Tuesday, December 26, 2023

How a Box of Navel Oranges Saved Christmas Dinner


Every December, my kids and I load up our family car in sunny, warm Florida and point north to the wintry cool beauty of my mother's country log home in the Great Smokey Mountains. This year, I proudly packed a fresh box of juicy Florida Fruit Shippers Navel Oranges, excited to present them as a gift of Florida Sunshine.

To my surprise, the navels proved to be much more than a creative gift. They ended up being a critical part of nourishing nine hungry family members and saving the Christmas feast! We spent most of Christmas Day cooking the holiday supper, and here's what our table looked like when everything was set out. Can you spot the oranges?

If you found the small bowl of juicy orange wedges in the center of the table, you got only part of it. As it turns out, we used oranges for not one, but four of our dishes.

The Peace Table

We created a multicultural "Peace Table" this year, featuring foods from several different traditions.  In addition to the standard traditional fare of ham, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw, we also made a cranberry sauce cooked with fresh squeezed orange juice and pulp. We also made a Middle Eastern lentil and fruit dish which featured orange zest and juice from two navels. Here I am grating the zest after juicing, having forgotten my own advice from a previous blog about how it is much easier to zest first and juice second. In this case, I had to be very careful with the grater while zesting after squeezing out all of the juice:

Oranges Cross Many Traditions
In addition to the traditional American cranberry sauce dish (which actually has its origins as an un-jellied version in Native American cuisine) and the Middle Eastern lentil and fruit bake, we also made baked sweet potatoes with orange pecan glaze in honor of Yule and Native American traditions, and Jewish/Ukrainian latkes (potato pancakes) with an orange juice-sweetened applesauce. On my plate, below, you can see everything except the latkes. Only the macaroni and cheese and broccoli were not cooked with our Florida Fruit Shippers oranges!

Oranges can be found in most culinary traditions around the world. In Cuba, a citrus-based mojo sauce is a key condiment. In Haiti, oranges are used to clean meat before cooking, as a way to remove any gamey smell and assist in tenderizing. In northern Italy in February, the famous "Battle of the Oranges" is heralded as the "largest food fight in the world." Oranges have a prominent place in Italian cuisine, particularly in desserts. And anyone who loves Chinese food is familiar with orange chicken, though this particular dish has largely been Americanized.  In Asia, it is more likely that you will find oranges as part of a salad dressing, sauce, or vinaigrette, or simply as a delicious garnish to clean the palate between courses or to complete a meal. 

Good for the Gut


We ate a lot for the holidays, so when my health-conscious daughter said she wanted to eat a simple orange from the box of navels versus yet another helping of rich leftovers, I looked into what her body was trying to tell her. Sure enough, oranges aren't just versatile recipe allies and vitamin-packed snacks. They are rich in water, keeping your digestive tract well hydrated to function optimally, and their fiber content helps to improve both nutrient absorption and bowel regularity. Need a little extra relief after overtaxing your digestive capacity? Try eating orange wedges--peel and all--doused with cinnamon and a sprinking of cayenne. 

With the New Year upon us, there is lots of great citrus to enjoy. Early January is the perfect time to enjoy the unique flavors of honeybells  and Sol Zest mandarins while they are still in season, as well as the more familiar varieties of oranges and grapefruits through spring. Whether you want to eat healthier, help the planet, get more creative in the kitchen, or a combination, eating citrus an easy and affordable way to stick to a few New Year's resolutions all at once.

Happy New Year from all of us at Florida Fruit Shippers!


This Is Where the Tradition of Cranberry Sauce Comes From (insider.com)

Italy’s largest food fight is battled with oranges | SBS Food

Asian Orange Vinaigrette With Ginger • Steamy Kitchen Recipes Giveaways

Does an Orange Help Digestion? | livestrong

Does Eating an Entire Orange—Peel and All—Really Help You Instantly Poop? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say (eatingwell.com)

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