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Serve it up fresh

By Staff | Jul 6, 2018

Keep cool this summer with a simple in-season spread.


GRIT Magazine

When I’ve spent the afternoon pulling weeds on a humid summer day in Pennsylvania, the last thing in the world I want to do is stand over a boiling pot of soup. As the seasons change, so do the tastes of what brings comfort to my family.

When the sweat is dripping while I’m out dead-heading the posies, I get the biggest hankerin’ for an ice-cold fruity freezer pop dripping down my chin and fingers. When the sun shines longer in the summer days, my taste buds crave something cool, fresh, and simple. My family and I want something we can whip up fast so we can get back to the other things we enjoy doing on these warm days. There is much work – and play – to do outside in the summer season, so I look for lighter meal choices: Foods that aren’t heavy and will quench our thirsts; dishes that won’t steal precious time from our summer chores and activities; and meals that will use up the abundant bounty of produce that is always ripening faster than we can pick it. (Hello there, 10 ripe zucchini in one day!) Staring at those blueberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes all day inspires me to create delicious meals – and taste the fruits of my labor.

A lot of canning is done during this time as well. When the stove is in use, it’s usually holding a large cooking pot, a saucepan full of sterilized lids, and my hefty canner, which means there’s no room for cooking anything else. The oven is simultaneously full of clean, hot glass jars waiting for their transparent bellies to be filled with whatever delicious produce is on deck for preserving that day.

Mix and match fresh fruits and veggies for a nutritious juice.

This time of year, my paring knife, chef’s knife, slow cooker, grill, blender, and juicer are my favorite kitchen tools. The less time I’m standing over a hot stove, the better. (I’ll get cozy with the stove and oven when autumn rolls around.) Not only does this save energy and keep the house cooler, it also keeps my family healthy and makes our days more productive. Pile your plate high with the season’s fresh bounty, and grab an icy treat for dessert.

Fresh juice

Yields 2 to 4 servings.

1 bunch celery

2 cucumbers

Make stuffed tomatoes with your favorite tomato variety.

1 apple

1 lemon

Wash all fruits and vegetables well.

Follow instructions for your juicer. Enjoy.

Note: This is a basic recipe. There are countless variations to try. Other great vegetables for juicing include kale, chard, spinach, carrots, broccoli, broccoli stems, cabbage, beets, and beet greens. Have fun and experiment with whatever you have growing in your garden. I would also encourage you to do a little research on juicing to learn the healthiest variations to get the most nutritional benefit out of every drop.

Blueberry smoothie

Yields 1 to 2 servings.

1 banana

1/2 cup water

7 ice cubes

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in blender, and blend until desired texture is reached.

Note: If preferred, substitute 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries in place of fresh berries and ice.

Blueberry muffins

Yields 12 muffins.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup golden flax meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.

Sift flours, flax meal, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl; whisk to combine.

In large bowl, beat eggs lightly with whisk. Whisk in oil, honey, and vanilla until combined. Stir in flour mixture, and mix until blended. Gently fold in blueberries.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Pleasant pear freezer pops

Yields 4 freezer pops.

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 ripe pears, peeled and quartered

Place all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth.

Pour mixture into freezer pop molds, and place in freezer until frozen.

Note: The pears can be swapped for many different fruits, like peaches or apples. Some fruits, such as berries, might require an extra base like Greek yogurt or almond milk to get the proper consistency. Or try a combination of several fruits. Try different extracts and flavorings too, or leave out flavorings altogether and just enjoy the pure taste of fresh fruits. You can also add some diced or sliced fruit into the molds before pouring in the blended mixture so there are fruit bits in your freezer pops. Experiment with what is available to you.

Cool blender soup

Yields 2 servings.

1/2 cup water or almond milk

Juice of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 large or 2 medium zucchini, peeled and seeded

1 avocado, seeded

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 small tart apple, cored and sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1 carrot, grated

Handful of pumpkin seeds

Place water, lemon juice, and cucumber in blender. One at a time, add zucchini, avocado, onion, broccoli, and apple, blending after each addition, until mixture is smooth. Add salt and dill, and blend for a few more seconds.

Serve in individual bowls, garnished with grated carrot and pumpkin seeds.

Stuffed tomatoes

Yields 4 to 6 servings.

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh dill

3 tablespoons minced dried onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, variety of your choice, flesh spooned out

2 tablespoons chopped green onions, optional

In medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour cream, and lemon juice using hand mixer. Stir in Parmesan, salt, pepper, dill, dried onion, chives, oregano, basil, and paprika.

Fill tomatoes with cream cheese mixture. Garnish with green onions.

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