pumpkin squared

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Tis the season — pumpkin season, that is. I have two great pumpkin recipes for you today: pumpkin polenta squares and pumpkin beer bread. These have been my quick grab and go breakfast baked goods for the past several weeks and I’ve really enjoyed them. Both recipes are plant-based which means you won’t find any eggs or dairy in them, and the pumpkin purée eliminates the need for any oil. Also, they both use maple syrup as the sweetener — you could replace this with your favorite sweetener of choice. You’ll have to experiment with the amounts until you find what you like.

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You can make your own pumpkin purée if you like, or buy canned pumpkin. Make sure you don’t buy pumpkin pie filling by mistake. At this time of year, I think canned pumpkin is actually harder to find in the store, or at least they keep it well hidden behind the pie filling!

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pumpkin polenta squares

ingredients

  • 2 cups polenta or cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves*
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice*
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg*
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. Stir in all other ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 50-55 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven when it is golden brown and firm to the touch. Place on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*note: you can substitute 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.

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pumpkin beer bread

adapted from Gimme Some Oven

ingredients

  • 3 cups spelt flour (0r flour of choice)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I used hard cider instead of beer)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×5-inch bread pan with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir flour, baking powder, salt, spices, maple syrup and pumpkin purée together in a large mixing bowl until combined. Slowly add in the beer, and stir until combined and smooth. Stir in cranberries and walnuts, if desired.
  3. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Let bread rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

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japanese sweet potato cakes

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An old friend of mine from my high school days in Japan asked me today if I could take an old and familiar Japanese dessert and make it healthier and plant-based. The dessert is what the Japanese call simply “sweet potato” or “su-i-to-po-te-to”, to be precise. It’s a sweet and savory dessert that is full of sugar and butter, and tastes so good! While trying to find examples of this dessert to show you, I stumbled upon this hilarious Japanese cooking demo for the dessert where this lady cooks with her poodle (not literally cooks her dog, but you know what I mean). You can watch it here:

I wish I had found this video earlier because I definitely would have added rum to my recipe when I was trying to make it! Anyway, I had two slightly different recipes my friend and I found and I decided to make both. I used a recipe from Hungry Note for version 1 and a recipe from Kyoto Foodie for version 2. In order to make them plant-based, I would need to make substitutions for the egg yolk, butter, milk, and cream. After much research (i.e. googling), I decided I would use silken tofu, avocado, coconut milk and coconut “cream” as my replacers, in that order.

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One thing I was a little uncertain of was how the texture and taste would differ since I wouldn’t be using Japanese sweet potatoes. I can’t find those locally here so I used the regular orange flesh “yams” that I found at the farmer’s market. Japanese sweet potato, or satsumaimo, has a purplish peel and light yellow flesh. It’s a little sweeter than what we call a sweet potato in the States. I found a great article in the Japan Times written by the author of one of my favorite Japanese blogs, Just Hungry, that talks about the history and uses of satsumaimo.

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The verdict — both versions of the sweet potato cakes were very good, taste-wise. Not too sweet, a little caramelized on top, and very creamy. Texture-wise, they were definitely too soft. It was a little softer than sweet potato pie filling, and while it did firm up a bit as it cooled, I still think it lacks the traditional texture. Next time, I will probably keep all the ingredients the same but increase the amount of sweet potato. I would definitely add at least one extra sweet potato, maybe even two. I think that would give it the more potato-y texture that is missing. However, this recipe as it stands has really great flavor, both cooked and uncooked. I could eat it raw as a sweet potato pudding as well. And it’s pretty healthy as far as desserts go, so you could use it as a side with your dinner, or even for breakfast if you wanted. I also think it would make a really great pie filling. I might experiment with baking one of these versions in a pie for Thanksgiving this year. I can’t vouch for how close it is to the original since it’s been over 15 years since I’ve eaten suitopoteto, but since I really enjoyed the flavor, I would definitely not call this experiment a failure!

