Visiting a strawberry farm with the California Strawberry Commission

In March, I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a strawberry farm. This invitation came about after I recently passed through Oxnard on a road trip, where there happen to be several of strawberry farms, and I shared a photo on Instagram and Twitter, asking whether there were any farms that gave tours. The fields and roadside strawberry stands in Oxnard reminded me of Irapuato, a central Mexican town best known for its strawberry fields and the quaint roadside stands where you can get fresh fresas con crema. I’m always interested in knowing about where my food comes from, and living in California, there’s an abundance of local, fresh produce year-round.  I was excited to visit a California strawberry farm and have the chance to ask the farmers questions about where my berries come from and how they’re grown. This post is sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission, but all experiences and opinions are my own.

On this visit, I learned that nearly 90 percent of strawberries grown in the U.S. come from California, and strawberries are grown here year-round (with a peak season in March and April) due to the optimal climate, sandy coastal soil and ocean exposure. There are more than 400 strawberry farmers who grow both conventional and organic berries, and California is also the biggest grower of organic strawberries worldwide. Oxnard, where the farm we visited is located, is about 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

California strawberry farm visit - More on theothersideofthetortilla.com

The farm that we visited was a family farm that has been farming in Ventura County, California, for more than 110 years. Farmers Edgar and William Terry gave us a tour of their farm, a chance to taste berries fresh from the field and ask questions—even the hard ones. Although the farm we visited was not an organic strawberry farm, I learned a great deal about the methods for growing strawberries and food safety issues (both food safety practiced in the field by the people picking your berries as well as pesticides used and how they affect our health), as well as who is growing and picking my strawberries…. 

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Guacamole with mango and pomegranate

You may remember from a recent post that my family goes crazy for fruity guacamole. That’s why, when I hosted an #iloveavocados live party with Avocados From Mexico, I wanted to make another version of my fruity guacamole with one of my favorite fruits: Mango. I love to experiment with lots of different sweet and savory guacamoles and this version with mango, pomegranate seeds, red onion and serrano chile is one of my absolute favorit

guacamole with mango and pomegranateMy guests practically licked the bowl clean and there may have been some arguing over who got the last scoop. Another sure sign that the recipe was a success: Some of the guests sent tweets or posted on Facebook the next day that they wished they could have some more!… 

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Guacahummus

Guacahummus sounds a lot like what you might imagine it to be… guacamole (sort of) mixed with hummus. Actually it’s a blend of hummus, avocados and lime juice. I served this simple, healthy dish at my #iloveavocados live party with Avocados From Mexico recently and surprisingly, most of my guests were having it for the first time. The dish was definitely a hit—they scraped every last morsel out of the bowl.

The main reason why this dish is so great—aside from being very healthy—is that you can make a semi-homemade version with a store-bought hummus of your choice (I like Sabra’s classic hummus), which helps you get this dish from food processor to plate in about five minutes. I use a 3-cup Cuisinart mini prep (available in my Amazon aStore, El Mercadito), which fits the ingredients perfectly. A bonus: This recipe is both vegetarian and vegan-friendly and is also gluten-free.

avocados guacamole hummus guacahummus… 

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Natural fruit paletas with watermelon and Tajín

Natural paletas made with watermelon and TajínEvery kid I know loves paletas—and every mom I know wants to reduce the amount of sugar in their kids’ diet. With summer upon us, I’m already seeing watermelon everywhere in the farmers markets and grocery stores. I love watermelon and would eat it for three meals a day if I could, so I’ve been getting more creative with how to use it. These are especially great on a really hot day! A bonus: Because these natural paletas aren’t like traditional popsicles, they’re much less likely to drip and stain clothing if that’s an issue with your kids.

And you don’t need to have kids to enjoy these simple paletas! You can honor your inner child or summer cravings for a popsicle with a healthier twist. For those with diet restrictions, these paletas are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly. This “recipe” isn’t really a recipe; I like to think of it more as a healthy tip I’m passing on to you. Don’t discard leftover pieces that don’t make the cut: Sprinkle Tajín and squeeze a little lime juice on it for a snack, or cut them into bite-sized pieces and freeze to use as watermelon ice cubes to flavor your water…. 

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Ensalada Xec: Mayan Citrus and Jicama Salad

We’ve been making an extra effort to eat healthy in our house, especially since we moved across the country and have access to more local produce than ever before (hello, California citrus!). This crunchy, spicy, juicy citrus salad from the Yucatan area of Mexico is the perfect healthy snack. Ensalada xec (xec is Mayan for “mixed,” and is sometimes spelled as “xeec,” “xek” or “xe’ek” and is pronounced “shek”) is a staple dish in the region and is sometimes also made as a salsa without the jicama.

Ensalada xec: Spicy Mayan citrus salad made with orange, mandarin orange, grapefruit, jicama, lime juice, chile habanero, cilantro and sea salt. #Recipe on theothersideofthetortilla.com.

This past weekend, I served my ensalada xec for a salad-themed Food Bloggers LA meetup and it was a big hit. I love this recipe because it keeps crunchy in the refrigerator for a few days in the event that you have leftovers. I find this dish keeps best when refrigerated in a covered glass bowl. Some recipes for ensalada xec call for ground cayenne pepper, which is perfectly fine, but I prefer to use fresh chile. Habanero is frequently used in the regional cuisine in the Yucatan, so I used it in this recipe. If your tastebuds can’t handle the heat from a habanero pepper, you can substitute a finely chopped serrano chile or just use a dried chile powder of your choice. You could also use  Tajín (the popular Mexican chile, lime and salt seasoning) sprinkled on top if you don’t want to use fresh chiles; if you use Tajín, remember to leave the salt out of the recipe…. 

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Coconut milk and chia pudding (Postre de chia y coco)

Chia seeds aren’t just for aguas frescas, and today I’m sharing with you a super easy, delicious and healthy dessert recipe for coconut milk and chia pudding.

Coconut chia pudding recipe from theothersideofthetortilla.com

I love chia seeds. Not in the way that some people mean when they say they love something… I mean I really LOVE chia seeds. I consume them nearly every day of the week and they’re a great source for fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, and even have some protein. They have been used for centuries, including by the Mayans and Aztecs. In present-day Mexico, you’re most likely to notice chia seeds floating in an agua fresca.

I know you must be thinking there can’t be that many ways to use them, but trust me when I say there are so many great things you can do! One of my favorites is to use them to make this tapioca-like pudding with coconut milk. It’s a flavorful and not-too-sweet dessert that any coconut lover will enjoy. And a few bonuses: this recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan-friendly! Once the chia seeds develop their gel and you refrigerate the jar, it will get firm and set more like a traditional pudding. If you try to eat it too soon, it won’t be the right consistency.

Coconut chia pudding recipe from theothersideofthetortilla.com… 

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