Grain-Free Zucchini Nachos

grain-free zucchini nachos

 

I could probably eat Mexican food all day, every day. It’s the chips that really get you, though, so I set out to develop a quick-and-easy nacho recipe that doesn’t use chips. Instead, I used my favorite substitute for most things: zucchini!

In this recipe, I use a delicious raw cheddar cheese to create a traditional nacho dish. If you’re sensitive to dairy or can’t source a high-quality cheese, this recipe can be easily made sans-cheese. In fact, you can subtract or add any ingredients you like; substitute chicken or bison for the beef, and choose any veggies you prefer.

grain-free zucchini nachos

Zucchini Nachos
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Grain-free nachos made with zucchini, cheese, beef, and beans. GF SF
Ingredients
  • 2 zucchini, sliced in rounds
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 cup raw cheddar cheese
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 can refried black beans
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini slices, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Once tender, transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  3. Meanwhile, turn the heat to high and add ground beef to the skillet, breaking up any large lumps. Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and garlic salt and cook until meat is browned. Remove from heat.
  4. Heat black beans in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until beans are warmed through.
  5. Remove zucchini from the oven and transfer to 4 plates. Top with ground beef, beans, avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you share your creation on Instagram, don’t forget to tag @parisinutrition!

3 Simple Vinaigrette Recipes

3 Simple Vinaigrette Recipes

Whipping up a homemade vinaigrette may sound intimidating, but it can really be quite simple once you get the hang of it. I’ll often whisk up just enough vinaigrette in the bottom of my salad bowl, put the lettuce on top and then swish it all around so I don’t have to dirty extra dishes. Or sometimes I’ll make lots of vinaigrette in a Mason jar and store the extra in my fridge so I don’t have to make it again during the week. Either way, it only takes a couple of minutes.

The basic rule for making vinaigrette is 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper and you’ve got yourself a respectful little dressing. You can of course spice things up by adding mustard, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, fresh herbs, honey or other seasonings, but that’s only if you have the time.

I’m sharing with you my three simplest vinaigrettes, none of which require chopping or muddling. You likely have all the ingredients you need in your kitchen already, so get out your salad bowl and fork (or Mason jar and whisk if you’re fancy) and get started.

Spring green salad with sherry vinaigrette

Light & Tangy: (pairs well with baby greens, romaine and mache)

  • 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of sea saltand freshly ground black pepper

Full of Flavor: (pairs well with lentils, winter greens and radicchio)

  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. maple syrup
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bold: (pairs well with spinach, arugula and frisee)

  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Pour vinegar into a small bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whisk the salt and vinegar together and taste for balance. Add pepper, Dijon, spices and more salt, if needed. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Serves 4.

Click here to download the printable recipes

3 simple vinaigrette recipes printable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post has been shared at the following blog link-ups: Catch a Glimpse Party, Full Plate Thursday, Frugal Friday, Foodie Friday, I’m Lovin’ it Party, Show and Tell Friday, Friday Favorites, Party Bunch , Show and Tell Saturday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Made by You Monday, Recipe Sharing Monday, The Yuck Stops Here, Wow Me Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesdays and Rhinestone Beagle.  Hop on over to check out some other posts you might enjoy!

Breakfast Tacos

I could probably eat tacos for every meal and breakfast is no exception. I typically add eggs to my breakfast tacos, but this particular day I was tasked with creating an egg-free version that I absolutely loved. This is a great meal to make if you have leftover roasted vegetables from a previous meal.

Breakfast Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cut in 1/2 inch cubes (keep the skin on!)
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, rinsed well and sliced
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 8 slices nitrate-free bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 4-8 sprouted corn tortillas (or lettuce cups)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss sweet potato and bell pepper with 1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring halfway through, until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining coconut oil in a large sauté pan on the stove. Add sliced leeks and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add black beans and cook for 5 minutes more.
  4. Once the sweet potatoes and bell pepper are finished, add the roasted vegetables to the pan with the leeks and beans and toss to combine.
  5. Lay out tortillas or lettuce cups on serving plates and top with vegetable/bean mixture, crumbled bacon, avocado and cilantro.

Tips:

  • Use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. Greens like spinach or kale can be cooked along with the leeks or try summer squash, eggplant or mushrooms.
  • Add an egg to your taco for extra protein.
  • Keep any extra vegetables and enjoy a sweet potato hash for another meal.

