by Katie Hendrick | December 7, 2017

The Spread: Golden Girls

The mother-daughter story behind Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice and some sweet inspirations for a boozy brunch

When winter arrives in Florida, so does the harvest season of the state’s iconic round orbs—navel oranges, tangerines, grapefruits and more.

Marygrace and Natalie Sexton; Photography courtesy Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.

For most of history, only a select population—Floridians with access to a grove or roadside stand—got to savor the pulpy treats in their unadulterated glory. Robert Sexton, a fourth-generation citrus grower in Vero Beach, grew up guzzling the good stuff and pitied the masses stuck with concentrate. When consumer demand for fresh-cut lettuce in the ’80s led to a rise in refrigerated trucking, Sexton envisioned sharing the joy of freshly squeezed Florida orange juice with the rest of the country. But his duties running the family packing house kept him from pursuing the idea.

Enter his wife, Marygrace, who proclaimed, “Enough dreaming, let’s just do it!” On a crisp autumn morning in 1990, she marched into the grove, plucked some fruit and started juicing. She asked a local butcher if she could borrow his truck to keep her bottled bounty chilled and then drove through the night to Carnival Fruit in Miami, where she made her first sale. Nearly 30 years later, Marygrace has a 66,000-square-foot production plant in Fort Pierce, 100-plus employees, a line of juices sold at retail shops in more than 33 states and 41 countries, and a gleaming brand named after her daughter, Natalie.

Although divine on their own, Natalie’s juices work wonderfully in cocktails, casseroles, smoothies, salad dressings and more. Here are a few of the Sexton family’s favorite recipes.

Orange Blueberry Sweet Rolls; Photography courtesy Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.

ORANGE BLUEBERRY
SWEET ROLLS

SERVES 6–8

Rolls

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups flour

Filling

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons Natalie’s Orange Juice
  • 1–2 cups blueberries

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup Natalie’s Orange Juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

PREPARATION: In a small bowl, mix warm water, yeast and sugar. Set aside for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, milk, sugar, egg and salt. Add yeast mixture and slowly combine. Add 3 cups of flour and stir to combine. Add the remaining flour, then attach bread hook. Mix for 5 minutes. (Add more flour if needed. Dough should be soft, not sticky.) Cover dough with plastic wrap and wait approximately 90 minutes for dough to double in size.

Once dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out on a floured surface.

Combine filling ingredients and spread onto the dough with a baker’s brush. Top with blueberries and roll up. Cut dough into 12 to 15 equal pieces. Place dough onto a greased baking dish with rolls about 1 inch apart.

Allow the rolls to sit for an hour, then bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Mix together the glaze ingredients and pour over the rolls as soon as they come out of the oven. Serve promptly.

Carrot Cake Smoothie Bowl; Photography courtesy Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.

CARROT CAKE SMOOTHIE BOWL

SERVES 1
  • 1 bottle Natalie’s Carrot Ginger Juice
  • 1/2cup coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Pineapple, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Whole pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Toasted coconut

PREPARATION: In advance, place peeled banana in a freezer bag and freeze. Pour coconut milk into ice cube trays and freeze. Place first six ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into bowl and top with pineapple, pecans, pumpkin seeds and toasted coconut.


Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co.

— sold at —
Select retailers
throughout the state
orchidislandjuice.com