Citrus Roasted Vegetable Salad

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We love the availability of different citrus during the winter months. Blood oranges offer a stunning color to dishes. We have found Cara Cara oranges, tangerines, Clementine’s are everyone’s favorite, and even Meyer lemons can easily be found and would add a fresh tang to this dressing.

Roasting vegetables is a wonderful way to caramelize them and enhance their sweetness and flavor. Mel is a self-proclaimed #1 fan of carrots. So they were absolutely going to be added to this salad. Cauliflower is readily available and stored this time of year and is really delicious when roasted.

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and provide a great crunch to this salad.

We served a big platter of this for Mel’s birthday dinner this year. While the main course was a favorite stuffed pasta shells, this hearty salad was a huge hit. Cooked French lentils would be a delicious addition and would add more substance and protein. We wrote in an earlier blog about cooking more vegetarian dishes these days. Beans and lentils are our go to’s to bulk up any dish.

We certainly don’t feel like we missed out on anything with this salad and had happy full bellies.

Citrus and Roasted Vegetable Salad Recipe

Serves: 6 Time: 30-45 minutes

Set oven to 375 degrees

Salad Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

3 large carrots, peeled and large cut

2 Tb olive oil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 blood oranges, segmented

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2 navel oranges, segmented

5 ounce container mixed greens (any greens you like will work here)

½ cup Pumpkin seeds

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Dressing ingredients:

½ cup Maple syrup

1 Garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup Olive oil/vegetable oil

Juice of 2 oranges

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste


Place carrots and cauliflower on a sheet tray, toss with 2 Tb olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roast in oven, stirring or turning vegetables a couple times for 20 minutes or until caramelized and slightly tender.

When 5 minutes remain, toast pumpkin seeds in the oven on a sheet tray, giving a shake at least once.

In a blender combine mustard, maple syrup, garlic, and citrus juices. Drizzle in oil until emulsified, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add water to thin out, if necessary.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the greens, adding dressing to the sides of the bowl, to incorporate evenly.

Start assembling the salad on a platter or individual dishes. Greens on the bottom, layer on the roasted vegetables, citrus segments and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle more dressing on top and a few cracks of black pepper.

Seed obsessed

Hello my name is Melanie and I have something to fess up, I am a seedaholic.

If there is a seed pod perfectly dried, full of seed, ready for the picking, I just cannot help myself.

I pop it off and most often stick it in my pocket, or my glove compartment. Hopefully I find an envelope so I can write down what it is while I still remember. I have countless envelopes labeled with what I believe the plant is and where/who’s garden I plucked it from. The favorites in my collection are the ones that my partner in crime my mother in law Pat, or I have no clue what the plant is. These packages are labeled ‘tall yellow flower from Pat’. Many treasures have come from the Omena U-pick flower farm like Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower; Traverse City community garden, is where dill, fennel and whole sunflower heads full of seed have been found. No garden is safe from me, most of my neighbors gardens, or walks in the woods have all added to my collection. Moonflower from Cheryl’s, woodland Columbine from the Treat farm trail, to name a few.

I have even been known to make mental notes to return in a week or more after seeing a brilliant colored poppy at the Iris farm on M72.



I love the sound of a ripe poppy seed head, rattling like a maraca when the seeds are ready.

Sunflowers are one of the easiest, I pick a few to save then I attach the whole head to my shepherds hook. We then watch birds and chipmunks harvest the richly nutrient seeds.

I’ll usually let one lettuce, parsley or basil plants go to seed in my garden, just to see if I can grow it next year.

Maybe what’s at the core of this is that I’m cheap. Let’s just say thrifty. Did you notice how many envelopes, I re-purposed?

It is extremely rewarding though to grow something from a seed. To see it through its life cycle. To see that sunflower bloom, eat the lettuce or tomato that you grew.

I’m ready for the growing season to begin, are you?

Happy garden planning, Mel

Middle Eastern Butternut Squash dip

This recipe is inspired by the Turkish muhammarri dip, traditionally made with roasted peppers.

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We love the fragrant spices of this region, adding flavor and heat to familiar ingredients.

We used butternut squash, basically because it was available and it’s in season. We originally made this for a holiday party in December, when we have vegan and vegetarian friends coming and wanted to make something delicious they could enjoy. Too often, they are left with salad or bread as an afterthought or condiment sandwich. The walnuts in this dip provide protein and taking the time to toast them adds depth of flavor. We served this with crostini, crudites, and crackers. It’s best warm but gets tastier over the next few days.

We really like how the spices enhance the natural sweetness of the squash. By now in winter we have been eating butternut, acorn and delicata squashes for months. As a soup, roasted on salad and filled with various grains. We needed to reinvent it.

Two of the spices in this dish, we just can not get enough of lately. Za’atar which is a middle eastern spice blend of sesame, woody herbs and sumac. Sumac itself is a dried berry with citrus-like flavor and brilliant red color that you’ll want to top off the dip with more.

In the last few years, we have experimented with some different food trends. Tim felt it was important as a chef to understand what people are eating and why. Cauliflower pizza crust or “rice” is totally delicious. We have made several different veggie burgers, some with lentils, some with beans or nuts as their base. Since moving to Empire last year we have been cooking more for vegetarian friends. It has provided an unknown challenge as a chef and a cook, making interesting food, without meat. It’s also important to make sure we get balanced nutrition and protein from beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, not from just cheese. Believe us, we have never met a cheese we didn’t like.

Most of us can say that after eating a cheesy pizza loaded with pepperoni and or a burger and fries that you feel ready for a nap, have heartburn or indigestion. Isn’t getting older just the best? Sometimes when the busy season is upon us we both can be working 10 or more hour shifts. We joke that if they made people food in a can we would eat better than our cat for once. Sometimes you are just so hungry you can’t think and just need sustenance. Luna and Clif bars are life savers but that gets boring pretty fast. When we eat a meal prepared ahead of time when we have our head together, we are fueled for the day, we are not weighed down by it and we’re happy with the choices we’ve made.

We look forward to sharing some of our favorite recipes for healthy filling meals. We hope you enjoy our first installment

Yield: 4 cups Time:1 hour 10 minutes (30 minutes active)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 1b butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

8 ounces walnut pieces

1 ½ tsp Za’atar

1 tsp sumac, plus more for garnish

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

2 Tb olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup Fustini’s pomegranate balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste


Roast butternut squash, skin on in a roasting pan, cut side down. Add a splash of water to the pan, cover with foil. You want the squash to soften to be easily puree, not caramelize.

With 10 minutes of cooking time left, toast the walnuts on a sheet pan in the oven. Give the pan a shake or stir once.

Remove the squash when knife tender, a knife should effortlessly pierce through. Allow squash to cool slightly. Remove nuts when slightly brown and fragrant, allow to cool on the pan a moment.

In a food processor pulse the walnuts until roughly chopped, remove half the nuts, reserve for garnish. Continuing to puree walnuts, add squash and olive oil, pureed till combined and smooth. Add all spices through lemon juice to the processor and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with reserved nuts, sumac and the balsamic vinegar on top.