Cherries and Mouth-gasmic smoothies: It’s summertime!

Well folks, it’s cherry season yet again southern California. Which means, now is the perfect time to head over to your farmers markets and buy them by the bucketload…

Cherries!!
Cherries!!

How could you resist a huge bowl of slightly crunchy and seductively sweet organic cherries grown locally during their prime season??

Sure they are available year round, but you can definitely tell the difference in taste during their off season. Have you ever bitten into a cherry that tasted kind of like…rubbery water? Was it in December?

Though cherries are delicious on their own… I particularly like to include them in my famous fruit smoothies, and I know their famous because uhm… this random guy came up to me in the supermarket and asked for my autograph…*ahem* whatever it’s not important.

Here’s the recipe for my delish smoothies though, cherries are an essential ingredient.

Grassroot’s Gourmet Cherry-Berry ‘Mouth’gasm
Serves 4: (or one if you’re really thirsty….)

2 scoops soy vanilla icecream (I like soy delicious or soy dream)

1 banana

1 cup cherries (make sure to take the pits out)

1/2 cup blueberries

1 cup strawberries

2tbsp lime juice (key ingredient)

2 cups ice

Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth-ified.

So go out there and buy some cherries (and beets and sour plums) because, ’tis the season! God how I love summer and its amazing produce…

‘Tis the Season: Fresh Fruit in Spring

Being a Californian, I am totally spoiled by having access to delicious fruits and veggies all year long. But the Spring brings back some of my personal favorites to the farmers market.

Fresh Seasonal Strawberries
Fresh Seasonal Strawberries

To buy in Spring:

  • Avocados
  • Mangos
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Snap Peas
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms

God, there’s nothing like buying fresh organic strawberries off the little farmer’s stand on the street corner. As I see them all start to open their doors, I remember it’s almost summer!

Some of my favorite farmer’s markets this time of year include:

The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

And various farmer’s markets around the OC that can be found here

Seasons Greetings and Happy Eatings! Enjoy!

Beets: The canned veg of doom?

Every time I find myself at a salad bar, there is always that tub of red, gelatinous circles that are supposed to represent beets. To me they look much more like sliced cranberry sauce.  In fact, I think it would be safe to say that the majority of Americans associate beets with this image: (cue generic slasher film soundtrack)

Generic Canned Beets. (ear piercing scream)
Generic Canned Beets. (ear piercing scream)
And it’s really hard to know what to do with beets, as far as recipes are concerned. In fact the only recipe I can think of off hand is my grandmother’s Borscht…which, well we won’t get into it… but it’s not a very good advertisement for this vegetable.
Fortunately, though beets get a pretty bad rep, if eaten fresh and prepared correctly, this sweet and color-rich vegetable can make for an incredibly healthy and delicious ingredient.
The freshest beets can be found between June and October. As a root vegetable, the meat of the beet grows underground while its leafy stems protrude from the soil. Before cooking, beets are hard and crunchy, however with preparation they transform into buttery bites of sweet delight.
Beets are notoriously recognized for their uncompromising ability to stain just about any article of clothing, but the good news is that beets do not only come in the commonly found dark red variety, but also can be found in white, yellow, and even rainbow! See here:
Heirloom Beet Varieties
Heirloom Beet Varieties

They are also incredibly beneficial for maintaining a healthy diet, high in complex sugars, rich in anti-oxidents, and low in calories! whooaa-ho! oh, AND they contain powerful nutrients that have been proven to help protect against birth defects, heart disease, and colon cancer.

Ok, sorry maybe I am a little too enthusiastic about these beets, but I’m telling you the first time I saw those bullseye ones I thought I was having some kind of drug-induced flashback. Crazy what kind of edible-art nature can produce huh?

And just because I am nice, I’ll add in a delish recipe that I found that will appeal to even the pickiest eater. CAKE!…..beet cake. It may not be the most low-cal recipe but it’s a nice way to transition beets into your diet. Yes?

Recipe Found on Cookinglight.com (click for original site)

If you like carrot cake, then you’ll love this unusual dessert. The batter is bright red but bakes to a golden brown. You may want to wear an apron while grating the beets because they tend to splatter.

Yield

18 servings (serving size: 1 piece)

Ingredients

  • Cake:
  • 1  pound  beets (about 2 medium)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3  cup  granulated sugar
  • 2/3  cup  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup  vegetable oil
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • Frosting:
  • 2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1  (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
  • 3  cups  sifted powdered sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, peel beets using a vegetable peeler. Grate beets, using the large holes of a grater, to measure 2 cups.

Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray.

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add beets; beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Carefully peel off wax paper, and cool cake completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, beat orange rind, vanilla, and cream cheese with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar; beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting; top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle nuts over top of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Would you like some Corn with your Corn?

So just a quick bit, I am currently reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma because naturally as a foodie thats into the environment, this book is right up my alley.

Anyway, though I have only just begun I have already been introduced to so many horrifying statistics and factoids that I am considering becoming an AIRitarian….that’s right, I’ll just eat air from now on….

