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Tricolored Asparagus

Universally popular and available year-round, asparagus is appreciated for its versatility. There are hundreds of recipes using this member of the lily family, which can be steamed, roasted, grilled, baked or eaten raw.

Low in calories and full of antioxidants, asparagus is considered a “super food.” A good source of fiber and protein, asparagus contains two to three grams each per serving and delivers important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and K, iron and manganese.

When purchasing, look for firm stalks with tight, bright tips and stem ends that are not dried out or split. Store this vegetable “bouquet” in the refrigerator up to four days by placing stems upright in about an inch of water. Cover the asparagus with plastic wrap. When ready to prepare, thoroughly rinse the asparagus and simply snap off the ends of each stalk. They will naturally separate at the woody part.

Asparagus varies in size, with a range of thicknesses including thin (pencil), regular and grilling. The size of the spears is an indication of the plant’s age – the thicker the spears, the more mature the asparagus plant. Thinner, tender spears are delicious when boiled briefly, then plunged into ice water and drained.

Serve in a salad or on a vegetable tray with dip. Steam or sauté regular asparagus and use the grilling asparagus when you don’t want it to fall through the grill’s grate. Roasting is also a great option for all spear sizes as it brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable. If you love just asparagus tips, look for these sold in convenient eight-ounce packages in select stores.

Referred to as “white gold,” white asparagus is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. White asparagus is grown underground to prevent the spears from absorbing sunlight and turning green. The thick, outer layer on white asparagus can be easily removed with a vegetable peeler.

Purple asparagus differs from green and white varieties due to its higher sugar content, giving it a slightly sweet flavor. The deep violet tones come from high levels of antioxidants in the vegetable’s skin. Purple asparagus spears are also more tender than their green counterparts, making them ideal for eating raw. When cooked, it’s best to cook the spears briefly over high heat just until tender-crisp to preserve their vibrant hue. Also, using acidic dressings containing citrus and/or vinegar in the finished dish helps enhance and maintain the deep purple color.

Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is comfort food at its best. Warm, hearty, and supremely satiating, risotto can bring a smile to just about any palate. This asparagus risotto uses the rice as a base to prop up all of the wonderful flavors of the asparagus. While a little labor intensive, the dish isn’t difficult to execute and is well worth the work.

 

Ham, Asparagus &  Gruyere Strata

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There is just something about asparagus working well with comfort food. This strata is a layered dish of soft challah bread, thinly sliced ham, delicious gruyere cheese and bright tomatoes. Everything is held together through an egg custard. While breakfast forward, this dish can be serve any meal of the day any time of the year.

 

Sautéed Asparagus with Garlic

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The previous preparations are main course hearty dishes. It’s time for a side dish full of flavor, but light enough to go with anything. This asparagus with sautéed garlic doesn’t muddle the dish with too many seasonings. It’s kept fresh through simple preparation, but full of flavor through plenty of garlic and some lemon zest.

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Written by Daniel Puma

Cropped Overhead Tomatoes

Naturally sweet with a delightful firm texture, grape tomatoes are a healthy and delicious snack. Portable, appetizing, low-maintenance and nutritious, grape tomatoes have been a staple in grocery stores for over a decade. While usually relegated to salads and stand-alone eating, these miniscule treasures also make for a delicious ingredient in a variety of complex dishes.

Grape tomatoes are a hybrid variety produced from beefsteak and romas. They were developed in Taiwan and had grown very popular in mainland China before being introduce in America. The tomato hybrid was grown in the United States for the first time in Florida in 1996.

Despite legal trademark battles, the tomatoes grew in popularity throughout the U.S. during the early 2000s. They are now grown up and down east and west coasts in addition to Mexico. The wide growing area in conjunction with the tomatoes’ durability and shipability have ensured consumers can find and purchase them year ‘round. In the early days, grape tomatoes were marketed to high end grocery stores and specialty food shops. Now days, the grape tomato is seen in bountiful packages in just about any produce section you may walk into.

The combination of flavor, meatier texture and the ability to eat in one bite without squirting tomato guts everywhere allowed the fruit to soar past cherry tomatoes in acclaim. The majority of culinary applications utilize the grape tomato in its raw state, but that shouldn’t limit anyone in their creativity.

Here are some grape tomato recipes we’ve conjured together for you.

 

Falafel Waffles

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This vegetarian treat bucks the norm of traditional falafel recipes and opts for a waffle maker to create the crisp exterior. This waffle is topped with a Mediterranean salad, using the grape tomatoes as a fresh, sweet addition and a counterbalance to the salty feta cheese.

