Florida and my Expanding Palette

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The Entrance to the “Compound”

On my latest “Wholesome Food” adventure, I step farther out of my comfort zone and try some new foods. For a former junk-food-only eater, this was a big deal for my expanding palette.

Earlier this month, my husband and I got to go on a little road trip. I loved it. Spending 11 hours in the car with one person can either be hell or heaven, and for us it was pure heaven. We got to listen to some of Samuel’s favorite classical pieces, we listened to the news, and we got to talk, talk, talk with no interruptions. Thankfully, both of us love good discussions, so we got to “discuss” and plan things out. He’s wonderful. I’m blessed.

As blissful as said road trip was, we were so happy when we arrived in Pensacola, Florida where Samuel’s uncle and aunt live. It was time to stretch the limbs. The “compound” as I like to call their home is absolutely beautiful. There were numerous times, I declared that I felt like I was on the set of the show Lost. With a bamboo trail, orange trees, palm trees, a pond, a waterfall, and lots of saga plants, it was a man-made jungle. Samuel’s Uncle Joe is a horticulture aficionado , so to say that he has a “garden” is an major understatement. It had been described to me so many times, but until I actually saw all of the rows and rows of different plants and the actual “hydroponic house” over the pound, I didn’t full understand the scope of his operation. No matter what I list will not do it justice because I’m no plant expert. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, figs, mini bananas, cabbages of all different kind, various kale species, garlic, peppers and it goes on and on. If you were trapped there, you would never go without food. So of course, with all of the food around us, this trip naturally became all about branching out.

The very “unwholesome” food

We went out to eat once during the four nights we were there, we went to a restaurant known for big portions, thrown rolls, and a southern-food ladened menu. I really left my wholesome diet and had *gasp* fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fried okra.

Way, way, way off the wholesome diet. And while the old me would have eaten every bite and relished about how absolutely delicious it was. The new me ate it, did enjoy it, but it didn’t have the power over my taste buds like it used to. I didn’t bite into the buttery, delicious fried chicken and think, “yes! I’ve missed you!!!” Instead I thought, “hmm, so that’s what that tastes like. Where’s the salad?” What?! Never in a million years would I ever think I would rather have a salad over a piece of fried chicken, but hey, I’ve learned how to make really good salads. All I’m saying is that it is possible for your cravings and taste buds to adjust over time if you allow yourself to branch out.

Meyer Lemons
Meyer Lemons

Back at the house, we cooked some unbelievably delicious food. I got to really branch out and actually try fruit!  *Big shocker!* Yes, if you remember I’m the girl who absolutely hates nearly all kinds of fruit.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a satsuma. It’s a smaller, sweeter orange. I was surprised when I actually liked it. It was sweeter than I imagined it would be, and the texture didn’t scare me, but rather it was juicy and chewy. I liked it so much, I actually had more than one piece.  My husband couldn’t believe it. He is a fruit lover and is always begging me to try something or other. I’m learning. Slowly, but surely. Remember this whole wholesome eating thing is only a couple year’s new to me. Change happens over time. And the fruit-loving is a very   slow process for me. 

My husband picking satsumas
Dinosaur Kale
Dinosaur Kale

 By far, the my favorite food I was introduced to was Dinosaur Kale.I incorporate the more common leafy kales into our cooking regularly, but I didn’t even know Dinosaur Kale even existed before this trip, and now I’m determined to incorporate it into our fall garden. It’s absolutely heavenly. It has larger leaves with a deep green color, and a “bumpy” surface that some people say resembles dinosaur skin hence the name. We sautéed it with olive oil, and honestly, to me that was a bowl of green divinity. I could eat it every day. 

 

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Cactus and eggs

For breakfast, we had cactus and eggs! Yes, Uncle Joe grows cactus to eat. He picked some “leaves,” cut it up and cooked it with our breakfast eggs (eggs from his own chickens, I must throw in). I have never had cactus with my eggs before, but it doesn’t taste as bizarre as it sounds. Honestly, it could have been a zucchini or an herb. It doesn’t have a weird taste. It just tastes “vegetabley.” But because it’s cactus, it totally puts green eggs and ham to shame.

Another thing on my “I will not eat” list is cabbage, but guess what I actually ate down there? Yep. cabbage. For me, this is living on the wild side. I don’t like the smell, the texture, taste, any of it. But here we were, surrounded by several freshly picked cabbages, and they wanted to cook them for dinner. How could I say no? I promised I would give it a taste, but nothing more. I figured one tiny forkful wouldn’t kill me. I didn’t know if I would gag, but at least, I figured I would branch out and try something new.

Well, I loved it!

I know, how did I not realize this before?

Cactus for Breakfast

We finely chopped it, blanched it, and then put it in ice water. After squeezing all of the water out, we sliced it again and sautéed it in olive oil. I sprinkled pepper flakes on mine, and I actually had two servings. Maybe it was the olive oil. Because, it seems for me if you put anything in good quality olive oil, I love it, but really the cabbage was great, and I will definitely be trying it more often. For me, this was a big stepping out for me. A BIG one, and I’m so glad I did it.

Whether you’re on a road trip, family vacation, or just your local grocery store, branch out and try something new. Preferable on the wholesome side! If you’re a healthy eater, there is always a new fruit or veggie you haven’t tried. If you’re not a healthy eater, I urge you to branch out and try some, just a little bit. You never know what food journeys that one little bite can lead to.

I tried cactus, dinosaur kale, satsumas, and cabbage. Things I would never have touched just a handful of years ago, but now I couldn’t imagine going back to just the oreos and the fried chicken. That’s too safe.

Don’t let healthy food scare you! Step out of your comfort zone and wholesome food a try. If you don’t like it prepared one way, pick a different way. The possibilities are endless.

Live Wholesome,

~RL

Rows of Cabbage
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My favorite! Cooked Dinosaur Kale

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3 thoughts on “Florida and my Expanding Palette

  1. Sabrina, Tio Joe here. RL you make my place sound like a place where I’d really love to live. Truth be told, it is my haven, my escape from the world, a place I hate to leave once I’m HOME. Glad you enjoyed yourself and was able to branch out gastronomically. Please come back again and bring your mom.

    1. It truly is a wonderful place, Joe. I so enjoyed my stay. Thank you and Nancy both for sharing your home, time, and lovely food with us. I can’t wait to come back and try more things!

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