Fresh-Squeezed Citrus Juice (+ some Web favorites)

citrus

Tim and I have been drinking a lot of fresh-squeezed juice lately, ever since my parents bought and sent us the citrus press of our dreams a week or two ago.

ciiiiitrus

It’s fantastic. We’ve had grapefruit juice. Orange juice. Grapefruit orange juice. Grapefruit lime, orange lime, grapefruit orange lime. And I tell you, every time we sip a new glass, it’s one of those “ah!” moments where you just can’t help but say out loud how good, how sweet, how completely perfect, the thing you’re drinking is.

grapefruit juiced citrus

That last sentence, the one where I say we can’t help but talk about how much we love our juice, is kind of funny, I think. Because the truth is, as you know from that last post, most of the time and with most things, I feel like it’s the exact opposite: It is work for me to notice benefits. It is a fight to see how we’ve been dealt with bountifully.

juiced grapefruit

Tim and I were just saying the other night how, no matter where you are in life or what you have, there’s always something to get down about. Our natural bent is to want—to get a house that you love and are so excited about, but in a few years or maybe a few months, want a house that’s newer or older or bigger or different; to buy a new outfit, but quickly see it become an old outfit, and want a new one; to have an amazing dinner and want another, better one; to love your new juicer and fresh-squeezed juice enough to “ah” one morning, but then quickly move on the next.

It’s so natural, so innate to notice what we lack. It’s so unnatural, so not innate to offer up a sacrifice of praise.

grapefruit juice

I asked on Twitter and Facebook the other day, If you could only pick ONE, which is the blog you always look for updates from? Which one is your all-around fav?

I asked because I’ve realized, although I follow over 100 different blogs, on topics ranging from food to couponing to photography, the ones I most look forward to are the ones that are good at praise, good at being thankful; the ones that focus on simple joys; that lift me upwards.

Because I need that kind of refreshing, healing voice. Because I want to be it.

So while I think on that a little more, I thought I’d share some of my favorite spots on the Web lately, some new and some not:

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Citrus Honey Basil Creamsicles

popsicle mold

Have you ever noticed how everyone wants to speak into your life—give you advice, tell you how to do something, show you what they know? In a perfect world, this would be great but in reality, here’s the thing: advice is often wrong.

grapefruit cutting

The week before Tim and I got married, we were told the honeymoon would be nothing like we expected but probably bad; newlyweds don’t know each other at all; give ourselves some time and we’ll probably hate married life; the first year of marriage is the best; the first year of marriage is the worst; and we have no idea what we’re in for.

In the months since, women have told me marriage can’t stay sweet; we’re only happy now because it’s the beginning; we should have a baby; we should wait two years to have a baby; we should be having sex X number of times a day, a week; all women get sick of their husbands; we won’t like working together at home for long; etc. etc.

grapefruit

It’s not just people, either. There are TV shows and movies, magazines and books, advertisements, websites, Pinterest. The messages they give can be subtle or aggressive, obvious or covert: make more money! your house should be beautiful! this will make you happy! want this! buy this! be this! go!

What’s worse is that I’ve believed them. I’ve believed them and I’ve repeated them—to myself and to other people—growing this cycle of half-truth and lie by perpetuating opinions and ideas rooted in nothing.

orange

orange peels

But I had a lightbulb moment last week, the climax of many months, I think, when it hit me: just like choosing what to eat and drink during the week, in many cases, the one who chooses who’s speaking is ME.

Far from a victim, I am the willing subscriber to that voice of negativity, materialism, jealousy, despair. I seek out that person. I put myself in situations where that will be the norm, the perspective, the tone. I say those things.

But if it’s true that everyone is selling a message, one that I can swallow whole, it’s also true that I don’t have to take it—that in many cases, I can “guard my heart” in the same way I guard my body, being careful what I take in.

and mixing

fresh basil

raw honey

vitamix!