 

Grilled Cod, White Bean & Tomato Packets

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A play on the traditional French technique of “en papillote” – cooking a fish sealed in parchment paper – this recipe uses aluminum foil and the grill. The grape tomatoes roast inside of the foil, providing a little moisture and a natural sweetness to the rest of the dish.

 

Pan-Sauteed Grape Tomatoes with Mozzarella

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Roasted tomatoes are a classic flavor profile seen around the world. Sautéing the tomatoes has a similar result but allows some of the sugars to caramelize and the skin to blister a bit which brings a toasted element to the dish. Everything is balanced with the addition of cool, fresh mozzarella for a simple but flavorful dish.

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Written by Daniel Puma

Sweet potatoes have become synonymous with Thanksgiving as a side dish. Unfortunately, most sweet potato recipes would be better suited for the dessert course. I say that knowing full well there are sweet potato desserts – sweet potato pie and it’s delicious. But that’s not what’s I’m talking about. I’m referring specifically to sweet potatoes covered with brown sugar, maple syrup (sugar), marshmallows (sugar), honey (sugar), candied ginger (sugar) and candied nuts (sugar).

While these old-school recipes can be delicious, their abundant sweetness counteracts the health benefits present in sweet potatoes, not to mention they prove to be a difficult pairing for the rest of the Thanksgiving smorgasbord.

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Sweet potatoes are wonderful as a savory dish. Their natural sweetness brings a balance to many dishes and shouldn’t be overloaded with additional sweet items. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for a touch of brown sugar or maple syrup. Sweet ingredients can be an asset to a sweet potato side dish, but a deft hand will go a long way into creating a balanced, flavorful dish.

The best recipes for any dish know how to balance opposite textures and flavors with complementary ones to create complexity. Salty and sweet are opposite, but just mentioning the two flavors in one sentence brings to mind a plethora of delicious salty, sweet combinations – peanut butter and jelly, honey-glazed ham, salted caramel and bacon-wrapped dates. Heck, even chocolate chip cookies contain salt to maintain balance.

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When cooking sweet potatoes, it’s important to be mindful of their culinary make up. Due to the additional sugars, sweet potatoes are prone to scorching and burning if cooked at too high of a heat for too long. Additionally, the reduced starches compared to other potatoes mean sweet potatoes will not crisp in the same way a russet potato would. Additionally, sweet potatoes are more fibrous than their other potato counterparts. These fibrous portions generally lie just underneath the skin and are noticeable once the potato is cooked. The fibrous portions are easy to remove when peeling the potatoes.

Below is a smattering of sweet potato recipes created to elevate the ingredient through a balanced approach. They are delicious and will help maintain a diverse profile of dishes for this Thanksgiving.

 

Maple Grilled Sweet Potatoes

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The maple syrup accents the soupcon of smoke from the grill. The syrup’s sweetness, along with the sweetness of the potato, is counterbalanced by the spice of the chili powder and touch of cayenne pepper.

 

Sweet Potato Latkes w/ Spiced Apple Butter

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These sweet potato latkes are a wonderful play on the traditional latke. The sugars in the sweet potato caramelize while cooking, adding a touch of pleasant roasty, toasty bitterness that balances the spiced apple butter. The cooling pop of some sour cream rounds out the dish with some complexity and brightness to cut through the savory and sweet flavors.

 

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

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These loaded sweet potatoes are great as a side and wonderful as the main meal. Combining sautéed vegetables, fresh herbs and parmesan cheese with the already roasted potato makes for a mean combination of stick-to-your-ribs food without breaking the calorie bank. While this would be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, try substituting some of the ingredients with Thanksgiving leftovers for an interesting and delightful post-holiday meal.

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In todays world it’s important to teach children the importance of living a healthy life style. It may sound like a tough task, but it can be made easier by getting them involved in the kitchen at a young age. Check out these 6 fun and healthy ideas to get your children interested in the kitchen!

 

1. bugs on a log

Who’s afraid of a little bug? This is a delicious (and easy) treat the kids will love. Simply wash and thoroughly dry a celery stick. Spread or pipe peanut butter or a peanut butter alternative into the natural curve of the stalk. Top with raisins, coconut, nuts, cereal or dried cherries.

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2. fruit kabobs

Kids love to help out in the kitchen. Buy some wooden skewers or craft sticks and some of their favorite fruit. After cutting up the fruit, sit the kids down and let them make their own kabob creations. A side of flavored yogurt will add some special zing!

