Category Archives: Fruit

Fun with a Juicer

My father bought a juicer because he was in the process of losing 60 pounds.  Good use…healthy.  Better use…sangria.  Although Dad kept the weight off, he quickly tired of juicing, which was not a huge or unwelcome surprise.  I think my sister got his old bread machine.  And since he doesn’t do cheap, I inherited a juicer that’s motor sounds like a plane taking off.

When he gave it to me, I said, “So this is the best juicer money can buy, huh?”  He said, “Nope, they were out.  That’s the second best juicer money can buy.”  But his description of the process was so tedious and time-consuming that it’s just been sitting in my cabinet.  The prospect of good health surely didn’t spur me to dust it off, but the prospect of good sangria for Thanksgiving—yeah, baby!  Here are my apples:  Here is my juice:

My father exaggerates so much I expected a tablespoon; but not bad, there’s at least over a cup.  I forgot how pained he is by the smallest of chores.  It’s actually fun.  The whole apple fits in the chute, and when you push it down, it makes a great swoosh sound as it explodes into juice and foam.  Oh, how my sister and I will be toasting to our father’s ever-coming and quickly-forgotten obsessions over fresh sangria tomorrow night.  Cheers, Stacy!  I’m juicing oranges and cranberries next.

Summer Garden?

I’m not at all convinced anything will grow, but I’m going for a summer garden anyway.  A Google search on heat-resistant plants and here’s my list:

  • Yard long beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chili peppers
  • Calabazza pumpkins
  • Ping Tung Long eggplant
  • Pretty much any herb

To find the actual seeds, I took the search offline and did the best I could around the corner at Hibbs Farm and Garden.  My choices were long beans, Purple Petra basil, Long Purple eggplant, and Sugar Baby watermelon–not on the list, but the seed packet says they can be planted from April through June.

And I happen to have a sweet potato sprouting on my kitchen counter.  My expectations for everything are low, so no disappointments if the seeds shrivel instead of sprout.  Still, there are plenty of plants that thrive in the hot, rainy Florida summers, at least one has to be edible.  Let the search for summer sustenance begin!

Getting Ripe for Summer

I juiced the last of the grapefruit tonight, and in about a month the farm stands will start to close up for summer.  But a quick walk through my neighborhood keeps the hope of fresh produce alive.  Pineapples, lychees and mangoes are starting to ripen.

I can’t wait to try this recipe:

Katie Lee’s Mango Margarita Ice Pops

Combine 2 1/2 cups chopped mango, 1/4 cup silver tequila, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1/4 cup agave nectar or sugar in a blender and puree until smooth.  Pour into 6 ice pop molds and freeze until solid.

Two reasons I love my garden right now…

Fresh flowers on my table…

…and fresh grapefruit in my sangria.

Ugly Grapefruit

 

I forgot so many items on my list of simple things I’m looking forward to this upcoming year, so a big apology goes out to my grapefruit tree.  Those yellow balls are starting to get ugly!  Don’t let grocery store wax fool you; a good, ripe grapefruit isn’t pretty…not on the outside anyway.  When the grapefruit first look grocery store worthy, their insides match their outsides – yellow like a lemon and just as sour.  When they start turning brown and nasty, that’s when I turn into Luke and start licking my chops because there’s nothing but pink, juicy sweetness inside.

Lukey, the Chop-licker

And just when I was down to only a head of Romaine and a half a red onion in the vegetable drawer…perfect timing.  I left the red onion, grabbed some edamame from the freezer, a bagel from the fridge, and a bottle of Ken’s Steak House Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette from the cabinet.  Voila, the perfect side for a simple London broil.  I usually make my own raspberry vinaigrette, but Ken’s is a good substitute on a busy day.  Vinaigrette tames the sourness of grapefruit.  John and Cooper sadly don’t share my acid-loving palette, so they often find grapefruit too sour even when I think it’s at its best.  But I do the cooking, so needless to say, both find vinaigrette helpful this time of year.  And we all loved the “in a pinch” bagel croutons – just melted butter and an Everything bagel but so, so tasty.This is just the beginning.  We had a terrible yield last season after the incident, and it’s time to make up for the loss.  Grapefruit will be sliced, diced, zested, sugared, broiled, thrown into salads, mixed into cocktails, and of course, they will be juiced.  Pink grapefruit juice – a girl’s best friend.  One of my girlfriend’s bums it like a cigarette, believing it will have the same slimming effect on her figure.I looked up the “grapefruit diet” but it seems to be more of an urban myth than a reputable weight loss plan.  The premise is that you either eat half a grapefruit or drink eight ounces of juice with a protein, and an enzyme in the grapefruit causes you to burn fat.  I came up with two small studies that indicated weight loss but one was done by the Florida Department of Citrus…perhaps there’s some bias there.  And neither pointed to a specific property within the grapefruit that burns fat.  Grapefruit has fiber, so it’s filling and low in calories.  I’m all for the fruit, but the diet seems to employ the same magical thinking my sister refers to when her teenage daughter shoves her school uniform into the washer 20 minutes before she’s supposed to leave and expects to get to school on time.

