CASA GRANDE

From Independence Day to lazy summer days, there’s plenty to celebrate in July. And on July 31, all attention turns to the humble but nutrient-packed avocado.

National Avocado Day, July 31, is a time to appreciate the super-fruit and its abundant uses, which go far beyond guacamole.

As a source of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, several minerals and vitamins, including C, E and K, avocados are perfect when added to a smoothie, spread on toast or sliced into a salad.

One-fifth of a medium avocado has only 50 calories and 20 vitamins and minerals. They’re also sodium and cholesterol free, according California Avocado Board.

But the creamy avocado can also be used on skin and hair as a conditioner, facial or beauty treatment.

The fats in avocados are great for curly hair and leave hair hydrated, glossy and frizz-free. Below is a recipe for a homemade avocado hair mask we’ve used several times in our curly-haired household. The avocado helps revive hair that’s become dry or damaged by the harsh summertime sun.

Most of the U.S.-grown avocados come from California, which harvests on average more than 330 million pounds of the small round fruits each year.

Between the Hass and Lamb avocado varieties, California produced 3,385,250 pounds of the fruit for the harvest reported on July 5, according to the California Avocado Commission.

The California avocado season runs from spring through summer with the average tree producing about 100 pounds of fruit or up to 200 avocados. California produces seven varieties of commercial avocados, but the Hass variety is the most popular and is about 95 percent of the state’s total crop volume, the avocado commission says.

And while National Avocado Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. on July 31, in California, the green pear-shaped fruit gets a month-long celebration in June with California Avocado Month.

Below are a few ways to use avocados while celebrating their versatility.

Simple avocado hair mask

1 medium-sized, ripe avocado

¼ cup coconut oil

Peel the avocado and remove pit. Place fruit in a bowl and add oil. Mix until smooth.

Use as a hair mask, smoothing onto clean hair, massaging onto the scalp and allowing it to sit for 10-20 minutes. Rinse well.

Simple avocado face mask

½ medium-sized, ripe avocado

½ cup cooked, unsweetened oatmeal

Place fruit of peeled avocado in a bowl and combine with oatmeal. Mix well. Massage onto face and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse well.

Avocado cardamom ice cream

California Avocado Commission, www.californiaavocado.com

1½ teaspoon cardamom seeds

3 ripe, large avocados, seeded and peeled

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1½ cups heavy cream

½ cup whole milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees and toast cardamom seeds for five minutes.

Grind cardamom in a spice grinder and set aside.

Place avocado, condensed milk, cream, milk and ground cardamom seeds into a blender. Turn on to lowest setting and puree until smooth.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine’s instructions.

Chocolate-candy bar cookies

California Avocado Commission, www.californiaavocado.com

6 tablespoons butter, softened

½ avocado, ripe, peeled and seeded

½ cup sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

2 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 ounces chocolate covered, peanut butter flavored candy bars, chopped

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, beat butter and avocado together on medium-low speed. Add both sugars and continue to mix until creamy.

Add vanilla extract and egg, and beat for another 10-15 seconds. Then add the flour, baking soda and salt. Beat for another 2-3 minutes, until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and give it another quick mix. Add in chocolate chips and candy bar pieces, and beat just until they are spread out throughout the dough.

Place about 1½ tablespoons of dough for each cookie onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until they look puffed up and are just slightly golden brown. Let cool completely on the baking sheet before eating.

Avocado-blue cheese crusted rib-eye

California Avocado Commission, www.californiaavocado.com

4 12-ounce rib-eye steaks

2 large, fresh avocados, diced

8 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1 lime for juice

½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon red onion, minced

½ teaspoon truffle oil

1 tablespoon. olive oil

As needed blackening seasoning

4 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons coarse ground pepper

2 teaspoons granulated onion powder

2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder

4 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Combine all spices to make the blackening seasoning. Rub or generously sprinkle seasoning on both sides of steaks with olive oil. Season steaks with blackening seasoning and allow to sit at room temperature. Reserve remaining season in a spice jar or bag. In a large bowl combine avocados, lime juice, red onion, parsley and gently toss. Once combined, drizzle with truffle oil and toss once more; be careful not to turn the mix into mush. Place steaks on a preheated grill. The cooking time varies due to thickness of steak, heat of the grill and your preference for doneness. Divide the avocado blue cheese crust into four equal parts. When steaks have one minute remaining to cook top each steak with avocado crust, spreading over the entire steak. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes.

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