Bananas are the most popular and widely eaten fruit in the U.S. And if you’re like most people you peel them from the stem end. This is sometimes quite messy and ends up squishing the banana. So do it the way monkeys do: hold the banana upside down and pinch the tip between your thumb and forefingers. The skin will easily split in half for a flawless and easy peel!
Easy-peasy Produce Freezing
Even if you don’t have your own garden to harvest, this is the perfect time to hit the farmer’s markets and bring home fresh produce to freeze. Getting food ready for the freezer is pretty simple. You’ll be glad when those cold winter months come along and you can pull out summer fresh food from your freezer! Always use freezer-safe container and bags, squeeze as much air out of the bags as possible (I use a straw to suck out the excess air!), and label before freezing. They’ll taste best when eaten within about 6 months.
Cook your corn on the cob for 3-4 minutes (boil, steam, microwave). Let cool. Cut kernels off the cob and package to freeze.
You can actually pop whole tomatoes in freezer-safe plastic bags and freeze. They’ll slip right out of the skins when defrosted, ready for homemade tomato sauce. Or cut tomatoes in half, roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes, cool, and freeze.
Whole peppers freeze beautifully, although they will be soft when defrosted, not crunchy. Just pop in plastic bags and you’ve got peppers for your next guacamole or salsa.
Wash well, grate, and freeze in 1-2 cup portions for your winter zucchini bread recipes.
Trim green beans, cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Plunge into icy cold water for 3 minutes. Remove and pat dry. Lay out on cookie sheet lined with a towel. Freeze solid, about 90 minutes. Now place in plastic bags.
After washing and lightly drying (careful not to crush them), place on cookie sheet lined with a towel. Freeze for about an hour. Place in plastic bags.
Although you probably won’t find rhubarb at the market now, I wanted to include this so you’d know for next year. Just wash and chop fresh rhubarb, then store in the freezer for your strawberry-rhubarb crisp and rhubarb sauce recipes.
Wash and dry fresh herb sprigs (I find it’s easier to freeze them on the stems), place in plastic bags, and freeze.
Roasted Beets, Feta, and Glazed Pecans
I used fresh beets from my garden to make this delicious variation of a beet salad. Many people make the mistake of discarding the greens when they cut them off the beet root. DON’T make that mistake! They are great used fresh like lettuce in salads and sandwiches. You can also lightly steam them like I did for this recipe.
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze (see Note below)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
- large bunch of beets (I used about 10 small-medium ones)
- 1/3 cup whole pecans
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 cup good quality feta (or goat) cheese
- For the dressing, combine the first 5 ingredients, shake well, and set aside. NOTE: You can buy balsamic vinegar glaze (Trader Joe’s has it and I’m sure other grocers do, too) or make it yourself by boiling balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by about half. It will get sort of syrupy and intensifies the flavor.
- To roast the beets, cut the beet roots from the leaves. Discard the stems and set aside the leaves. Scrub the roots well and place in a large square of heavy duty foil. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Crimp the foil to surround the beets, place on a cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for about an hour. Let cool for about an hour, then wearing rubber gloves, peel the skins off the beets. (This is a messy job and the rubber gloves really help! If the beets are fresh the skins often just slip off by rubbing with a paper towel. If they are a little older you may need to using a paring knife). You can do this a few days ahead if desired. When ready to prepare, cut beets in half and set in the middle of a large serving plate.
- To make the pecans, place in a dry non-stick skillet and toast for a few minutes. Watch so they don’t burn. Add maple syrup, stir and cook a few minutes to coat the nuts. Turn off heat. As they cool in the pan, they will dry. You can do this ahead. After they cool, store in a covered container.
- To cook the greens, wash well to remove any dirt and grit. Tear or chop large leaves into nice size pieces (not too small). Lightly steam leaves for about 4-5 minutes. Cool slightly, then place in a few layers of paper towels and squeeze out excess liquid. Place greens around beets. Drizzle all with the dressing.
- Sprinkle with feta or goat cheese and glazed pecans. Serve at room temperature.
Veggie and Bean Nachos
Serve these nachos as an appetizer for your next dinner party or for a light summer dinner on the patio.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup onion (yellow or red, your preference), chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped (not too small)
- uncooked corn kernels cut off of 2 ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn)
- 1 fresh jalapeno, chopped finely (wear rubber gloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like chipotle chili powder, more punch!)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 14.5 oz. can cannellini, pinto, or black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 corn tortillas
- 6 slices pepper jack cheese
- For Garnish:
- chopped avocado or 1/2 cup guacamole
- sour cream
- chopped cilantro
- lime wedges
- chopped tomatoes
1. Add oil to a large skillet. Heat oil and add onion. Saute about 3-4 minutes (don't brown).
2. Add zucchini, corn, and spices. Cook about 5 minutes.
3. Add beans and garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Keep warm.
4. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet (may need to do these in 2 batches).
5. Spray each side with cooking spray or brush with oil.
6. Broil one side for about 2 minutes. Turn over, broil 2 minutes.
7. Place a cheese slice on each tortilla. Broil 1-2 minutes, watch so cheese doesn't burn.
8. Remove, let cool a minute, then cut into wedges.
9. Place bean mixture in the middle of the plate and surround with tortilla wedges. Serve with garnishes of your choice.