February 26, 2015

Florida

Statehood: March 3rd, 1845 (27/50)

The older folks who spend their summers here in Maine and their winters down in Florida are called Snow Birds. We grew up with aunts, uncles, and friends of our grandparents being around only May through October before they left for The Sunshine State. I never thought much of this until today when I found a pretty nifty fact that I believe may have started this yearly migration of our elderly. Apparently, in 1885, New England Congregationalists traveled to Florida to found a liberal arts college - Rollins - which is now the oldest recognized college in the state.

Speculation, entirely, but I think this is when it all began (not that I blame them; our snow banks are usually taller than me, and that sort of thing can seriously mess with your sanity!).

Other great things about Florida you probably don't know: the area code of Cape Canaveral is 321 in honor of their space program, the mayor of Key West in 1982 declared war against the U.S. in an attempt to secede (after one minute The Conch Republic, as it was known, surrendered and then immediately asked the U.S. for one billion dollars in foreign aid), and flamingos supposedly get their pink/orangey coloring from the things they eat like shrimp and algae (okay, so that one isn't necessarily FL specific, but... who cares? I have 2 plastic healthy-looking flamingos and 1 plastic zombie flamingo in my gnome garden because they're darn cool creatures and are frequently associated with our vacation homes to the south)!

Also: #minideer. I'm in love.

Facts are fun, but let's feast our fabulous eyes on fun foods, Floridians!


State Beverage: Orange Juice

Oranges. Florida. Duh, right? You HAD to know this was coming. Anyway, it was in 1967 that the Florida legislature designated OJ as the official state beverage. My family is know for their fruit salad-style mimosa's, so that's what we're making here. There's really no exact science; the idea is just to add the berries you like! Here's a rough idea of how we do it...

Mom Mimosas
Makes: 1 drink

Ingredients:
Glass filled halfway with ice
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup prosecco
2 blackberries
2 raspberries
1 small strawberry, sliced
5 blueberries

Method:
Pour the OJ and the prosecco over the ice in your preferred glass, and give a gentle stir. On top of your drink, place the blackberries, raspberries, strawberry, and blueberries. Give another gentle stir if you want, or just start drinking (and enjoy the way the berries absorb the mimosa!).


State Fruit: Orange

May 20th, 2005 Jeb Bush signed the bill declaring the orange the official state fruit of Florida thanks to students at Southside Elementary School. Not gonna lie: when my friends used to go to Florida in elementary school, I would always ask them to bring me back an orange (which I assumed to grew everywhere all the time there).

Fruity, Nutty, Orange Chicken
Makes: 2 dinner servings

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
2 10-oz bags Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels or Gardein Mandarin Crispy Chick'n, orange sauce from bag set aside
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 oranges, section and cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup grapes, halved
1/4 cup pistachios

Method:
Cook the brown rice according to the package (usually that's bringing 2 cups of water to a boil, adding the rice, and reducing the heat to low; let simmer for at least 40 minutes or until the water is absorbed and rice is tender).

Towards the end of cooking the rice, sauté the orange chickenless chicken product of choice in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook for at least 15 minutes, or until both sides of the chickenless chicken is browned. Remove from heat and gently add the orange sauce from both packets. Stir so everything's coated.

To assemble: split the brown rice evenly on two plates, split the chickenless chicken evenly on the two plates (reserving the leftover sauce from the pan until the end), and split the oranges and grapes evenly on top of the chickenless chicken. Then top both plates evenly with whatever sauce is leftover from the chickenless chicken pan. Finish each plate with half the pistachios. Serve immediately!


State Pie: Key Lime

The Florida House of Representatives designated the key lime pie as the official state pie effective 7/1/2006. I wanted to make something a bit lighter and more tropical, without the thickness and richness from a traditional Key Lime Pie. Personally, I thought it was just okay tasting, but Jeffrey, the photographer, couldn't get enough of it!

No Bake Key Lime Pie
Makes: a 9x9 inch pan

Ingredients:
20 vanilla sandwich cookies
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup coconut cream
1 9-oz container of whipped topping, partially thawed (I like this stuff)
1/4 cup of lime juice
2 Tablespoons lime zest
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut flakes

Method:
In a blender, combine the sandwich cookies and butter until the mixture is coarse and damp. Pat firmly into a 9x9 inch pan. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut cream, whipped topping, lime juice, lime zest, and powdered sugar. This may take some work since the coconut cream is so thick, but just keep at it until everything is combined and smooth. Spread into 9x9 inch pan on top of cookie crust. Stick in freezer for about an hour before serving.

Spread out the coconut flakes on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes until browned and toasty, but not burned. Top key lime pie with them and serve immediately.


Sources:
Florida Department of State: Florida State Symbols
Florida House of Representatives: "SB676 Official State Pie/Key Lime"
The New York Times: "It's Now Official: Florida's Fruit Is the Orange"