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Green beans, also known as string beans, are a popular veggie in the United States.  They are available year round, but especially plentiful in spring and summer.  Green beans are one of only a few varieties of beans that can be eaten fresh (most beans are dried, such as black beans and garbanzo beans).  In addition to their fresh flavor, green beans are a healthy addition to your diet.  They are fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, low in calories, a good source of fiber, and a good source of Vitamin C.  Green beans are terrific simply steamed as a side dish or added to a veggie stir fry, but I’ve collected some interesting recipes featuring this versatile vegetable you’ll want to try.

 

Fresh Green Bean Salad with Balsamic Dressing works well as a side dish and can also replace your usual green salad.  Fresh green beans, grape tomatoes, feta cheese and a dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper are combined.  You can also add some crumbled bacon to this dish if you choose.

green-bean-salad1
Courtesy of Mel’s Kitchen Café

 

Garlic Green Beans and Portobellos with Parmesan is a simple dish with minimal ingredients that’s easy to prepare.  Boil fresh green beans for two minutes, drain, and set aside.  Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a skillet and add four sliced Portobello mushrooms to the heated oil.  Cook until browned, about 8 minutes.  Add green beans and minced garlic to mushrooms; season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with parmesan right before serving.

Garlic-Green-Beans-with-Portobellos-and-Parmesan
Courtesy of The Wicked Noodle

 

One of the most popular green bean dishes is green bean casserole.  It almost always shows up on holiday tables.  So, you will be happy that I’ve found this recipe for Healthier Green Bean Casserole that tastes as decadent as the original, but is a lightened up version.  You’ll make your own mushroom sauce with fresh mushrooms (no using canned mushroom soup in this recipe) and the crispy onion topping is created by cooking thinly sliced onion and combining them with Panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  Of course the foundation of this recipe will be fresh green beans.

Healthier-Green-Bean-Casserole-11
Courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

For great comfort food, Michael Marks, Your Produce Man, has a recipe for Southern Style Green Beans that includes white onions and bacon.  Enjoy these dishes and I’ll be back next week with some ideas on how you can use fruit and veggies to dress up your table.

 

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A Pot Luck Supper is the perfect way to get family or friends together where everyone pitches in on the menu and no one person is stressed with doing everything.  The host/hostess organizes the party by inviting guests and providing the location, as well as a main dish.  He or she also keeps track of what other guests are bringing so you don’t have too many desserts or salads, etc.  The whole idea behind a Pot Luck Supper is gathering everyone for an evening together.  It’s casual and fun.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your event a success:

 

  • Ask guests to sign up for specific dishes.  As I mentioned, you don’t want too many desserts or salads, so ask your guests to sign up for appetizers, salads, desserts, dinner rolls, or a main dish.
  • Label dishes.  You can purchase simple tent cards and write something simple like, “Lisa’s Famous Pasta Salad” on the card.  This way everyone knows what each dish is and can choose according to tastes, allergies, etc.
  • Assemble your serveware ahead of time.  Not all of your guest will remember to bring serveware with them, so be ready with your own, just in case.
  • Have containers ready for leftovers.  Leave it up to the person who made the dish as to what he/she wants to do with the remaining food, but be sure to have disposable plastic containers so that the food can be divided up if there are leftovers.
  • Consider a theme.  If you’re hosting a pot luck around the first week in May, you might want to think about a Mexican theme in honor of Cinco de Mayo.  If it’s around Memorial Day, consider a beach theme in honor of summer.  Be creative.

 

Traditional dishes that usually show up to Pot Luck Suppers are recipes that include cheesy casseroles, cakes, and Jell-O salads.  Let’s rethink this idea.  I’ve pulled some fresh recipes that are much more appealing and a lot healthier than their old fashioned cousins.

 

Potato Salad with Green Beans and Asparagus is particularly good this time of year with both green beans and asparagus at their peak of flavor.  You’ll also add red onion, parsley and some walnuts to the recipe.  A dressing is made from olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and garlic.