 

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February Seasonal Foods

February Seasonal FoodsIt’s been a year now that I’ve been sharing my favorite seasonal foods each month and, I must say, it’s been an enlightening exercise for me! I’ve enjoyed being confidently in touch with which foods are fresh and in season, and which foods are better reserved for another time. I’ve also discovered that (in California) many foods are available all year long. In the interest of highlighting new foods each month, I have to admit that February is rather sparse. Many of these foods are available all year long, and many of the December and January selections are still in their prime.

beetsBeets: Like all brightly colored produce, beets contain large amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Look for firm, unblemished, and brightly colored beets with fresh-looking stems. Avoid those with “hairy” taproots as this indicates age and toughness. Remove the greens before storing as they can steal moisture from the root. Since beneficial nutrients are destroyed through heat, beets are best when lightly steamed.

dungeness crabDungeness Crab: In the San Francisco Bay Area, crab season begins the second Tuesday of November and runs through June, though 80% of Bay Area Dungeness is brought in by the end of the year. Aside from being a seasonal treat, crab is a very lean source of protein and is high in vitamin B6 and magnesium. Look for crab that feels heavy, as it typically contains more water and is fresher.

 

green garlicGreen Garlic: In very early spring, garlic that is harvested before it is mature is called “green garlic.” The season is very short, only a couple of weeks, so start looking for this unique treat now. Green garlic looks like miniature scallions, with a small white base and dark green stalks. Like regular garlic, green garlic contains the same immune-boosting properties as the mature bulb.

 

kumquatKumquats: Kumquats are tiny little citrus fruits, about the size of a grape. While they have a similar nutritional profile to that of an orange, the difference is that you eat the peel of the kumquat, which is full of essential oils and antioxidants. They are a tangy addition to winter salads, or a fun fruit to snack on.

 

leeksLeeks: A member of the allium family, leeks contain cardiovascular and immune-supportive nutrients just like onions and garlic. Look for leeks with straight stems and bright green stalks. Overly large leeks tend to be more fibrous, so look for bulbs that are 1.5 inches in diameter or less. Leeks have a milder flavor than onions, and can be substituted for onions in many recipes giving the dish a more subtle flavor.

 

lettuceLettuce: In California, lettuce is available throughout the year. While many of us disregard lettuce as simply a base for salad because of its low calorie content, it actually contains a good amount of nutrition. Lettuce is very high in vitamins A and K, which are best absorbed when paired with fats (like salad dressing). Look for lettuce that is crisp and green, without any wilting or discoloration. Wash are dry lettuce leaves before storing and they will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

mushroomsMushrooms: Mushrooms are known for their powerful immune-supportive nutrients. Select mushrooms that are firm and evenly colored. Avoid those that are dry, wrinkly, or slimy. Store mushrooms in a breathable container in the fridge (remove from plastic wrap). Mushrooms are best when simply wiped with a damp cloth. Avoid soaking them in water as this will make them mushy.

 

radishesRadishes: Along with cabbage, radishes are a member of the brassica family and are known to contain nutrients that protect against certain cancers. Choose radishes with bright, fresh looking leaves and be sure to remove them before storage. Give the root a gentle squeeze to be sure it’s not hollow or mushy.

January Seasonal Foods

January Seasonal Foods

We’re getting into the leanest months of the year. In most of the United States, the snow and cold during January and February make it difficult to grow food and we’re left with hearty roots that can withstand months of storage or foods imported from warmer climates. In California we’re lucky to enjoy fresh produce all year long. Here are some of my January favorites:

AlmondsAlmonds: Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. They also contain copious amounts of calming minerals, like magnesium. Look for almonds that are plump and uniform in color. Store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and soak before eating.

 

beans XSmallBeans: While beans tend to be harvested in the summer and fall, they are then dried and available for use all year long. Beans are a great source of fiber and a nice plant source of protein. Look for dried beans that are whole, uniform in color, and free of moisture. Beans in individual packages will maintain their freshness over those sold in bulk bins. If purchasing from a bulk bin, make sure freshness is maintained through tightly sealed bins and frequent turnover.

