I like the superberry version (simple, with dried goji berries, golden berries and mulberries), the mango-coconut and the chai-spice…all very tasty favorites. But then I invited the maqui berry…and the the ginger…and the blueberry yogurt…and, at the last minute, the buckwheat crunchies…and the gang fancied up the whole affair to the point of no-going-back. Simple is now spoiled and I will forever be a chia seed snob.

And then there is this “superfood latte” thing (did you know that superfood lattes are actually a thing?!). One day I came across this superfood latte idea and, of course, with my mind distracted by ginger and berries, those sneaky two managed to invade this recipe, too. This time it’s all about the maqui berry and acai. This super-berry duo is packed with antioxidants, is low glycemic and contains healthy fats as well as beneficial vitamins and minerals. I like to add a little collagen powder to promote joint care, a healthy gut and skin. Ashwagandha, known to be an adaptogen, serves as a balancing force against the negative affects of stress. Ginger is good for the belly and helps battle inflammation. Raw, local honey supports the immune system with it’s anti-microbrial properties and it definitely sweetens the deal.

Berry-Ginger Superfood Latte

  • 1 cup nut milk (I am enjoying this coconut-almond blend lately)
  • 2 tsp maqui powder
  • 1 tsp acai powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp ashwagandha powder
  • 1 tbsp collagen powder
  • 1-3 tsp raw, local honey (sweeten to taste)
  1. In a small saucepan, heat nut milk over low heat until warm, but not boiling. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until powders are thoroughly incorporated and milk is slightly frothy.

This latte is a nice, soothing treat at the end of the day and a delicious way to incorporate some of those healthy supplements into your diet. However, when it’s 110 degrees out and the summer heat just won’t let up, the last thing I want is a hot cup of anything. With some frozen berries and a handful of ice you can easily get those supplements along with the cooling effects of a nice, cold smoothie. In this berry-ginger smoothie, the strawberries and the blueberries join forces with the maqui and the acai to up the antioxidant level even more.

Berry-Ginger Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp maqui powder
  • 2 tsp acai powder
  • 1 tbsp collagen powder
  • 3/4 cup nutmilk (coconut water is a nice alternative, as well)
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 5-10 drops liquid stevia (sweeten to taste)
  1. Toss all ingredients into a high-speed blender, whir, stir, pour and enjoy!

It seems that Summer has definitely settled in and though I don’t much appreciate the intrusive company of her Excessive Heat Warnings, I quite enjoy the presence of her beautiful berries. They are mild-mannered, good-humored, gratifying and satisfying. They sweeten things up and cool things down, lightening and brightening the sweltering summer mood. And they compliment just about anything. Yes, they are very pleasant company, indeed.

Enjoy your pleasant company.

 

 

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