Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seasonal Summer Produce

Seasonal Summer Produce

By Cecilia H. Lee
Ah, summer! The word conjures up images of warm, lazy days sunning on the beach, running through sprinklers, and reclining in a hammock in the shade catching up on a good book. The start of summer is also good news for those of us who want to be able to squeeze into our bathing suits by eating all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available during the season.

Picnic with Food

No matter where you live, these hot days are good for some delicious foods—which also happen to be good for you. Here's a list of some of the things you'll find in the produce aisle of your grocery store, or in your local farmers' market.
Apples. Different varieties come in season starting in mid- to late-summer and right on through autumn. Be sure to eat the skin to get the best health benefits.
Apricots. Originally from China, apricots are not only delicious, but they're also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. Look for fruits that are plump, firm, and uniform in color.
AvocadosAvocados. Though their seasons vary, summer is a good time to find ripe avocados in your local stores. High in monounsaturated fats, they also contain vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, plus a couple of those B vitamins.
Basil. Summer is the best season to enjoy this aromatic herb—a great ingredient to liven up pastas, sandwiches, or salads.
Blueberries. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, a handful of these babies are great when you toss them into a low-fat smoothie or on top of some yogurt for a nutritious snack.
Carrots. Not only are carrots good road-trip snacks, they also have pro-vitamin A carotenes that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Chard. Like spinach, chard is low in calories and contains phytonutrients including syringic acid, which inhibits carbs from breaking down into simple sugars, thus warding off issues like diabetes by keeping blood sugar steady.
CherriesCherries. Cherries are high in vitamin C and potassium, and if you go pick them yourself, you'll get the additional benefit of some good old-fashioned exercise.
Corn. A summer BBQ staple, its folate and B vitamins can contribute to improved cardiovascular health.
Cucumbers. Cucumbers are great for your skin, muscles, and connective tissue, plus they're chock-full of water, fiber, and vitamin C.
Eggplant. The beautiful purple skin found on these late-summer vegetables is good food for your brain.
Fennel. This Mediterranean bulb is rich in vitamin C and phytonutrients, especially anethole, which a 2000 University of Texas study showed to have some anticancer effects.
Figs. Fresh figs available during the hot months are a great source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
Garlic. Volumes have been written on the benefits of this stinky bulb, which include how good it is for heart health, and how its antiviral properties may be able to help keep us from getting sick.
GrapesGrapes. Great for snacking, they're low in calories and contain the heart disease-fighting phytonutrient resveratrol, normally associated with red wine.
Green beans. Steam these crisp vegetables for a healthy side dish that's filled with carotenoids, which are great for your heart and more.
Lemongrass. Used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking, this citrusy herb is high in folic acid and has been shown to have antioxidant and disease-preventing properties.
Lettuce. Not all greens are equal, so go for the mixed greens, romaine, or red leaf lettuce for the best benefits in your salads.
Mangos. Though higher in calories, one cup of diced mango can provide 75 percent of your daily vitamin C recommendation.
Melons. Cantaloupes and honeydews should be heavy for their size and give off a sweet, melony smell. And watermelons aren't just refreshing, they help hydrate you and give you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Nectarines. Look for firm fruits with smooth skin, and enjoy them for their delicious flavor and vitamin C.
Okra. Delicious grilled or in gumbo, this summer vegetable has an abundance of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and folates.
OnionsOnions. Onions are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which means good news for your cardiovascular system.
Oregano. Found in cuisines from the Mediterranean to Mexico, this herb is great for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.
Peas. These delicious and easy-to-eat legumes help support blood sugar regulation.
Peppers. Originally native to Central and South America, these spicy and sweet beauties contain lots of natural antioxidants.
Plums. Related to other stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and apricots, these antioxidant-rich fruits are also great for helping with iron and vitamin C absorption.
Rhubarb. Rhubarb is good for more than just pie—it's a high source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Spinach. As Popeye can attest, spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, rich in lots of vitamins, and especially in iron and calcium.
StrawberriesStrawberries. Most strawberries are grown in California and Florida, where the peak growing season is April through June. Most other places will see local berries in July, just in time for an Independence Day celebration. Grab a bowlful and get ready for off-the-chart levels of vitamin C and fiber.
Summer squash and zucchini. Usually in season between May and July, these relatives of the melon are great for your heart.
Tarragon. This culinary herb has been used in medicine throughout history for such things as stimulating appetite and alleviating insomnia. It's also great for calcium, manganese, iron, and a bunch of vitamins.
Tomatillos. Little green cousins of gooseberries, these summer vegetables are high in niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin C.
Tomatoes. Vine-ripened varieties of tomatoes are in season from July through September. They're high in lycopene, a great antioxidant.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hallie's All Natural Guacamole