Selective BrocolliBroccoli: Research studies on broccoli have found it to be highly related to cancer prevention by way of addressing chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and inadequate detoxification. Very high in vitamin C and K, broccoli can support the immune system and improve vitamin D metabolism. Choose broccoli with floret clusters that are compact and not bruised with uniform color. Store in the refrigerator and wash just before use. Broccoli can be enjoyed raw, steamed, roasted, or boiled.

cabbage XSmallCabbage: Like broccoli, cabbage is a member of the cruciferous family and provides cancer protective nutrients. Cabbage has also been shown to provide cholesterol-lowering benefits. Cabbage can be eaten raw, though it may be difficult to digest for some. Macerating with vinegar dressing or a simply braising the cabbage will make it easier to eat. Look for cabbage heads that are firm with crisp, colorful leaves. Cabbage should be kept cold in order to retain its vitamin C content. It should keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

2100204-003Carrots: While the typical carrot season is summer and fall, carrots are easy to find during the winter months in warmer weather climates, like California. Like all bright orange vegetables, carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Look for brightly colored carrots that still have their leafy green tops as these are the freshest. Remove the green tops before storing them in the fridge as the greens will pull moisture from the root.

garlic isolated on whiteGarlic: Garlic is one of my favorite immune-supportive foods. Look for garlic heads that are firm, with no nicks or soft cloves and are also free of dark, powdery mold. Store unpeeled garlic in a cool, dry place – don’t refrigerate or freeze. Garlic should keep up to three months. If you notice green sprouts growing from your garlic, simply discard them before using as they can be quite bitter. You can also plant these sprouted garlic cloves and grow them to about 6 inches to use like chives in salads. If you find your garlic sticky and difficult to peel, that means it’s fresh! Garlic shrivels as it matures and becomes easier to peel.

red onion XSmallOnions: Due to their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, researchers recommend including a serving of an allium vegetable (onions, garlic, shallots, scallions) in your diet every day. Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, and have crisp outer skins. They should be stored at room temperature and can keep for a month or more. When preparing onions, be sure to keep as much of the outer layers as possible as the flavonoids tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh.

2100719-102Spinach: Spinach is often considered one of the healthiest vegetables due to its nutrient richness. Very high in vitamins K and A, manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron, spinach may protect agains inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, and cancers. Look for spinach with vibrant green leaves that are tender. Store spinach in the refrigerator and wash just before use.

December Seasonal Foods

December Seasonal Foods

We’re right in the middle of the Holiday Season and this month’s seasonal foods remind me of some of my favorite Christmas delights – tricolore salad, persimmon and pomegranate salad, chestnuts roasting on an open fire… I hope you too can find ways to integrate these wonderful foods into your holiday routine!

Asian Pear XSmallAsian Pears: Different from regular-variety pears, Asian pears have a crisp texture and can have a variety of different flavors ranging from honey-sweet to sparkly-citrus. Like all pears, Asian pears are high in fiber and potassium. Make sure to eat the skin as it contains four times the phytonutrients as the meat. While they feel hard as rocks, they actually bruise quite easily, so handle them carefully and store them in the refrigerator. They can be enjoyed both cooked and raw.

Chestnut XSmallChestnuts: Harvested from October through March, December is the prime month for fresh chestnuts. They are quite different from other nuts in that they are high in starch, much like potatoes or corn. They contain high amounts of minerals and fiber and are a good source of folates. Choose nuts that are smooth, glossy, free of blemishes, and feel heavy for their size. Avoid nuts that shake in their shell as this means they are drying out. Fresh chestnuts dry out easily, so keep them in the refrigerator.

EndiveEndive: While endive is available all year, its peak is in the winter months, when other greens are not as available. Use it chopped up in salads, or whole leaves served with dip. Look for endive heads that are crisp and bright green. If choosing Belgian endive, select heads with tips that have a pale, yellow-green color. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

 

fennel on whiteFennel: Fennel has a crunchy, sweet taste and is common in Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a great source of both vitamin C and fiber. Look for fennel with bright white bulbs and no discolorations or soft spots. While many producers trim the stalks, finding fennel with long branches and fresh looking greens ensures freshness. Keep it stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator and enjoy it raw, roasted, or sautéed.

Kale XSmallKale: While kale is available throughout the year, its peak season is during the winter through early spring. As a cruciferous vegetable, kale provides many of the same cancer-fighting nutrients as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist, thick stems. Select kale with smaller-sized leaves as they will be more tender with a milder flavor. Store kale in a bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The longer kale is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Kale is best served cooked since the heat breaks down some of the fiber and makes it easier to digest than raw kale.

PersimmonPersimmons: Persimmons are a good source of antioxidants and are also high in catechins with anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic compounds. Choose persimmons that have deep, saturated colors. Many people claim that persimmons with a little streak of black on their skin are especially sweet. They will continue to ripen after harvesting, so try to buy them slightly underripe and allow them to finish ripening at home. Store persimmons at room temperature, as the refrigerator will cause chill damage and they will lose flavor.

