Category Archives: fruit

Sweet and Savory Saturday – Star Spangled 4th of July Fruit Platter

Celebrate the 4th of July with this simple patriotic display of fruit and cheese.

Simply patriotic – that’s the message conveyed by this quick and easy way to present fruit and cheese during your 4th of July celebration this year. Choose from an array of your favorite fresh fruits that naturally boast the colors of our great flag and serve them with a sweet and tangy lemon-coconut dip (recipe below) for that extra kick.  Complete the array by adding bite-sized cubes of different white cheeses, such as monterey jack, white cheddar, and mozzarella and you will have the perfect appetizer or after-dinner snack to serve to your guests.

Lemon-Coconut Fruit Dip

Ingredients

2 (6 ounce) containers of low-fat lemon yogurt

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

3 TBS candied lemon peel

1 TBS honey

ground nutmeg (for garnish)

Preparation

Combine yogurt, sour cream, and honey in small bowl.  Fold in lemon peel and coconut flakes.  Garnish with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.  Transfer to serving tray.

What is your favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July?  Share with us, we want to know?

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Filed under 4th of July, dessert, easy meals, fruit, healthy food, picnic recipes, Recipes

Putting it on the Plate with PICKKA – Easy Father’s Day Dessert

A broiled peach topped with reduced-fat ice cream makes for a healthier, yet sweetly satisfying, dessert.

I decided to get a little “peachy” with the Father’s Day dessert this year.  My choice? Broiled peaches with reduced-fat vanilla ice cream.  Why? I wanted to make something that could be prepared in individual servings to prevent overindulging on leftovers later (as would happen with me and a pie).  Yet, I wanted the dessert to be satisfying enough that there wasn’t a residing feeling of being “cheated” out of dessert.

I used my Evincii/PICKKA “Eat This?” app for the iPhone to help me find the right ice cream and granola for my goals.  My first choice for ice cream fell into the “Not Too Bad” category.  I wasn’t pleased with this.  I wanted an ice cream that fell into a healthier category because the main course would be higher in calories because of the special occasion.  Therefore, I used the “View Healthy Alternatives” option of the app and found an ice cream that was categorized as a “Good Choice.”  Next, I used my “Eat This?” app to find granola.  My choice fell in the “OK Choice,” but I saw on my app that three other consumers gave it a five star taste rating.  Because only 1 tsp would be served to each individual, I decided it was an acceptable choice, especially since other purchasers indicated it was tasty.

I decided to use fresh peaches, rather than canned.  Although most of the recipes that I have come across for broiled peaches require you to sprinkle sugar and/or butter on the peach halves prior to broiling, I decided against it.  I chose to rely on the natural sweetness of the peaches combined with the creaminess of the ice-cream to give appeal to this dessert.  Therefore, I broiled the peaches “au natural.”  Here is how I prepared the dessert:

Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe peaches, cut in half, pits removed, and skin left on (use more peaches if serving more than 6 people; figure a 1/2 peach per person)
  • Reduced-fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (enough for one scoop per person)
  • Reduced-fat Granola (1 tsp per person)
  • Cinnamon (enough for garnish)
  • Honey (about 1/2 TBS per person)

Preparation

Preheat the broiler.  Wash and pat dry peaches.  Carefully slice each peach in half and remove the pit.  Place peaches, cut-side up, on broiler pan lined with aluminum foil.  Place in the oven about 3 inches from the heat.  Cook until juices start to bubble and peaches are browned (about 3-5 minutes).  Remove from the oven.  Let cool for 3-5 minutes.  Place peaches on individual dessert plates.  Scoop reduced-fat vanilla ice cream on top of each peach half.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and granola.  Drizzle honey over the top.  Serve immediately.

What will you be serving for dessert this Father’s Day?  Will you use your “Eat This?” app to help you find the right ingredients?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under dessert, easy meals, Eat This?, Father's Day, Father's Day Dessert, fruit, gourmet, healthy food, homemade meals, low-fat, men, PICKKA, Recipes

Last Minute Dessert Idea for Memorial Day!

