Summer Berry Crisp: Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

Saskatoon Berry Crisp

This gluten-free berry crisp is just so good for you it could be either breakfast or dessert.
Or both. Use blueberies, Saskatoon berries, strawberries or whatever berries are in season in your neck of the woods.

Serve it with a dollop of plain yogurt in the morning or with whipped coconut milk after dinner, or just enjoy it as is.

I used Saskatoon berries because I happen to have a love affair with them and the Saskatoon berry farm just down the road has them all picked and ready for me to simply drive up and bring them home to freeze for the winter. Blueberries, or any summer fruit will work equally as well in this recipe. Just prepare your berries, spoon them into ramekins or a large baking dish and top with my Gluten-Free Hazelnut Granola.

Gluten-Free Berry Crisp

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Summer Berry Crisp
Serves 8

  • 4 cups Saskatoon berries, blueberries or other berries
  • 2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (or less depending on the sweetness of your berries)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Topping: 2 cups Gluten-Free Hazelnut Granola


Preheat oven to 350F.

1. Toss berries gently with tapioca starch, lemon juice, honey, almond extract and cinnamon. Spoon into 8 ramekins or a 9 inch baking dish.

2. Top with granola, making sure the berries are completely covered. Place the ramekins or baking dish on a baking sheet as the berries sometimes bubble over.

3. Bake at 350F. for approximately 25-30 minutes or until berries are bubbling. Serve warm or cold. It is equally as good!

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Watermelon Limeade with Cucumber and Fresh Mint

Watermelon Limeade

The little ones have gone home again, but the big watermelon that they couldn’t finish remains. So do the sticky pancakes-and-syrup fingerprints and tiny Playmobil people left behind (and apparently terribly missed!) under the deck chairs. The house is pretty quiet without them wiggling and giggling and asking, “What are we going to do next?” We miss them already, but we love our adult routines too.

A relaxing happy hour on the deck seemed like a good idea. With half a watermelon in the refrigerator taking up way too much space, turning it into a refreshing drink was the thing to do. Mixed with cucumber and fresh mint from the garden and some freshly squeezed lime juice, it’s one I want to remember and make again.

WatermelonLimeade by JoinMeForDinner

Watermelon is not only fun to eat, it’s good for you too. Besides being an antioxidant and containing significant levels of Vitamins A, C and B6, it’s a great source of potassium and it provides more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, even more than tomatoes.

Watermelon Limeade with Cucumber and Fresh Mint

Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • juice of 3 limes (or lemons if you want lemonade)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


  1. Pour hot water over the honey and stir until combined.
  2. Squeeze the limes (or lemons) to extract the juice.
  3. Place the watermelon, cucumber, lime or lemon juice and honey mixture in a high-speed blender. Process until smooth.
  4. Using a fine sieve, strain the juice into a pitcher. Don’t skip this step!
  5. Add the mint leaves and chill.
  6. Serve over ice.

We finished off the rest of the melon with these Watermelon Feta Stacks as snacks.

Watermelon Feta Stacks2.jpg

You can keep this drink refreshing, healthy and kid-friendly OR you can add a shot of vodka to it. Alternatively, rim the glass with coarse sea salt, add a shot of tequila and call it a Margarita! What do YOU do with leftover watermelon?
Watermelon Margarita.jpg

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Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Green Bean & Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing.jpg

If you live where I do and you have a garden, you’re likely experiencing a similar problem of “too much and all at once” with this hot and sunny weather we’re enjoying. Two short rows of green beans in our garden yielded two of these deep 10 inch bowls in two days . . . and I know there will be more tomorrow.
fresh green beans

What do you do with all those extra beans, besides pickle them, freeze them or give them away? Try this fresh and crispy summerlicious salad. Tender crisp beans are tossed with other garden offerings: raw chunks of zucchini, sliced green onions, halved cherry tomatoes, and fresh dill and drizzled with a balsamic dressing.
Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad by JoinMeForDinner

Fresh Green Bean and Zucchini Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Serves 6
4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces*
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 cup mini San Marzano tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
2 green onions (scallions) sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. high quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced

*no need to use a knife. Just snap them. If they don’t snap, they’re not very fresh.


