Sweet May hath come to love us, Flowers, trees, their blossoms don;

And through the blue heavens above us the very clouds move on. —Heinrich Heine

The month of May is surely a time to celebrate!  Crabapple and dogwoods have magnificently burst into bloom, a multitude of pillowy white and pink blossoms announcing a new season of joy. There is a vista of color everywhere.

During such an exuberant month, a conscious cook naturally gravitates towards exceptional dishes.

With Mother’s Day, college graduations, outdoor parties and other social occasions, brunch is a natural choice for any type of celebratory gathering.

Combining breakfast and lunch, brunch is a delectable way to incorporate a wide variety of healthful ingredients into a very special meal for family and friends. Brunch first became popular in the late 1800’s, as a lighter alternative to the heavy post-church meals that were common at the time.

A well-crafted brunch could include both sweet and savory dishes, giving the cook a grand opportunity to mix and match a variety of flavors. Fresh fruits or freshly squeezed juice are appropriate, perhaps even a beautiful blueberry or blackberry smoothie to start things off. Egg dishes such as frittatas or stratas are easy to prepare, but elegant to present, and are a healthy way to offer a variety of vegetables including broccoli, spinach, roasted peppers, onions, along with cheese and herbs.  Eggs provide protein, vitamin A, and many B vitamins essential for nerve and brain health. Vegetables contain antioxidants and cancer preventative compounds, as well as providing anti-inflammatory benefits and an abundance of fiber.

Garden-fresh asparagus, so incredibly delicious when in season, can be lightly steamed and dressed with a sprightly lemon vinaigrette for a luscious low-calorie addition to the menu. Eating asparagus may help eliminate excess sodium from the body. Add a pretty salad composed of sweet strawberries, crisp fennel and tangy arugula for a superb combination of flavors that provide a bevy of healthful benefits. Strawberries may boost short term memory and ease inflammation. Fennel is capable of relieving anemia, indigestion and flatulence, while zesty arugula has few calories and is bursting with vitamin C, as well as vitamin K, for brain and bone health.

Prepare a delectable and nutritious brunch as part of your delicious life during this merry, merry month of May!

Merry May Brunch Salad

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons minced shallots

5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

5 teaspoons champagne vinegar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium head fennel, halved, cored and cut crosswise into paper thin slices

big handful of baby arugula, washed and well dried

1 pint organic strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced (or substitute any fresh berry you prefer)

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (almonds may be substituted)

2 ounces shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Place the shallots, both vinegars, salt, pepper and oil in a glass jar and securely screw on the top. Shake until ingredients are fully incorporated. Place the fennel in a large bowl, along with the arugula, strawberries and nuts and toss gently to combine. Add the vinaigrette and gently toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.  Add the cheese and toss again lightly. Garnish with a whole berry or two.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com.