A store-bought angel food cake garnished with fresh raspberries and homemade icing is an easy, low-fat dessert option for Memorial Day.

Do you need a quick and easy dessert dish that is on the healthy side for Memorial Day?  Try this recipe using a store bought angel food cake, sliced almonds, and fresh raspberries.

Ingredients

1 store-bought angel food cake

1/2 pint (or enough for garnish) of fresh raspberries

1/4 cup sliced almonds

favorite homemade icing recipe (or use one below)

Preparation

Remove angel food cake from carton and place upside down on a serving plate.  Drizzle icing over the top and down the sides of the cake.  Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of the cake.  Garnish the top and bottom of the cake with fresh raspberries.  Serve.                                                                            Yield: approximately 8 slices.

Quick Vanilla Icing Recipe

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 TBS corn starch

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 TBS vanilla

2-3 TBS boiling water

Combine sugar, corn starch, and cream of tartar in a medium-sized bowl.  Add vanilla.  Add boiling water, 1 TBS at a time, stirring in between additions until smooth.  Icing should be thick in consistency and slowly flow off of a spoon dipped in it and then lifted.

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Filed under fruit, healthy food, healthy picnic ideas, low-fat, Memorial Day, picnic recipes, Recipes

Sweet and Savory Saturday

Penne pasta with berries, basil, nuts, and bleu cheese is a great dish to bring to a Memorial Day Picnic Celebration.

Fresh berries, basil, penne pasta, chopped walnuts, and bleu cheese are the ingredients featured in today’s recipe for Sweet and Savory Saturday.  As the days get warmer, I prefer to eat meals that are lighter in taste and that do not require the use of my oven (which heats up the house).  A cold pasta dish, not laden with a heavy cream and/or cheese-based sauce, is perfect for warmer days.

One of my favorites includes a combination of fresh berries, basil, nuts, and crumbled cheese (just enough to add flavor without “weighing” down the dish).  This meal is easy to prepare and a great dish to pass around at a Memorial Day picnic gathering.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups of whole grain penne pasta (Tip: For picky palates, I like to mix the whole grain pasta with its more refined counterpart.  This gives it a milder taste,as well as, giving it visual interest due to the different colors between the two pasta products)
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup sliced strawberries
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1/3 cup fat-free raspberry vinaigrette (or to taste)
  • salt/pepper to taste (optional)

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place drained pasta into a bowl.  Add onion, blueberries, strawberries, and walnuts.  Toss to combine.  Gently mix in basil and blue cheese (so as to not crush the basil leaves and “smear” the bleu cheese – try to maintain the crumbled form).  Add salt and pepper and drizzle pasta with vinaigrette. Gently toss to allow vinaigrette to coat ingredients.  Serve with fresh sliced whole wheat bread.

Tip: Because of the high fat content of the walnuts and the blue cheese, you do not want to choose a salad dressing that is also high in fat.  A fat-free vinaigrette will provide flavor without the added calories from fat.  You may also substitute low-fat or non-fat shredded mozzarella cheese for the bleu cheese.

Do you have a favorite pasta dish?  How do you cut its fat content without compromising on taste?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under fruit, health, healthy food, healthy picnic ideas, low-fat, Memorial Day, Memorial Day Meal, picnic, picnic recipes, Recipes, whole grains

Could these Nutrients be Lacking in your Child’s Diet?

If your child’s diet consists mostly of fast food meals, processed and refined products, and soft drinks, then he or she may not be getting enough of 5 nutrients that play a necessary role in the proper growth and development of his or her body.  The essential nutrients that could be lacking include: fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and/or calcium.  An “essential nutrient” is a nutrient that your body needs to function properly, but can only be obtained from food sources.  Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized (made) by the body and so an adequate diet must be consumed to prevent deficiency.