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 1

ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coconut “cream” (place can of coconut milk in fridge for 15-20 min. Use the thickened “cream” off the top of the can)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/8 cup silken tofu
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil on the stove top.
  2. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes in 1/4-inch rounds and then halve and quarter them. Boil for 4-5 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Drain the sweet potatoes and return to the pot. Mash them in the pot over low heat to evaporate a bit of the moisture.
  4. Add the avocado, tofu, and maple syrup to the pot and blend with the potatoes using an immersion blender. (Can also spoon into a food processor or blender)
  5. Gradually add the coconut cream and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil. Spoon the mixture onto the tray in any shape you want. If it’s too runny, you can use line a muffin tray and use that instead. Mine made 9 little cakes.
  7. Brush the tops with a bit coconut cream.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown. Place tray on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of cooling rack and use a spatula to place the cakes on the paper. Cool for another 20-30 minutes. They will firm up more as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 2 “kyoto-style”

ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk (may substitute other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt, optional
  • sesame seeds

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and halve and quarter them. Steam for 10-20 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Place in a bowl and add the maple syrup and avocado and begin mashing.
  4. Add in the coconut milk, tofu, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. Form into balls and place onto a lined baking sheet, or spoon into a lined mini-muffin tray as I did.
  6. Top with white or black sesame seeds and bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown on top.
  7. Cool in muffin tray or on baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing. Allow to cool for 10 minutes more on a wire rack. They will firm up a bit as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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orange, date, and walnut polenta muffins

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I’m really enjoying these weekend baking sprees I’ve embarked on recently. I finished my last scone for breakfast this morning so I knew this afternoon I’d need to work on something else to get me through my breakfasts next week. I was planning on making those amazing avocado, blueberry, orange muffins again, or modifying my orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones, but my avocados weren’t ripe enough yet so I had to scratch that idea. I saw some recipes a while back for polenta cake that I filed away in my head for later use, which got me onto my polenta dinner kick recently. I decided to check google to see if there was such a thing as polenta muffins, and eventually settled on orange polenta muffins.

At this point, I’m not sure it’s possible to go wrong when you bake with oranges — with the scent of the batter while you’re mixing it and the aroma that wafts from the oven while they’re baking, how could they possibly taste anything but amazing? I was a little concerned when I removed them from the oven because they looked like they might be very dry, but they were anything but! They’re slightly sweet, tangy, with a hint of savory from the different spices. Very satisfying and definitely a great breakfast option!

You could easily adapt this to your taste by substituting the spices, fruits, and nuts for almost anything you want (although I think I hit the jackpot with my choice of spices)! I think it could be really good with peaches or blueberries–I’m not sure I’d want to sub out the orange. That’s the major key to the success of this recipe. I may try it using avocado instead of the oil next time, if I have a ripe one on hand. All in all, a successful rainy day baking adventure!

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orange, date, and walnut polenta muffins

adapted from Orange Polenta Muffins

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 2 oranges, finely diced (including peel)
  • 1 cup dates, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 395˚F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or silicone liners.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, coconut oil and almond milk together in a large bowl and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into another bowl.
  4. Add the oranges, dates, and walnuts to the wet mixture, then add this to the dry ingredients. Fold together gently until mixed.
  5. Divide between the 18 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave in the muffin tray for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.

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baking with avocados

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I’ve come to the realization that in order for me to cook regularly, it needs to become a puzzle for me that I have to solve. In the case of vegan cooking and baking, it’s figuring out how to substitute for dairy, eggs, and other animal products in a way that is close enough to the original recipe, or turning it into something completely different and wonderful. Even though I’ve always loved to cook, I never really did so regularly for myself. My two main reasons are because it’s really not a whole lot of fun to cook for yourself, and when you’re done cooking, you’re the only person there to clean up after yourself, and I definitely don’t enjoy cleaning! But when it comes to vegan cooking, since I know I can’t run across the street to McDonald’s or Wendy’s from school for breakfast or lunch, I have to prepare food for myself in advance at home. This has forced me to spend a lot more time in my kitchen than I normally do, and I’m really enjoying being creative in trying and adapting new recipes. I still don’t enjoy cleaning up after myself, but if I’m going to keep cooking, I eventually have to wash the dirty dishes and clear off the counters!