What’s not magical thinking is that pink grapefruit contain vitamins A and C, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, and magnesium.   They also contain phytosterols, which are proven to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  Yes, I’m looking forward to a hearty, healthy season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We spent the day with family and friends at someone else’s house…and that may be what I’m most thankful for this year – no cooking, no cleaning and no dishes.  All I had to be responsible for was fruit.  I can’t remember a recent Thanksgiving morning when I’ve had so much free time on my hands; the proof is in the fruit.If all I had to bring was fruit, then I was bringing FRUIT!  Some boring fruit salad would just not do, and as I proudly set my gigantic fruit art down on the table, my teenage niece says, “God, you always have to show off.”  Add an eye-roll and here’s the face to go with that comment.

Mary

LOL!  Thanksgiving is about family, and OMG I’m turning into my father.  Leave it to a teenager to point it out.  Although I don’t think either of us are show-offs per say…over-the-top on occasion?  Yep.

It a weird thing when you realize you are the person you’ve been making fun of.  I was just goofing on him today with my sister because he’s walking now.  To a normal person, this would consist of simply walking more.  But to my father, he has to plan his whole day around his walks because each one has to be two hours long.  He bought a new iPod, that I know of only because he forced my little brother to load it, but I’m betting there are more shiny, new things strapped to him too – a pedometer perhaps, at the very least, new sneakers.  And his iTunes bill probably cost more than my phone bill last month.

But here I sit, the mocking woman who couldn’t just bring fruit salad.  My house is littered with the evidence of past gung-ho efforts – reams of scrapbook paper, pounds of soap, shards of tile, the list goes on.  Oh well, one more thing to be thankful for today – the ability to laugh at myself.

And if you’d like to make a fruit bouquet yourself, it’s actually not as difficult or ostentatious as my niece would have you believe.  It’s all in the tools – cookie cutters and skewers.  I cookie cut all the pieces before assembling the bouquet and kept popping the fruit in and out of the fridge to keep the pieces cool and fresh.
The base is a half a watermelon, fruit kept in tact to hold the skewers in place.  As long as you cut your fruit slices thin enough to clear your cookie cutters, this is an easy project with some show-off, wow factor.  Yes, Mary, you will be seeing this fruit bouquet again.

Waiting for Jessica at Yoder’s Fresh Market

I was all excited that Jessica’s Organic Farm reopened for the season last Friday, but then I didn’t go!  What’s wrong with me???  The stand is only open Fridays and Saturdays.  I worked both days but could have made it before they closed on Saturday.  I went to OfficeMax instead because it was closer, I was feeling lazy and the Siesta Key Farmers Market is held on Sundays.  Well, that just didn’t work out for me.  The Siesta Key market was rainy and bare.  There was only one produce stand open, but nothing was organic.  And for being chemically enhanced and covered in wax, the produce still didn’t look that good.

But my point is not to bash the stand or the market, it’s to share this quote from the Suncoast Locally Grown Online Farmers Market newsletter, “According to Kathy and Susan of My Mothers Garden, this time of year the definition of locally grown is anything south of the Mason Dixie Line!”  So I went looking for and found some Georgia peaches at Yoder’s Fresh Market that can tide me over until Saturday.

Although after visiting Jessica’s crop schedule, which doesn’t even list the months of August and September, I’m counting more on organic than local.  This far into the summer, I’d be ecstatic over regional.

It was nice to visit Yoder’s for a change.  They may not carry organics, but they’re another good source for local produce in season.  Last December they expanded into the building next door.  I only noticed it recently; today was my first visit.

Both buildings carry Amish jams, cheeses and cookies, but I only saw the pies in the newer, yellow building.  If you’re a Sarasota local, it’s most likely you know someone who has a favorite pie from Yoder’s.  John’s is banana cream. Yoder’s started with the restaurant; all three buildings are side-by-side on Bahia Vista Street.  I vaguely remember eating at the restaurant once, but the taste of their pies are clear in my mind.  They remind me of holidays, and the market has miniature versions!

But since they didn’t have banana cream, I came home with fresh-made granola and wheat bread instead.  Bread may not seem as exciting as pie, but squeeze it before judging.  The market carries some other staple items too-pasta and flour-but mostly it’s a nice Amish deli.  I’ll go back to try lunch; they offer fresh-made soups, salads and sandwiches.

…and it just dawned on me that peaches are on the Dirty Dozen list.  I pulled it up and not only are they on the list, peaches are ranked Number Four for containing some of the most pesticides among all produce.  Imagine me shrugging my shoulders here, “What can you do?”  This peach didn’t kill me, I’m guessing the four I bought today won’t either.

And since they’ve been a recent topic, avocados rank Number Four on the Clean Fifteen list of produce containing the least pesticides.

Avocados, Make Me Beautiful

I love Toby’s gift; I just don’t like avocados.  John-I love him too.  This was our dinner conversation over Creamy Avocado Pasta:

Me: “I don’t like this.”
John: “But it doesn’t taste like avocado; that’s a huge success.”

