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New Blog!

July 5, 2011

We have moved! Check out the new Fresh from Florida blog at

The Hopeful Gardener Enjoys Herbs

June 30, 2011

It’s been a while since I posted a garden update, but my little herb garden is doing really well. Thankfully, the summer rains have helped and are keeping everything growing and tasting delicious. I snapped the following picture on my phone this morning on the way out the door.

Although the basil was cut back a lot, it is now taking over the space where the cherry tomato used to be. The oregano is going to town, and the chives are quite prolific.

Later in the week I’m planning on getting a new container and some tomato plants and cilantro. Yes, it flies against conventional wisdom to plant tomatoes in Central Florida in July because of the heat, but it was successful last year in spite of my being warned it wouldn’t work, so I’m going to give it another try. Be on the lookout for some updates!

How Do You Like Your Potato Salad?

June 29, 2011

As the 4th of July and all of the accompanying celebrations approach, it made me think about potato salad. To me potato salad is one of those things like meatloaf, where you grow up loving it made a certain way. It doesn’t mean that other ways of making it are wrong or not delicious, though!

Growing up in Florida with southern parents meant that our potato salad usually had mayonnaise and yellow mustard as the sauce base. Sometimes pickles, always onion (although a little would be set aside for me without), celery; you know, things that don’t sound too odd in potato salad.

Because I love potatoes, though, I’m usually willing to try other varieties that don’t use (gasp) mayonnaise at all! If fact, how does Feta, Tomato and Caper Potato Salad sound? Not a bit of mayo in the bowl.

Do you like potato salad? What’s your favorite style potato salad? We would love to hear your ideas!

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What’s In Season – Florida Potatoes

June 27, 2011

Ahhh, the potato. It is one of my favorite foods. Mashed, baked, boiled, fried, roasted, hot, cold – all good. Did you know that potatoes grow in Florida? They do! The harvest season is January through July. They are mostly grown in the northeastern part of the state, although they can be grown throughout Florida.

Florida potato types are, well, varied. We have yellow, white, red, purple, and even sweet. They come in chip and fresh market/table varieties. People are usually surprised when I tell them that the potato chips they eat could be from Florida.

Recently I bought a bag of mixed fingerling potatoes. After a good scrub, I halved them, mixed them with minced garlic, olive oil and garden-fresh chopped rosemary, then roasted them. Mmmmmm! It was cool being able to introduce a purple potato to friends (it’s very much like a white potato texturally, but it is a little sweeter than a white potato, just not as sweet as a sweet potato).

There are so many ways to enjoy potatoes. Since it is heating up in Florida, though, I enjoy Vichyssoise, a traditionally cold soup made of potatoes and leeks. The following recipe calls for it to be served warm, but you can chill and serve it cold for a refreshing and satisying meal.

Potato Leek Soup


4 ounces olive oil

5 cups chopped leeks

2 stalks Florida celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 cups cubed Florida potatoes

2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups canned skim evaporated milk

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the leeks, celery, and onion. Cook slowly for 10 minutes until golden and soft. Do not let the mixture brown. Add potatoes and chicken stock; cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 20-40 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Mash the vegetables. Heat the milk and add to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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Craving Carrots

June 22, 2011

I don’t know if it was Melissa’s recent post on Florida carrots or just my body telling me it needed something orange and healthy, but I have been dying for some carrot ginger soup this week! How crazy that I would want soup in 100+ degree Florida weather… but I couldn’t help it; a craving is a craving!

Last night I got my carrot fix, and it was so yummy that I had to share. It’s based off of a recipe I found here, but of course I tweaked it to my liking (and craving). I wish I had taken a picture because it’s a gorgeous looking dish. This one may be too flavorful/spicy for little ones, so set their serving aside before adding all the “pinches”.

It’s an easy recipe to make, and you can always add or substitute spices to suit your own taste.   I am lucky enough to have an immersion blender to puree all the ingredients once they are cooked, but a regular blender will work just as well. My version has some Indian flavors, but you can definitely omit them and still have a great soup. And, I’m not going to lie- I used a package of frozen butternut squash instead of spending the time to make it fresh. Sue me… but of course carrots were fresh!

Florida Carrot Ginger Spice Soup


  • 1/2 medium butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 pound Florida carrots – peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth or water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch each of cinnamon, cumin, garam masala
  • Curry powder to taste (probably about 1/2 to 1 tbs depending on how much you like it)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (optional)
  • Florida honey (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop seeds out of the butternut squash half, and place cut side down onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool, then scoop the squash flesh out of the skin using a large spoon and set aside. Discard skin.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic, and cook, stirring until onion is translucent. Pour in the broth or water, and add squash, carrots and ginger. Bring to a boil, and cook for at least 20 minutes, or until carrots and ginger are tender.

Puree the mixture in the blender, or using an immersion blender. Return soup to the pan, and heat through. Season with salt, pepper, other spices and curry powder.

Ladle into serving bowls, and pour a swirl of honey and cream over the top as a garnish if desired.

What’s in Season – Florida Carrots

June 16, 2011
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As a child I didn’t care much for carrots, but in the last 15 years or so, I’ve really started to like them a lot (to the point of ordering them over french fries in restaurants!)

Florida carrots are harvested from November through June, so we’re still in the perfect time to buy them. The USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory shows that one medium carrot has only 25 calories, has 5.84 grams of carbohydrates, 1.7 grams of fiber, 5054 micrograms of beta carotene and 10,191 IUs of vitamin A. Wow – mom WAS right about them being nutritious!

There are so many ways to enjoy carrots. They can be served on their own, either cooked or raw, or incorporated into savory and sweet dishes. With the heat that has already settled into the state, this Chilled Florida Wildflower Honey and Carrot Soup recipe sounds refreshing. Plus, it looks delicious!

Read more…

Watermelon Day Pictures

June 13, 2011

As you may have read, we hosted Florida Watermelon Day at the Capitol recently. Check out the pictures of Katelyn Kelley, the Florida Watermelon Queen!