By: Leanne Ely
I shared some tips with you a couple weeks ago about grilling meats but there’s more to summer barbecue season than burgers and steaks!
Why turn on the stove to cook your veggies when you have a perfectly good hot grill already prepped? Never mind the fact that grilled veggies and fruits taste like something out of Heaven — if you know how to cook them properly!
Here are some of my best produce grilling tips:
Don’t use your veggie peeler. Don’t peel your vegetables before you grill them. Another reason why you need to buy organic produce! You’ll lose the nutrients and much of the flavor if you peel your veggies before they hit the grill. You’ll also get a smokier flavor if you leave the peels on. Remember the clean fifteen list and the dirty dozen when you’re trying to decide where to invest in organic produce.
Precook. Some hardier veggies need a bit of precooking to shorten the time they must spend on the grill. These types of vegetables would include: asparagus, broccoli, beets, artichokes, parsnips, carrots, winter squash and potatoes. Steam them or blanch them until they are only slightly tender, then pat them dry and cook them on the grill. That extra step will make sure the outside and inside of those sturdy veggies are cooked evenly. Vegetables like peppers, onions, eggplant, fennel, tomatoes and summer squash can be grilled raw.
Oil them. Rub a tiny little bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) or coconut oil on your veggies before you grill them. This will help prevent them from sticking to the grill, and it will also help keep them from drying out. Just a little bit because if there’s oil dripping from the food, you’ll experience flare ups.
Soak your fruits. Before grilling fruits, try drizzling them with honey or maple syrup, or soaking them in liquor. Talk about a flavor burst! Especially if you’ll be serving grilled pineapple or pears for dessert. Yes you can grill pears! You can also grill apples, watermelon and peaches. Reach for fruit that is firm and just barely ripe for your best options in fruit grilling.
Indirect heat. When grilling fruits and veggies, you want moderately hot coals or indirect heat. You may need to move them around throughout the cooking process to make sure they cook evenly.
Stick it to them. Skewers are great tools for grilling veggies. It’s tempting to make beautiful kabobs out of meat and veggies but if you want to ensure even cooking, skewer all the same type of veggie per skewer. Cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of onion and pineapple are all wonderful cooked on skewers.
Use packets. Some veggies don’t lend themselves well to skewers or grill baskets. Peas, beans, sliced peppers, etc. For these lovely foods, try making a packet out of tin foil and cook them that way. This is also a good way to cook potatoes, or to cook other veggies with a sauce or topping of some sort.
There you have it.
Have I missed anything? Do you have anything to add?
By: Leanne Ely
It’s not easy being greens. So packed with goodness and fiber, yet so many people just push them around the plate without any respect for the nutrition in their pretty green leaves.
If you want to get the nutrients you need in your system, you have to get good and comfortable with eating greens. And since today’s produce is so deficient in many vitamins and nutrients, you have to eat as many greens as you can manage.
From late March through early May, there’s a wide variety of spring greens to enjoy, including:
• baby lettuces
• dandelion greens
Salad greens are chock full of phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants.
Eating spring greens provides you with many nutrients and minerals including:
• vitamins A, C, E and K
Greens can protect the body against diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Greens can help your cells repair themselves and they can help detoxify the body. Eat a wide range of greens and eat them often, but always choose organic. Lettuce and kale are both on the Dirty Dozen list because of the high amounts of pesticide residue that have been found on them. If you can’t find organic greens, choose a different green veggie.
When it comes to choosing which types of greens to use in your salads, you really can’t go wrong. Experiment with different varieties until you find one you like best. I love putting fresh dill in with my blend of spring greens. Gives them a nice fresh flavor.
And when it comes to dressings, don’t toss your money away on the store bought stuff. Simply top your greens with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Perfect.
Dinner Answer gives you great opportunity to use greens deliciously! Click here for details!
By: Leanne Ely
As the weather starts to cool down, one of my favorite things to come home to is a pot of simmering soup. Plus soup is a great meal that I can easily scale up or down, depending on how much or how little I want to have leftover.
Now, many people know they can use their slow cookers for soups, but if you are new to slow cooking, you might be wondering how to adapt your favorite recipes for the slow cooker.
I have a few tips for you that will help you put your slow cooker through its paces in soup making.
5 tips for making slow cooker soup
1. Brown the meat. One of the most overlooked steps in creating sensational slow cooker soups is browning your ingredients. Yes, the slow cooker will cook your soup just fine without you taking this step, but if you do take the time to sear your meat before putting it in the slow cooker, you’ll be happy with the rich, intensely flavored results.
2. Cut ingredients uniformly. Take care to cut your vegetables in similar sizes so that they cook evenly. You don’t want half of your vegetables turning to mush while some bites are still hard!
3. Layer properly. Place the ingredients that take longest to cook in the slow cooker first. (Hint: Root vegetables take longer to cook than meat so they should be placed on the bottom where they’ll have more direct contact with the heating element of the slow cooker.) Meats, spices and onions can also be placed on the bottom. Veggies like cauliflower and broccoli can go in next. Finally, place your liquid on top of all the veggies before covering the slow cooker and turning it on.
4. Watch your liquids. You won’t need as much liquid as your traditional soup recipe would call for, but just add enough to cover the veggies by about half an inch. (If you have too much liquid at the end of your cooking time, simply remove the lid of your crockpot 30 minutes before you plan to serve dinner and it will evaporate.)
5. Add ingredients in stages. Some ingredients don’t take much time to cook so you’ll want to add them in during the last hour of cook time. Things like pasta, dairy, peas, bell peppers and spinach would fall into this category.
And speaking of Crock Cooker soups, we have a delicious new Soups and Stews menu included in our Crock-Tober Bundle! Recipes include Chicken Ginger Soup, Spicy Sausage Soup, Sweet Potato Soup, and more! Click here to check out the rest of the bundle and get your soup recipes today
Are you planning a visit to your local farmers market this week? This is my favorite place to go grocery shopping! Happiest place on earth, even though the Disney people might own that phrase, LOL.
If you don’t know what’s freshest right now and in season, this guide will help plus I’ll give you the low down on why it’s good for you, and how to select for ripeness. (I’ll also give you a tip along the way!)
Depending on where you live and how your growing season is going, this list will obviously vary.
Here’s another hint—if you see plenty of the same thing (like everyone has strawberries for example and the whole market smells like strawberry—it’s in season!) J
Here’s a list of 41 fruits and veggies in season in June in the United States:
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, potassium, copper, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Choose apricots with rich, orange-colored skin. They should be soft to the touch and smell like apricots.
Tip: Try drying your own apricots in the oven or food dehydrator. (If you turn your oven on its lowest setting and prop the door open, it will dehydrate your halved apricots in about 8 hours.)
Health benefits: Cancer prevention, antioxidants, fiber, liver health, digestive aid and hangover cure.
What to look for: Squeeze the leaves. Fresh artichokes have squeaky leaves. Choose small artichokes for the sweetest hearts.
Tip: Best enjoyed steamed for 15 or 20 minutes. I also enjoy taking leftover steamed artichokes, cutting them in half and grilling—fabulous.
Health benefits: Zinc, magnesium, calcium, disease prevention, and vitamins A, B, C and K.
What to look for: Larger arugula leaves tend to be more peppery than the smaller leaves, so you might want to save the larger ones for cooking and use the milder leaves for raw salads.
Tip: Your body will make better use of some of arugula’s nutrition when eaten raw and others when cooked. So, it’s a good idea to switch things up from time to time. Some of the compounds in arugula are best absorbed when paired with fat—your evoo is perfect!
Recipe: Sesame Ginger Steak Salad
Health benefits: Folate, dietary fiber, protein, copper, potassium, and vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B6, A, E and C. Asparagus helps regulate blood sugar, has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it may even prevent several types of cancer.
What to look for: Choose stalks that are rounded, not fat or twisted. They should be firm with closed purplish or dark green tips.
Tip: Store your asparagus upright in a cup of water in the fridge or with the ends wrapped in damp paper towel. Eat your asparagus within a day or two of purchasing. Best steamed just until it turns a bright shade of green. And fabulous on the grill!
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, carotenoids, vitamins B6, C, E and K, magnesium, potassium, folate, fiber.
What to look for: Gently squeeze the ends of the avocado. If you have some give, the fruit is ripe. If it’s very soft it is probably overripe. Pull off the little stem—should be greenish, not brown. And f it’s hard, it’s underripe and needs more time on the counter before slicing into it.
Tip: To store your avocado once it has been opened, squeeze the exposed flesh with some fresh lemon juice and store it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap. It should be eaten within a day or so.
Recipe: BLT Shrimp Salad
Health benefits: magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber and folate.
What to look for: Choose beets that are heavy for their size, with no surface cuts or nicks.
Tip: Enjoy beets raw in juice or salads, or you can cook them in a variety of ways: steamed, stir fried or roasted. (They are best with a squeeze of lemon juice and some butter.)
Health benefits: Antioxidants, fiber,folate, anti-inflammatory and vitamins C, K and E.
What to look for: Choose blackberries that are black in color, which is an indication that they’re fully ripe. Sniff the berries. If they are too sweet smelling, they’re overripe. If they don’t smell like berries, they are underripe. They should smell slightly sweet.
Tips: When storing blackberries, don’t use containers more than 5 inches deep because the berries at the bottom will be bruised. A 9×13 inch pan does the trick!
Health benefits: Fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, phytochemicals and vitamins A, C, K, B-6, and E.
What to look for: Choose heads with tight green and brightly colored buds. Yellowing is a sign of broccoli past its prime. Stalks should seem young and tender. Look for moisture where the broccoli was cut at the stem. That’s a sign it was just picked.
Tip: Enjoy broccoli in stir fries, eaten raw with other veggies or added to soups and salads.
Recipe: Bacon and Almond Broccoli Salad
Health benefits: Vitamin A, beta carotene, and fiber.
What to look for: Choose stiff and unbending carrots. If it’s limp, it’s not fresh. If the tops are attached, they should be fresh and bright green
Tip: Remove the greens when storing carrots. Keep carrots wrapped loosely in plastic in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. New carrots need only be scrubbed and eaten raw or steamed until tender.
Health benefits: Cancer fighting abilities, digestive aid, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, B vitamins and Vitamin K.
What to look for: Choose cauliflower with creamy white curds and firmly attached, bright green leaves. Avoid cauliflower with loose sections or brown spots.
Tip: Take the stem off your cauliflower, and keep the cauliflower in an opened plastic bag in the fridge. It will last a good week or longer. Best enjoyed raw or lightly steamed.
Health benefits: Anti inflammatory, fiber, and vitamins A, E and C.
What to look for: Choose fruit with the stem still attached. The stem should be nice and green and not wilted. A fresh looking stem is a sign that the fruit was picked recently.
Tip: Cherries bruise easily, and they are very perishable. Cherries will only stay fresh in the fridge for a few days, so eat them shortly after bringing them home.
Health benefits: Manganese, B vitamins, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Choose ears that feel plump. The silk coming from the top of the husk should be pale golden yellow and slightly sticky.
Tip: Only buy corn if you can find it organic. You’ll notice farmers bragging about their organic, pesticide free grown corn. Organic=GMO free, fyi.
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory, magnesium, manganese, silica, cancer prevention and vitamins C, K and B5.
What to look for: Choose firm cucumbers with no soft spots.
Tip: Enjoy sliced into salad or chopped up and served alongside spicy curry dishes.
14. DANDELION GREENS
Health benefits: Magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins A, B, C and D. Dandelion greens are commonly used in contemporary herbal medicine because of their diuretic properties. They’re used to suppress appetite and as a digestive aid.
What to look for: Choose pale green leaves (the pale green leaves are tastiest; dark can mean bitter), and get them before the plant flowers.
Tip: Wrap them in damp paper towels, and keep them in the fridge for up to a week. You can freeze dandelion greens after they’re cooked. Best raw in salads or wilted like spinach.
15. FAVA BEANS (aka BROAD BEANS)
Health benefits: Fiber, protein and iron.
What to look for: Select pods that are firm and filled along the entire length. If you choose pods with the smallest bumps, you’ll get the youngest beans.
Tip: Try fava beans fried with the skin cut open with a bit of salt.
Health benefits: Rich in vitamins, lowers cholesterol, good for heart health, lowers blood pressure, antiviral and antibacterial, prevents cancer and aids in absorption of iron.
What to look for: Choose smooth, blemish-free garlic bulbs with no sprouting or signs of decay.
Tip: Garlic burns quickly, so when adding minced garlic to your cooking, add it in closer to the end, and never toss right into a hot pan or it will turn bitter.
Health benefits: Reduces gassiness , anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, immunity boost, cancer prevention, cures heartburn and eases migraine pain.
What to look for: Choose ginger root heavy for its size. It should smell spicy, and it should be firm with smooth skin. Avoid wrinkled ginger.
Tip: Freeze your ginger root for easy grating
Health benefits: Fiber, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin A and C.
What to look for: When shopping for grapefruit, choose unblemished fruits that feel heavy for their size.
Tip: Even though you’re not eating its peel, you should always rinse grapefruit under clean water before cutting into it. Cutting into fruit that hasn’t been washed can transfer dirt, chemicals and bacteria from the surface of the peel to the part you’re about to eat.
Health benefits: Fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, liver health, calcium, sulfur and digestive aid.
What to look for: Leaves should be brightly colored and crisp with no signs of wilting.
Tip: Toss kale leaves into salads, stir fries and soups. Juice it, braise it and make it into chips. Kale=love.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants
What to look for: Ripe kiwi is firm and should give slightly when pressed on.
Tip: If your kiwi is underripe, place it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple and it will ripen in a day or two.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, fiber and cancer prevention.
What to look for: Choose firm kohlrabi with no bruising. You can find purple kohlrabi or light green kohlrabi—of the two varieties, the green one is sweeter, while the purple has a bit of a spicy kick to it. Young kohlrabi is tastiest, so look for smaller kohlrabi at the market.
Tip: Kohlrabi delivers different health benefits when cooked and raw. Try raw kohlrabi grated into a salad or served braised or roasted as a side dish.
Health benefits: Vitamin C, pectin, magnesium, limonene.
What to look for: Lemon peels should be bright yellow and glossy, without a hint of green. The fruit should be firm, plump, and heavy for its size.
Tip: Choose smooth, thin-skinned lemons for juicing, and bumpy thick-skinned lemons for zesting.
Recipe: Tangy Chicken and Apple Kabobs
Health benefits: Phosphorous, fiber, folate and vitamins A, C and K.
What to look for: Avoid heads with wilted leaves.
Tip: If you’ve purchased a head of living lettuce, keep it in its original packaging and wash just before you use it. Enjoy lettuce raw in salads or juices.
Health benefits: Flavonoids, anti-carcinogens, citric acid, vitamin C.
What to look for: Limes should be heavy for their size with a deep green, glossy skin.
Tip: Squirt lime juice on your salads and into your marinades or squeeze some into your daily juice or smoothie to obtain its benefits, rather than drinking straight lime juice (sour!).
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous.
What to look for: Don’t focus on color. It is not the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently. A ripe mango will give slightly. Ripe mangos will sometimes have a fruity aroma at their stem ends. Mangoes will continue ripening when left at room temperature. You may speed up ripening by placing mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature.
Tip: Once ripe, mangos should be moved to the refrigerator, which will slow down the ripening process. Whole, ripe mangos may be stored for up to five days in the refrigerator.
Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa
Health benefits: Protein, selenium, copper, potassium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, zinc, niacin, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, antioxidants and B vitamins.
What to look for: Choose mushrooms with light-colored gills. The undersides should be nice and tight.
Tip: Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the fridge for no more than ten days. Enjoy raw or fried. Save the woody stalks for flavoring stocks.
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, antioxidants and fiber.
What to look for: A ripe nectarine will smell good enough to eat! Gently press the fruit with your thumb and if there’s some give to it, the fruit is ripe.
Tip: Enjoy nectarines raw in salads or grilled for a delicious treat when served with Greek yogurt.
Health benefits: Vitamins A, C and K.
What to look for: Choose small, bright green and unblemished pods that are crisp and firm to the touch.
Tip: Okra is normally prepared by cutting away the crown and tip and cutting the rest of the pod into circular bite-size pieces.
Health benefits: Fiber and vitamins C and A.
What to look for: Use your whole hand to gently check if the flesh of the peach has some give to it (the pressure of your fingertips might leave bruises). The skin of a ripe peach will look creamy yellow or golden in color.
Tip: Peaches are good for sweet or savory dishes. They can be eaten out of hand, served in salads or atop pork chops.