Potato-salad-with-green-beans-and-asparagus-1
Courtesy of Green Valley Kitchen

 

Deviled eggs are a popular dish at these events.  Deviled Avocado Eggs takes the traditional recipe to new heights.  A large avocado replaces the mayonnaise in this recipe.  You’ll also add lime juice, cilantro, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle a bit of paprika on top.

Deviled-Avocado-Eggs
Courtesy of To Simply Inspire

 

Seven Layer Salad with Creamy Salsa Vinaigrette is a guilt-free version of the traditional recipe that uses a layer of cheese and mayonnaise.  This salad packs in the flavor with red onion, bell pepper, black beans, corn kernels, fresh herbs like cilantro, dill, and basil, chopped avocado, and sliced green olives.  The dressing is made from Greek yogurt, salsa, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, chili powder, cilantro, and green onions.

seven-layer-salad-1-041914
Courtesy of Soup Addict

 

Baked Chicken with Spinach and Artichokes is a great main entrée option.  You’ll use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, frozen artichoke hearts, frozen spinach, chopped shallots, minced garlic, and a sauce made from Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese (feel free to use the reduced fat version).  You’ll bake the chicken alone for about 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven and then add the remaining ingredients to the chicken.  Continue baking for 20-25 minutes and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

baked-chicken-with-spinach-and-artichoke-everydaydishes_com-H-740x486
Courtesy of Everyday Dishes

 

Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with some fresh recipes featuring green beans.

 

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April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day (yes, there really is a food day for every taste!).  That being said, why cook a plain grilled cheese when there are so many interesting options available?  Including various veggies (and some fruit) will really liven up your sandwich with some texture and extra flavor, not to mention adding more nutrition to your meal.  I’ve pulled together a few options that were particularly appealing.

 

Sun Dried Tomato Spinach Grilled Cheese uses sourdough bread, provolone cheese, pesto sauce, fresh spinach, and sun dried tomatoes for its ingredients.  You’ll also want to use some olive oil on the bread before grilling.  Spread the pesto sauce on the bread, place the cheese on top, and assemble the spinach and sun dried tomatoes inside.  Grill the sandwiches 2-4 minutes on each side, until browned and serve while they are still warm.

grilled-sundried-tomato-spinach-pesto-sandwiches-600x900
Courtesy of Eat Good 4 Life

 

This Loaded Veggie Grilled Cheese will take a little more time to prepare than the typical grilled cheese recipe, but it’s worth the effort.  You’ll use your favorite kind of bread and cheese–this version used white bread cheddar.  Add homemade guacamole, onion, fresh spinach, tomato, and mushrooms.  You’ll prepare the veggies in advance of adding them to your sandwich, then assemble them and grill the sandwich (with the cooked veggies inside).  You can add or omit veggies you prefer or don’t like to this recipe.

loaded veggie grilled cheese
Courtesy of The Dreaming Foodie

 

Margherita Grilled Cheese will be a favorite of yours if you love Caprese salad.  You’ll use Italian bread, garlic, mozzarella cheese, plum tomato, fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic pepper seasoning.  Rub the bread with fresh garlic.  Assemble the sandwiches with cheese, fresh basil leaves, and sliced tomato.  Sprinkle with some of the garlic pepper seasoning.  You’ll want to brush the outside of the bread with olive oil and then sprinkle a little more garlic pepper season on the bread before grilling.  Cook 2-4 minutes on each side until browned and serve warm.

Margherita-Grilled-Cheese-Sandwich
Courtesy of The Food Recipes Book

 

Grilled Cheese with Peach Bruschetta has a perfect blend of sweet and savory with a hint of heat.  This recipe calls for Chipolte cheddar cheese (although you can always use plain cheddar).  You’ll make a peach bruschetta from fresh peaches, garlic, fresh basil leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of cayenne pepper (this gives it the spice), plus salt and pepper to taste.  Finally, you’ll be using whole wheat bread and adding a few spinach leaves to your sandwich.

grilled chees with peach bruschetta
Courtesy of Brooklyn Supper

 

Have a terrific week and I’ll be back next Monday with some tips on how to host the perfect Pot Luck supper.