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3. fruit freeze

Instead of the usual popsicles, try a homemade and healthier version. All you need are some small paper cups and wooden craft sticks. Choose your favorite yogurt or natural juice, fill the cups and freeze for a refreshing treat.

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4. smoothies + veggie juice

Fruit smoothies are all the rage for children and adults Try making one with your favorite fruit and either milk or yogurt. Don’t turn your nose up at vegetable juiceÉ add apples to carrot juice and you’ll never look back. Yum!

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5. food as art

Let your children discover their taste buds along with their artistic talent. A great culinary masterpiece can begin with bagels and low-fat cream cheese. Set out some healthy toppings, like dried or fresh-cut fruit and veggies, and encourage their creativity.

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6. mama mia

Every kid loves pizza. Try making a nutritious version at home using whole wheat pizza dough and low-fat cheese. Allow the kids to select the fruits and veggies to use as toppings. Let the kids help you put it together for all to enjoy. There’s no limit to the combinations!

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With its juice, sweetness and tang, fruit is a great source of essential vitamins. But what do you do when you’re sick of plain fruit and still in need of a healthy snack? Here are five fun ways to mix up your fruit and keep the boredom at bay!

 

1. Add chili powder and lime juice. Sounds a little strange, right?

This Mexican method of spicing up fruit brings out tons of flavor and works best with fruits like mango and pineapple.

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2. Sprinkle with salt

This tip is also a little alarming at first, since fruit is sweet – but salt can actually bring out the flavor of fruit and create a nice accent. Try this with sweet fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe.

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3. Freeze

To really beat the heat, slice fruit into bite-sized pieces and spread on a tray. Pop the tray in the freezer overnight and enjoy nature’s popsicles the next day!

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4. Dip in sauce

For a quick-dipping sauce that’s also high in protein, mix plain Greek yogurt with a dash of honey or agave.

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5. Mix with quinoa

Head over to the pasta aisle of Schnucks to find quinoa, a grain that’s also high in protein. Cook quinoa on the stove with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, then fluff with a fork and mix with chopped fruit. Drizzle your fruit mix with honey for extra sweetness!

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The quintessential fruit of summer, watermelon is one of nature’s most refreshing treats, and backyard barbecues and picnics are seldom complete without a juicy bite of melon. From the Cucurbitaceae family, watermelon refers to both the plant and the fruit itself, and is related to cantaloupe, cucumber and squash as gourd-bearing vines. Here are just a few fun facts about this summertime favorite!

1. Indigenous to Africa, Egyptians cultivated watermelon as far back as 4,000 years ago, reaching the Americas in the 1600s. There are now over 1,200 varieties of watermelon, ranging from one-pound mini melons to massive fruit that reaches over 200 pounds.

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2.The average American consumes 15 pounds of watermelon a year.

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3. Watermelon flesh is 92% water, giving it a refreshing, thirst-quenching taste while still delivering satisfying crispness. Though perfectly delicious on its own, watermelon has been finding its way onto restaurant menus in just about every category, from savory watermelon salads to sweet sorbets for dessert. Ever versatile, even the sturdy shell can be carved into a basket and used as a unique container.

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4.The world record for largest watermelon was grown in Arkedelphia, Arkansas and weighed an astounding 268.8 pounds.

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5. What’s more, the red, ripe flesh contains lycopene, a phytonutrient that has been shown to be essential in heart and bone health. Watermelon also contains a host of other antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamins A and C. The lesser-known white and yellow fleshed varieties do not contain the same levels of lycopene, but still boast an impressive nutritional profile.

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6.Watermelons are grown in 44 states with Georgia, Florida, California and Texas consistently topping other states in production.

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7. Watermelon season ranges from spring to early fall, with peak harvest falling during the summer months of June through August. When choosing your fruit, look for a firm watermelon that is free of noticeable dents, cuts or bruises. It should feel heavy when lifted, as the ripest watermelons contain the highest amount of water. The rind should be bright green, with a whitish-yellow spot on the underside where the watermelon rested on the ground.

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8.Seedless watermelons, which now account for nearly 85% of the watermelons grown in the U.S., contain white digestible “seeds” that are actually empty seed coats.

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9.Ancient hieroglyphics depicted watermelon harvests. Watermelon seeds were actually found in the tomb of Egypt’s King Tut!

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No matter how you slice (and serve) it, nothing says summer like a crisp, refreshing bite of sweet watermelon. Click the picture below to get the recipe for watermelon herb lemonade!

Watermelon Lemonade