farmers market · fruits · healthy eating · organic

Enter the Dragon (fruit)

~On my last trip to the grocery store (Mariano’s, my favorite!) I went home with items I had on my list and a few that weren’t. One of those was a dragon fruit. As strange as it was sitting in my cart next to the dried apricots and packages of Noosa yoghurt, there were good reasons behind it:

  1. How often do you find dragon fruit in a mainstream grocery store?! I thought you could only find those in an Asian specialty market or overseas.
  2. Dragon fruit has been one of those things that I’ve wanted to try but was too chicken to in the past. My sister’s tried it before and didn’t think much of it, so I was kind of hoping to convince her otherwise.
  3. Because what the hell?

There were actually 2 sections of dragon fruit in the produce department, those that were organic and those that weren’t. Of course I went with the organic one, even if it was a titch on the pricey side (over $3/lb). Plus the conventionally grown ones looked withered away.

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Before I ended up buying the dragon fruit, I hadn’t know much about them beside that they came from Asia and that they looked really pretty on the inside. After some research I learned that dragon fruit can also come from South America, Mexico and Israel. The specimen I purchased happened to be from Vietnam. And apparently it’s a type of cactus! Also know as ‘pitaya’, it comes in 3 colors: pink skin with white flesh (as pictured), pink sink with red flesh, and yellow skin with white flesh.

After I had cut into the fruit, but right before I pulled apart the two pieces, I did an imaginary drum roll in my head, hoping that it would look as I had predicted. It sure was!

The kiwi like black seeds were speckeled
throughout the fruit as if an artist had taken a calligraphy brush and meticulously placed each individual seed inside the flesh.

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Pitaya

Now the next question: how do I eat it?
I took a spoon, inserted it just behind the flesh up against the skin and scooped it out. Cutting each half into pieces, it was tasting time.

 

 

 

 

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I took a bite, and another….and another…. and nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It literally had no taste whatsoever. It was like one of those popular girls in high school: pretty but with no substance.

 

*Check out these pitaya pics and more in the Photo Garden!*

fruits · healthy eating

Culture Clash: Noosa vs Yoplait

~Yogurt, one of my favorites ^_^ I love to eat it with breakfast or as a healthy snack.  It’s rich, creamy taste, an endless combination of flavors, with the added goodness of probiotics?! What’s not to be happy about? I’ve always been a Yoplait kind of girl, but a tasty newcomer is giving Yoplait a run for its money. I was introduced to Noosa yogurt (or as they spell it ‘yoghurt’) by one of my co-workers. Unlike the one co-worker that told me I should try hot yoga, this co-worker didn’t say anything at all. I simply noticed that she had brought a Noosa (cherry I think) to snack on and one of the clinic cats was trying to eat it! Haha

After I had seen her bring it to work a couple of times, a simple but powerful thought penetrated my subconscious: “Why don’t you try it?” The next day I had gone to the store and found a 4 pack of vanilla Noosa, figured I’d start plain and work my way up. When I got home, I opened a cup and cautiously licked the lid. It had a curiously sweet taste, more like honey than using actual sugar to sweeten it. I took my first spoonful and my taste buds were sent on an unexpected yet wonderful journey of pure deliciousness. The vanilla beans that spattered the yogurt had an unctuous feeling and wonderfully bright aroma. The honey was sweet, but not too sweet, and a twist on traditional yogurt using sugar. It was so good that in 5 seconds flat the cup was licked clean. It almost tasted as good (or slightly better than) ice cream!

Now that I familiarized myself with Noosa, I decided to conduct a little experiment to see which, in my opinion, is the better yogurt. The criteria I judged it on were flavor varieties, taste, and nutritional balance. Round 1: flavors! Noosa boasts exotic flavor combinations such as blackberry serrano and pear & cardamom, but also offers classics like lemon and blueberry. It’s French counterpart, Yoplait, is almost strictly classic in its flavorings, but does branch out with flavors like red velvet, root beer and its seasonal apple crisp. Unlike Noosa, however, Yoplait offers it yogurt in different variations such as Light, Whips, lactose free and Greek. In that respect, the winner of the flavor varieties category goes to Yoplait. So close Noosa, don’t worry, there’s still two rounds to go.

Round 2: the taste test. I already described my taste experience with Noosa, but I still commend them for using honey in their yogurt. Although I don’t eat Yoplait yogurt with vigor like I do with Noosa, I still take the time to savor the flavors and let the rich silkiness coat my palette. One of my favorite Yoplait flavors is the orange creme. It tastes just like a Dreamsicle, a childhood classic.  Though Yoplait got the nod of approval for bringing back fond food memories, I definitely get more excited to buy Noosa because I know how good it tastes. I never thought I would get excited about buying yogurt haha. Without a shadow of a doubt, the taste challenge goes to Noosa.

