Summer Produce in the Mitten, Pt. II: Return of the Superfoods

Summer Produce in the Mitten, Pt. II: Return of the Superfoods
Photo Courtesy of AbsoluteMichigan.com
Photo Courtesy of AbsoluteMichigan.com

IT’S OFFICIALLY SUMMER!

You know, just in case the 95 plus degree heat didn’t tip you off.

A couple months back, I posted about some great (but often overlooked) spring fruits and veggies growing here in Michigan. Now that we are well into the summer produce season, I thought I’d bring you some new twists on healthy summer super foods using even more great Mitten ingredients!

Broccoli

Broccoli Quinoa Quesadillas
Broccoli Quinoa Quesadillas

Rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, and fiber, broccoli is a low-calorie superfood which is also believed to reduce one’s risk for disease such as cancer. However, it’s hard to really appreciate these benefits when you are too busy slathering it in ranch dressing (ranch is not health food, people).

While raw broccoli is perfectly fine (and arguably the most healthy option), my personal opinion is that veggie trays do the members of the cruciferious family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.) a major disservice. Roast it with onions, garlic, and your favorite seasonings (an easy side dish for nights around the grill), or try my recipe for Broccoli Quinoa Quesadillas for an easy, quick, and healthy dinner!

1 c. quinoa
2 c. organic chicken stock
1 c. broccoli, finely chopped
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (Veggie Shreds work well if you are vegan and/or lactose-free)
1/2 c. diced onion
Salt & Pepper
Red Pepper flake (optional)
Olive oil
Tortillas*
Avocado and/or salsa for garnish

In a saucepan, bring quinoa and chicken stock to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until quinoa shows spirals and is tender. Stir in the broccoli, cheese, and onion, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add red pepper flake (if you like it spicy).

Coat the bottom of a skillet with a thin layer of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons usually is enough for me to start) and warm over medium-low heat. Add a tortilla and spoon the broccoli-quinoa mixture onto one half. Allow the tortilla to crisp slightly before folding in half and flipping so both sides are crispy brown and delicious.

*I generally use whole wheat tortillas, but some people I make this recipe for really prefer the light crispy-ness of flour or corn (the quesadillas pictured here are corn). Just be aware that harmful genetically-modified corn and its byproducts can be found in almost all packaged grocery store goods… I recommend buying organic or reading labels very carefully.

Cherries & Berries

Photo courtesy of myyogaonline.com
Photo courtesy of myyogaonline.com

As a Michigander, I can’t help but get excited every year for the beautiful array of cherries and berries our state cranks out during these summer months. In addition to being delicious in everything from pies to cereal (or, you know, the palm of my hand), blueberries are believed to reduce belly fat, cherries help the body regulate healthy sleep patterns, and they both offer anti-aging and disease-kicking antioxidants as well as a cocktail of essential vitamins and minerals.

Just because the Traverse City Cherry Festival is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy one of the Mitten’s best produce offerings! Try this recipe for a healthy, vegan cherry pie even purists will love.

Filling
1 pound ripe cherries, pitted
¼ c. coconut sugar (you can find this at a health food store, online, or at some grocery stores. It’s like all-natural brown sugar and it is AWESOME. A personal fave for baked goods).
¼ c. arrowroot starch
Juice of 1 lemon

Crust
2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ c. raw almonds or Brazil nuts
2 c. crushed gingersnaps
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To soften the coconut oil, put it on the warm stovetop. Oil a 9-inch glass pie pan with 1 teaspoon of the coconut oil.

To make the filling, bring the cherries, sugar, arrowroot, and lemon juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Decrease the heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, for five minutes, or until the cherries release their juice and the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.

To make the crust, pour the almonds, gingersnaps, and salt into a food processor or blender. Process until ground to a coarse meal, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the remaining coconut oil and process again briefly. Reserve ½ cup of the gingersnap mixture. Pour the remaining mixture into the prepared pie pan. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Pour in the cherry filling. Sprinkle the reserved ½ cup of gingersnap mixture over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the gingersnap topping is golden brown.

YUM!

Zucchini

Photo courtesy of skinnytaste.com
Photo courtesy of skinnytaste.com

Hands down, zucchini is my FAVORITE part of the summer veggie selection in Michigan. From little coins (pan-seared and seasoned with salt and pepper, of course) to the giant plants as long as my arm which come out of my aunt’s garden each summer, zucchini’s mild flavor and refreshing crunch are a great summer addition to any recipe. Another favorite? Use a heavy duty veggie peeler and replace lasagna noodles with zucchini slices for a healthy, low-carb (and still man-approved!) dinner. In my lasagna, I add goat cheese crumbles and broccoli between the layers for extra flavor and double the veggie power!

And as if being delicious wasn’t good enough, zucchini offers plenty of fiber, iron, folate, vitamins, and antioxidants–all for about three calories PER ZUCCHINI! If that’s not a superfood, I don’t know what is.

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Thanks primarily to long marathons of the Food Network (shout out to Alton Brown!) and many failed kitchen experiments, I have come to appreciate the ever-important role of food and fitness in a healthy a lifestyle. My view? It doesn't make you an elitist to be educated about what you put in your body. There is no rule book that says you have to become a vegan overnight, or cut out gluten entirely, or start wearing a beret and shopping solely at fair-trade markets. You can still go out with friends, shop at Meijer, and keep quick, easy food on hand. You're in a hurry, you're on a budget... I get it. But you CAN make just a few small changes and lose weight, prevent disease, and have more energy. I'm here to prove it. Join me on my ever-growing quest to find the most delicious, nutritious food and learn from the people who grow it, sell it, and cook it- right here in our own backyard.