Right about mid-March is when we really start craving copious amounts of sunshine. Enough with the wet and the cold, the snow and the rain! Enough with six-foot snow drifts and ice-coated roofs! While the dregs of winter will begin to melt away, the weather in March can still be rather unpredictable.  The best way to let the sun shine in is with bright, juicy oranges.

An incredible array of orange varieties are still in season through the month of March. Gorgeous, crimson-fleshed blood oranges are a beautiful addition to salads. Include a bit of fennel, creamy goat cheese, a few hazelnuts and some lovely lettuce for a spectacular presentation. The deeply colored juice is absolutely divine as a breakfast beverage and  when added to prosecco, makes a spectacular mimosa for an early spring brunch. Blood orange juice also makes a fabulous mignonette for raw oysters or a delightful sauce for seared scallops.

Some supermarkets now offer Sumo mandarins with their citrus collection. The knobby, gnarly appearing skin is actually fairly thin and quickly peels off to reveal large, succulent, seedless slices, with tantalizing fruit that tastes of the tropics!

Cara Cara oranges are readily available at nearly any market and the flesh of these beauties is tinged a rosy pink. Toss one into your lunch bag for a fantastic workday dessert, add to a fruit salad or squeeze the juice into a pitcher and add club soda for a sparkling, non alcoholic refresher.

Good old navels are just as reliably delicious as ever, and when chopped up with bits of spicy jalapeno and bright, green cilantro make a stunning salsa for chicken or fish dishes. Layering orange slices with ripe avocado and super thin red onion slivers, provides a lively salad during a not quite so brilliant day.

Red grapefruits have been wonderfully winsome this season, heavy and bursting with zesty, eye opening freshness. Starting the day with half a grapefruit dusted lightly with a bit of cinnamon is a boon to your beauty regimen, as the prolific amounts of vitamin C contained within the grapefruit’s cavity will stimulate collagen production that encourages bright, glowing skin.

Enjoy oranges and with each bite of sunshine, remember every day is a new opportunity to start preparing a delicious life!

A Plate Full of Sunshine

Makes 4-6 servings.

2 each of at least 3 different varieties of oranges, peeled and sectioned

1 large red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned

1 pint of organic blueberries, washed and dried

3 kiwis, peeled and sliced

2 ripe bananas , peeled and sliced (optional)

1 cup frozen mango chunks

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons maple syrup ( or agave nectar or honey)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon orange extract (or vanilla)

a small bunch of fresh mint, washed and torn into smaller pieces (reserve a nice piece for garnish)

Arrange all of the fresh fruit on a platter. Place frozen mango chunks and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Drizzle sauce over fruit and garnish with mint leaves.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com