Thursday, March 26, 2015

Torrent Blender Tips: How to Load Your Torrent Blender

How to Load Your Torrent Blender

One of the benefits to the Torrent™ blender is that you don’t need a messy plunger to force ingredients into the blade. It helps to load your jar in a way that produces the best blend. 

Here are a 7 simple tips to consider before your next blending experience:

1) Place your softer, high-moisture foods in the blender jar first (liquids, fresh fruits and veggies, etc.).

2) Place your hard, solid foods last (ice, frozen fruits and veggies, nuts, etc.).

3) If you’re making a green smoothie with leafy greens, you can put them in before or after the ice.

4) The most important thing is for liquids to be put in first and to put the harder ingredients toward the top.

5) If a blend is too cold, cavitation can result. This is when an air pocket forms around the blade. Be sure to keep a good balance between ice (or any frozen food) and liquid.

6) For round food objects such as apples, cut them in half before placing them in the jar.

7) Cut fresh food items to fit in half the height of the jar.

These easy steps will help ensure that your blended masterpiece will be as smooth and delicious as possible.

Click here for a few easy blender recipes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Passion Fruit Ripening

How to Tell if a Passion Fruit is ripe and ready to eat.

Passion fruit is a vine fruit, native to Brazil, Paraguay, and north Argentina, but most commonly grown and harvested in New Zeland and the US.

Passion fruit is available most of the year and is most commonly found in specialty grocery stores.  When you are selecting the fruit in the store, you want to make sure that it is at a ripening stage suitable for your time of consumption.  Below is a visual guide to the ripening process of passion fruit:

It's most common for passion fruit to ripen within 3-5 days after your purchase.  By this diagram, you can see how the passion fruit starts and how it looks when it's ready to be consumed.

Here are a couple characteristics to note, that could help you understand the Passion Fruit ripening process. 

How do you know when passion fruit is ripe?  

1) When the passion fruit is on the vine, it's color will be green.  

2) Once it starts to turn purple it means that it has entered the ripening process. Note: Tropical Passion fruit will be yellow.

3) Passion fruit is usually harvested at the first signs on turning purple, so it will continue to ripen on it's journey to the grocery store

4) Check the fruit to make sure it is firm, with slight give to light pressure

5) The skin is the telling sign when the fruit it ripe.  If the skin is all wrinkly its ripe and ready use. 

Here are a couple of our favorite ways to use Passion Fruit:

Passion Fruit Cocktail (recipe)

 Sweet Lemon Passion Fruit Salad Dressing (recipe)

Strawberry-Banana-Passion Fruit Smoothie (recipe)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fruit Based Desserts: Our Sweet 16

From crepes to cakes, any of these 16 sweet dessert recipes will end your meal on a high note.  #Sweet16

1. Apple Pie Crepes

Get the recipe

 2. Banana Pound Cake

Get the recipe

 3.  Bananas Foster

Get the recipe

 4. Blue Morning Muffins

Get the recipe

5. Caramel Crimson Gold Apples

Get the recipe

 6. Carrot Cake

Get the recipe

 7. Cherimoya Meringue

Get the recipe

 8. Cherry Crumble Pie

Get the recipe

 9. Melissa's Pumpkin Pie

Get the recipe

 10. Key Lime Pie

Get the recipe

 11. Grilled Pineapple with Lemon, Ginger, and Lime Ice Cream

Get the recipe

 12. Green Keitt Mango Sorbet

Get the recipe

 13. Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Get the recipe

 14. Meyer Lemon Tart

Get the recipe

 15. Peach and Plum Cobbler with Dried Tart Cherries

Get the recipe

16. Apricot, Cherry, and Blueberry Cobbler

Get the recipe

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ojai Pixie Tangerines | Meet the Farmer

About Ojai Pixies:

"Ojai Pixies are not sold under trade names! We are not Cuties, Sweeties, Delites or Smiles– we are Ojai Pixies; that is, Pixie tangerines grown in the Ojai Valley. Ojai Pixies are grown by a dedicated group of farmers working on small family farms. We grow and market our own fruit. We make up less than one percent of the California tangerine crop, so enjoy the season while it lasts!"

Pixie tangerines are pale orange colored, moderately juicy and always seedless. Individual Pixie tangerines vary in shape, size and peel texture. In general, Pixies are small (1-3 inches in diameter), have a pebbly skin and are easy to peel with segments that separate easily from one another.

Pixies ripen in the spring and are therefore on the trees during California’s coldest months and are quite susceptible to frost.

 Pixie Tangerines have been around since the mid-1960s, when they were released to the public by citrus breeders from the University of California at Riverside. Because of their small size, their habit of bearing a large crop one year and a small crop the following year, and their late season, they were not thought of as a commercial fruit. However, a group of growers in Ojai, California discovered that Pixie Tangerines grown in Ojai are wonderfully delicious. They are now available in grocery stores all over the country, as well as farmer-direct in southern California.

Meet the Farmer | Friend's Ranch Ojai Pixies

The Friend's Ranch family has been growing citrus in the Ojai Valley for over 100 years!