For example: Apparently there is corn or some sort of corn by product in about 80% of all the processed foods we can find in the supermarket. To list a few: Mayonnaise, nondairy creamer, frozen yogurt, cheez whiz, soups, snacks, cake mix, frosting, frozen waffels, syrups, hot sauces, hot dogs, bologna, salad dressing, VITAMINS. my GOD!

Why is it so bad be having this much corn? Who cares if you’re eating corn in basically every foodstuff that enters your mouth? Well, amongst the ridiculously long list of reasons, corn has become a commodity, not only a food product. In fact, many farms across the midwestern “corn row” (an area of America completely filled by acres and acres of corn fields, about twice the size of New York state) are growing corn that is not even directly edible by consumers. This genetically modified, easy to maintain, governmentally subsidized product, is grown in obscenely large amounts (larger than any American consumer can eat) to feed livestock, fatten them up more quickly, to make us some Grade A meat, and FAST!

…And what’s worse, is that these livestock (and EVEN SALMON) are not accustomed to having a corn-based diet, making these animals sick or extremely vulnerable to disease. But thank god for antibiotics right? I love me some antibacterialized beef.

What’s absolutely disgusting is that the corn in all of our food increases the caloric value astronomically, but for no reason at all. Maybe THIS is the reason for such high rates of type 2 Diabetes, and obesity in America?

I will make more updates about this book as I read it, seriously I am just turning each page, more and more horrified.

There is much more to say about corn, but to be honest, I don’t have the mind or the stomach to list all of them right now. I am being haunted by the corn in my pantry, I think I just heard my box of Special K taunting me… wow I need a nap.

Has anyone else out here read this book? Any reactions to the corn section?

Holy Heirloom!!!

You ever wonder why the majority of those seemingly flawless fruits and veggies that come from the supermarket have absolutely no taste at all? We’ve all had those moments when biting into that plasticized apple brought back memories of eating paint chips as a child….come on, you know what I’m talking about.

The majority of fruits and veggies you get at the supermarket are  produced and cultivated because these particular varieties can withstand trips from long distances and remain seemingly fresh for weeks before showing signs of age. The taste however, is usually closer to cardboard than a fruit or vegetable.

We begin to ask ourselves, where did all the real fruits and veggies go? The ones that our grandparents told us about when they were kids? These sweet, succulent, fresh, and delicious fruit and vegetable varieties, or heirlooms, can be readily found at local natural foods stores and farmers markets. This is where the consumer goes when he is fed up with the fake stuff.

Heirloom, or antique, is a word that is used for a fruit/veggie variety that has been cultivated for many generations. These varieties were cultivated much more at the beginning of human agricultural history than they are now on a large-scale.  Heirloom seeds have a long history, constantly adapting and changing to thrive properly within their respective environments, making them resistant to local pests and diseases.  Because these heirloom varieties have a pedigree,  they come in interesting shapes and colors, such as white tomatos, purple carrots, and striped beets.

The flavors of these products speak for themselves. Because they are only grown during their respective growing seasons, when purchased, these fruits and veggies are at the peak of freshness, and usually come from a relatively local farm.

So you may be asking, “If these Heirloom things are such a big deal, then why wouldn’t supermarkets carry them?” Well, unfortunately heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are not as profitable as your generic mass produced varieties. They usually perish more quickly and can therefore not sit for long on shelves or keep well for cross-country/international shipments. Also, the varieties bred for the supermarket usually all look the same both in size and color, and ripen at the same time, allow for a more convenient/reliable product.

The commercial grower’s hybrid bred varieties are a sacrifice not only to taste, but to the rich culture and history of American agriculture. For example, before the mass production of commercialized hybrid produce varieties, nearly 7,000 varieties of apples existed in the country in the early 1900s, now unfortunately less than 1,000 exists and the number is constantly diminishing. This reality exists for a large array of our fruits and vegetables, including potatos, lettuce, carrots, and tomatos.

Home gardeners and small farms continue to cultivate heirloom varieties to maintain the richness of our agricultural past. It is something of a tribute to a memory of the centuries old fruit and vegetable lineage that is slowly dying out for more capitalistic motivations. This is the biodiversity that is being lost to the industrialization of agriculture, and what a shame. We are being denied the fundamental right to gastronomical pleasure, just so the commercial growers can make an extra buck!

To gain some perspective. Lets do some photo comparisons.

Apples:

The Grapple

The Grapple?
Because who doesn't want an apple that's genetically modified to taste like grapes?

Heirloom Fuji Variety

Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji
Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji: I'd prefer an apple that tastes like apples thanks.

Carrots:

The Supermarket Carrot
Is that a cheese puff?
Is that a cheese puff?
Heirloom Purple Haze Carrots

Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots
Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots

Tomato:

The Supermarket Tomato

Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomatoe
Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomato

Heirloom Variety Tomato:

Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom Tomato
Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom Tomato

My opinon may seem bias, but that is only because I can see and taste the difference between the commercially produced and the environmentally sound and delicious Heirloom varieties. Next time you find yourself in your local neighborhood market, pick up an heirloom fruit/veggie and give yourself a blind taste test with the other fruits and veggies you have at home. Tasting is believing.

You’ll thank me.