Ooooooh!! It’s neck and neck! Are you guys on the edge of your seats?! Who’ll come out on top?! And now, the final challenge: nutritional balance! (dun dun dun…) This part of the challenge was a doozy for me to judge. Each yogurt had their pros and cons when it came to nutritional content, but the key points I chose to focus on were total calories, sugar content, fat content, and the ingredients themselves. I compared the vanilla varieties of the two yoghurts, pitting the 4oz Noosa to the 6oz Yoplait.

First and probably the one everyone focuses on the most, calories. Most people count calories these days, but they’re also thinking they can count on a quality product that’s also nutritionally sound. Both yogurts each contain 150 calories, which is great for you calorie counters! Their lower caloric content makes for a satisfying snack that won’t send you into a downward diet spiral. Up next is fat content, or as I call it the battle of the bulge (pun very much intended). Yoplait’s vanilla is only a meager 2 grams of fat, while it’s Aussie adversary packs more of a wallop at 7 grams. It’s not Earth shattering, but for comparison’s sake Yoplait takes one for the boys back home.

Hope y’all have a sweet tooth, because next is the sugar content. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been told by my doctor to cut down on sweets. That means no doughnuts, cookies, and ice cream. But he didn’t say anything about yogurt! Noosa’s ice cream like vanilla yogurt contains 16 grams, while Yoplait has 18 grams. Despite Yoplait’s best efforts to lower its sugar content from 26 grams originally to 18, the winner of the sugar showdown is Noosa.

 And now, for my final trick, I shall demonstrate the nutritional power of not one but TWO different yogurt brands! Both vanillas had similar ingredients, so I won’t riddle them all off. But I will point a few key things that stuck out to me during my analysis. In Noosa’s vanilla, they use both pure vanilla extract and vanilla bean, whereas Yoplait doesn’t mention anything about vanilla, only ‘natural flavor’. Seems very vague and a little sketchy. The type of milk each brand uses differ, but the way it’s pasteurized does not, with Yoplait using cultured pasteurized grade A reduced fat milk and Noosa features grade A pasteurized whole milk.

Lastly, both Noosa and Yoplait contain active cultures. Only Noosa goes the extra mile to list the exact probiotics they add to each yogurt. Those being S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. Casei. It makes me feel a little better knowing what I’m putting in my body with each spoonful. So… after much deliberation (and delicious taste testing), the winner of the culture clash is……… *drum roll*

NOOSA! Their unique collection of flavor combinations, existential taste and using the purest ingredients possible is what made Noosa victorious. Though of course I’ll still continue to eat Yoplait.

fruits · healthy eating · vegan

Here goes nothing: I try a Larabar

~With farmer’s market season wrapping up, I have to find new things to blog about. Until farmer’s season picks up again, I’ll be blogging about healthy living (food, lifestyle, etc). My first healthy living post will be featuring the Larabar, a new type of heath bar circulating store shelves.
Today while at my local CVS I had some medications filled and picked up some other things. As I approached the checkout, there on an end-cap were the Larabars along with a handful of Cliff bars. I was first exposed to Larabars visually, by way of the TV. During the commercial break of one of my favorite programs, there was a commercial for these intriguing fruit and nut bars. The young man in the commercial seemed to enjoy them, but then again he was probably paid to enjoy them, whether he liked them or not.

Flash forward back to CVS. I picked up one of them, the peanut butter cookie flavor, and studied the wrapper. The first thing that jumped out at me was how incredibly pure it appeared. Apparently the Larabar is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy free, vegan and kosher.  It also only contained 3 ingredients: dates, peanuts and sea salt. Not sure how those resembled a peanut butter cookie, I decided to buy it, along with the other 3 varieties they had, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter chocolate chip and blueberry muffin.
When I arrived home, I peeled open the peanut butter cookie bar and took a bite. The dates were sweet and the chunks of peanuts were almost like little bb’s on my tongue. It vaguely reminded me of the taste of one of Vegan Crazy’s energy bars. Even though this bar didn’t contain chocolate, it definitely had a chocolately taste to it.

Here is my final verdict of the Larabar: tasty! Its sweet and crunchy taste is a delightful alternative to ice cream or candy. And one bar contains about a 1/4 cup of fruit, which is perfect for those with specific diet requirements. But if you’re like me, who isn’t vegan but enjoys vegan snacks, or looking for something healthy to snack on, try a Larabar! The folks at Larabar have a theory where “a sound mind, body and spirit are derived from food”. That may be true, but I achieve those through yoga and meditation haha. But seriously, if you haven’t already, try one.