Throughout this time, their operation has gone through a lot of changes, expansions and cuts as well as changes in the fruit they grow and sell.

Friend's Ranch currently attend four farmers’ markets in Southern California year-round as well as selling directly from our packinghouse and through our on-line mail order.  We also sell our tangerines to wholesalers throughout California, such as Melissa's Produce.

Their goal is to grow, pack and sell the best fruit we can that you, the consumer, demand and they hope you find the fruit as delicious as they do!

Friend's Ranch is truly a small family farm, operated by 4 family members, 4 employees, as well as the input of the our new fifth generation of tangerine eaters (Matthew, Andrew, Mariana, Oliver and Celeste)!

Here are a few points about Ojai Pixies that you need to know:
 - California’s Central coast provides rich growing soil.
 - The freshest citrus commercially available, picked and packed just days before delivery
 - Grown uniquely in an East to West direction allowing for longer days of sunlight which benefits the fruit in overall taste.
 - No preservatives or wax.
 - 100 years of Ojai growing experience

Ojai Pixie Tangerines:
Pixie Tangerines have a rich citrus flavor. They are a super sweet variety, and are a cross between a King and Dancy Tangerine.  This variety of tangerine is newer to the marketplace.  Developed and grown for the last 20 years, Pixie Tangerines are now grown and available on a national basis!  They have all the attractive features of what a consumer is looking for in a tangerine: seedless and low acid.

 - Late season variety:  early March – mid May
 - Grown in the prestigious citrus region of Ojai, California
 - Seedless
 - Easy to Peel
 - Low Acidity / Very Sweet

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Visual Guide to Asian Vegetables

Asian Vegetable Varietys

Melissa's Asian Essentials

Vegetables are not only fundamental to Chinese New Year but also to Chinese cuisine as a whole. People love to eat green, leafy vegetables at each meal because they’re not only incredibly healthy but also versatile in a vast number of recipes. When it comes to popular green Asian vegetables, we at Melissa’s have the best of the best from top quality growers. Let’s take a look at some of the Asian vegetables we’re offering that would be perfect for Chinese New Year and other Chinese-inspired dishes. We also have a wide variety of essentials for Chinese New Year including vegetables, tropical fruits, noodles and other great items to make tasty dishes for the holiday. 

1.  Petite Shanghai (recipe)
Don’t be confused by how similar Petite Shanghai looks as baby bok choy. Petite Shanghai is part of the bok choy family but are actually smaller than baby bok choy. However, what they do have in common is their delicious hint of sweetness once cooked. Their delicateness allows for them to blanch beautifully in soups and make a nice crunchy addition to stir-fry.
2.  Petite Baby Choy Sum (recipe)
How adorable does Petite Baby Choy Sum look? With a distinctly sweet but delicate mustard flavor, petite baby choy sum is popularly used in stir-fries and can withstand bold flavors such as chiles, garlic, spices and even citrus. And because they’re so small, they can be eaten whole. A great recipe for getting started with this awesome vegetable is our Petite Choy Sum Stir-Fry.
3.  Gai Lan aka Chinese Broccoli (recipe)
Gai lan, also known as Chinese Broccoli, is a favorite in Chinese cuisine. Gai lan has a similar flavor to regular broccoli, only slightly more bitter. It pairs wonderfully with oyster sauce and garlic because the flavors complement and offset the bitterness. For an easy yet flavorful side dish, check out our Gai Lan and Long Bean Stir Fry with Enoki Mushrooms.

Get the whole story about Gai Lan from Melissa's Produce and Chef Martin Yan by clicking HERE
4.  Napa Cabbage (recipe)
Originating from Beijing, China, Napa cabbage is commonly used in Asian cuisine. As a symbol of prosperity in China, what’s not to love about this exquisite vegetable during Chinese New Year? Napa cabbage is used extensively in stir-fry and hot pot and becomes wonderfully tender once cooked. And don’t forget about kimchi! Napa cabbage is the star of the show in the most popular kimchi, baechu kimchi.
5.  Bok Choy Leaves (recipe)
A deep green leafy vegetable that resembles Romaine lettuce on top and a large celery on the bottom, bok choy is a crucifer more closely related to cabbage. The entire vegetable can be used, and is often added raw to salads for a satisfying crunch. In soups, the leaves and stalks should be chopped and added separately, since the stalks take longer to cook.

