I love the foods and meals special to summer, like juicy sweet fruits, corn, cucumbers, whole grain salads, grilled vegetables and of course ice cream! I sought the advice of Julie Hersey, MS, RD, LDN, the nutritionist for Stop & Shop New England for summer cooking tips, since she has ready access to Stop & Shop's Buy Local program that incorporates a wide variety of produce from New England farms. Below she shares some great ideas, and further down check out a dish I made, Sweet and Sour Pineapple Tofu, inspired by a recipe I found in Stop & Shop's Savory Magazine (free to customers!).
Q: In the summer, do you find that your eating habits or types of meals change? If so, how?
A: With the abundant summer harvest I reach for more fresh fruits, veggies and herbs. Not only do they keep me feeling light and energized but naturally hydrated from the inside out. I add fresh berries to my Greek yogurt, mix grilled veggies into salad or quinoa at lunch and snack on stone fruit like cherries and nectarines. For the beach I pack belly-friendly snacks like watermelon, grapes, cheese, and almonds. We love to spend time outside and that means more grilling. When the coals are lit, it's the perfect chance to cook up any veggie that I have like squash, peppers, onions, mushrooms, corn and even potatoes.
It is not likely you will find me without a reusable water bottle in hand. In the summer, I infuse my water with sliced citrus and herbs. My favorite is a few mint leaves and a slice of lemon.
Q: What are some of your favorite summer ingredients to cook with?
A: I was fortunate enough to spend summers on Cape Cod as a child. So this time of year I can’t get enough fresh seafood. Shrimp cocktail, grilled scallops, steamed clams or foil pouches of fish filets on the grill. When I am in a hurry I reach for salt-free seasoning blends to add bold flavor. Otherwise I keep flavors light and simple using fresh garlic, lemon slices, parsley or basil. Try your favorite seafood in this recipe for a one-pouch meal on the grill.
Q: On very hot days when you don't want to turn on the stove or oven, what are some ideas for a quick nutritious meal?
A: For breakfast I make overnight oats or a fruit and yogurt parfait with plain Greek yogurt, fresh mixed berries, chia seeds and chopped walnuts.
For filling weekday lunches I make double batches of bean salads. Beans keep me feeling satisfied without feeling stuffed. They also help me avoid the mid-afternoon crash. I alternate between a Mediterranean and Mexican version. The Mediterranean version has chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, red bell pepper and feta cheese, and a Mexican version has black beans, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and avocado. For similar flavors try this Tomato, Avocado, Black Bean Salad.
A perfect way to beat the heat is with a gazpacho, or chilled Spanish soup. The recipes from our June/July issue of our Savory magazine feature three colorful recipes that pack in servings of raw veggies. Try this Green Gazpacho with Avocado & Shrimp!
Q: There are a lot of BBQs and summer parties to attend. What is your favorite healthful dish to share when attending these?
A: You’re sure to please any crowd with a lighter version of traditional potato or pasta salad. For more volume and nutrition, mix non-starchy veggies (leafy greens, tomatoes, onions, peppers) into homemade or prepared starchy sides. Also try using plain Greek yogurt as a lighter base for a mayonnaise dressing. The recipe below for Green Bean & Potato Salad can be served alongside almost any choice of grilled protein. Click on the image to see the full recipe:
I especially love Julie's last tip of mixing non-starchy vegetables with starches, to cut the calorie content and add more nutrients! Below is my vegetarian twist on a recipe in Savory magazine that originally used meatballs. Instead I used tofu to create Sweet and Sour Pineapple Tofu with Bell Peppers. I took extra firm tofu and drained it well to release excess water. After chopping the tofu into cubes, I stir-fried it for a few minutes on medium-high heat with some olive oil to brown, then added a sauce of 2 T ketchup, 2.5 T soy sauce, and 2 T rice wine vinegar. After the sauce was incorporated with the tofu, I added pineapple chunks (you can use fresh or canned) and cooked rice, although below you'll see Israeli couscous because I ran out of rice! There are also stir-fried strips of bell pepper for more nutrients and crunch. It's really easy and delicious and not a lot of cook time over a hot stove.
Disclosure: I received Stop & Shop gift cards to purchase ingredients to facilitate this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.