Most of us are likely finding July 4th and its fireworks not to be the usual celebration this year, for an absolute boatload of reasons…none of which I am going to list :). Instead, I am going to focus on red, white and blue in a most patriotic and nutritional way that feels right - through food 🍓🍇.
Fresh tomatoes everywhere are a sure sign that summer is here. Although available year round, tomatoes from other seasons do not have the same juiciness of summer crop. The first true tomatoes of summer are the cherry tomatoes, followed by literally hundreds of varieties of the large, round, red tomatoes, at their best when they appear in baskets and baskets at your local farmer’s market.
Tomatoes are usually the first vegetable that comes to mind when thinking of the color red. Or are they a fruit? Well settle down, as everyone is correct — a tomato is both a fruit and a vegetable. Sort of. They are botanically defined as fruits because they form from a flower and contain seeds. Fruits assist with the plant’s reproduction process from the seeds of which they bear. Yet, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1893 that the tomato should be classified as a vegetable on the basis of its culinary applications (flavor and recipe usage). Vegetables have the much less sexy term of “auxiliary,” as they are the roots, stems and leaves of a plant, known to be more bitter versus sweet.
As ridiculous as this dilemma sounds, I go with vegetable for this very reason. A tomato is naturally very low in sugar and calories (unlike fruit), and high in the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. From salads, sauces, cold soups, flatbreads, tomatoes are a juicy, delicious way to get your red on this holiday — and all summer long.
A chilled soup for a sweltering summer day. One of the best ways to appreciate juicy, sweet tomatoes, all summer long.
1/2 red onion, peeled
1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into quarters
1 medium green bell pepper, cored
2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes, halved and cored
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Options: add a protein — a few grilled shrimp or scallops on top; add a touch of carb — a handful of croutons or slice of fresh, whole grain bread; add some fresh herbs like cilantro or thyme
Combine all ingredients, except one quarter of cucumber, together in a blender or food processor. Puree for 1 minute, or until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Chill in refrigerator in a sealed container for 3 to 4 hours. Chop leftover quarter of cucumber into small chunks. Garnish with chopped cucumber and any other desires. Makes 4–6 servings.
When I think how can I add white to a festive dish, I often think cheese. It is always a tasty way to get some non-meat protein (approximately 5–7 grams per ounce), and usually a crowd pleaser. White pizza is a great option to get some cheese in your meal😋. It is super versatile, you could put any vegetable combination on top and it is delicious. It can be serves as an appetizer or main course, whichever suits you best. Enjoy the yummy crust, cheese, sauce, and veggies and be sure to balance your meal with a side salad or a cup or two of grilled vegetables.
The highest amount of protein in cheese actually comes from Parmesan cheese, at almost 11 grams of protein per ounce. Cheese is also an excellent source of calcium and potassium. All good things have their baggage as well. Cheese contains about 5–8 grams of fat per ounce, with 3–5 grams of it being the saturated, cholesterol producing fat. Moderation is always key.
WHITE PIZZA…WITH HERBS
Take the usual white pizza to the next level with our last conversation piece — fresh herbs. The variety is endless, and usually more green than white in the end, but tasty to the eyes and taste buds. Poppy seeds add a sweet “pop” to the usual pizza.
1 whole wheat pita bread, flat bread, or fresh dough (plus 2 tablespoons flour)
3–4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup mixed, chopped herbs: chervil, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, basil, chives, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place pizza tile or baking sheet in oven. If using fresh dough, sprinkle flour on surface and press out pizza dough into a 12-inch circle. While oven is preheating, place small sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic and sauté for about 4–5 minutes, or until garlic is slightly browned. Place the pizza dough (or pita bread or flat bread) on the heat tile or baking sheet. Spread garlic and olive oil over the surface and top with mozzarella, herbs and poppy seeds. Bake fresh dough for 15 minutes, pita or flatbread for 8 minutes, or until pizza is golden on the edges and crisp underneath. Makes 4–6 servings.
AND THE BLUES.
Blueberries. Rich in nutrients, flavor and versatility. Fresh blueberries can make a satisfying snack, a breakfast topping, and certainly a tasty cocktail. Frozen blueberries are an awesome addition to any smoothie. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, vitamin C and vitamin K, they should be a part of your daily summer menu. Why so blue? Those powerful antioxidants that may protect against cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline, also give blueberries their color.
Since 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized July as National Blueberry Month — so let’s celebrate!
A different take on our blue fruit, but the fresh zing will brighten your mood and your baked chips ;). Not to mention, blueberries are one of few fruits native to North America, if you are feeling the patriotism…
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 avocado, chopped
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with whole-grain pita or tortilla chips, or place on top of grilled chicken, meat or fish. Makes 10–12 appetizer servings.
Freedom is the oxygen of the soul. ~ Moshe Dayan
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