Whole Foods Market Talks Fall Produce

It's that time again...Fall is just around the corner and I'm excited to share with you not only what is in Season, but also some tips on picking the perfect produce. 

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This all-you-need-to-know information to finding, storing and using your Fall produce was created by the buyers at Whole Foods Markets - nobody knows produce like these guys - along with my helpful graphics to make the perfect guide. Happy Fall! 

Apples: Nothing says llike a perfectly crisp apple, and there’s no better time to try these family favorites. From sweet Fujis to sweet and tart Honeycrisps, there's a flavor for every palate. To pick the best of the orchard, choose apples that are firm and free of blemishes or bruises. Apples emit ethylene, which speeds up the process of ripening so be sure to store them in a cool place away from other ethylene-sensitive produce, such as avocados, bananas or citrus fruit. When storing cored or peeled apples, a squeeze of lemon will help to prevent browning.

PearsFrom Anjous to Bartlett to the Sugar Pear, this fall favorite offers a wide range of varieties and flavors from tart to sweet. No matter the type, pick pears while they are still firm and allow them to ripen at room temperature for a few days. They ripen from the top down they are ready to eat when they give a little at the stem. It also helps to know your varietals – bosc are better a firm while comice are best soft. In some cases look for changes in color, like with the Bartlett, which turns from green to yellow. Opt to store them in the fridge to slow the ripening process, or use them up within five days. Just like apples, lemon juice can help prevent cut pears from browning.

Winter Squash: From acorn to butternut to delicata, you can choose from a range of hearty gourds and squashes in fall that are perfect for roasting, mashing and pureeing. Choose squash that remains firm when pressed, contains an intact stem, and feels heavy for its size. Winter squash can be stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks if kept in its tough exterior. Kept refrigerated for a few days if cut or raw. 

Grapes: Whether sprinkled in salads, mixed into salsa or eaten by the handful, grapes are at their best flavor in fall, when they can be enjoyed fresh from the vine (including many varieties you can't get other times of year like champagne, concords and Holiday seedless red grapes). Look for fruit that is plump and firm. When it comes to color, green grapes should have a yellowish hue (known as amber) and red grapes should be a bright shade of crimson. Avoid wilted stems or wrinkled grapes when browsing for the perfect bunch. Unwashed grapes can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Leafy Greens: Ironically, while leaves are changing from green to yellows, browns and reds, autumn is actually one of the best times to enjoy leafy greens – both in terms of variety and flavor. Kale's popularity has skyrocketed in the past few years, and for good reason – often touted as a superfood, kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fiber, and a good source of manganese. But there are lots of other powerhouse greens that are at their best in fall, like chard, watercress, leaf lettuce and mustard greens, arugula, raddichio and chicory. 

Mushrooms: From Oyster to Portobello, all mushrooms should feel firm and dry when you’re selecting a perfectly earthy bunch. They can be stored in a paper bag between layers of damp paper towels in the fridge. If your mushrooms are prepackaged, make sure to remove them from the store packaging to maintain freshness.

Persimmons: Persimmons are a delicacy originally from East Asia. Golden orange, in color and packed with nutrients, they look similar to small tomatoes. Persimmons can be extremely tart until they become ripe, when the fruit becomes sweet and spicy. There are two varieties: Hachiya persimmons are acorn-shaped and remain tart and chalky until they are extremely ripe, while Fuyu, the squat, tomato-shaped persimmons are sweeter and can be eaten when still firm. When picking persimmons, avoid any with brown spots or bruises

Sweet Potatoes: These naturally sweet root vegetables are equally delicious in desserts and savory dishes. Choose uniform sized sweet potatoes (for even cooking) that feel heavy in your hand and buy them shortly before you plan to use them. Store whole potatoes in a cool, dark place and toss any sprouted tubers. Whole Foods Market features a wide array of sweet potato varieties including Hannah, Japanese, Jewel, Garnet, and Purple Stokes. Talk a Whole Foods Market produce team member in your store for tips on selecting the best sweet potato variety for your dish or for recommendations on recipes to make the distinct flavor profiles really stand out.  

Beets: These nutritious root vegetables come in a variety of colors besides their classic fuchsia hue. Whether red, pink, white, or orange, beets are delicious when roasted, pureed or used raw. Choose beets that are firm and smooth; if the beets still have the leaves attached,look for greens that are bright and spry. Do not wash beets until you are ready to use them, as this can water down the flavor. I also recommend grabbing a pair of gloves so that color does not stain your hands!