If no one else is laughing, I was.  I’m usually the one laughing loudest at his jokes anyway.  He’s funny, supportive and always optimistic; it’s nice to be around that sort of person.  So à la John, I took my lemons avocados and made lemonade beauty products. All day I whipped, blended and pampered.  I started with this…

And ended with this…

With avocados on hand, I didn’t have to leave the house for a thing.  All the ingredients were ready to go in the refrigerator and cabinets – milk, eggs, lemons, oatmeal, and cornmeal.  That covered not just my face, but my hands, feet and legs too.  I made a face mask, facial cleanser, foot scrub, and hand treatment.  Plus I set aside slices of avocado to use under my eyes and a couple of peels to moisturize.  It was time to relax…

And relaxing it was…the house was cool and quiet, not even a murmur of a TV or the chirp of a phone.  The boys were out all afternoon being loud at someone else’s house.  It was a very good day, and I’ll absolutely make these products again.  I loved all of them, especially the face mask.  It dried like any store-bought mask but was easier to wash off.  The ingredients are 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1/2 avocado mashed.

After 15 minutes or so, I used a warm washcloth to remove the mask and used the deep cleanser next.  The blender came in handy for this recipe.  Whisk an egg yolk until it’s frothy and add it to the blender with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 avocado mashed.  Anything applied with a cotton ball is preferable without chunks, so I strained to be safe.  And this is one I’ll be using tomorrow too.  The cleanser can be stored in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

After rinsing off the cleanser, I used the avocado peel as a moisturizer.  The peels contain humectant, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a substance that promotes retention of moisture.”  Although it left me looking a bit like Fiona from Shrek, it felt like rubbing my face in a drape of slick velor.  I kept circling it back over my lips like it was a tube of glossy lip balm.

Next up: feet and hands.  I preferred the foot scrub to the hand treatment.  It left my skin smoother, most likely due to the cornmeal.  The original recipe called for 2-3 tablespoons of cornmeal mixed with 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado, but the avocado I was using wasn’t as ripe as some of the others.  Having nearly no experience with avocado, it was lost on me how much this mattered until my spoon slid into a truly ripe one.  To improvise with the not quite ripe, I added a little olive oil and lemon juice to moisten and smooth out the texture.  It worked out so well that the leftovers ended up on my legs.  I’m now soft, smooth and completely relaxed.  Yes, it was a very good day.

Homemade Avocado Beauty Recipes

The Latest Doorstep Delivery

We have great neighbors.  They don’t throw wild parties or leave old cars out to rust on their front lawns.  They smile as they pass by, and they share their fruit.  Toby from next door gets the shout-out today for sharing her avocados.  By the time I reached the door, she was already across the street making her rounds with plastic bags full of them.  She yelled, “If you need more, I’ve got ‘em.”  And she does…the view from our fence:

Avocados aren’t my favorite, but I found some recipes to try and an all-natural facial is now on my weekend to-do list.

I have high hopes for both pasta dishes because I really want to like avocados.  According to the California Avocado Commission, “Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.” But here’s something I didn’t know, they’re also known as alligator pears.

Go Ahead, Eat that Weird Fruit

With most of the farms and markets closed for the summer, the fruit trees in our neighborhood are seeing us through. I already told you about the mangoes, but the harvest began at the end of June with a hippie in dreadlocks pilfering a tree around the corner.  Cooper and I were on our way to the beach when we saw him plucking giant raspberries off the tree with a dental pick made for a giraffe.  The tool was a long bamboo stick fastened with a thick wire hook on the end, and the fruit were lychees.

The Lychee tree is one of those things that has been around me for years, yet somehow I never noticed it. There are three huge, lush trees just one street over, and for about a month a year, they are covered in hundreds of fuchsia lychees.  In season, the trees are striking; I’m surprised at myself for missing them all these years…and for forgetting to take a picture this year.

I remember buying a few from Peter at the Downtown Farmers Market a while back but not knowing how to eat them or what to do with them.  I suppose I was hoping John, the Florida boy, would know what to do with them.  The hard, spiky rind was intimidating, but now that I’ve gotten to the inside, the texture is soft and juicy like a skinless grape.  The flesh tastes tropical, like a passion fruit but without being gooey.  And there’s a big, brown seed in the center, but don’t eat that.

On our way back from the beach, Cooper asked if we could stop off to get some lychees.  We knocked but no one was home.  Oh well, that’s that…so I thought.  When I went to walk Luke, Cooper followed with our big, bright orange citrus picker.  So there we are-Luke rolling in the grass, me holding the bag, and Cooper with the overly obvious picker poking at the lychee tree-and here comes the owner of the house…how embarrassing.  I apologized immediately, and she was…polite.  Cooper?  He wanted me to get out another bag.

My embarrassment faded and the experience broke me in for this month’s treat – longans.  We’ve changed our walking route so we can snack midway.  Although longan are good, my best description for them is that they’re a lesser lychee.  Longans are smaller and less flavorful but still refreshing during a hot walk, and both fruit are a good source of Vitamin C.

If the weird fruit isn’t doing it for you, there are only nine days left until Jessica’s Organic Farm Stand reopens.