December 17, 2014

Three cheers for the ‘Red, White and Blue’

Conscious Cook: Berries

“May the sun in his course, visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this, our own country!” —Daniel Webster

Summer is finally here! Now is the perfect time to celebrate the great glory of living in the United States and enjoying our many freedoms. The summer months are also a glorious time to appreciate the abundant sunshine, longer days and delectable summer recipes.

Preparing a delicious life becomes such a joyful endeavor during these warmer months, when the world is full of vibrant colors, we can enjoy a more laid back and relaxing atmosphere as well as an abundant supply of bountiful local produce.

Kicking the season off sweetly are two of the most popular annual crops, strawberries and blueberries. With their rich scarlet and deep blue color, strawberries are the perfect ingredients for Independence Day celebrations or any July gathering.

Strawberries are the first to ripen each season and are a particular favorite with many children. A trip to a local pick your own farm is a fantastic family experience. In the strawberry fields, children can enjoy the amazing fragrance and delightful juiciness of fresh strawberries, as they stain their little hands and faces bright red picking “one for me and one for the basket!”

Blueberries ripen next and offer superb health benefits, just as strawberries do. Both are wonderful foods for softening and preserving the skin. Strawberries are a potent source of folic acid, an important B vitamin that can help prevent birth defects, while blueberries contain compounds that prevent bacteria from adhering to bladder walls, which helps ward off urinary tract infections. The deep blue hue of blueberries is a result of their anthocyanin content, which also attack cancer causing free radicals and may even block the growth of tumor cells.

These beautiful and nutritious berries are commonly used in sweet recipes such as cobblers, pies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and shortcakes or served over ice cream and pudding. Paired with yogurt and mint, you can create a perfectly patriotic parfait.

But these gorgeous berries are amazing adaptable to savory recipes as well. Both can be made into spectacular salsas, which pair well with fish or chicken. For a spin on salad dressing, puree either type of berry, and add a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and shake well. Pour over salad greens, add a few whole blueberries or sliced strawberries, cubes of feta or goat cheese and finish with a scattering of freshly minced herbs and toasted almonds or walnuts.

Enjoy the pure pleasure of local, fresh berries ass you prepare your delicious life this summer!

 

Berry Good Party Parfait

Serves 4

4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced (or halved if small)

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups plain non-fat Greek yogurt

grated zest from one lemon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 small whole strawberries, washed

fresh mint leaves

Place strawberries in a bowl. Combine 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over berries and place in refrigerator for no more than 2 hours.

In another bowl mix together yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar and cinnamon.

In each of 4 pretty glasses place a little yogurt in bottom of glass. Top with a few strawberries, then repeat. Drizzle any remaining syrup over top layer. Garnish with a small whole strawberry and fresh mint leaf.

 

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, is certified in holistic health counseling by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. A passionate food and wellness professional, Robin teaches healthy cooking classes to students of all ages, emphasizing natural, healthy ingredients and easy to use recipes. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net