 Cranberries: Thanksgiving would not be the same without these tiny, tart berries. Look for brightly colored berries and check each bag for any shriveled or discolored berries, which should be discarded.  To maximize freshness and flavor, keep the bag tightly wrapped in the refrigerator (they can stay good up to two months!), or freeze them for increased longevity. When cooking cranberries, remove them from heat as soon as they begin to pop. Overcooking could result in mushy or bitter fruit.

Coconut Yogurt For Breakfast

Homemade is just always better. I know that making things at home is more time consuming than grabbing something already made at the store. But before we label something as "icky" or "gross" we always have to try the fresh/homemade version first. This goes for almond milk {stuff in the box is no where near as good as homemade/fresh}, coconut water {fresh young coconuts are amazing but the cans...not so much!}, and coconut yogurt {stuff on the shelves at Whole Foods aren't all that wonderful}

So before you stick out your tongue and frown at the idea of yogurt made from coconuts, try the homemade version first. You'll see why some people swear by it. My kids like it too, and shhh, they don't even know it's coconut and super healthy.

This recipe is full of natural electrolytes and probiotics {good bacteria for the healthy gut}!

BASIC VANILLA COCONUT YOGURT

Ingredients

4 young thai coconuts

1 cup of young thai coconut water

1/2 TSP Kefir starter OR 2 capsules of high quality probiotics

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 Tbls maple syrup or honey

Directions

In a Vitamix, add all ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy, like your favorite yogurt. 

Let sit at room temperature for about 15 hours. This will activate kefir starter and/or probiotics capsules. Refrigerate. Yogurt will last 3 days. Top with your favorite granola or fruit. 

Note: persimmons are wonderful with this yogurt. So are berries and kumquats when in season. Also, try almond extract, cacao, or even some extra lemon. For a heartier breakfast add granola or you can top it with sweeter fruits like, peaches, bananas, and so on. Enjoy!

And hooray for Worldwide Coconut Day - September 2nd! And if you can't get around to making yogurt at least grab a young coconut and cheers to that!

XOXO!

Juli

The Best Fresh Margarita Round-Up

Maybe it's Pinterest's fault or maybe this San Diego heat wave is making me think about margaritas. I'm not sure who to blame, but my craving is real.  So what better to share on this hot Wednesday than a round up of all the freshest, prettiest margarita recipes {from my favorite bloggers} that are made with only the cleanest, most exciting ingredients? I have never been a liquor drinker, even in college, because mixed drinks were always full of sodas, diet sodas, sugary juice, red bull or even weird food coloring. And that didn't appeal to me. 

Rosemary Ginger Margaritas // via WickedSpatula

Rosemary Ginger Margaritas // via WickedSpatula

source: WickedSpatula

On my 21st birthday I was in Cabo with my family. That's when I discovered the fresh margarita. Just lime, orange juice and tequila. That drink stuck and still to this day, it's the only mixed drink I order. Around here I'm known for my spicy grapefruit margaritas and my traditional lime margarita recipe - in fact, La Costa Resort calls my poolside beverage the Juli Marg. 

All the of the recipes I'm sharing today have the same basic foundation - lime, good tequila, ice and agave or simple syrup - plus really fun herbs, spices and other fresh flavors. These are all lower in sugar, healthier and more unique than your average restaurant marg. Click on the images to get the full details, more photos and the recipes. 

Strawberry Margaritas // via Gimme Some Oven

Strawberry Margaritas // via Gimme Some Oven

Fresh Blueberry Margs // via Love & Olive Oil 

Fresh Blueberry Margs // via Love & Olive Oil 

Spicy Jalapeno Margs // via Love & Lemons

Spicy Jalapeno Margs // via Love & Lemons

Sweet + Spicy Mango Chili Lime Margs // via Minimalist Baker

Sweet + Spicy Mango Chili Lime Margs // via Minimalist Baker

Blood Orange Margs // via DesignLoveFest

Blood Orange Margs // via DesignLoveFest

Fresh Peach Margs // via Gimme Some Oven

Fresh Peach Margs // via Gimme Some Oven

Watermelon Lime Margs // via Kitchen Confidante

Watermelon Lime Margs // via Kitchen Confidante

Shown above is the basic fresh {aka skinny} margarita ingredient base - add fresh ingredients that you have on hand and have fun, try your own combo. Let's hope this made your hot Summer day just a tad bit cooler. 

Enjoy

XOXO, Juli