Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cooking in Season: Watermelon

It’s watermelon season! I see them at the farmers market, street side markets, and grocery stores. This sweet melon is yummy by itself but can also pair well with other flavors. Today on the blog we have a Watermelon Mint and Lime salad. It is a fresh summer time snack and a fun spin on an original late summer favorite. This recipe is great to toss a few berries in with as well. I suggest black berries, blue berries, strawberries or raspberries.

Select: Choose symmetrical watermelons with dried stems and yellowish undersides, heavy for size.

Storage: Store whole watermelons at room temperature. Refrigerate cut watermelons in airtight container for use within 5 days.

Nutrition: Watermelon is 93 percent water and 1 cup has about 45 calories.  Watermelon has significant amounts of vitamins A and C and is fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free. Red watermelon is a good source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that gives watermelon its color. Lycopene appears to protect the body against a growing list of cancers, which include prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancers. Lycopene helps to protect cells in the body from damage associated with heart disease as well.

Fun Watermelon Facts:
 Did you know that watermelon…
 · is 93% water?
· is a vegetable, not a fruit
 · is a cousin of the pumpkin
 · was used by explorers as a canteen
 · can grow to over 200 pounds



Monday, August 17, 2015

$15 goes a long way with Bountiful Baskets

Have you tried Bountiful Baskets food coop yet?  It's a fabulous way to get loads of fresh fruits and vegetables at a great price!  There are pick-up sites all over Utah where you can participate in this fun co-op.  The cost is $15 (plus a small participation fee.  In Utah, the fee is $2.50). There is no obligation to participate ever, and you can choose the weeks that you do.  Each week, participation opens up at 10am on Monday, and closes at 10pm on Tuesday.  During that time, you can visit their website:  www.bountifulbaskets.org  and pay for your basket for that week.  When you pay, you also select the location you would like to pick up your basket, as well as add any additional items that are available - such as crates of apples or berries that might be available.  It's a great way to load up on produce!!  When you select your location, you will see the date and time that you should arrive to pick up your goodies.  It is usually a Saturday morning around 8am.  Because this is a coop, it is completely run by volunteers.  The organization asks that those who use the program, help out once in a while at their pickup site.  This means arriving a little bit earlier than pick-up time to help sort the produce into the baskets.  It's actually a lot of fun and a great way to make friends with those who live in your area!  Plus, you get an extra fruit or vegetable or two, just for helping out!

At Food$ense, we are huge fans of Bountiful Baskets.  Here is an example of some of the produce we got from one of our baskets, and how we planned to use it to feed our family throughout the week.  It really helped stretch our food budget and incorporate more fruits and veggies each day!


If you ask me, the prize of this week's basket was RAINBOW CHARD!  It's one of the most exciting of the winter greens because it brings so much color to what is usually the least colorful time of the year.  Good chard looks, feels and smells crisp and fresh.  You'll want to store it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with excess moisture removed.  Once you're ready to use it, you've got plenty of options.  Here are a few: 
  • Add to omelets
  • Add to soups and stir fries
  • Boil, steam, or stir-fry them on their own
You'll want to wash it thoroughly under water.  Uncurl the leaves or anywhere there might be dirt in the crevices.  Let air dry, blot dry with a paper towel, or use a salad spinner.  Both leaves and stalk are edible.  The stalk just needs longer cook-time.  Quick cooking tips:
  • To Boil:  Should take about 3-5 minutes - just until tender.
  • To Steam:  About 2-3 minutes.
  • To Saute:  Heat a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds, then add the greens.  Saute until slightly wilted, then cover and cook until tender.  It won't take long! 

We've put together a meal plan, with feeding a family of 4 in mind.  However, these ideas would be great no matter how many you're feeding.  This meal plan uses produce from a Utah basket from Bountiful Baskets and is based on MyPlate recommendations.  We'll also use a few simple ingredients from a well stocked kitchen and minimal additional items from the market.  You can click on each recipe name for the recipe.  Everything shown here was included in the basket contribution - $15 plus a small fee ($2.50).  Everything pictured came from my personal Bountiful Basket.  

