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Stone fruits refer to those that contain a stone (or sometime referred to as a “pit”), which can be removed with ease (Freestone) or without (Clingstone) from the flesh of the fruit.  The most popular stone fruits are usually enjoyed during the summer season and include peaches, plums and nectarines.  In many parts of the country these juicy fruits are coming into harvest right now and plenty of orchards host “pick-your-own” outings.  Even if you don’t want to go out and pick your own peaches or plums, local farmer’s markets and even your neighborhood grocery store has these in-season fruits on hand right now at some terrific prices.

 

Peaches, plums and nectarines are a healthy addition to your daily diet.  They are a good source of Vitamins A and C and are naturally fat, cholesterol and sodium free.  In-season fruit is delicious to snack on all by itself, but I found a few recipes that also take advantage of their delicious flavor.

 

Here is a true summer recipe, but using peaches differently than you normally would.  Grilled Halibut with Peach and Pepper Salsa combines the perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors that work well with this mild tasting fish.  Habanero pepper gives the dish an extra “kick.”

 

salsa

 

Grilled Cinnamon Plums with Sweetened Mascarpone, Vanilla Honey & Toasted Pine Nuts is a new and elegant twist on dessert.  Plus, I like the idea of getting that sweet “fix” without adding too many added calories and fat.  This recipe keeps it really simple and relies on its flavor from the fruit and spices.  The presentation is also perfect if you’re having guests.

 

plums

 

Obviously, there are plenty of other recipes you can explore with fresh stone fruits like cobblers, pies, jams, not to mention fresh peach ice cream or peach tea!  I have a bowl of nectarines and peaches sitting on my counter for snacking right now–I hope you’ll do the same while these fruits are at their peak of flavor through the next month or so.

 

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July is National Baked Bean Month!  It’s no surprise since picnics, barbeques and summertime gatherings almost always offer up this popular side dish.  Hot dogs, hamburgers or grilled chicken are hard to imagine without a steaming plate of sweet and savory beans to go with them.

 

 

Traditionally, baked beans are made with salt pork, which is great for adding flavor, but also adds fat and calories to the dish.  Since beans are a super healthy food–they are high in fiber, a great source of protein and folate, finding a way to keep the traditional flavor without adding the fat is my goal.  This recipe for Vegetarian Baked Beans does just that!  It uses navy beans, the typical bean used for baked beans and keeps the ingredients simple.  Some vegetarian recipes want to add a bunch of odd items that you typically won’t find in traditional baked beans, which, in my opinion, makes it a completely different dish.  While this recipe is homemade, the flavor pays off for the time and effort.  You can use either canned navy beans or start with dried beans and cook them until soft (either by cooking in a slow cooker or in a large pot covered with water).  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try for a different and healthier spin the next time your menu calls for baked beans.

 

baked beans

 

Vegetarian Baked Beans

 

6 cups cooked navy beans
4 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
28 ounces tomato sauce
2/3 cups white wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees,  In a deep baking dish, mix all ingredients together.  Let bake for 3 hours.  This makes 8 servings.

 

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July is National Pickle Month and that’s a great thing since your garden is probably overflowing with cucumbers right about now!  If you haven’t tried homemade pickles, now is the time to start, especially since I’ve got a few great recipes that are super easy.

 

The two most popular varieties are dill pickles and “bread and butter” pickles.  Dill pickles are known for their tart, tangy flavor and are the most often pickle wedge you’ll find accompanying your meal when you order a deli sandwich.  Dill pickles are also often found in “barrels” at markets where you can use tongs to select them and then place them in a bag.  I remember doing this as a kid and choosing the biggest pickle I could find so I could cut the pickle and put the slices on my sandwiches.  I found this terrific recipe for Easy Garlic and Dill Pickles you’ll definitely want to try this summer.  This recipe uses a brine mixture and requires no cooking.  Coriander, fresh dill and garlic add flavor to the fresh cucumbers and the pickles are ready after 24 hours in the refrigerator and last up to a month.

 

dill pickles

 

There are few flavors that remind me of my childhood more than bread and butter pickles.  My grandmother and my mother both made them each summer and I recall eating sandwiches stacked with their sweet flavor.  That’s the thing about bread and butter pickles–they have a sweet/savory taste and the addition of onion in the pickle mix makes them even more delicious!  My sister brought me a jar last year, made with fresh cucumbers from her garden and the flavor brought back all the memories from my childhood.  I was able to find another simple recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles that requires very little effort to recreate this tasty treat.  Again, these pickles are ready after 24 hourd in the refrigerator and they will last 2 weeks in an airtight container.  The only cooking is to simmer the sauce of sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and ground turmeric.

