Friday, June 24, 2011

Lighten Up...on the food that is.

It’s officially summertime; the temperature is up and people are starting to visit the pool and beach.  I know when I’m relaxing in the warm sun, my appetite changes. I tend to crave lighter food; which also happens to be healthier food.  And there is no better time to eat healthy food than summer, when so many fruits and vegetables are in season.  This month, fruits and vegetables that are in season are arugula, asparagus, carrots, radishes, spinach, and strawberries.  Each of these comes with many healthy benefits; they are high in fiber and have cancer fighting antioxidants.

If you’re looking for ways to increase your intake of greens, arugula is it.  It is considered a cruciferous vegetable, which is in the same family as healthy broccoli, kale, and cabbage.  It can be a great substitute for iceberg lettuce in a salad, adding a little extra flavor with a slightly peppery taste.   Other benefits of arugula include calcium, iron, vitamin A, beta carotene and lutein.  It also provides cancer fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

To make a great meal, put together a few of this month’s seasonal fruits and vegetables.  One of my favorite summer salads is spinach, arugula, and strawberry.  Top it off with some balsamic vinaigrette dressing and sprinkle with walnuts for the added benefit of omega-3 fats. 

Below are two recipes for a healthy arugula salad:

Arugula & Strawberry Salad

From EatingWell:  April/May 2005, EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (2008)
A rich source of iron and vitamins A and C, arugula is nonetheless in desperate need of balancing—here, with aged balsamic vinegar, walnuts and strawberries, another one of springtime's jewels.

4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each | Active Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes

• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 4 cups baby arugula, or torn arugula leaves
• 2 cups sliced strawberries, (about 10 ounces)
• 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved and crumbled into small pieces (1/2 cup)
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar, (see Ingredient note)
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl; let cool for 5 minutes.
2. Add arugula, strawberries, Parmesan, pepper and salt. Sprinkle vinegar and oil over the salad; toss gently and serve at once.
Per serving : 204 Calories; 16 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 5 g Mono; 7 mg Cholesterol; 10 g Carbohydrates; 7 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 251 mg Sodium; 262 mg Potassium
1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 2 1/2 fat

Tips & Notes
• Ingredient Note: Aged balsamic vinegar (12 years or older) is a treat, but not an economical one. If you don't want to spring for a $40 bottle, use regular balsamic. Alternatively, bring 1/2 cup regular balsamic vinegar to a boil over high heat in a small skillet. Cook until the vinegar begins to thicken and become syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Arugula and Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Creamy Mango Dressing

Epicurious  | April 2007
Executive Chef Mary Nearn
yield: Makes 4 servings
Editor's note: The recipe below is part of a healthy and delicious spa menu developed exclusively for Epicurious by executive chef Mary Nearn of... more ›

Creamy mango dressing
• 1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped (or 1 1/4 cups frozen mango cubes, thawed)
• 4 teaspoons nonfat plain yogurt
• 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 12 medium asparagus spears, trimmed and lower half peeled
• 3 cups (3 ounces) baby spinach leaves
• 8 arugula leaves
• 1/4 fresh mango, finely diced
• 2 teaspoons fresh chives, sliced into 1/2-inch lengths
• 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
• 3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons*
• *To thinly slice the prosciutto, pile up the slices, roll them into a cigar, then thinly slice crosswise and peel apart the resulting ribbons.

Make dressing
In blender, purée mango, yogurt, and vinegar until silky smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and set aside.
Make salad
Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In medium saucepan over high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and boil, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, then immediately plunge spears into ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and pat dry.
In medium bowl, toss together spinach and arugula.
In small bowl, toss mango and chives with olive oil.
To plate, pour 1/4 cup mango dressing into center of each of 4 plates. Lay three asparagus spears side-by-side over each pool of dressing, then top each with 1/4 of salad greens. Sprinkle with mango-chive mixture, then top with prosciutto.

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