Au Naturel Essence

All natural treats for body and soul


Berry Good Baked Goods

I’m heading into the last few weeks of my pregnancy.  I’ve loved every moment of being pregnant, but I’m also looking forward to meeting the little one!  And I’m finally done with work, so I have some time to myself at the moment!

Keeping Busy

I’m not one to sit around with my feet up, so I’ve embarked on a baking extravaganza, all in preparation for baby’s arrival and my anticipated lack of time.  My goal has been to bake something every few days and then toss it in the freezer. My baking has largely been limited to berry-based recipes due to the 72 baggies of berries that I had in my freezer until quite recently.  I’ve also been trying to choose healthier ingredients where I can so that I have somewhat healthy midnight snacks.  To do that, I’ve used oatmeal as a partial substitute for flour, apple sauce and yogurt to moisten the muffins and, for the non-berry recipes, I’ve used veggies.  In all of my experiments, I’ve used coconut oil which worked out really well in all of them.

Here’s how it has turned out so far:

Berry Good Baked Goods

Lemon-Blueberry Loaf

This was the first lemon loaf I ever made.  I liked it so much that I made a second batch the next day.  It incorporates yogurt in the recipe which really kept the loaf moist.  It froze well and I’d definitely make it again!

Lemon Blueberry Loaf with Yogurt

Lemon Blueberry Loaf with Yogurt

Blueberry Muffins

I tried a couple of different recipes for my blueberry recipes.  Ultimately, this one was my favorite.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

Not only do I have lots of blueberries to use up, I also have strawberries!  I loved this recipe for strawberry and lemon muffins, two of my favorite flavours.  These were a cinch to make and they taste great!

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

Non-Berry Based Baking

I also dabbled in some non-berry baking, mainly because I couldn’t resist the temptation.   It’s been squash and pumpkin season and here’s what I made with those:

Butternut Squash Muffins

I was inspired to make these after reading Heidi’s post about them on her blog Lightly Crunchy.  I used homemade squash puree, homemade apple sauce and I even made my own pumpkin spice for this recipe.  Heidi’s recipe and tips both worked great. I only tasted one of these before putting the rest in the freezer.  I really enjoyed that muffin!

Butternut Squash Muffins

Butternut Squash Muffins

Apple Zucchini Muffins

I also tried some apple zucchini muffins.  Unfortunately, these didn’t turn out so great.  Maybe I got the proportions wrong, but they came out tasting pretty bland and a wee bit tough.  They won’t go to waste, but I don’t think these are up to standard for serving to others!

Carrot Scones
Carrot Scones

Carrot Scones

I was lucky enough to receive a bag full of fresh carrots from a friend’s garden.  The carrots were so sweet!  I used a few of them to try out a carrot scone recipe I found on Pinterest.  If you check out the recipe, you’ll see that two of the key ingredients are carrots and cheese.  How could you go wrong?  Truly, they turned out well!

More Baking to Come?

To date, I’ve made 3 loaves of bread and 12 batches of muffins (that includes a couple batches of scones).  My freezer doesn’t have any more room than before. Rather, I’ve just replaced the bags of berries with baked goods.  I have no doubt that we’ll go through them quickly and soon enough, there will be room in the freezer for other goodies.

If you’re interested in any one of these recipes, just about all of them are pinned on one of my Pinterest boards called Yummy Food and Treats.


Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds

It’s the Season for Squash!

Fall has arrived and that means that all kinds of squash are in season!

One of my favorite Fall and Winter foods is Roasted Squash Soup.  I use a simple recipe that calls for roasted carrots, onions, garlic and butternut squash.  It’s seasoned with cinnamon, curry powder and oregano.  I also like to add nutmeg.  Finally, I thicken the soup with a bit of milk.  The recipe calls for regular milk, but I usually substitute that with almond or coconut milk.  Both work just as well.

Do You Use the Seeds?

I usually throw out the seeds that come from the squash.  This time, I decided that I would keep them and try to roast them.  After all, I buy roasted pumpkin seeds.  These couldn’t be all that different, right?

In fact, it was easy to roast the seeds to perfection and they taste better than anything I could buy in the store.   I washed the seeds after extracting them from the squash, dried them out, tossed them in a bit of coconut oil and salt, and then roasted them in the oven. It was one of the easiest snacks I’ve ever made!

What’s So Good about Butternut Squash Seeds?

Aside from being really tasty, these seeds are a great source of zinc and calcium.  The seeds also pack a lot of protein.  They are great to add to a mix of nuts for an afternoon snack.

I always like to keep an assortment of almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds and the like with me during the day.  I’ll definitely be adding my butternut squash seeds to the mix.  A handful of this mix in the afternoon is usually just what I need to keep me going and to avoid that afternoon lull.

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Five Ideas to Treat Your Dad on Father’s Day

We’re a few days away from Father’s Day.  Do you know how you’re going to honor your father, or father-in-law, or both this weekend?  If you’re like me and still debating how best to mark the day, here are a few ideas to stimulate your imagination:

1.  Spend Time Together

I don’t know about you, but between work and my own family, it can get tough to make time to spend with my dad.  Father’s Day is a perfect excuse to schedule some time to hang out with your dad over coffee or lunch.

2.  Take your dad to the movies!

When was the last time you went out with your dad to see a movie or a show?  A few years ago, I bought tickets for me and my dad to see David Copperfield.  I grew up watching him on TV and it was such a treat to see him in person, for both of us!

3.  How about a game of golf?

Schedule a game of golf (or tennis, or squash, or whatever game that your dad likes and that you can play).  This is a great way to spend time with your dad.

4.  Buy him that gadget he’s been eyeing in the store

Is there something in the store that your dad is dying to buy, but hasn’t yet?  It could be a gadget or some clothes.  If you’re sure that he’d like it, go for it!

5.  Ask him what HE wants to do!

After all, it is HIS day.  If you’re stuck for ideas, ask you dad how he would like to spend the day.

In my own humble opinion, the best way to mark any family occasion is to spend time together.  There are few gifts that can top high quality family time.

Whatever you do, have fun making this Father’s Day a special one!