03 November 2012

An Assignment

I just finished a food assignment and mini essay for my FON100 (Food and Nutrition) class and wanted to share it on my blog as it was quite fun to do! Here it is: Whole Foods Market Experience (A Love Story) I am in love. I admit I fall in love with things quite easily but there is a love affair I have been involved with for the past four years and that has been my weekend rendezvous to the Whole Foods Market in Chandler. The store is beautiful and full of many amenities from a juice/smoothie bar, a pizzeria, an eye catching beautiful bakery and it also happens to have one of my favorite bars in town. Their choice of craft beer is outstanding and you can always count on excellent customer service and great recommendations from the friendly staff. I can spend hours in the produce section fondling and gazing longingly at their many variety of local and exotic fruits and vegetables. I never bring a grocery list, just a fat wallet and a handful of reusable shopping bags. I am very fortunate that I have a husband who is not only tolerant of my passion for colorful and tantalizing plant foods but he also shares in my indulgences. This last week I was incredibly happy to see my love, Whole Foods, on a school night even! All kidding aside, I was really happy that buying groceries and preparing a meal was a class assignment. I honestly believe that one of my greatest strengths is to come up with tasty, healthy and visually appealing foods to eat. The fruit I chose to enjoy for the first time in my life was a cactus pear, also known as a cactus fig. They come from the paddle cactus called the Prickly Pear that grows in the Southwest. I find it quite humorous that this was my first time eating a cactus pear because I have two giant Prickly Pear cacti growing in my front yard and they are both currently ripe with fruit. I haven't tried to pick them for fear of the cactus needles, and those cacti and I had it out a few summers ago and the end results were quite tragic and painful on my part. Seeing the fruit free of its needles and sitting gently in a basket placed next to bananas made it a lot less frightening then the version in my front yard. I wasn't sure what to make with it at first, I didn't have enough to make cactus jelly or jam and I didn't want to muddle the flavor by simply tossing it into a smoothie. My first thought was to cook the pear down to make a simple syrup and create a fabulous Prickly Pear martini, but seeing as how this is an assignment for a nutrition class I opted for something healthier. I eventually decided to make a raw dessert with it, an avocado mousse with an almond frangipane cream, using the cactus pear for a sweetener and ultimately the flavor of the frangipane. I first peeled off the outer layer of the cactus pear, processed it in a blender then strained the seeds using a sieve, so only the juice of the fruit remained. I soaked raw almonds for two hours then in a food processor combined the almonds, cactus juice, a hint of vanilla, agave nectar and lemon juice to retain the beautiful pink hue the pear juice had created. I refrigerated the frangipane overnight to firm up into a thick whipped topping. For the chocolate mousse part of the dessert I whipped three raw avocados with raw cacao powder, one peeled Bartlett pear and light hint of agave nectar. I also added vanilla agave inulin powder for added fiber. The results were fantastic. I had a rich, creamy and lightly sweet mousse with a flavorful creamy frangipane cream topping. I added a bit of shaved chocolate on top for no reason other than I quite enjoy chocolate. Now that I have had my first experience with a cactus pear I will definitely be trying it again, and soon. I have plans for fruit leathers, dried chips, pancake syrup and for sure I will be making a Prickly Pear martini in the near future. This was a fun and enjoyable assignment and it gave me the opportunity to find out about a new food. The Prickly Pear is rich in magnesium, potassium and Vitamin C. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the Prickly Pear “may reduce cellular damage that can contribute to chronic disease, and it has also been stated that the plant “can help control cholesterol.” It is almost hard to believe I have such a wonderfully nutritious fruit growing wild in my front yard.
I hope you enjoyed it, I hope my professor does too! (: