Grapes have always been associated with health, and with good reason. They are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients. One of their renowned phytonutrients, resveratrol, is said to increase the expression of three genes related to longevity. Even though they’re sweet, grapes are also good for diabetics, since they promote a better blood sugar balance and increased insulin sensitivity. And of course the skin is packed with fiber, which helps to promote good bowel health.
At this time of year, the local grapes are particularly fresh and delicious, so it’s a great time to enjoy them. Their unique texture and sweetness makes them a perfect addition to salads and desserts, but also a handy snack throughout the day. Just wash them and put them in a bowl in the fridge to keep them fresh and ready for whenever a hunger pang strikes.
Fresh strawberries are the sweet red fruit of the strawberry plant. They are at their best fresh in the summer months, although imported strawberries can be found year round. Frozen strawberries are always available and work very well in smoothies or desserts where a fresh texture is not so important.
Strawberries contain natural sugars and some dietary fiber, with plenty of vitamin C. Fresh strawberries are delicious but they don’t keep for long, so be sure to wash and trim them, then eat them as soon as possible.
It’s well worth the investment in organic strawberries. Non-organic strawberries are grown with a large selection of pesticides, making them some of the most toxin-laden produce available. Organic strawberries on the other hand, are allowed to ripen slowly in the sun, absorbing the nutrients of the soil. The result is a firmer fruit, with less water content and much more flavor.
Makes 4 servings Fresh strawberries are a sign of summer. For fun, cut the shortcakes into different shapes using cookie cutters.
2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 teaspoons sugar
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons organic canola or safflower oil
1 tablespoon frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed (undiluted)
1/3 cup fortified plain or vanilla soy- or rice milk, as needed
1/2 cup Tofu Whipped Topping or other non-dairy whipped topping
Combine strawberries and sugar and toss gently. Let stand 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450°F. To make the shortcakes, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a dry wire whisk. Combine oil and juice concentrate in a small measuring cup and beat with a fork until well blended. Pour into flour mixture, and cut in with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Using a fork, stir in just enough non-dairy milk so dough leaves the sides of the bowl and rounds up into a ball. (Too much non-dairy milk will make the dough sticky; not enough milk will make the shortcakes dry.) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 20 to 25 times, about 30 seconds, then gently smooth into a ball. Roll or pat dough into a 1/2-inch-thick circle and cut with a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter into 4 rounds. Place shortcakes on a dry baking sheet as soon as they are cut, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake on center rack of oven until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack.
Carefully split shortcakes crosswise while they are warm, and spread with a small amount of the whipped topping. Place bottom halves of shortcakes on four dessert plates, and spoon half of the strawberries over them. Cover with the top halves of the shortcakes. Spoon on remaining strawberries, and top with the remaining whipped topping.
If desired, any other fresh, seasonal berries of your choice may be substituted for the strawberries.
Kiwi Strawberry Salad
Makes 2 servings
1 pint large organic strawberries
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
lime zest, for garnish
Rinse strawberries and pat dry with paper towel. Cut or pull out the leaves as well as the hull of the strawberries with a paring knife. Peel kiwis with the knife. Cut strawberries and kiwis into thick slices. Arrange the fruit in overlapping layers on a serving dish. In a small bowl, mix lime juice, agave nectar or honey, and orange juice until blended to make the dressing. Drizzle the fruit with the dressing. Garnish with lime zest.
If you prefer a more liquid consistency, replace some of the tofu with more soymilk. For a more solid dessert, use more tofu and less soymilk. You can use other fresh fruits in season, such as peaches, pineapple, nectarines, mango, papaya, kiwi, pears, cantaloupe, etc. Be adventurous!
4 ounces (1/2 cup) silken tofu
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 large banana
Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Serve.
The following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, published by Healthy Living Publications. This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!
How can I include more fruits and vegetables in my diet?
Take veggies seriously. Vegetables are an important component of your diet, and most of us don’t eat enough of them. The American Cancer Society advises us all to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and many researchers suggest 8 to 10 servings per day would be optimal. The only way to achieve this is to plan each meal to include several servings of fruit or vegetables.
For breakfast, focus on fruit. A smoothie (see Protein-Powered Fruit Smoothie recipe) is a great way to get plenty of fruit into your diet, as you can include bananas and whatever fruit you have on hand. Alternatively, a glass of orange juice, and a piece of fruit on the side of whatever else you have for breakfast will get you started on meeting your fruit requirement for the day.
For lunch, try to include a couple of different vegetables with the meal. This may mean that you include some greens, cucumber slices, and red pepper sticks in your sandwich. Choose romaine or red leaf lettuce or spinach rather than iceberg lettuce, which has little nutritional value. Baby carrots, zucchini and red pepper sticks are great to dip into hummus or other dips. Coleslaw (see The Great American Coleslaw recipe on page XX) is a delicious option in a pita pocket, and vegetable soups are always a good choice. A piece of fruit makes a great dessert.
For snacks, choose a piece of fruit, dried fruit in trail mix, and baby carrots as quick, easy options.
For dinner, choose an entrée which has plenty of vegetables included, and add more if you can. For example, if you buy a prepared vegetable pizza, there will be a few small pieces of vegetables included. Top up the pizza with extra vegetables – sliced mushrooms, zucchini, red peppers and some frozen peas and corn are easily added to give extra nutrition and fiber. In addition to the entrée, aim to always have at least one steamed vegetable and a salad bowl on the side. Good choices for steamed vegetables include greens such as kale, collards or chard, green beans, and broccoli, although any vegetable you like is a good choice. Remember that variety is important, so try to vary your choice of vegetables from one day to the next.