I like to keep things simple and easy...note to self...when you JUST get a food processor, practice like they suggest in the guide instead of jumping right in and making Guacamole. I admit - this was the FIRST time I have ever used a food processor of this kind and boy was it an experience! :) I was doing GREAT....first I put in the red onion, it diced it - awesome! Then I added spices and the same time, Vlad said, "aren't you going to put a red pepper in there, too?" (I usually do but wasn't planning on it...this time). So in went the red pepper (chopped into 1 inch square pieces) and OOPSY...that should have gone in with the onion...AKA before the avocado....OOPS! It blended into a creamy awesome texture....and you know what happens with green + get a brown-ish color. SO...I figured, it can't taste THAT bad...threw in my spices with tomatoes and pulsed it a few times...wa-lah. PERFECT consistency....if you can get past the color!!! LOL. So I created some sort of new veggie dip, doesn't look like guac and doesn't taste exactly like guac either. Lesson LEARNED!

Here is the recipe for how I successfully make it by hand (can be adapted for a food processor if you follow my tips above for the order of how you add in the ingredients)...

  • 2-3 Ripe Haas Avocados
  • 1/4 to 1/2 a medium red onion, minced (depends how much you like!)
  • 1 red pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 2 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed
  • juice from 1/2 a fresh lime
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • dash tsp black pepper (or cayenne if you're brave!)
  • 2 pinches of sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, de-stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (optional)

    INSTRUCTIONS (if making by hand, see above for making in a food processor):
    • Cut your avocados in half the long way & remove the big seed (but save it!!! You will see why later!). Scoop out avacado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl. Let me know if you are unsure how to cut an avocado - I can get you some directions!
    • Mash the avocado's with a fork.
    • Add chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, fresh black pepper, sea salt, and squeeze half the lime (the juice!) into the mix. Mash it all in!
    • Next add in the serrano chili pepper and mix it in! Taste as you add it in to make sure you don't make it too hot for your liking! (don't touch your face after handling the pepper, wash your hands first - I am warning burns!)
    • Lastly, add in the tomato, mix/fold it in and wa-lah! You have some yummy guacamole!
    • Want to preserve your are a few tricks:
      • Take that Avocado seed and bury it down in the guacamole bowl so it is in the middle of the bowl and completely covered by guacamole! This helps to naturally preserve the freshness and decrease the rate that the guac turns brown!
      • If storing in the fridge, be sure to wrap in plastic wrap...BUT put a piece directly against the guac (yes, touch it to the guac) so there is no air available - don't let it breathe! This prevents oxidation  (when air can reach your guac) which turns the top layer brown. You don't want brown guac do you? If you can make the recipe in the food proccesor the way I did (see story above! lol)
    Happy Guacamole Making!!!  'Til we eat again....

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Quinoa for breakfast??

    Quinoa is the highest protein grain out there. I often substitute it in place of couscous or rice pilaf. Why quinoa? Well, I have 2 reasons. 1. I love the nutty flavor of the quinoa & 2. foods that are higher in protein help keep us satiated longer than foods that are higher in carbohydrates.

    I have experimented with quinoa and came up with one dish that was so yummy; I could eat it in place of oatmeal for breakfast! Have I done it yet? No...I always have Shakeology for breakfast. However, this past winter I often ate oatmeal for lunch at, I'd rather have quinoa!!

    Cinnamon Raisin Quinoa

    • 1 cup quinoa
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/2 cup organic raisins (with no preservatives)
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • Put 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water into a medium sauce pan; bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cover; simmer 10 minutes
    • Add raisins and cinnamon and simmer another 5 minutes, covered
    • Mix well & serve hot! 

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Hallie's Easy Chicken with Spinach & Mushrooms

    So I made this one earlier this week...I had chicken, tomatoes, baby spinach, and baby portabella mushrooms. Good veggies and protein...what to do with them to make a yummy quick dinner?

    I looked around the kitchen and pulled out a few basic items. I always keep organic chicken broth, spices, and quinoa on hand!!! If you don't stock up! (Have you seen what they carry at Costco these days?)

    So here is what I did (and what you can do SO easily, too!)...