Did you know; The name “bok choy” originated from the Chinese word for "soup spoon" because of the shape of its leaves.
6.  Chinese Eggplant (recipe)
Chinese Eggplant can be distinguished from other popular oriental eggplant varieties by its color and size. Chinese Eggplant is usually lavender or white and is even longer than the darker purple Japanese Eggplant. Although Chinese Eggplant is botanically a fruit, it’s more commonly used as a vegetable and resembles a small zucchini. Sweeter and more tender than regular eggplant, Melissa’s Chinese Eggplant has fewer, smaller seeds.
7.  Baby Bok Choy (recipe)
Tender and leafy, baby bok choy is an incredibly versatile vegetable. Whether stir-fried, braised, sautéed or steamed, this vegetable becomes more mild to reveal a just hint of sweetness. We love baby bok choy in a number of recipes but we like it simple the best. Sautéed with garlic, soy sauce and lemon juice, our Quick Lemony Baby Bok Choy Sauté is the perfect Chinese New Year’s side dish.
8.  Bitter Melon (recipe)
Grown as a fruit but used as a vegetable, the Bitter Melon is actually a member of the squash family. Resembling a long, bumpy cucumber, Bitter Melon can be found in Asian and East Indian cooking
This bitter or quinine flavor (a bitter alkaloid) is often combined with garlic or chile. Once thought to contain medicinal qualities, in some parts of China, Bitter Melon is still used to purify the blood and cool the digestive system
9.  Bok Choy (recipe)
One of the most famous vegetables found in Asian cuisine, bok choy is used extensively in a number of recipes. With a flavor similar to Swiss Chard or spinach, it’s no wonder this delightful vegetable is so beloved. Though the leaves are a bit spicy raw, once cooked, they release a mild sweetness. Try it with our Bok Choy and Shiitake Stir-fry Yakisoba.
10.  Chinese Long Bean (recipe)
Chinese Long Bean is part of the same plant family as the black-eyed pea. This edible pod actually resembles the green bean, although not as crisp.
In China, the Chinese Long Bean is sometimes left to grow 3 feet in length until peas have matured in the pod. Usually harvested at a foot long, this legume is quite thin with a slight black-eyed pea flavor.

And, if you don't have a Wok to cook these Asian items... no problem, Martin Yan shows you how to improvise!

Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Healthy Kids Lunch Tips & Ideas (Mon-Fri)

Are you on a mission to make lunches easier this year?  To not have lunch be an afterthought?  To not have the same thing over and over again?  To make a healthy lunch every day for your kids?  

Here are 5 Tips to make healthy and easy lunches this year:

Day 1 / Tip 1: 
Plan ahead.  Pre-prepare foods like Chicken and Hard Boiled Eggs that can be served cold and give your kids a shot of protein for their day.

In this Bentgo box:
Hard Boiled Egg
1/2 Avocado
San Marzano Tomatoes
Cubed Jicama

Day 2 / Tip 2: 
Switch things up and offer variety.  Think of the lunchbox as a meal on a plate, with protein, complex crabs, fresh produce and a wholesome treat on the side

In this Bentgo box:
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Crystallized Ginger
Kishu Mandarins
Green Dragon Apples

Day 3 / Tip 3: 
Prep leftovers during dinner clean-up to be ready for lunch the next day. Cut left over vegetables into cubes or strips and put them in your Bentgo Lunch box.

In this Bentgo box:
Diced Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
Sliced and Rolled Ham

Day 4 / Tip 4: 
Bump up the color. Bright colors are the easiest way to increase the “wow” factor in your child’s lunch.  It’s fun, inviting and, better yet, nutritious when the color comes from all-natural foods such as carrots, cucumbers, edamame, cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

In this Bentgo box:
Sliced and Rolled Turkey
Shelled Edamame
Cherry Tomatoes
Kishu Mandarins (could sub for Pixie Tangerines)

Day 5 / Tip 5: 
Try using healthy snacks and dried fruit that you could buy in bulk (or packaged) for quick and tasty sides.

In this Bentgo box:
1 Whole Sliced Bell Pepper
Dried Pineapple Chunks
Dried Blueberries
San Marzano tomatoes

A special thank you to Bentgo for these beautiful and convenient lunch boxes!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Truth About Gai Lan

Kai-lan (also written as gai-lan) is the Cantonese name for a vegetable that is also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale.  Gai lan has dark green leaves, slender stalks and small white flowers. It is leafier, thinner and sharper in flavor than traditional green broccoli.

Gai Lan photo
photo via

Both Broccoli and Gai-Lan originated from the species, Brassica oleracea, which is the species of plant that includes many common foods as cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi and Chinese kale.  Brassica oleracea is native to coastal southern and western Europe. Its tolerance of salt and lime and its intolerance of competition from other plants typically restrict its natural occurrence to limestone sea cliffs, like the chalk cliffs on both sides of the English Channel. [1]

What you need to know about Gai Lan [2]:

Buying and Storing Gai Lan
Choose heads with full, dark green leaves and fresh stalks. Avoid any brown spots which may indicate decay.

How to Store Gai Lan
Store unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Benefits of Gai Lan
Fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of iron and calcium

How is Gai Lan different from Broccoli?  

We asked Martin Yan and this is what he had to say...

Gai Lan recipe ideas:

Wonton Soup with Gai Lan recipe photo
Wonton Soup with Gai Lan

Garlicky Coconut Gai Lan recipe photo
Garlicky Coconut Gai Lan 


[1]  Snogerup, S., Gustafsson, M., & Von Bothmer, R. (1990). Brassica sect. Brassica (Brassicaceae) I. Taxonomy and variation. Willdenowia, 271-365

[2]  Melissa's Great Book of Produce, Page 188-189