Ever since I stumbled across the vegan muffin recipes in Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook, I’ve been obsessed with vegan baking. I’ve baked vegan ginger peach muffins and banana bread several times in the weeks since school’s started. They are both simple, tasty, and filling items for me to grab for a quick breakfast when I’m running out the door to work. (And are much better than the egg mcmuffin or sausage burrito I’d get from the drive-thru more mornings than I care to admit!) Several days ago, one of the blogs I follow posted a recipe for avocado, blueberry, and orange muffins. I’ll let you head over to Poppy’s Patisserie for the recipe. They were amazing. I had no idea that this funky looking green batter would turn into such delicious, orange-scented muffins. I’ve never cooked with avocado before. Sure, I’ve put it in a million salads and made guacamole hundreds of times, but I had no idea that it was such a versatile ingredient. This got me hooked — if it tasted this good in these muffins (and there was absolutely no hint of avocado flavor at all in there), what else could I bake with it? So the search began…

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I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. google) and began searching for baking recipes that used avocado. I eventually settled on making scones. I had trouble finding exactly the recipe I was looking for since most either used ingredients I didn’t have on hand, weren’t vegan, or were gluten-free. I’m not ready to dive head first into gluten-free baking yet — those require a little more science and accuracy than I care for at this point. Plus, I don’t have an issue with gluten, so whenever I make gluten-free stuff, it’s more a matter of wanting to experiment with alternative grains.

Anyway, I finally decided I wanted to make orange, cranberry, and ginger scones and would attempt to create my own recipe, adapting what seemed to be fairly standard ingredients and proportions in the scone recipes I found. The only thing I was really unsure of was how much butter or oil one avocado would replace. I couldn’t find anything specific online, but I decided to go for it anyway. The end result turned out pretty well. They looked amazing and the texture was definitely scone-like. The recipes I compared varied from 2 tablespoons to over a cup of sugar so I erred on the side of caution. Next time I’ll add more sugar or maple syrup or something–they just needed a little more sweetness. I also couldn’t really taste the ginger so I’ll either increase the amount of powdered ginger or add grated fresh ginger next time. I’m posting the recipe exactly as I made it, so be forewarned that it may not be sweet enough for your liking. Some recipes called for brushing the top with milk or sprinkling with sugar before baking, so those are some things I might try next time. This recipe could also be adapted to other flavors and mix-ins, so be sure to let me know if you come up with a great flavor combination!
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orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones

ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the diced avocado in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and flax seed.
  4. Place the frozen avocado into the flour mixture and work it in using your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is in small granules.
  5. Stir in the orange juice, zest, and cranberries.
  6. Gradually add in the almond milk until everything is moistened.
  7. Spoon the batter onto your prepared baking sheets (approx. 1/4 cup per scones). They will spread a little as they bake so leave some space in between.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scones are golden brown and firm to the touch.
  9. Leave on baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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ginger peach muffins

This is the recipe I’ve been waiting for. As soon as I read this in the Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook the other night, I was chomping at the bit to make it. The only problem was that I didn’t have my grinder yet to grind up the flax seeds to make the flax egg. I’m not comfortable enough with baking yet, let alone vegan/plant-based baking, to make a substitution on my own. So I patiently bided my time until the UPS guy delivered my grinder. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I only had to wait two days, but it was a very long two days.

These muffins are amazing. Chock full of peaches, lots of spicy ginger, warm and gooey. I made one modification to the recipe, one that I was confident would improve upon these muffins. I grated a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and folded it in with the peaches. I think it gives it an extra kick and takes these muffins over the edge. I might even like this better than the peach and ginger pie I made a few weeks ago — it’s a close call. The ginger-peach combination is really quite a perfect match!

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ginger peach muffins

from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook

ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/4 cups spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup dry sweetener (I used raw cane sugar)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 medium peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 2 cups)
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated (optional)

 

directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with silicone liners or have ready a nonstick or silicone muffin pan. (Mine made 18 muffins, filled to the brim).

2. In a large measuring cup, use a fork to vigorously mix together the milk, flaxseed, and vinegar. Mix for about a minute, or until it appears foamy. Set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, dry sweetener, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Add the applesauce and vanilla and stir together with the milk mixture in the well. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in the well just until the dry ingredients are moistened (do not overmix). Fold in the peaches (and grated ginger, optional).