How do these nutrients effect the growth and development of your child?

Fiber: Plant-based foods are the only natural source of fiber.  Fiber is needed to regulate digestion and to prevent constipation.  It also plays a role in the management of cholesterol levels and in reducing your child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.  Whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur/cracked wheat, etc.,), beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits and vegetables are all sources of fiber.  Note, if your child’s current diet is lacking in fiber, you will want to introduce high-fiber foods gradually to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.  Start by offering a high-fiber snack after school, such as carrots and bean dip or by providing cooked whole oats at breakfast.  Make sure your child drinks plenty of water as you increase the fiber in his or her diet.

Magnesium: Magnesium has many roles in the body.  It fosters bone and teeth growth; maintains proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and the nervous and immune systems; and, it promotes energy production.  If your child consumes a lot of processed foods, he or she could be deficient in magnesium, because most of this nutrient is removed during processing.  Dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, whole wheat, and milk can provide your child with magnesium.

Potassium: Potassium maintains fluid and mineral balance in the body.  In addition, it promotes strong bones, plays a role in energy production, regulates heart and muscle function, and aids in the transmission of nerve signals (impulses).  Some food sources that contain potassium include bananas, avocados, lima beans, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that provides protection against free radicals which can cause damage to cell membranes.  Your child needs adequate amounts of vitamin E to build a strong immune system.  Good food sources for this essential vitamin include: wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, and filberts.

Calcium: Commonly known for its role in promoting strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium also helps to regulate heart rhythm and muscle function. Low-fat and/or flavored milk, yogurt, fortified juices and soy/nut milks, canned fish, cheese, collard greens, and broccoli are some sources of calcium.

By providing your child with a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat/nonfat diary products, you can increase his or her chances of developing a healthy and strong body. Get your child involved in the decision making process by having him or her help you choose the recipes for family meals, purchasing the ingredients at the store, and with meal preparation.  As a result, you will increase your child’s awareness of the importance of making healthy food choices.  For more information about the food sources and recommended intake levels for fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and calcium, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Why do you think children may be lacking in these essential nutrients?  What can be done about it?  Who is responsible?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, essential nutrients, fruit, health, healthy food, nutrition, vegetables, vitamins and minerals

Your Guide to Shopping at the Farmers Market

Fresh, locally grown produce is sold at farmers markets.

I love to shop at farmers markets.  I have visited many in the different communities throughout my state, as well as, some in other states while I have been vacationing.  I look forward to the experience every season.  Why?  The atmosphere is wonderful.   The sweet scent of the fresh produce and flowers is intoxicating.  And, the predominance of smiling faces is uplifting.  From my experiences, I have learned a few things that have helped me to get the most out of my visits to farmers markets.  Here is what I have learned:

What to expect: Anything and everything.  Farmers’ markets are typically known for their wide arrray of fresh, in-season produce, homemade baked goods, and flats of flowers and other plants from local farmers.  Larger markets may offer craft goods made by local artists, as well as, flea market items – such as used books and toys.  Depending on the community, you may find entertainment, such as music from “garage” bands and magicians who entertain children.  Many farmers markets are open-air entities, however, some are enclosed.  Although each community offers its unique approach to the farmers market, you can rest assured that you will find smiling, friendly faces who are eager to share their expertise and experiences with you.