Saturday morning, pulling out a grapefruit for these citrus basil honey popsicles, asking myself whether to juice it or blend it whole, I asked Tim which would nourish my body best. Turns out that while both are good (and juicing might make a more typical popsicle), blending the pith and seeds and all adds the nutritional benefits of what’s essentially the whole-foods version of grapefruit seed extract, a powerful, disease-fighting ingredient shown to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic properties; work against yeast; and combat many bacteria and viruses, including E.Coli. Once I saw that, it was an easy choice—I saw how it would help my body by giving it what is good.

drink at the table

You can drink it as a juice/tonic, at once bitter from the grapefruit pith and sweet from the honey, or you can freeze it in popsicle molds (ours were a wedding gift and we love them!).

citrus honey basil tonic

popsicles
citrus honey basil creamsicle

In our little household, while we ate popsicles this weekend, enjoying God’s good gifts of grapefruit, orange, basil and honey, pureed into bittersweet frozen form, I thought how easy it seems now, in our life together, to crave fresh fruit like this, how satisfying and sustaining and, good.

In the same way, I hope that the more I feed on faith-filled voices of truth and love and authenticity, the more and more they become the sources I look to to feed my soul and, more than that, that more and more they become my voice.

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Orange Crostatas

orange crostatas

I can’t believe it was almost a month ago already that I clicked through my Google Reader, the way I do most afternoons, and saw these gorgeous blood orange crostatas. We made them the following weekend, for our weekly Sunday dinner with friends, and had just enough so every person got one crostata, alongside homemade vanilla ice cream. But then what happened?

I say I can’t believe it was almost a month ago already because, honestly, I don’t know where the days have gone between then and now. I mean, I know—into work, into buying furniture, into daytrips to Chattanooga and long weekends like this last one that I spent back home in Chicago for a wedding and to see my family again. But it’s just that the time is getting away from me! I’m blogging less, I’m taking fewer pictures (sad fact: I lost my camera charger; good news: a new one is in the mail), I’m looking at the calendar and going, I’ve lived here for two months? What?

palm sugar

So before another month disappears, I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about a new ingredient I’ve introduced into my pantry, especially because it’s an ingredient I’m really excited about in terms of a sugar substitute: palm sugar.

chopping up palm sugar

Rich in nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, palm sugar looks and behaves almost exactly like regular sugar, but it’s lower on the glycemic index (so it absorbs into the blood stream slower) and is totally natural and unrefined. Like the name suggests, it comes from palm trees—several different types of palm trees, meaning there are different types of palm sugar.

I’ve found blonde coconut palm sugar at Whole Foods, all broken up and packaged in neat bags. But it’s also available at international or Asian food marts, which is where I first bought some. At these stores, you’ll find it in a large, hard sphere that is tough to crack but significantly lower in price. With a big knife and some muscle (note who’s doing the hard work in the photo above), you can turn it into the granules we’re more used to seeing as sugar.

oranges for crostatas

oranges for crostatas

In the days since those crostatas, I’ve had two kinds of cookies with palm sugar, including another batch of the ones we like in ice cream sandwiches. In each case, this sweetener behaves beautifully, giving you the right texture and strong sweetness that is hard to find in sugar substitutes. What’s more, unlike Sucanat with its distinct molasses flavor, the flavor of palm sugar is virtually indistinguishable in recipes.

making crostata dough

But back to the crostatas: for the most part, we stuck close to The Kitchn’s original recipe, just substituting the flour and sugar for nutritional reasons and then the mascarpone and almond extract for convenience. The dough was probably my favorite part: kind of like good strudel dough, it was very easy to work with, soft and pliable, great for stretching into rustic shapes and folding over fruit and cheese. Next time, I’d definitely try a different fruit, maybe berries, because while the oranges tasted great here when cold, they were kind of bitter fresh out of the oven.

And honestly, if you’re going to make a crostata, don’t you want to eat it a la mode? I thought so.

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Chicken Waldorf Salad Wraps

chicken waldorf salad wraps

These wraps, which I’ve had for lunch for the last three days, illustrate one of the best parts of working from home. Because, are you ready? When you call your kitchen table your office, this is what happens: you pull open your Google Reader on a casual Tuesday afternoon, see a recipe you’d like to try and, instead of just bookmarking it for later, you walk to the kitchen right that moment, pull out ingredients and, in minutes, see exactly what it tastes like.

chicken waldorf salad

Like I said though, that’s just one of the best parts of working from home, and since a couple of you have been wanting an update on the self-employment situation anyway, it’s probably time I told you about some of the other benefits.

