Feb 12, 2014

Orange Origins

Oranges originated close to four thousand years ago in Asia, in the region from southern China to India. Sweet oranges were introduced into Europe around the 15th century by various groups including the Moors, and the Portuguese as well as the Italian traders and explorers who found them on their voyages to Asia and the Middle East.

Orange trees began to be grown in the Caribbean Islands in the late 15th century after Christopher Columbus brought the seeds there on his second voyage to the New World. Spanish explorers are responsible for bringing oranges to Florida in the 16th century, while Spanish missionaries brought them to California in the 18th century, beginning the cultivation of this citrus fruit in the two states widely known for their oranges.

Before the 20th century, oranges were very expensive and therefore they were not regularly consumed, but rather eaten on special occasions. After California farmers began shipping oranges across the country on the newly finished transcontinental railroad, the prices began to drop. In addition, food manufacturers invented methods for using orange by-products such as citric acid, making them useful to other industries. Oranges were then consumed on a wide scale, as they are today. Currently, the countries that are some of the largest commercial producers of oranges include the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, China and Israel.

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits around the world. While they are a tasty snack and a popular recipe ingredient, for many Americans it is their juice that is most associated with good health, having a reputation for being an integral part of a healthy breakfast.

Oranges are round citrus fruits with finely-textured skins that are, of course, orange in color just like their pulpy flesh. They usually range from about two to three inches in diameter.

Oranges are classified into two general categories—sweet and bitter—with the former being the type most commonly consumed. Popular varieties of the sweet orange include Valencia, Navel and Jaffa oranges, as well as the blood orange, a hybrid species that is smaller in size, more aromatic and has red flesh.

Bitter oranges are usually used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest serves as the flavoring for orange liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

You already know that oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C but you may not realize the extent to which oranges are important for good health. Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant in the body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage to cells, especially in the digestive tract. This is why a good intake of vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.

Oranges are at their peak between December and April so now a good time to try adding oranges to your diet every day.

A simple and delicious salad jam-packed with vitamins!

5 cups broccoli flowerets, thawed if frozen

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

2 oranges, peeled and sliced in wheels

½ cup black or kalamata olives, sliced

1 orange, peel zested and juiced

5 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Steam broccoli flowerets in covered saucepan for 2 minutes only. Remove quickly and rinse with cold running water until broccoli is no longer warm. Do not cook further. Place in serving bowl and chill, covered.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, combine almonds, orange slices, olives, grated peel and juice from orange, scallions, and remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper. Toss gently and allow to stand at room temperature for about 15 to 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, pour marinated orange mixture on chilled broccoli and toss very gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.

Orange & Herb Chicken Breasts

Chicken breasts are coated and browned; then they’re simmered in a scrumptious sauce made with orange, tarragon, garlic, parsley and onion.

4 half chicken breasts, skinned (about 2 lbs.)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 egg

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 orange, zested

1 orange, juiced

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 oranges, peeled, cut in half slices

fresh parsley, checked and chopped

Combine mayonnaise and egg in a shallow bowl. Dip chicken in mayonnaise mixture, coat with flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in large skillet and lightly brown chicken on all sides in oil. Add onion, orange juice and zest, tarragon, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and cover, continue cooking over low heat 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender. Add orange slices, heat. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Wild Rice with Oranges

 The nutty taste of brown and wild rice is paired with fresh orange which gives this dish an extra burst of flavor. Wild Rice with Oranges is great as a side dish or add shredded cooked chicken and serve as a main dish!

1 package (6 oz.) brown and wild rice mix

2 oranges, peeled, separated into segments, then halved 

1/3 cup chicken or beef broth

1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 cup each bite sized strips red and green bell peppers

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare rice mix according to package directions, cooking in unsalted water.

In a skillet heat a few tablespoons of chicken broth. Sauté onion in broth 3 minutes, add bell peppers and more broth if necessary, stir in orange zest, sage and pepper. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.

When rice is done, stir in orange half segments and vegetable mixture, heat through and serve.


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