 

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According to the USDA, bananas rate as the top fresh fruit consumed by Americans.  Data showing most commonly consumed fruits by U.S. consumers in 2013, list bananas in the top spot, with Americans eating an average of 11.4 pounds per person (apples come in a close second at 10.7 pounds per person).  It’s not surprising considering the flavor and portability of this fruit–making it the perfect on-the-go snack.  And, bananas are a nutrition bonus.  They are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, a good source of fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.  While it’s easy to grab a banana, peel it and enjoy the sweet taste or slice it into your morning cereal or fruit bowl, there are plenty of other ideas you can (and should) consider for cooking with bananas.

 

Healthy Banana Pancakes are a delicious alternative to your usual breakfast recipe.  You may also like the fact this recipe is gluten-free.  You’ll use one ripe banana (mashed), two eggs, 1/4 cup of almond flour, one teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and some cooking oil.  Top your finished pancakes with maple syrup, yogurt, or sprinkle with a bit of extra cinnamon.

healthy-banana-pancakes-recipe
Courtesy of The Rising Spoon

 

Everyone knows that bananas are a terrific ingredient in a smoothie.  This recipe for Banana Bread Smoothie gives you the flavor of banana bread, but adds in lots of protein and takes out all the fat and calories.  This recipe makes two servings and you’ll need two bananas, one cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup of uncooked old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt, one teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.  Blend all ingredients together until smooth and serve immediately.

Banana-Bread-Smoothie-3
Courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

 

An afterschool snack that will please even the pickiest eater is this Fruits & Veggies–More Matters kid-friendly recipe for Banana In A Blanket.  You’ll need a banana, a whole wheat tortilla, one tablespoon reduced-fat peanut butter, one teaspoon maple syrup or honey, and one tablespoon crunchy, nutty nugget cereal.  Spread the peanut butter on the tortilla and sprinkle the cereal on the peanut butter.  Place the banana on top and roll the tortilla up.  Drizzle the maple syrup or honey on top.

bananablanket_sectionPics
Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

I hope these recipes will inspire you to try new ways to enjoy bananas and I’ll return next Monday with some ways to liven up your grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

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March 28th is National Something On A Stick Day and for me that translates to kebabs!  With the warmer weather upon us, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about grilling and kebabs are a an ideal menu choice.  While many folks think of meat as the traditional ingredient, you can use almost anything for your skewer, as you’ll see in these delicious recipes I’ve collected.

 

First up is a recipe from Fruits & Veggies–More Matters featured in their healthy plate series.  Pesto Chicken Vegetable Kebabs are a complete dinner idea, which can be made year-round.  Skinless, boneless chicken breast and assorted veggies such as bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini are marinated in lemon juice and a pesto sauce for an hour.  The chicken and veggies are then threaded onto skewers and placed on either a grill or under a broiler to cook.  Serve over brown rice that is made with canned pumpkin for extra flavor.

chicken and veggie kabobs
Courtesy of Fruits & Veggies–More Matters

 

A healthy and flavorful side dish that can be either roasted or grilled is this recipe for Marinated Vegetable Kebabs.  A variety of colorful veggies including red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, green bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, and cherry tomatoes are marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs.  Simple yet delicious.

roasted veggie kebabs
Courtesy of Damn Delicious

 

While asparagus is in season, you’ll definitely want to try these Salmon and Asparagus Kebabs.  The tangy, yet sweet marinade of soy, brown sugar and ginger, goes well with the fish and works well with the grilling process.  You’ll want to cook the asparagus in boiling water ahead of grilling just until barely tender and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking process immediately after.

grilled salmon and asparagus kebabs
Courtesy of Chowhound

 

For dessert we have Grilled Fruit Kebabs with White Chocolate Drizzle.  Blackberries, strawberries, and pineapple are threaded on skewers and grilled for about five minutes.  White chocolate chips and one tablespoon vegetable oil are heated until melted and drizzled over the fruit and served.  It’s a sweet treat you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying.

grilled-fruit-kebabs-7
Courtesy of The Cookie Rookie

 

Enjoy and I’ll be back next week with some great recipes featuring one of America’s most popular fruits–bananas.

 

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