 

bread butter pickles

 

Considering cucumbers are in season right now and are delicious and nutritious (they are a good source of Vitamin C!), try pickling them this season for a new way of taking advantage of this summer veggie.

 

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This week is filled with July 4th festivities–picnics, barbeques and backyard cookouts.  Whether you’re at the beach, around the campsite or just spending it relaxing at home, delicious food is always a requirement for a successful celebration.  This year, consider taking some of the usual picnic/barbeque fare and putting a healthy twist on it.

 

Let’s start with a typical side–macaroni salad.  The traditional version consists of pasta with a mayonnaise base along with diced celery and onion.  Swap this out with Greek Pasta Salad w/Red Wine Vinaigrette for a healthier and tastier change.  This recipe uses red onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, olives and feta cheese for its ingredients.  Instead of heavy mayonnaise, this dressing uses red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs to flavor this salad.  More taste and less fat/calories!

 

pasta salad

 

Another popular dish at cookouts are Deviled Eggs.  Avocado Stuffed Eggs are a healthier version that won’t leave you missing any of the original recipe’s flavor. The only thing omitted is the fat and calories of the mayonnaise used as the original base.  Instead, this recipe uses avocado for its creamy consistency.

 

eggs

 

What’s a celebration without dessert?  This Fourth of July Dessert keeps it super simple by combining fresh strawberries and blueberries with some low-fat vanilla yogurt and whipped topping in an old fashioned mason jar.  Fresh flavors and patriotic colors–perfect for the holiday!

 

dessert

 

These recipes prove you can enjoy your holiday with flavorful food while still keeping it healthy.  Have a fun and safe July 4th!

 

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When the temperatures rise, it’s important to stay hydrated.  Of course the obvious answer is to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water, but another great way to ensure you keep hydrated during these hot, summer months is by adding plenty of fruit and veggies to your diet.  This is because lots of fruit and vegetables have a high water content, especially some that are in season right now!  For example, leafy greens, melons of all kinds, berries, and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines are great ways to stay hydrated. An added bonus is these fruit and veggies also provide important nutrients that help to keep your body healthy.

 

Who doesn’t like popsicles?  And let’s face it …popsicles scream summertime. This recipe for Strawberry-Cantaloupe Popsicles only uses two ingredients and those ingredients are two, delicious in season fruits.  Seriously, you can beat this treat and it’s a perfect way to cool down while staying hydrated.

 

cantaloupe pops

 

 As I mentioned, salads are a great way to help keep hydrated through your meals.  A popular salad is Cucumber Salad.  This recipe incorporates fresh cucumbers, onion (I like to use red onion), and fresh tomato.  It’s topped with a wine vinegar dressing and you can serve it over a bed of fresh greens to boost the water content of your meal even more.

 

cucumber salad

 

Sweet Georgia Peach Tea makes me think of summer in the South.  I love iced tea (my favorite drink!) and I love fresh peaches, the combination is simply wonderful.  This recipe also addes a sprig of fresh mint and some sliced lemon–talk about refreshing!

 

peach tea

 

These are just a few ideas to keep you hydrated this summer.  Smoothies, fruit ices, and other cold treats will work well too.  The important thing is to drink plenty of water and eat a variety of juicy fruit and veggies that are now available to help keep you cool.

 

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One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that blueberries are in season.  I simply love them!  It’s hard to believe so much flavor can come from such a tiny berry, but an in season blueberry can rival any other sweet treat any day of the week.  Even better is the fact these fruits are nutrition powerhouses.  A serving of blueberries is packed with fiber, provides 25 percent of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and is filled with valuable antioxidants–even more reason to feast on these sweet fruits!  I usually will take a cup of fresh blueberries and snack on them alone with a bit of string cheese, but I’ve got some great ways to use them in recipes.

 

While you might think of blueberries and sweet dishes, they are delicious in salads.  Their sweet flavor goes well with savory flavors as in this Brain Power Salad (Spinach Salad w/Blueberries, Avocado and Salmon).  These fresh ingredients are perfect for the season and it’s topped with a Honey Chia Seed Vinaigrette dressing.

