Lavender-Laced Citrus Sorbet

Nothing brightens a dreary winter day like the burst of tangy sweetness from oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Their bright colors, fresh scents and tart tastes jump-start dull senses like bugle call. And while many of my favorite fresh fruits and veggies are on hiatus right now, citrus is perfectly in season. 

If you’ve got a bunch of ruby reds and naval oranges nurtured by Florida sunshine, picked a their peaks and shipped straight to you (thanks Reggie!), you’re in luck. If not, go grab some at the grocery store. No matter how or where you get them, here's what you should do with a few of them: Make sorbet. 

I found a simple recipe online and added one of my go-to add-ins for drinks and desserts: lavender. Its subtle, soothing floral notes balance the sweetness and give this icy treat an extra layer of refreshing flavor. If you don’t like (or don’t have) dried lavender, try fresh mint or basil for a little twist. 


  • 3 cups of fresh-squeezed orange and red grapefruit juice run through a fine strainer to remove any pulp
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup  water

Add the juice of one lime to your orange and grapefruit juices. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, stir the water, sugar, zest and lavender together and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 4 minutes to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and strain the syrup. Let cool.

Once your syrup is cool,  stir it into your juices 

Add this to your ice-cream maker and follow its directions.


Pour the mixture into a shallow metal pan. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and put the pan in the freezer to set up for four hours. Spoon the frozen mixture into a food processor (in batches if needed) and blend until smooth. Place in a sealable container and freeze until firm (about another hour). 

I did it the second way, and it turned out wonderful  but you’ll probably get a creamier sorbet using an ice cream machine.


Better Butter

Getting your hands on some butter is as easy popping in the grocery store. (And you are using butter, right? No more margarine!) But why buy what you can make? Homemade butter is creamier than the store-bought stuff and boasts a richer, more complex flavor; it’s not as difficult to make as you might think; and, there’s more than one way to milk this particular cow. Choose the modern method, and you’ll transform easily available ingredients into butter in a matter of minutes. Try the old-fashioned way, and while you’ll need a few specialized tools, some time and a little brow sweat, proving you could have survived the pioneer life (at least part of it) will be as sweet a reward as that first bite of your butter.

Little House on the Prairie Way

Why This Way? Churning butter can be a little time-consuming and takes some elbow grease, but it can be a wonderful, hands-on way to teach your kids about patience and persistence as well as our agricultural heritage. (And, yes, you can count it as your daily exercise!)

  • Step 1: You’ll need a butter churn with a top. See if you can borrow one. We bet your aunt or mom or grandmother has one, even if it is currently only serving a decorative purpose (and they’ll happily let you borrow it if you return it with a block of fresh, hand-churned butter).
  • Step 2: You’ll also need a dasher. Lots of churns turned plant-holders or corner-space-taker-uppers lost their dasher long ago. But you can make one with a wooden dowel and some lumber pieces from your local hardware store. Find instructions here.
  • Step 3: You can use heavy cream, but if you want to be authentic, use raw milk, straight from under a cow. Don’t own a cow? Try the next best thing: organic, pasteurized but non-homogenized whole milk. Thanks to Alabama’s Working Cows Dairy (read my article on this great place), you can grab a few gallons of this kind of milk at stores around the state. Check their website for stores that stock their products.
  • Step 4: Skim the cream off your milk and place it in a large bowl or pitcher. (You’ll be able to readily see the good stuff sitting on top). Fill your churn half-full with the cream and let it sit at room temperature to “clabber.” This is an important step and could take several hours. Test it with a a food thermometer, and when it is about 55-60 degrees (a little cooler than room temp), you’re ready to start the fun part: churning. Move the dasher up and down, trying to keep a consistent, rhythmic motion. We suggest singing to help keep a steady beat. Watch the hole in the churn’s top and the sides of the dasher. Once you see small “grains” of butterfat (probably in 20-30 minutes), you’re almost done. Take the top off for a look inside, and you’ll either see a nice big blob of butter floating in liquid, or you won’t. If you do, move on to the next step. If not, keep a-churning ‘til you do.
  • Step 5: Retrieve your butterball from the remaining buttermilk in the churn and place it in a large section of cheesecloth to strain. Squeeze it to remove as much liquid as you can, then place the butter into a clean bowl with a little ice water. Roll it around and push it against the sides of the bowl, squeezing any more liquid out. This washing process will help keep the butter fresh. Pour off the water and do this at least one more time.