What to bring:

  1. Reusable bags with handles.  Few vendors have bags for purchased items; and, when they do, the bags are typically plastic and flimsy.  Reusable bags are eco-friendly and tend to be stronger, thus reducing the risk of breaking under the weight of the fresh produce.
  2. Small containers with lids.  Many vendors use the containers for display only and do not give them to you as part of the purchase, hence, your pint of loose blueberries may get squashed in your bag.  Small containers from home that are used to store leftovers can help solve the problem.
  3. A wagon or mini cart.  During one of our first farmers market experiences, my family and I got carried away with our purchases and had no means of which to carry them.  Luckily, a vendor was selling small wheeled carts.  We purchased one and have taken it with us on many subsequent outings.
  4. Bring a cooler with ice packs.  A cooler will help to keep your purchases fresh until you can take them home and prepare them.
  5. Cash.  Some vendors accept personal checks and/or credit cards, but many do not.  Using cash to purchase  your items will also speed up the checkout process.
  6. Comfortable walking shoes, clothes for the weather (e.g., rain coat), sunscreen, sunglasses and/or hat, etc,.
  7. A sense of adventure.  You will never know what you will find.  Keep an open mind and try a new fruit or vegetable that the vendor has for sale.  Sometimes, just by letting your senses be the guide, you may find a new favorite that you can make part of a healthy diet.

Best time to go:

  1. Early if you want the best selection.
  2. Late if you want the best deals.

Shopping strategy:

  1. Make a list of what you need to buy, however, don’t let it limit you.  Although you will want to have  a general idea of what you want to buy, a farmer may be offering something that is not on your list, but looks particularly fresh.  Don’t hesitate to buy it if you think you could use it in a recipe for that week.
  2. Plan to spend some time at the market, especially if it is a large one.
  3. Do an initial assessment.  Take a stroll around the market first to get a feel for what vendors are offering.  Make a mental note of items of interest and see how the prices for similar products compare between vendors.
  4. Ask the farmer/vendor questions.  Does he or she have recipes or tips on storing, preparing, and cooking the produce?  Were conventional farming methods used or organic?  What produce does the farmer think he will bring next week?

Farmers markets are a wonderful way to support your community and to be eco-friendly at the same time.  Buying locally produced products is cost-efficient and reduces the ill effects on the environment that occur with transporting these goods across the country.  Produce from farmers markets tend to be fresh and many individuals who patron these markets claim that their purchases taste better.  To find a farmers’ market near you, click here.

Do you shop at farmers markets?  What has your experience been?  What are your favorite finds from a farmers market?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under eco-friendly, fruit, green eating, green living, health, healthy food, organic, sustainable, vegetables

ADHD Linked to Pesticides – Another Reason to go Organic

Yesterday’s release of scientific data that links Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to pesticide exposure supports the case for going organic.  The study, published in the May 17, 2010 online version of Pediatrics – The Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, found that out of 1139 children ages 8-15 years, those whose urine samples contained higher levels of organophosphate metabolites were more likely to have ADHD.  Previous studies have shown a correlation between markers of organophosphate exposure and impaired neurodevelopment (e.g., behavioral problems and reduced cognitive function) in children living in environments with high exposure (e.g., living on a conventional farm).  However, the recent study is the first to see a correlation in the general population for whom no particular exposure has occurred.

Most of the children (93.8%) had some detectable markers of organophosphate exposure in their urine.  Depending on the marker of organophosphate exposure, there was a 55-75% increase in the risk for developing ADHD for each 10 fold increase in urinary concentration of the metabolite (dimethyl alkylphosphate levels). The researchers note that because organophosphates are typically eliminated from the body within 3-6 days, their presence in most of the children studied indicates continued exposure.

Besides being present in the environment, residue of organophosphate metabolites has been found on fruits and vegetables, such as frozen blueberries.  Investigators highlight that there are several limitations to the study and that there is a need for further investigation to determine if the link between pesticide exposure and ADHD is causal.

The current study’s findings highlight the importance of Americans to be aware of their food source and what they are putting into their bodies, as well as, their children’s bodies.

What do you think?  Does this study support the case for eating only organically farmed fruits and vegetables?  Can rinsing conventionally grown fruits and vegetables eliminate the risk?  After reading this report, will you make the switch to organic foods?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under diet, eco-friendly, fruit, green eating, green living, health, healthy food, organic, sustainable, Uncategorized, vegetables