First of all: It’s been almost five months, can you believe that? Five months since I set my alarm for the same time every morning. Five months since I said, Oh, I can’t; I have to work. Five months of setting my own schedule and working fewer hours (and, admittedly, also making less money). People ask me all the time how it’s been going, and I’m sorry to say my standard answer is awful—something about how things are up and down, how I’m still learning what I’m doing, that I’ll reevaluate after six months. I’ve got to work on that because, really, the truth is: it’s been good.

chicken waldorf salad wraps

I went through my financial records last week, determining my average monthly income and budgeting time for upcoming projects, and you know what? It’s been really, really good. I’m not rich, I’m not all sunshine and roses all the time, but every one of my needs has been provided, I’ve gotten several new clients when I lost one, I have the free time like I’ve always wanted. So while I know myself and therefore realize things may seem very glass-half-empty come tomorrow morning, right now, this moment, I am thankful—thankful to sip homemade chai tea lattes at my computer, to run errands in daylight, to have time to work out or clean or, no kidding, take naps in the afternoon. I am thankful to not be making a lot but to always be making enough. And I want to remember this feeling.

holding a wrap

In a recent post at A Sweet Spoonful, Meg wrote about remembering forward to next November, imagining what you’d like to change about your life as if it will really happen. And ironically, it got me thinking about last November, when I never would have guessed I’d leave my job or, launch into something risky or, work for myself like I’d always wished I could. I’m so glad these changes came, for as long or as short as they end up lasting, and I’m so glad to find myself where I am right now—working in blue jeans while I eat homemade chicken salad wraps, counting my blessings.

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all you can do (banana blueberry orange smoothie)

making smoothies at night

Since I left work two hours early Friday, I’ve gone through a few boxes of tissues, several packets of Emergen-C, four bowls of chicken noodle soup, twice daily rounds with the neti pot, hot compresses on my eyes, Vicks on my chest, an entire season of a television show online, some reading in Best Food Writing 2009, a little bit of Food Network and, mercifully, an entire 15-hour block of sleep from Saturday into Sunday that, I’m pretty sure, is a miracle in itself considering all the constant nose-blowing.

I mean, I knew it was cold season, but, people, I haven’t taken sick time at work since Saint Patrick’s Day. A few months ago, when everyone was sniffling and sneezing, I somehow was fine, and so I kind of thought I must have a pretty great immune system or something. Cue the line, Pride cometh before a fall.

frozen blueberries
orange and banana
making a smoothie
banana to smoothie

The thing about getting sick is it reminds you how weak and vulnerable you can be. It doesn’t really matter how much you want to clean the bathroom or go out shopping or meet your friend for brunch; you can’t do it. Your body can’t do it. And so, while you tuck yourself beneath a pile of blankets and think about all the things you were planning to do, you become content to do the one thing you have to do: nothing. Or at least nothing besides the above-mentioned list of home remedies and entertainment/distraction. (What do you all do when you’re sick?) That, and make smoothies.

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never need to go back

orange sherbet

When you tell people you spent your freshman year—and only your freshman year—in Florida, at a small school in Clearwater just a quick drive from white, sandy beaches and surrounded by year-long sunshine, the most typical response is confusion, especially when they find out you later transferred to the northern woods of Wisconsin, just a half hour from the U.P.

What can I say? The truth is, Florida and I never quite hit it off: first, there was the intense heat when I arrived in August, with humidity that made my hair frizz any time I stepped out the door. Then there were the bed bugs, the failed French test, the homesickness and the time I passed out, trying to give blood. Mostly, there was Christmastime, and while I loved the beach on spring break in high school, it was an entirely different thing in December, when white twinkling lights and waving Santas dotted yards of palm trees and colorful flowers, and we still didn’t need coats.

One thing I will say for Florida though, and this is something important: it makes a good orange. More times than I should admit, my friend Liz and I hopped in her bright yellow Volkswagen bug, the one with daisies propped up in the console, headed to the retail shop for a local orange grove. I guess some people would make the trip for the oranges, or the juice maybe. Us? We went for the ice cream.

orange slices

Orange Blossom Groves in Clearwater, at least in the 2000-2001 school year, made the most amazing orange soft serve ice cream, totally worth our driving over in the middle of the day, even more than once a week. That soft serve was perfection: silky, creamy, icy cold, incredibly fresh. Of course the entire place smelled like citrus—the way your hands do when you peel one and the fragrance sticks to your fingers, your palms, the knife you cut it with—but the ice cream’s taste was the smell times ten. You know that episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where they’re in Italy and Robert gets the peach gelato and says it’s like he’s never tasted a peach before? That was what this soft serve was like, only orange.

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