July in National Watermelon Month. Watermelon is a sweet, low-calorie summer treat. The taste and fragrance of a cool, juicy slice of watermelon can’t be beat. Celebrate by trying this different recipe using nutritious, delicious watermelon.
Spring has arrived. It is fresh produce season. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Select a rainbow of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance your diet.
There is a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables during the Spring and Summer months. Grocery stores, famers markets, and backyard gardens abound with abundant supply of fresh produce.
Recently fresh produce has been linked to various outbreaks of foodborne illness. These problems are becoming more common and it is important as a consumer to know how to handle fresh produce safely.
Safe Produce Handling Tips
Purchase vegetables and fruits that look and smell fresh. Purchase only the amount you will use in a few days. Most vegetables and fruits with the exception of apples, potatoes, and citrus don’t store well for long periods of time.
Put produce away promptly. Most whole produce will keep best stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer where the humidity is highest. Tomatoes and potatoes are two exceptions. Tomatoes taste better if stored at room temperature. Potatoes stay fresh longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Cut produce should be stored in the refrigerator in covered containers. Bacteria can grow on cut surfaces of produce.
Rinse whole produce thoroughly under clean running tap water, just before you are ready to use. Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent. Scrub or rub as needed to remove surface contamination. Wash produce such as oranges and melons even if you don’t eat the rind or skin. When you cut into a fruit or vegetable, any bacteria that is on the surface can be transferred to the inner flesh. Check the label instructions on fresh bagged produce. For example; use by date, pre-washed, and ready to eat. Discard stored fruits and vegetables that appear moldy or smell musty.
It is essential to our health to preserve the nutrition that is found in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain optimal health. Following those easy safe produce tips can help preserve freshness and assure safe produce handling.
Although not well-known outside of the South, okra is a staple in Louisiana’s famed Creole cooking. The green pods have a rigid skin and a tapered, oblong shape. When cooked, okra gives off a sticky juice that will thicken any liquid to which it is added.
Wash just before cooking only. If pods are very fuzzy, rub them in a kitchen towel.
To cook whole okra, trim just the barest slice from the stem end without puncturing the pods. This way, the juices won’t be released, and the okra won’t get gummy.
Boil or microwave whole until just tender. Dress with lemon juice & ground black pepper.
If okra is used in a soup, stew, or casserole that requires longer cooking, it should be cut up and the juice allowed out.
Choose pods 2 to 3 inches long, deep green, firm, and blemish free. Pods should snap easily and puncture with slight pressure.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag up to 3 days.
2 pounds okra, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Sauté onion & green pepper in oil over medium heat until tender. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and pepper; stir well. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Add okra; cover and simmer 1 hour.
1 pound okra, in 1/2-inch slices
2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 small green pepper, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt margarine in a pan; add onion and green pepper; cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add okra and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, corn, and oregano. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Fat and cholesterol free
Very low in sodium
Low in calories
Good source of vitamin A, folate, thiamine, & magnesium
High in vitamin C
June – October
Pumpkins are not vegetables they are fruits! Pumpkins, gourds, and other varieties of squash are all members of the Cucurbitaceae family. Pumpkins have been grown in the Americas for thousands of years. There was probably some kind of pumpkin served at the first Thanksgiving Feast.
To prepare fresh pumpkin for uses in baking, roasting or adding to casserole dishes, scoop out the seeds and cut the pumpkin into quarters and lay the pieces in a pan of water, filled to about one inch. Bake until the pumpkin is tender. Peel and mash. Put cooked pumpkin through a strainer or sieve.
Small to medium size pumpkins are best for baking and cooking. Look for heavy pumpkins, and ones that do not have a hollow sound.
Pumpkins should be stored in a cool dry place. Store pumpkins upside down so the stem end is on the bottom. Fresh field pumpkins can last 3 – 4 months. Cooked refrigerated pumpkins last 5 to 7 days and up to one month in the freezer.
Position oven rack to lowest position.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare fresh pumpkin as directed above. Be sure to drain the pumpkin after cooking. Now you are ready to use the pumpkin in recipes. To prepare filling, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and stir with a whisk until smooth. Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 30 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack. To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold in the powdered sugar until blended. Serve with pie. Yield 1 Pie, about 6 – 8 pieces.
Harvested September – October