    • 2 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cut into strips 
    • 1 cup sliced baby portabella mushrooms
    • 1 cup organic chicken broth 
    • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
    • 2 vine ripe tomatoes cut up (I take out the seeds, too)
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (you can always use the real thing!)
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder (you can always use the real thing!)
    • sea salt and ground black pepper to taste   
    • 1 cup quinoa
    • 2 cups water


    • Season chicken with onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, ground pepper
    • Cook quinoa (1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water) in medium pot (bring to boil then simmer for ~15 minutes while you make the rest of dinner - set timer so you don't overcook...stir occasionally)
    • Heat up mushrooms and organic chicken broth in a skillet, let the mushrooms cook down for about 5-7 minutes
    • Once mushrooms are almost cooked through, add tomatoes and cook for another minute
    • Add chicken to the skillet and move around to make sure it cooks through
    • Add the spinach and cook another few minutes (~2 minutes) until everything is cooked through
    • Serve hot over freshly cooked quinoa! Enjoy!
    Check out my pictures of the ingredients & the final product.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Last night's Dinner...Thai Almond Shrimp with Rice Noodles I went to the store and bought a bunch of groceries...came home and googled: 'rice noodles and shrimp' and up popped a Clean Recipe!! Was pretty surprised as sometimes I have to dig deep or really modify what I find in order to make it clean and healthy!!!

    Have you checked out That's where I found the recipe: Thai Coconut Shrimp with Brown Rice Pasta.

    Okay...this looks dairy...but I don't have the following ingredients: 
    • Coconut milk (have coconut water...but figured that was too thin to use)...Substituted with WholeFoods brand Unsweetened Almond Milk - worked amazingly well!! Their almond milk is thicker and creamier than others! LOVE IT!
    • Natural Peanut Butter w/ sea salt (unless I wanted flavored Peanut Butter & Co. in my dinner?! hmm, not so much!)...used natural almond butter and threw in a little sea salt
    • Bean Sprouts - oh well...figured that wasn't THAT Important of an ingredient ;)
    So here is the recipe I used:

    • 8 oz dry brown rice noodles or pasta of your choice
    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (wholefoods brand)
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste (wholefoods brand)
    • 3 tbsp natural almond butter with a pinch of sea salt added by yours truly
    • 1 tsp ginger, ground
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced (used my garlic liquid...great stuff!)
    • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    • Juice of 1/2 lime (I always use fresh...can't stomach the sulfites in the bottled version)
    • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
    • 24 medium raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed under cold running water (ok, I bought them already cooked - GUILTY!!! but I got them from the fish counter and they said there no sulfites to maintain stomach is fine today so I believe them!)

    INSTRUCTIONS from site:

    1. Bring 2 medium pots of water to a boil over high heat. In 1 pot, cook pasta according to package directions, then rinse with hot water to ensure pasta doesn’t get sticky when left to stand. (NOTE: Hot water washes away the starch better than cold water.) Fluff pasta with your fingers or a fork to further de-clump noodles, then set aside. In the second pot of boiling water, add broccoli, cover, turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
    2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, add almond milk, tomato paste, almond butter, ginger, garlic, pepper flakes and lime juice. Use a fork or whisk to thoroughly combine.
    3. Simmer coconut mixture and bell pepper  in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent clumping. Add shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes, then flip shrimp over and continue to cook for a final minute.
    4. Toss noodles and broccoli with coconut-shrimp mixture and serve piping hot.
    • I boiled water but didn't cook the rice pasta until the last 5 minutes possible. WHY? It gets cold FAST and sticks together like crazy!!! I wanted it HOT and not sticky :) This worked well!! Cooked it, drained it and threw the rest of the dish on top for a hot yummy dinner!!
    • You can also cook broccoli during last 5 minutes of making the dinner as it got cold while everything else was cooking...just my opinion!

    This was delicious!!!! Try it out and let me know what you think :) Wanna see a pic? Until I figure out how to do this correctly with pics from my phone, go here!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Welcome to my blog!!!!

    As I was sitting here...waiting to turn 1 year older...(T-3 minutes and counting)...I decided, hey...I should really start a blog! It could be a great place to share helpful health and fitness info I find as well as post my daily meal ideas to help YOU with meal planning. It can be SO simple if you stock your pantry & fridge with the right foods!! I will even show you how I use google to find recipes that are CLEAN and that include the ingredients I have on hand :)

    Check back often and let me know if there is ANYTHING that YOU would like to see here! I will even take recipe suggestions if you want me to experiment. Before submitting requests, please keep the requests DAIRY FREE! That is my only real requirement. Other than that...ask away...I want this to be a place you can check in when you need a quick meal idea or to learn how to prep your kitchen for a new lifestyle of healthy eating and a happy tummy :)

    Goodnight for now! First REAL post to follow tomorrow!