Of Dragons and Blood Oranges

“To attract good fortune, spend a new penny on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.” ~ Chinese Proverb

Dragons have always been a fascination of mine. What is more fun than a mythical, fire breathing beast that sparks the imagination? From Tomie dePaola’s children’s book, The Knight and the Dragon, to Katie MacAlister’s fantasy, Love in the Time of Dragons, if a book has “dragon” in the title, I will at least have a peek. And now, it is the Year of the Dragon. I couldn’t be happier.

Well, actually, I could.

You see, there is the matter of bubbles. I love bubbly drinks. For awhile, I switched from the mass market soda pops – full of sugar and health impacting artificial (read: chemical) colors and flavors – to naturally flavored carbonated fruit juices. But, even these are high in sugars and they are very expensive. Enter the home carbonator.

We bought a SodaStream System to start carbonating our tap water and add our own flavors with their naturally occurring colors. No sugar. This is a cheaper and more earth-friendly alternative to buying club soda, which I can go through at an alarming rate, and the effect is the same as using the prepared varieties.

When we picked up a couple of blood oranges from the grocery store produce department a few days ago, inspiration struck. Thus was born the Dragon’s Eye Cocktail. So easy, it is almost a shame to call it a recipe, but from time to time we do need to be reminded that simple can be best.

Blood oranges are slightly sweeter and somewhat smaller than typical oranges. The inside flesh is dark red, while the outer peel is generally orange with a patch of red blush. Make no mistake, however, that this recipe is all about the color.

 

Dragon’s Eye Cocktail

Time: 3 minutes

For each cocktail…

1 blood orange
1 cup carbonated water (club soda or soda water), chilled
1 sprig of fresh mint

Cut the orange in half crosswise, then cut a slice off to use as garnish (the dragon’s eye). Juice the halves directly into a glass – it should yield close to ½ cup.

Make a cut through the peel on the slice and perch it on the edge of the glass. Stand the mint sprig (the dragon’s tail) up in the glass and fill with the club soda. Serve while cold to all dragon lovers.

Learning about all the “not foods” that are used to flavor and color sodas is also rather off-putting – maybe even more so than the sugars. Reading articles about the health effects of these ingredients is enough to turn off the “I want” switch permanently. If you’ve been having trouble resisting the bubbly bliss, just read this article, which sums it all up very nicely: http://www.rodale.com/facts-about-soda

Pumpkin Pie Shakes

“Little stroll past the house on the hill
Some more coal on the fire will do well
And in a week or two it’ll be Halloween
Set the page and the stage for the scene”
~ from “Autumn Days” by Van Morrison, a Northern Irish singer, songwriter, and musician, in his song “Autumn Days” (1945 – )

We’re full into the fall party season now and loving most of it, especially the locally grown fruits and vegetables that are coming from the farmers market. Aren’t autumn veggies the best?

Fruity cocktails are often too sweet for us, especially those made from prepared mixes, but a party is a party and that is the sort of thing people expect, so we’ve learned to work around it. Shakes and smoothies are almost universally loved, so we just doctor them up a little for our guests.

Pumpkin is a squash, a hard-core vegetable, but whatever you do, don’t tell the kids! It is full of vitamins E, A, C, and K, copper, magnesium, and potassium; it is also high in fiber, and is strongly anti-inflammatory. Enough reason to serve it whenever we can, that’s for sure.

Whether you make your pumpkin puree out of a freshly roasted pumpkin, or take it from a can, just put a ¼ cup blob (or several) on a piece of cooking parchment on a baking sheet and set it in the freezer overnight along with the chunks of banana. Using frozen ingredients in this shake makes it nice and thick without the need to add ice, as we often do for other smoothie-type drinks.

We think the vanilla flavored non-dairy milk combined with the banana provide all the sweetness that is necessary. Resist the temptation to add a sweetener until you’ve tried a couple of sips on for size.

NOTE: Mixing this drink with schnapps is not appropriate for everyone. Those who do not consume alcohol will appreciate it made with a generous pinch of cinnamon instead.

Pumpkin Pie Shake

Serves 1 large or 2 small
Time: 3 minutes after freezing the banana and pumpkin puree

1 medium banana, cut into 4 chunks, frozen
¼ cup pumpkin puree, frozen
1 cup Vanilla So Delicious Coconut Milk beverage
2 tablespoons cinnamon schnapps OR pinch ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg

Place the frozen banana, frozen pumpkin puree, coconut milk beverage, and schnapps or ground cinnamon in a blender and process on high speed until smooth, stopping to stir down if necessary. Pour into a single large glass or two small glasses and top with a dash of ground nutmeg. Serve while cold.

Can you think of a better way to use up that last bit of pumpkin from the can you opened for another recipe?