 

apples · farmers market · fruits

Apple of my eye

~ Ah apples, a subject I’ve been excited to blog about. Why? Because apples are the quintessential fruit of fall, they spark action (apple picking), plus they’re really easy to cook with. But the number one reason apples are so awesome? They’re OG! Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit, an apple no less, and look what happened to them! And you know what they say: there’s nothing more American than apple pie and Chevrolet (though I’m a Ford fan myself haha).

As far as the types of apples go, my favorite is the Granny Smith. I love sour foods, and the Granny Smith’s tart sourness is exceptional. And it stands up well to baking, bonus! I love making apple crisp, my fall tradition, and I always include a Granny Smith in there. Once it reaches fall time I’ve eventually post my apple crisp recipe, its killer! I also like Fuji’s, Braeburn and Galas. But there was one variety of apple that I hadn’t heard of before that I first came across at the Downers Grove market. It was called a Lodi apple, which had a pale green skin and had the taste of a toned down Granny Smith.

They were pretty good, crisp and refreshing, but not as good as good old Granny. And a couple of days ago I purchased more apples, this time yellow ones. It was funny, one of the women behind the stand was actually relieved that I wanted the yellow apples! Apparently everyone wanted red ones, but they had sold out moments earlier. I don’t care what color it is, all apples were made to be eaten equally.

fruits · organic

Plant Progress #2

~Again, it’s been a while since my last post, which I do apologize for. Work has kept me quite busy plus I’m finally recovered from a sinus infection. I’ve had some many ideas for posts but wasn’t able to get around to them due to the previously stated. But nevertheless, I love you my loyal readers, and will continue to bring you the lastest in farmer’s market finds and healthy living recipies and tips 🙂

Since my last Plant Progress post, my dear watermelon plant has doubled in size!!

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One month later, it has doubled in size again, completely engulfing one of my mom’s flowers. Also, the vines have stretched so far that it’ll reach the other window in no time. But the best news of all?? IT’S FRUITING!!! I HAVE A TINY WATERMELON!! 😀
My mom told be the good news yesterday, and just moments ago I snapped some photos of my little buddy. I feel like a proud mama ^_^

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Taken 8-29-16, one month later

 

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Though it may have bloomed later than expected, I hope that by the end of the summer I’ll be able to eat the fruit of my labor and hopefully have more fruits as well.

fruits · organic

Wanna Tango with a Mango?

~I’m backtracking to VeggieFest because I forgot to mention this delicious mango nectar I picked up while there. Before I sat and listened to Mr. Singh’s speech, I stumbled upon this stand that was handing out free sample of mango juice (or what I thought was mango juice). I sipped it and immediately took a second sample. The taste was so pure and unadulterated and didn’t have that overbearing perfumed taste like mangoes usually do. A guy who was standing next to me asked if it was mango juice or nectar they were selling. I told him I thought it was juice and that it was really tasty. The best part was that they were selling 3 containers for $5! I didn’t realize it was nectar until after I put it in the refrigerator. Regardless, it’s really freaking good! I enjoy it simply over ice in the morning or after a long day at work. Sadly I’m down to my last container, so I gotta make it good til the last drop.

farmers market · fruits

Pursuit of the perfect plant

~Since I started my blogging adventure almost 2 months ago now (wow!), one thing I really wanted to do was find a plant at a farmer’s market and attempt to grow it. Several years ago, I went to a greenhouse with a friend and picked out a rainbow Swiss chard plant to grow in the garden. At the time I’ve never had Swiss chard, but I had seen it on Food Network and thought that it looked tasty and wanted to try it. Unfortunately I never got the chance to eat it, the bunnies beat me to it. When I was searching a plant, my mom said that I could pick a plant to grow beside her tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. Every market I’ve visited thus far only seemed to have tomato and pepper plants, so that was out (and I don’t like peppers to begin with). I tried to avoid herbs, since she already has a herb garden on the side of the house. Now after traveling from market to market, I found the plant I wanted! This past Saturday I went to the Tinley Park farmer’s market. It was a nice market, but there weren’t enough produce stands for my liking. Anyway, the one produce stand that was there was also selling vegetable plants and hanging flower baskets. I browsed though the endless shelves of pepper and tomato plants, when squeezed next to an eggplant was a watermelon plant. “Hmm, you don’t see very many watermelon plants around”, I said to myself. It was a Crimson Sweet watermelon plant, which I didn’t know there were different kinds of watermelons. But the tag sticking out of the soil said that the plant matures in 80 days and that the fruit can reach up to 20 pounds! We planted it behind my mom’s tomato plant on Monday and I can’t wait 80 days later for the first fruit 🙂 I’ll keep you guys updated with the plant’s progress when I can!