  1. In a large saucepan, cover beans with water and boil for about 3 minutes. Have ready a large bowl full of ice water. Drain the beans and immediately put them in the ice bath. Cool completely, then drain and pat dry.
  2. In a large salad bowl, combine the beans, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, dill and feta.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking the next 7 ingredients together. Drizzle over the salad just before serving and toss.

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Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini
Sweet figs with a hint of orange are thinly spread over a toasted baguette and topped with fresh goat cheese and a sprinkle of chives or green onions in this, my newest “go-to” appy. I’ve made this one several times this summer, but it would be equally good at any time of the year. It’s uncomplicated goodness on a tiny piece of toast. The fig paste can be made well in advance and stored in the frig where it will keep for a week or two.
Earlier this week, I made this recipe to take on our “glamping” getaway to our friends’ beautiful West Coast cabin. We’re also heading out on our boat soon, so I’ve packed some to take with us. (If glam camping is known as glamping, would boat camping then be called bamping?)
Sweet and salty. I never tire of that contrast in a dish. Use a gluten-free cracker or bread if you like. The photo shows it on small squares of gluten-free apricot and raisin bread.

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini1

Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini

Yield: 1 baguette, about 24-30 slices (or substitute gluten-free bread or crackers)


  • 1 cup dried figs, (about 12) stems removed and quartered
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • Pinch salt
  • 5 ounces fresh goat cheese at room temperature
  • 18 baguette slices, sliced on a sharp diagonal
  • 1 green onion, (scallion) or chives, thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil for brushing on the crostiniDried figs


  1. Place the chopped dried figs, orange juice, water, orange zest and salt in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the figs are soft and only about 2 tablespoons of the liquid remains, 20 to 30 minutes. If the mixture gets dry, add water to keep it moist. Cool the mixture and puree in a blender or food processor to make a paste. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the baguette slices with a little olive oil. Toast the baguette slices for a few minutes until they are beginning to crisp. Spread the fig paste on each of the crostini, then top with about 1/2 Tbsp. goat cheese. Sprinkle with freshly chopped green onions or chives and serve.
Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini2
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Asparagus-Avocado Salad with Peas and Radishes

AsparagusAvocado Salad with Peas and Radishes.jpg

Even though I’ve lived in this valley all my life, I never tire of its beauty. Neither, apparently, does my daughter who is on a work-away on an olive farm in Tuscany right now. The closing line of her last email read, “I really miss the valley especially in all its spring glory! But I think a farm in Tuscany is the next best thing.”

Next best? Cowichan is more beautiful than the famous hill towns of Tuscany? Tuscany–the setting for countless romantic novels, famed for its olive groves and rolling hills and cypress-lined roads is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular areas of the world. But one could certainly argue that our little valley can now rival it, both in beauty and in the wide variety of produce that the land supports.

Chive Blossom

That’s a really roundabout way of saying I’m grateful that I have so many local farms producing organic vegetables and fruit close by and at this time of year, I’m thankful to have an asparagus farm just down the road from my home. The asparagus shoots in this salad were picked only a few hours before they graced our lunch table. They’re oh so sweet and nothing like the ones imported from Mexico that lie wilting in the produce sections of our supermarkets.

Asparagus, radishes, avocados, peas and chives–does that spell springtime to you? This salad has a perfect balance of textures and flavours and they are all mingled together with a light sesame rice wine vinaigrette. What could be better on a sunny spring day?

asparagus salad with avocado, peas and radishes.jpg

I’ve adapted this recipe from a few I found circulating around Pinterest. Be sure to steam the asparagus lightly, just until crisp tender and bright green, then plunge it into an ice bath to stop further cooking.