PomegranatePomegranate: Pomegranates have become popular for their juice, as it contains high amounts of antioxidants and provides cardiovascular benefit. The fruit tends to be enjoyed less often as it takes a bit of time to separate the seeds from the rind. I find simply patting the rind with a wooden spoon pops the seeds right out, and their unique taste makes the extra effort worth it. Like most fruits, you’ll want to select pomegranates that feel heavy for their size as they will be the juiciest. Look for a deep color, though the particular shade isn’t important. Pomegranates should be kept refrigerated either whole or seeded. Seeds can also be frozen in a tightly sealed bag.

fresh radicchio isolated on whiteRadicchio: A bitter, leafy vegetable, radicchio adds a complex flavor to winter salads. The flavonoids that give radicchio its color are known to support eye health and the bitter principle in the leaf is a potent anti-malarial agent and has a painkiller effect. Look for firm, even hard, heads with vivid colors. If there are signs of darkening, it’s probably not fresh. Store radicchio in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and add it to salads or use it to serve dips as an appetizer.

November Seasonal Foods

November Seasonal Foods

We are well into fall and the last of the stone fruits and berries have left the markets. This time of year you’ll see a lot of greens, whites, and deep oranges; all of which have lesser known, but incredible value nutritionally. I find that the colder months encourage us to simplify in the kitchen. We have less to choose from, but can be more creative. Here are some of my November favorites:

Grapefruit XSmallGrapefruit: High in vitamin C, grapefruit provides much-needed immune support during the winter months. Its bright pink color signals high lycopene content, like found in tomatoes. Select grapefruits that feel heavy for their size and don’t have an overly tough or wrinkled skin. Grapefruits stored at room temperature will be juicier than those stored in the refrigerator. Check with your healthcare practitioner before consuming grapefruit if you are taking any medications as certain compounds in grapefruit can cause pharmaceutical drugs to become more potent.

horseradishHorseradish: Horseradish can be preserved using vinegar and salt and is available in markets year-round. Fresh horseradish, however, is generally harvested in the fall in cool-weather climates. Aside from adding a hot and sharp flavor to foods, horseradish is a potent gastric stimulant that aids digestion and is high in many phytonutrients. Look for roots that are firm and store, uncut and unwashed, in the refrigerator. Use the horseradish within 1-2 weeks for the fullest flavor and freeze the rest by grating it and storing it in a plastic bag for up to 3 months.

lemonLemons: The trick with finding a good quality lemon is to find one with a thin skin. Thick-skinned lemons will be less juicy, so look for a fruit that feels heavy for its size. Look for lemons that are fully yellow, as any signs of green mean they are not fully ripe. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidants. Add their juice to dressings, soups, and sauces, and be sure to zest and utilize the peel as well!

 

LimeLimes: Limes grow best in warm, tropical climates and contain the same health-promoting nutrients as other citrus fruits. Fully ripe limes will contain the highest antioxidant content, so look for limes with a bright green color and store them at room temperature out of the sunlight.

 

Green OlivesOlives: Mostly known for their health-promoting fats, olives are a wonderful addition to any antipasto plate and balance out a simple snack. Olives are harvested in the fall and typically go through a several-week curing process to neutralize their bitter taste. Look for olives with firm skin and store them in the refrigerator.

 

Rhubarb XSmallRhubarb: Rhubarb is a great source of fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Look for bright red stalks with lively, green leaves (if they are still attached). Wrap rhubarb in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Rhubarb can be quite bitter, so it’s best cooked and paired with something sweeter.

 

scallionsScallions: Though known as “spring onions,” scallions can be grown pretty much year-round in California. Like other members of the allium family, scallions contain a nutrient called Allicin, which has been shown to decrease blood pressure and block platelet clot formation. Look for clean, uniform bunches with crispy, green stalks. Wash and store them in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

 

beetTurnips: Though we often classify turnips with other starchy root vegetables like potatoes, they are actually a member of the cruciferous family. Along with cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, turnips contain a category of phytonutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risk. Look for turnips with creamy looking bulbs and a violet ring around the top. Immature turnips will be mostly white. Try to find turnips with their leaves still attached as they are freshly harvested. Remove the greens when you get home as they draw nutrients out of the bulb. You can cook the greens like you would spinach and store the bulbs in a cool, dark, dry environment.

 

October Seasonal Foods

October Seasonal Foods

We’re all wrapped up in the glory of fall here in Northern California. Everyone’s excited about pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and squash, and relishing in hot beverages and slow-cooked stews. I must admit, the harvest season has a lot of wonderful offerings, a few of which are listed below.