 

blueberry salad

 

A terrific way to enjoy fresh blueberries is in a smoothie.  This Berry Blueberry Smoothie recipe is great because it also includes a cup of spinach and one whole, peeled orange.  It’s made with vanilla yogurt so it’s even perfect for a breakfast drink.  Take a look at the image below–your kids will never even guess it contains spinach (great for those picky eaters!).

 

bluerry smoothie

 

While I’ve never been a huge fan of jams or jellies, I do like blueberry jam.  I found a recipe for Easy Blueberry Jam that you can make in a small batch so you’re not having to put up jars and it doesn’t require a lot of blueberries.  Another great thing about this recipe is that it only takes an hour to make and two ingredients!

 

blueberry jam

 

 Make it a point to visit your local supermarket and grab some blueberries while they are at their peak of flavor over the next couple of months.  Better yet, if you live near a pick-your-own location, make it a family outing and pick some fresh blueberries yourself.  These little blue gems are like nature’s candy

 

right now!

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This coming Sunday is Father’s Day and we all want to do something special for dad.  This year, instead of taking dad out to dinner, why not cook him something he’ll love?  Let’s face it–most dads will appreciate a home-cooked meal more than something he’ll get out and this way he can kick back and relax in his favorite chair while you prepare dinner (plus he doesn’t have to put on a tie!).

 

A lot of men are typical meat and potatoes guys so I’m going to provide a meal based on that theme, but really spice it up and make it a healthier version.  Trust me–dad won’t know the difference, all he’ll know is that he’s having a delicious dinner that you prepared for him.

 

We’ll start with the “star” of our dinner, the main entree.  It is summer and grilling is a perfect way to cook this time of year.  Plus, most dads LOVE having their steak cooked on the grill.  Rather than just throwing a sirloin on the grill, I’ve got a recipe for Grilled Steak Kabobs with Mango.  You use sirloin tips and add chunks of mango, red pepper and red onion.  The kabobs are brushed with a marinade of dijon mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and other spices.

 

steak

 

It’s time to rethink your idea of potato salad.  Forget the fatty mayonnaise and check out this recipe for Grilled Potato Salad.  Again, using the grill, you grilled sliced red skin potato slices and then toss with red peppers, olives, grape tomatoes, chopped green onions and fresh parsley.  Add a flavorful dressing of olive oil, dijon mustard, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper and you’ve got a delicious side dad will love!

 

potatoes

 

Nothing beats fresh strawberries right now and this Roasted Strawberry Parfait recipe is both delicious and simple. The only ingredients are strawberries, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, honey and granola.  Best of all, it will take all of 8 minutes to pepare and 12 minutes to cook!

 

strawberry

 

I hope you’ll give these ideas a try this Father’s Day.  Who knows, you just may end up being dad’s favorite “chef” after this meal!

 

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Summer means backyard barbeques and one way to enjoy your barbeque in a healthy, yet tasty way is by grilling fresh, in season fruit and vegetables.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the traditional grilling methods for fruit and veggies, such as veggie kabobs or throwing sliced zucchini and eggplant on the grill, so I’d like to broaden the scope a bit to using your grill for some ideas you may not have considered.

 

How many of you have a panini press?  Have you ever thought about using your grill to create a grilled version?  This recipe for a Grilled Vegetable Panini is the ideal summer sandwich.  It uses summer produce like eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes along with red onion and basil to create a filling that is both hearty and healthy.  A basil pesto adds to the flavor of the fresh vegetables.

 

panini

 

Pizza may not be something you associate with the grill, but it’s actually quite easy to do.  First you’ll have to cook the pizza dough and then you can add your favorite topping.  The image below shows a pizza topped with pesto sauce and fresh baby spinach.  This version won’t need extra cooking time, but if you do a traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, you’ll have to put the pizza back on the grill for a bit longer for your topping to cook.  You can also make these into desserts by adding fruit and a bit of chocolate sauce to the cooked pizza dough.

 

pizza

 

A lot of people still hesitate to throw fruit on the grill.  I think they’re afraid they may overcook or burn the fruit.  Just closely watch the fruit while it’s on the grill and remember that it doesn’t take long.  I think you’ll be surprised at how much grilling brings out the natural sugar of the fruit.  Here is a simple recipe for grilled nectarines that mimic flavor of a traditional cobbler without all the fat and calories.

