Summer dining calls for light meals that are easy to put together yet don't skimp on flavor or good nutrition. That sounds like a tall order, but smart cooks know that dinner can be both interesting and healthful with the addition of just a few unexpected ingredients.
Take walnuts, for example. Crunchy, satisfying walnuts are more than just a great grab-and-go snack. They add a pleasing dimension of flavor and texture to so many dishes -- stir-fried with veggies or added to a seasonal coleslaw.
Or try sweet, fresh-picked blueberries. Blueberries are always welcomed at breakfast and in favorite desserts, but watch those smiles when your family finds them tossed into green salads or stirred into their iced tea.
These two ingredients also happen to be packed with good nutrition. "Walnuts and blueberries are both high on our list of diet-friendly SuperFoods," says Wendy Bazilian, Dr.P.H., M.A., R.D., co-author of the new book The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale 2008). "Each contributes a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, as well as high antioxidant activity that makes them great allies in our efforts to stay healthier longer."
Here, in addition to two easy, delicious recipes, are suggestions for adding good-for-you nutty crunch and fruity sweetness to light summer meals.
- Start your day with a tall yogurt-granola parfait layered with walnuts and fresh blueberries.
- For a simple appetizer, arrange a platter with your favorite cheeses, crackers, fresh blueberries and toasted walnuts.
- Create a light and satisfying dinner by simply grilling jumbo shrimp and serving over dressed greens tossed with blueberries and walnuts.
Blueberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and manganese, as well as a good source of dietary fiber. They are low in sodium and virtually fat free with only 80 calories per cup.
Blueberries contain substances called anthocyanins that have antioxidant activity. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that are linked to the development of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's (www. blueberrycouncil.org/nutrition. php).
Refrigerate fresh blueberries as soon as you get them home. Keep them in their original plastic pack or in a covered storage container. Rinse just before using. To freeze blueberries, rinse and dry well on a towel, then transfer to freezer bags or containers and freeze for up to six months.
For additional recipe ideas and nutritional information, visit www.blueberry.org.
Walnuts lead among nuts in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of omega-3 fatty acid, having 2.6 grams per serving.
Walnuts contain 13.4 grams per serving of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for good health.
Walnuts are also a natural source of antioxidants such as melatonin, 5.9 milligrams gamma-tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E), and polyphenols.
Years of cardiovascular clinical research gained walnuts a qualified health claim from the Food & Drug Administration in 2004 -- Supportive, but not conclusive, research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Store walnuts in a sealed container; refrigerator storage is good, but for larger quantities freezer storage is best. Walnuts will keep for one year in the freezer. For additional recipe ideas and nutrition information visit www.walnuts.org.
Frozen Yogurt Sundae with Blueberry Compote and Glazed Walnuts
Yield: 4 portions
1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup California walnut halves
1/4 cup blueberry preserves
2-1/4 cups fresh blueberries, divided
2 cups frozen vanilla yogurt (low-fat or fat free)
To make glazed walnuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray rimmed cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar with orange juice and cinnamon. Add walnuts; stir until well coated. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Bake until just toasted and aromatic, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; stir until evenly coated. Cool to room temperature.
To make blueberry compote, in 1-quart glass measuring cup or microwavable bowl, microwave preserves on high power just until melted, about 20 seconds. Fold in 2 cups blueberries and microwave until berries just start to pop, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir gently and cool to room temperature.
To serve, divide blueberry compote among four dessert dishes. Scoop frozen yogurt onto compote. Top with glazed walnuts; garnish with remaining 1/4 cup fresh blueberries. Serve immediately.
Note: Both the glazed walnuts and blueberry compote may be prepared ahead of time. Store glazed walnuts in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks; try as a delicious snack or on salads. Store blueberry compote, covered and refrigerated, for up to three days. Wonderful served warm over pancakes or French toast.
Grilled Chicken with Blueberry, Watermelon and Walnut Salad
Yield: 4 portions
1 cup California walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in bite-size pieces
6 cups mixed baby greens
4 grilled chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts in one layer on baking sheet. Bake until just toasted and aromatic, about 8 minutes; remove and let cool.
To prepare vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, honey, salt and pepper.
For the salad, in a medium bowl, combine watermelon, blueberries, walnuts and bell pepper; add half of the vinaigrette; toss to coat. In a large bowl, toss greens with remaining vinaigrette. Divide greens among four plates; top with fruit and walnut mixture. Slice each chicken breast diagonally and serve with salad.
Tip: Make a double recipe of the vinaigrette, and use half of it for marinating the chicken before grilling. Discard any vinaigrette used for marinating.
All materials courtesy of: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council / California Walnuts