Bok ChoyBok Choy: A member of the cabbage family, bok choy is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Its unique, sulfur-containing compounds may reduce the risk of breast, lung, and digestive tract cancers. Look for stalks that are pure white and firm, with dark green leaves and add them to stir-frys, soups, and sautés.

 

Kiwi and sliceKiwi: With more vitamin C than an orange, kiwis become available mid fall in California. Look for kiwis that give slightly under pressure, but aren’t too soft or bruised. Ripe kiwis contain the highest amount of antioxidants, so place them in a paper bag on your counter if they aren’t quite ripe yet.

 

single cabbage turnip isolated on white backgroundKohlrabi: Kohlrabi is a tuberous vegetable with a similar taste and texture to a broccoli stem, but a bit milder and sweeter. Rich in fiber, vitamin C, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals, kohlrabi bulbs can be eaten raw or stewed, and the leaves cooked much like turnip greens. Look for bulbs that are smooth and feel heavy for their size. Avoid kohlrabi with cracks, cuts, or a woody consistency.

 

mustard-greensMustard Greens: One of the most nutritious leafy-green vegetables, mustard greens are available during colder months and have a pungent, peppery flavor. Look for stems that are fresh and crisp, and store them quickly in the fridge as they will wilt quickly. Young, tender leaves can be eaten raw, and tougher leaves can be braised, steamed, or sautéed.

 

ParsnipsParsnips: Parsnips look like large, white carrots, but taste a bit sweeter (the colder the season, the sweeter the crop). Parsnips are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber and have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer function. Select medium-sized parsnips that feel firm and fleshy. Parsnips should be peeled and, while they can be eaten raw, they’re delicious cooked like carrots or pureed and added to mashed potatoes for a deeper flavor profile.

PistachioPistachios: One of the lower-calorie nuts, pistachios are a great snack food and are high in nutrition. Look for pistachios that have split shells and green meat. Pistachios have a limited shelf life, so store them with their shells on in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months.

 

 

shallots XSmallShallots: Shallots are a great substitute for onions, providing a milder, subtler flavor and actually have a better nutritional profile. Look for shallots that are free of blemishes and feel heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months. If they begin to sprout, simply remove the bitter sprouts and use the rest of the shallot in sautés, dressings, and sauces.

 

winter squash XSmallWinter Squash: High in carotenoids and antioxidants, both the flesh and seeds of winter squash contain good nutrition. Relatives of melons and cucumbers, winter squash come in many different varieties, but all have thick shells that enable them to be stored for long periods of time. Select squash that feel heavy for their size and have a dull skin (rather than shiny). They are prone to mold, so be sure to inspect the squash carefully before buying.

September Seasonal Foods

September Seasonal FoodsThough summer is by far my favorite season, there is nothing quite as exciting for food-lovers as the fall harvest. This month, the markets will begin to glow with the deep oranges and greens of sweet potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts. Buy up and freeze the last of any berries you find and begin adding some of these fall flavors to your meals.

fresh rucolaArugula: Arugula, also known as “rocket” (which is a better name, no?) is available early summer through early fall. It’s a versatile green that can be used in salads, stir-frys, pestos, and soups. Like most dark, leafy greens, arugula is a good source of iron as well as vitamins A, C, and K and ancient Romans actually considered arugula to be an aphrodisiac. Store arugula in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

 

Brussels Sprouts XSmallBrussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts are one of fall’s first specialties. They are beautiful on the stalk, and delicious either sautéed or roasted. As a cruciferous vegetable, they provide support for breast health and optimal estrogen metabolism. Look for Brussels sprouts with firm, compact heads and clean ends. They shouldn’t be too big – sprouts bigger than 1 inch in diameter will taste too cabbagey.

 

Cauliflower XSmallCauliflower: Another cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is an easy snack food and pairs well with dips. Choose cauliflower with compact, creamy white florets, and bright green leaves. Old cauliflower with have a yellow hue and tiny black mold spots. Trim the ends as they are too tough to eat and enjoy raw, blanched, steamed, or roasted. It’s white color and mild flavor make cauliflower a great substitute for mashed potatoes or rice.

Dates XSmallDates: Dates are one of the sweetest fruits in the world – and should be treated as such. Snacking on dates won’t benefit your blood sugar, but dates are great to use as a sweetener in baked goods, desserts, and blended drinks. Dates will be wrinkled, but they shouldn’t be hard. Look for dates that are soft, with an almost greasy skin. Avoid those that have turned white or have crystalized sugar on the skin.