4. Fill each muffin cup all the way to the top. Bake for 24 to 27 minutes, or until a knife inserted through the center comes out clean.

5. Remove the pan from the oven. Let the muffins cool completely, about 20 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the edges of each muffin to remove.

 

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banana bread, plant-based

It was back to school this week for me and I decided to try to find some plant-based baked goods that I could grab and go in the morning when I don’t have time to eat at home. I just finished reading through the Forks Over Knives cookbook and when I hit the dessert section, there were some fantastic baked goods in there that could easily be used as a breakfast. The first recipe I tried, since I had all the ingredients at hand, was the “Better-Than-Mom’s Banana Bread”. It’s made with whole wheat pastry flour so it’s a lot more bread-like than banana bread I’ve had in the past, which I think is closer to cake than bread. It was still very good and tasty, but I think I want to experiment with the recipe in the future to see if I can get it as moist as the banana bread I’m used to.

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better-than-mom’s banana bread

from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook

ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mashed banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup plant-based milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Have ready an 8×4-inch nonstick or silicone baking pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, maple syrup, applesauce, milk, and vanilla.

4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients, mixing just until everything is evenly moistened.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Distribute the batter evenly along the length of the pan but don’t spread the batter to the edges; the batter will spread as it bakes. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. (Mine was done in 50 minutes). It’s hard to test for doneness with a knife because the banana tends to stay moist, so judge by the edges of bread. They should be golden brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

6. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and carefully invert the loaf onto a cooling rack. Be sure it is fully cooled before slicing.

 

bananas foster baked oatmeal

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Tonight was a breakfast for dinner kind of night. I don’t generally like to spend a lot of time preparing breakfast in the morning, so something that takes 40 minutes to bake isn’t going to happen, not even on a Saturday. Breakfast for dinner is the perfect opportunity to make something that takes a while to cook and usually isn’t too complicated. I find breakfast dishes to be comforting so it’s nice to eat them in the evening when I have time to really enjoy them. I didn’t plan on making this for dinner tonight, but things don’t usually go according to plan in my house. I adapted this recipe to what I had in my pantry, and I actually measured for a change since I’ve never baked oatmeal before. Mine isn’t as pretty as the original recipe because I forgot to layer bananas on top, and I didn’t bother with topping it with anything fancy for the photo since I wanted to hurry up and eat it!  Continue reading

wheat berry breakfast, variation

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This morning I decided to try a variation of the vegan breakfast I made yesterday. Everything is pretty much the same except I mashed up about one cup of tofu instead of the banana, and used peaches instead of nectarines. Again, mixing in about 1/2 cup cooked wheat berries and a drizzle of agave nectar.  Continue reading

banana wheat berry breakfast

20130724-153612.jpgI like to put quinoa in salads to make it a meal, mix it into yogurt for breakfast, or use it as a side at dinner. I have been meaning to branch out into other grains like barley, farro, kasha, wheat berries, etc., but haven’t done much cooking so far this summer. When I returned from all of my summer traveling last week, my parents informed me they were starting a new eating plan: Vegan Before 6. This is more of a lifestyle change than a diet–eat vegan for breakfast and lunch, then allow yourself some meat at dinner, but think of the meat as a side, and the vegetables as your main. There are great health benefits to this plan that you can read about in Mark Bittman’s book, and it’s not that difficult to do. Rather than becoming a full time vegan, you can still have your meat, dairy, cheese, etc., but in moderation, and for one meal. And he says it’s okay to cheat once in a while, so what’s not to love? Especially if you’re a tried and true carnivore like me. Since I usually eat a few meals a week at my parents’, I thought I would give VB6 a try as well.

Continue reading

breakfast of champions

What’s better on a Saturday morning than a giant bowl of fruit for breakfast? How about a giant bowl of fruit with fresh-squeezed lemon juice?

20110910-110015.jpgYou could put any kind of fruit you want in here. I used what I had on hand which this morning was kiwis, nectarines, grapes, banana, avocado, and watermelon. And of course, fresh lemon juice. Not only does everything taste bright and fresh, if you are preparing a fruit salad several hours in advance, the lemon juice will keep your fruits from turning brown. You could also add nuts, yogurt, granola, quinoa, honey, etc. The possibilities are endless!