 

nectarines

 

I hope you’ll explore ways to add fruit and vegetables to your outdoor grilling this season.  You can basically throw almost anything on the grill, it just may require using certain items like tin foil or a basket for some fruits and veggies.  Happy grilling!

 

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Stress–we’re all familiar with it, but when does it become a problem and begin impacting our overall health?  Stress is the brain’s response to any demand.  Let’s face it, we are bombarded with demands each and every day.  Most of these we can handle with no problem, but sometimes we encounter periods where things can become too much.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress is when our body’s response to stress goes on for too long and results in a lowered immune system, as well as digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems that stop working normally.  Over a period of time, chronic stress can have serious health implications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetese, anxiety, depression and other illnesses.

 

Aside from hitting the lottery and living without a worry, how can we learn to manage our lives without letting all the normal pressures build up and become a problem?  One way to deal with everyday stress is to exercise regularly.  Exercise releases feel good chemicals and helps to work out your anxieties and tensions.  Of course, regular exercise has other health benefits like helping to maintain a healthy weight and it’s associated with reducing your risk in developing many diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has some great tips on how you can easily incorporate simple activities into each day to reduce your stress level while having fun!

 

 spin class

 

Another great way to manage your stress level is through coping methods like yoga, meditation or tai chi.  Many people find the breathing exercises of these methods and quiet are beneficial for releasing negative energy and calming their minds.  Most health clubs are offering such classes or there are specific studios you can join for a modest fee.

 

yoga

 

A few other common sense suggestions include:

 
  •  Setting time for some rest and relaxation.  Take a few hours to treat yourself–maybe get a massage or a pedicure.  Do something you enjoy! 
  • Be sure to execute good time management.  Prioritize your work so you aren’t feeling too overwhelmed and say no to things you simply cannot do (don’t take on more than you can handle if at all possible).
  • Lean on your friends and family for support.  We all deal with stress, so use those close to you to help you manage through the rough patches.
  • Eat a healthy diet!  This will help to keep you healthy even when you’re stressed and you’re immune system may be taking a beating.
  • Finally, if you are really feeling overwhelmed or are feeling poorly in any way, seek help from a medical professional.  There is no need to suffer in silence.
 

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During May, we focus our attention on women’s health, specifically on how women can identify areas where they can improve their health.  There are things we should all be doing to keep healthy–eating the right foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and seeing our doctor for routine exams.  However, there are certain areas that impact women more frequently than men and these are the topics I’d like to mention in this week’s blog.

 

Let’s begin with calcium levels and osteoporosis.  I’m sure you’ve seen a commercial for one of the many medications available for women who have already developed the bone disease that causes weak, brittle bones, which break easily.  May is also National Osteoporosis Month and the National Osteoporosis Foundation includes in their recommendations of ways to avoid osteoporosis, to eat a well-balanced diet that is good for bone health.  They specifically indicate this includes fruit and vegetables.  They also suggest engaging in regular excercise.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a list of fruit and veggies that are good sources of calcium which is important for bone health, like collard greens and spinach.  Of course, consuming low-fat dairy will also provide you with calcium as well.

 

collard_greens

 

 

As women, we are all too familiar with the pink ribbon and what it stands for.  Breast cancer has impacted almost everyone–either one of us are a survivor or know of someone who is.  While there are certain risk factors we cannot control, the good news is there are some we can!  According to the American Cancer Society, moderate to vigorous physical activity has been linked with a lower risk of breast cancer.  In addition, a healthy diet has been linked with a lower risk of breast cancer.  This includes lowering your fat intake, eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products.

 

exercise

 

Finally, I realize both men and women are guilty of this, but I tend to see women do this more frequently (I’ve been guilty of this many times myself in the past).  Summer is right around the corner and it’s so important to protect your skin!  I am always reminding my teens about putting on the sunscreen before going outside. Ladies, trust me–you will still get a “summer glow” if you protect your skin and you won’t sacrifice yourself to do it.  I wish I had taken this advice back when I was a teen and used sunscreen the way I should have and I wouldn’t now be seeing sun spots on my own skin.  Even more importantly, you run the risk of developing skin cancer.

 

Actually, this leads me into one last thought–if you haven’t paid your doctor a visit in a while, stop in and see him/her.  So many illnesses/diseases can be cured if they are caught early, which is why it’s so important to keep up-to-date with regular doctor visits.  You know if you’re not feeling well or something isn’t right.  Don’t ignore a symptom!  Remember, if you take care of your body, it will take care of you for many years to come.

 

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