 

Fig XSmallFigs: As one of the most perishable fruits, figs should be eaten very quickly. Figs have the highest calcium content of any fruit and are also a good source of fiber. They can be eaten whole and raw as well as baked and dried. Select figs that are soft, but not mushy. Check the stems to make sure they are firmly in place, loose or soft stems mean the fruit is past its prime.

 

Pear XSmallPears: Pears are another classic symbol of fall. High in fiber and vitamins, they make a great snack and their boron content helps our bodies retain calcium, providing a link to osteoporosis prevention. Pears ripen best off the tree, so select pears that are still a little hard and allow them to ripen at home. Stand them up on their bottom in a paper bag and allow them to ripen over 2-3 days.

 

Bunch of fresh picked broccoliniRapini: The Italians brought rapini to the United States and both its long stems and thin leaves are edible. Another cruciferous vegetable, rapinin has the same cancer-fighting properties as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but with a milder taste.

 

 

sweet potato isolated on whiteSweet Potatoes: Though a potato, sweet potatoes are actually quite low on the glycemic index and provide a rich source of antioxidants and carotenes. Select sweet potatoes that are firm and don’t have any cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Store them at room temperature as refrigeration negatively alters their flavor. The skin contains many valuable nutrients, so don’t peel them!

August Seasonal Foods

August Seasonal FoodsAugust signals the final long weeks of summer. It tends to be filled with travel, friends, and long meals enjoyed outdoors on warm summer nights. The markets are still lingering with summer fruit and beginning to burst with pre-fall harvest. I encourage you to get to your local farmer’s market (or a new market if you’re on vacation!) to experience the bounty for yourself. Here are a few of my favorites for August:

Tuna XSmallAlbacore Tuna: Fresh albacore is available between June and October, and canned tuna is available year-around. Tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which provide anti-inflammatory health benefits. Though tuna is a bit controversial due to its potential mercury content (and BPA contamination from cans), you can find out what to look for when purchasing tuna by visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

 

Apple XSmallApples: Though apples are commonly associated with autumn, they become available during August and are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and support stable blood sugar levels. The variety of apple you choose will depend on your personal taste preferences, but look for apples with firm skin and rich color. Like the adage says, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch,” it’s best to remove any bruised apples from the group as they release large amounts of ethylene gas that will decrease the shelf life of the others.

fresh basil leaves on white backgroundBasil: From the same family as peppermint, basil provides both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Try to select fresh basil as its flavor is superior to dried basil. Look for deep green leaves that are free of dark or yellow spots.

 

 

Red GrapesGrapes: An overwhelming amount of research has been done on the health benefits of grapes, showing benefits to the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, immune system, inflammatory system, blood sugar regulating system, and the nervous system. Fully ripe grapes have the highest antioxidant content, so select grapes that are plump, without wrinkles, and firmly attached to the stem with the color around the stem the same as the rest of the grape.

Potato XSmallPotatoes: Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Look for potatoes that are firm, relatively smooth, and haven’t been washed. Avoid those with decay, green spots, or sprouts. Potatoes will keep in a cool, dark place for 2 months.

 

Sage XSmallSage: Sage has one of the longest histories of any medicinal herb, having been used by ancient civilizations as a preservative, and was believed to promote immortality. Today we know that sage contains a variety of volatile oils, flavanoids, and phenolic acids known for their anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting effects. Fresh sage is superior in flavor to dried, so look for sage with vibrant, green-grey leaves that are free from brown or yellow spots.

strawberryStrawberries: A common fruit, strawberries are prized for their sweet taste, but also provide supportive nutrients for the cardiovascular system, blood sugar balance, and cancer prevention. During August, strawberries are at the tail end of their peak season, so enjoy them while you can! Since strawberries don’t ripen further once picked, select berries that are plump and deep red with attached caps. They’re very perishable so be sure to enjoy them within a few days of purchase.

Tomatillo With HuskTomatillos: If you’re ever so lucky as to come across these rare little treats, be sure to pick up a bunch and make some salsa! Their flavor is a bit more tart, and more suitable for most recipes when they’re a bit unripe, so look for tomatillos that are bright green and still quite hard. To store, remove the husks and keep them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Tomatillos have many qualities similar to tomatoes, except for lycopene. Tomatillos instead contain an antioxidant called withanolide, which is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties.