Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If there is one season that embodies the Californian lifestyle, it’s summer. While it may be customary for us to wear flip-flops year round, it’s now also a great time to use the barbeque on a daily basis for meal preparation, to substitute your kitchen table for a big blanket on the beach, and to schedule your Sunday dinners at the park. This is what summer does. It allows us to transform our sometimes ordinary and scheduled lives into perfectly fun and spontaneous ones.

As two dietitians who love promoting nutritious food from a healthy standpoint, we also love promoting food from the standpoint that it is meant to be enjoyed. After all, while food is meant to fuel our bodies so we can feel vibrant and energized all day long, it is also meant to taste delicious. It just so happens that nutritious fruits and veggies currently found in season are incredibly tasty just the way they are.

While it may not be officially summertime quite yet, some of the year’s most delicious in-season produce are already in full swing, including:

apricots, artichokes, avocados, blueberries, cherries, corn, nectarines, peaches, plums, okra, strawberries, raspberries and Valencia oranges.

Corn is one of those quintessential summer foods. It’s hard to imagine a summertime BBQ, picnic, or 4th of July celebration without corn on the cob. Because corn is a starchy vegetable, it’s an excellent source of carbohydrates – the most readily available fuel for our bodies. Corn is also high in fiber, a nutrient that is constantly praised for its healthful benefits despite the ever-changing diet trends.

Berries, including blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C, potassium and folate. Of course we love berries for all they offer nutritionally, but we also love them because of their convenience. It doesn’t get much easier than washing a small container of berries for a healthy on-the-go snack. Not to mention, kids love them. Berries are nature’s perfect finger food – colorful and naturally sweet. What’s not to love?

Cherries, especially tart cherries, are becoming more recognized for their unique health benefits. Research has shown that tart cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce muscle soreness and joint pain after engaging in physical activity. So if you plan on going for a hike after spending a day of swimming, you may want to add a few dried cherries to your morning oatmeal, mix them in with your homemade trail mix, or toss a handful into a salad for a little something sweet.

By enjoying the health benefits (and taste!) of all these in-season treats, you’ll be able to hike to the top of Towsley Canyon or dance the night away at Concerts in the Park. The goal is to maintain these healthy habits year-round for as Henry David Thoreau once said, “One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”

And now, for a recipe.

Grilled Corn, Tomato & Avocado Salad

 While corn on the cob is fun to eat on its own, it can also be mixed with other veggies for an incredibly satisfying and nutrient-packed salad or side dish.  This salad is guaranteed to be a hit at your next summer barbeque.

Serves 6

4 corn on the cob
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Olive oil
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 scallions, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of one lime
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Dash of hot sauce, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Optional:  4 ounces feta or goat cheese
Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium-high heat. 
Rub the corn on the cob with the cumin, cayenne and olive oil.  Grill corn, turning occasionally, until just cooked and slightly charred, about 5 – 6 minutes.  Let cool slightly and then cut corn kernels off of the cob.
Combine the cut corn, avocado, tomatoes and scallions in a large glass bowl.  Top with feta or goat cheese, if desired. 
In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime zest and juice, cilantro, hot sauce or red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad, and gently toss to mix.
These seasonal tips & recipes were featured in last month’s Health & Wellness Guide for
The Santa Clarita Valley Signal. For more “In Season” tips & recipes us, pick up the next issue of The Health & Wellness Guide on August 10th.

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