Health benefits: Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, manganese, protein, fiber, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium, zinc, omega 3, blood sugar regulator and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and K.
What to look for: Choose peas with velvety pods that are smooth and firm. Avoid peas with pods that are yellowish or light green in color. You can tell how full the pods are by shaking them. If there’s a rattling sound, there’s probably too much empty room in that pod.
Tip: I enjoy peas raw, but they are also delicious in soups or steamed and served as a side dish.
Health benefits: Vitamin C and beta-carotene.
What to look for: Choose firm peppers that sound hollow and are free of wrinkles.
Tip: As the pepper gets more ripe, it not only has a better taste, but it also gets more nutritious. Enjoy peppers raw, roasted or in a stir fry.
Health benefits: Fiber, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, calcium and digestive aid.
What to look for: Pull a leaf from the top center of the pineapple. If it comes out easily, it’s ripe. It will also smell nicely pineapple-y.
Tip: Enjoy pineapple raw or grilled.
Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins C and K, cancer prevention, folate, B vitamins, manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc and sodium.
What to look for: Choose radishes with medium-sized firm, crisp roots. Smaller is better when it comes to choosing radishes. Leaves should look crisp, be in tact, and be of good color. Leaves should be in tact. Radishes should not be soft or wilted
Tip: Radishes are delicious sliced into salads and eaten raw, but they also add a nice spice to a pot of vegetable soup. You can roast radishes for another unique spin. Radish sprouts are amazing in a salad, giving it a nice peppery heat. Store your radishes in the crisper drawer of the fridge for no more than one week.
Health benefits: Cancer fighter, fiber, potassium, calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin and folate.
What to look for: Choose fully ripe raspberries, those that are slightly soft, plump and deep in color. Avoid overripe raspberries that are very soft or mushy.
Tip: Raspberries go moldy quickly, so you should eat them the day they’ve been picked. Important: you also shouldn’t wash them until you’re just ready to use them. Or freeze and enjoy later.
Health benefits: Calcium, lutein (good for your eyes and your skin!), antioxidants and Vitamin K.
What to look for: Firm stalks that are crisp and not limp.
Tip: You’ll find rhubarb stalks sold at farmers markets and in grocery stores, usually in two-pound bunches. You’ll yield about 3/4 of a cup of cooked rhubarb from a pound of stalks. Excellent stewed with honey.
Health benefits: B vitamins, vitamins C and E, omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene, glutathione and an endless list of additional minerals and phytonutrients. Fights heart disease, macular degeneration, cancer and cataracts!
What to look for: Dark green leaves that are not bruised, wilted or slimy. The smaller the leaf, the tastier the spinach.
Tip: Get more leafy greens into yourself by adding a couple handfuls of organic spinach to your morning smoothie.
Health benefits: Potassium, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, flavonoids, antioxidants, fiber and folate.
What to look for: Choose organic red berries with no signs of bruising or mold.
Tip: Freeze strawberries to have on hand for smoothies.
38. SUMMER SQUASH (yellow squash and zucchini)
Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, magnesium and potassium.
What to look for: Choose zucchini or yellow squash that are less than eight inches long and firm, with bright skin. Organic is important for yellow squash!
Tip: Enjoy summer squashes grilled, steamed, roasted or raw. Fabulous in stir fries and try them grated as well, raw and cooked.
Health benefits: Cancer fighter and lycopene.
How to choose: Choose deeply colored tomatoes that are firm and free of wrinkles. Tomatoes should smell sweet.
Tip: Tomatoes can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled or sauteed. Freeze these summer beauties for later cooking use in the middle of winter.
40. VIDALIA ONIONS
Health benefits: Vitamin C and chromium.
What to look for: Choose onions that are firm with no visible signs of decay. Skins should be dry, and the onions should not be sprouting.
Tip: Vidalia onions can be eaten raw or cooked. They’re sweet and fragrant and only around for a short time—grab them while you can!
Health benefits: Potassium and Vitamin C.
What to look for: Choose a blemish-free specimen with a creamy yellow underside (this is the side it was growing on). The melon should feel heavy—remember, it’s about 90% water.
Tip: Cut leftover watermelon into chunks (removing seeds and rind), place in a blender and blend till pureed and smooth. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays and add to lemonade for a refreshing and colorful drink!