Basket items:  Head of Broccoli 
I'm torn this week.  We've had broccoli almost every week lately and I'm usually not a broccoli lover.  Having it so often and being forced to find ways to enjoy it has actually helped me to like it!  Now I can't decide if I just want to crunch on it raw, simply sauté it with some light flavorings, or turn it into a one-pot meal like Chicken Divan.  (Serve with rice)  Chicken Divan (which has a delightful curry flavor) would stretch it the most to make a complete meal and feed more people, so I'm putting that in the meal plan. Broccoli & Cheese soup would also make an affordable meal.  You can also make both dishes using our fabulous SOS mix.

Basket items:   1 bell pepper, most of one head of lettuce, handful of blueberries, handful of strawberries
Won't these items make a pretty salad?  I'll add almonds (you could also use chicken, beans, or other protein), shredded cheese, and cooked long grain wild rice (or other grain).  Add your favorite dressing or just oil and vinegar.  

Basket items:  leaves of the Rainbow Chard 
This egg-drop soup is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods.  And, it's a crowd-pleaser! We'll just be using the leaves of the chard for this recipe.  Save the stalks for later in the week!  This would go well with italian seasoned breadsticks and side salad.

Basket items:  1 large spaghetti squash, 1 bell pepper 
My best friend makes this regularly for her family and occasionally when I am lucky enough to be a guest at their home for dinner.  She's one of the best cooks I know (and today is her birthday!)  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRITTANY!!  This dish is very healthy and tasty.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand or pick up a few more at the market. 

Basket items:   A few leaves of lettuce, 1/3-1/2 of the pineapple, 4 medium potatoes
All I need are the burger buns, the hamburger patties (or vegetarian option...Mmm... portabello burgers sound mouth-wateringly good), and some sweet onions (which I will sauté.)  This recipe makes delicious roasted potatoes.  Potatoes can be baked whole or cut into fries, seasoned, and baked.

Basket items:  handful of blueberries, 1/3 of 1 bell pepper, several potatoes 
I love having breakfast for dinner.  And I double love blueberry pancakes.  Of course, I could eat a package of blueberries in one sitting.  Making something with the blueberries will help to stretch them to make sure everyone at your table gets to enjoy them.  You can add them to any pancake batter recipe or use the one above.   I pour the batter onto my skillet, then drop the blueberries onto each one as it is cooking.  This helps the color from the berries not to run into the pancakes and turn them blue or green.

I'll make a skillet meal with the potatoes and part of one of the peppers.  I'll also use an onion, seasonings from my kitchen, and possibly eggs and cheese (sausage or ham would also be good!).

Basket items:  1-2 bell peppers, stalks of the Rainbow Chard
Serve as side dishes with the main course of your choice. 
RAINBOW CHARD:  Don't waste those gorgeous stalks!  Slice them into bite site pieces and sauté.  Melt butter or oil in a saute pan at medium heat. Add the stalks. Stir slowly but constantly for two to three minutes or until the stalks are slightly browned. If desired, add salt, paprika, garlic or lemon juice for flavor, or other ingredients.  Mashed potatoes would go nicely as another side dish.
PEPPERS:  I just love orange peppers.  It's probably because they sport one of my favorite colors and are just so darn cute.  I would eat all of them raw and be pretty happy about it.  But I need more of a meal for Sunday so I'm thinking I'll roast them in olive oil and have them over a sliced baguette.  To stretch even further, use as topping on a pizza.

Basket items:  Most of 1 clamshell of strawberries, 1/2-2/3 pineapple, 3 grapefruit, 1 dozen fuji apples 
Strawberry Smoothie or other smoothie
fruit parfait
Strawberry Shortcake
Fresh grapefruit halves sprinkled with cinnamon
5-minute apple crisp
Pineapple Curry
Fruit salad
Apple slices on grilled cheese sandwich/quesadilla
Strawberry or apple empanadas
sliced or whole fresh fruit
Fresh fruit in a green salad
Apple slices with peanut butter
Fresh fruit sliced over a bagel w/peanut butter or cream cheese
yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit
Waldorf Salad
Strawberries dipped in fat free plain greek yogurt sprinkled with brown sugar
homemade applesauce
dried apples
homemade fruit roll ups
freeze fruit for homemade sherbet