Success! Now your butter is done. You can salt it now if you like. Press it into pretty molds if you have them. Or just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will keep one week in the fridge or up to six months in the freezer.

Today’s Way

Why This Way? Because you crave the simple, smooth pureness of homemade butter but have zero patience and even less time.

  • Step 1: Add 2 cups heavy cream (get organic if you can) to your electric mixer’s bowl and turn it on. Let it blend on medium speed and watch the transformation with wonder. You’ll see the soft peaks of whipped cream first, then stiff peaks. These will then fall and become a thicker mixture with small beads and blobs of butterfat pulling away from the liquid. Soon, these beads will come back together while the liquid, which is basically thin buttermilk, stays in the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer off and pour off the liquid.
  • Step 2: Press the butter together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and place it in cheesecloth so you can squeeze any remaining liquid out. Put the butter back in the bowl and add a little ice water while rolling it around and squeezing it against the sides of the bowl to “bathe” it. Do this at least twice, squeezing out all the liquid again each time. Put it in the cheesecloth one last time if needed.

And there you have it: butter. You can salt it now if you like. Press it into pretty molds if you have them. Or just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will keep one week in the fridge or up to six months in the freezer.

You’ve Made Your Butter, Now Eat it Too

Mission accomplished. You did it. And if you did it all Laura Ingalls’ style, double congrats! You can rest easy knowing that if left to your own devices a century or two ago, despite the fact that you can’t build yourself a home or sew your own clothes, you would’ve had plenty of homemade butter, so at least you wouldn’t have starved. You can survive on just butter, right?

This article originally appeared on Lean magazine's website,, here.

Go-To Goodness: Ginger

I have a tendency to fixate on things. I do it in life; I do it with food. My current obsession is ginger. As recently as a few years ago, my knowledge of this aromatic, slightly spicy substance was pretty much restricted to ginger ale, which I only drank when I had an upset stomach.

Now, I'm all about the stuff. I use it in anything I can think of. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. We won't talk about the ill-fated ginger-cheese incident. And I'm addicted to ginger beer (which is okay, since despite its name, contains zero alcohol). FYI: Ginger beer is not the same thing as ginger ale; it's got a lot more ginger taste.

Ginger has some proven and potent health benefits too. It's packed with antioxidants and has long been prized in herbal medicine for its anti-inflammatory effects and its ability to calm nausea (why your mom gave you ginger ale when you felt icky as a kid).

My favorite way to enjoy ginger at the moment is ginger-sesame dressing. My version is modified a bit from this recipe on Seeded at the Table. Remember, you don't have to be a chef to fool around with recipes. Most have a few basic ingredients that need to be there, but feel free to adjust the heat and spice level along with other flavorings to your liking. I'll give you the recipe and then a few ways to use it (other than drinking it straight from the bottle).

Ginger-Sesame Dressing

  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed 
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp sesame seeds

Put all ingredients in a jar. (I used a Weck juice jar for this.) Shake to combine and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Everybody in the jar! We're about to shake things up.

Everybody in the jar! We're about to shake things up.

This is what it looks like after all the shaking. Before all the shaking, please remember to make sure your top or lid is on good and tight, and no, that is not sesame-ginger dressing on my ceiling. But thanks for asking.

This is what it looks like after all the shaking. Before all the shaking, please remember to make sure your top or lid is on good and tight, and no, that is not sesame-ginger dressing on my ceiling. But thanks for asking.

Asian Chicken Salad (serves two for dinner)

This is just one of a gazillion tasty ways to use up this dressing.

  • Three scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted chicken, shredded

  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots  

  • 2 tablespoons hot or sweet pepper, finely diced

  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

  • half a small head of Napa cabbage chopped fine

  • 2 cups butter or romaine lettuce (optional) 

  • 1/2 cup Sesame-Ginger Dressing

Mix everything except the lettuce and let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Serve over a bed of lettuce doused in additional dressing if desired.