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Make it fresh, eat it raw

In the last few months, quite apart from my visit to Costa Rica, I find myself eating fewer cooked vegetables and fruits. Once in awhile I really like steamed cauliflower, for example, or a baked potato, and at dessert time it is wonderful to try a crisp or a cobbler. But other than that I would rather use my juicer and make smoothies or salads.

My husband is even more engaged with the fresh-raw approach than I am. He has embarked on a health-building diet that is even easier to manage in Costa Rica than in the U. S. We have lowered our level of concern for my stepdaughter at present; no huge alarms have been sounded by her doctors and she is up and around, working nights so that we don't see too much of her as she goes about her daily rounds.

If you go the fresh lifestyle one better and invest in a Kitchen Ninja or a Nutri Bullet (or a similar appliance) you can make amazing things to drink. You can even blend your salad dressing right into the mix and drink your salads, getting the benefit of all the fiber and phyto-nutrients without splattering dressing on your shirt, as I am prone to do. And the possibilities for fruit combinations are endless, literally, so that you can choose what quality you want to consume, such as antioxidant value, and mix up just what you have in mind.

Strawberries are very popular in Costa Rica, but I don't see much of other berries such as blueberries. You can find lots of apples and bananas as well, but unless I get to a store that offers more in the way of frozen fruit, I will have to go with what I see such as strawberry-banana smoothies with orange juice. Hey, I can't complain--fresh organic fruit that costs a pittance compared with prices in Tucson won't make me angry.

The basics of making a smoothie begin happily with this advice: forget about recipes. Just fill your single-serving container with one banana, a few strawberries and some sweetener if you like, such as honey (a couple of Tablespoons). Then add some orange juice to enable the blending, and let 'er go. When you can't see any streaks or chunks you have a smoothie.

Repeat this process with any cold or frozen fruit (you can cut up peeled bananas and freeze them as well) for the ice-cream-like consistency of a frozen-fruit smoothie. It doesn't get much better than this, especially if you are a frustrated ice cream lover like me. With dairy out of the question, I am on my own for something smooth that seems creamy even if it doesn't include dairy.

Soy milk or powder can be used in place of juice to make a protein-intense smoothie, by the way. There is very good soy powder available nowadays, even flavored if you look for it.

I have also noticed that there is more in the way of varietal olive oil available than there used to be. I buy Arbequino, a variety that I like, but I plan to branch out into other types of olive oil next time I buy a bottle. Alphonso's in the St. Philip's Plaza will provide you with a lot of information when you go by there for info and perhaps a taste of the upper class of olive oil experience.

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