Avocado-Aspargus Salad with Peas and Radishes
Serves 4

  • about 16 fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 ½ cups green peas, hulled
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10-12 radishes
  • 1 shallot, minced finely
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil (toasted sesame oil, if you have it)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • snipped fresh chives and chive flowers for garnish


  1. Hold each asparagus spear, bend slightly and snap off the tougher end piece (usually an inch or two in length) Save for making soup.
  2. Steam the spears over boiling water in a steamer basket just until crisp tender and bright green. Immediately transfer to a bowl filled with ice water. Let cool and drain. Slice each asparagus spear into 2 inch lengths.
  3. Boil the peas for 1 minute, rinse in very cold water and then drain.
  4. Thinly slice the radishes.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the shallots, rice wine vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Season to taste with sea salt. Add the asparagus, peas and radishes and toss together. Check the seasoning and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Peel and thinly slice the avocado just before serving to prevent it browning. Arrange the avocado slices around the edge of the serving platter. Drizzle with a little lemon juice if not serving immediately.
  7. Gently spoon the salad into the middle of the platter and garnish with fresh chives and chive blossoms. Chill and serve.
Bees love chive blossoms

I had to wait until this little guy was finished before picking my chive blossoms!

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Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipped Cream #gluten-free


Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpg

My back yard forest has exploded with green and filled in all of the barren gaps left by the winter. I have a host of plants to forage here, most of which I’m just learning about. A few years ago, one of our local chefs prepared a rhubarb compote and topped it with whipping cream flavored with Grand Fir shoots but he didn’t provide instructions!

This week I decided to tackle it. I snipped some of the most tender shoots from one of my Grand Fir trees and tried making a tea by pouring boiling water over it. I let it sit on the counter overnight, but it just didn’t seem to have enough flavour. Dumped it.

Next I did the same, but I reduced the amount of water to about 3 tablespoons and squeezed the shoots as I drained them a few hours later. Good, but then I realized it was going to make the whipping cream much too runny. Dumped it.

Finally, I put some fresh shoots in my Vitamix, poured in some heavy cream and a little sugar and just blended the hell out of it.

I think I like it. I’ll let the ones who will eat it for dessert decide for themselves.

Rhubarb Crumble with Grand Fir Whipping Cream
Serves 6 – 8

for the topping

  • 1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar
  • zest of one organic lemon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients. Mix until clumpy, then refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 Fruit Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • juice of one organic lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar (type of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Combine all filling ingredients in a deep baking dish.
  2. Cover thickly with the topping.
  3. Since it will likely boil over, protect your oven by placing the dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake till top is golden brown and fruit bubbles up, about 45 minutes. Best served warm. Top with Grand Fir Whipped Cream.Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpgGrand Fir Infused Whipping Cream
  • 500 ml. (2 cups) heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar (or to taste)
  • about 1/2 – 3/4 cup freshly picked Grand Fir shoots

Don't confuse with Douglas Fir.

Don’t confuse with Douglas Fir.

The needles on Grand Fir lie flat, not whorled as on Douglas Fir

The needles on Grand Fir are flat, not whorled as on Douglas Fir

Toss all in a high-speed blender. Select Variable speed, quickly turn to 10, then to High Speed. Watch carefully as it will only take about 10 -20 seconds to whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Grand Fir Whipped Cream.jpg



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Mohitos for Mother’s Day

Let’s give Mom what she really wants.. Skinny muffins and low-cal brunch ideas and banana pancake breakfasts in bed are all lovely ideas for mom, but let’s take this route instead . . .

Here’s a roundup of Mohito recipes to celebrate your mother!

Rhubarb Mint Mohito
Rhubarb Mohito

Mohito Slushy
Mmmm . . . Mohito Slushy

Mohito: Cowichan Style
cowichan mohito.jpg


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