Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keeping Cool with Summer Foods

It is hot as "h" "e" double toothpicks and apparently we are going to have to take it for a long time. With the shrinking polar ice caps, the jet stream is behaving "erratically" as the meteorologists like to say. This means extreme weather patterns, torrential rain and flooding in some parts of the USA while searing heat, drought and fire in others. Here in the west coast, we are SCORCHING hot, with some places getting up to 120 degrees plus. As we environmentalists like to say, WE TOLD YOU SO, but as a food talk show host, I like to encourage my listeners and readers to have heart, some relief is in store with naturally cooling foods.

Summer melons are starting to pop up in Farmers Markets and offer several ways to cool down. Just eating the melons can cool you down, but you can put them into Agua Fresca, cut into cubes or rectangular slices, put a tooth pick or Popsicle stick in and freeze for an instant low cal high fiber ice pop. You can also take over ripe melons, peel, seed and cube, place 4 - 8 cups of melon in a blender or food processor and slightly process until chunky smooth. Place this puree into a loaf pan, and put into the freezer, stir about every two hours for a day (fun to get that blast of cool air when you open the freezer to stir mixture) and you have a fruit ice. You can also put this puree into an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to directions. Feel free to mix and match fruits in this idea, and add some herbs if you like.

Suggested Combos for  Fruit Ice 

Strawberry and Mint
Mango and Pineapple
Bananas and Blue Berries

Agua Fresca is a lovely invention from South of the Border and Spain. Basically a fruit and water mixture, Agua Fresca  is a great way to use melons, berries and even cactus pears in a simple, low calorie cooling blend.

Basic Agua Fresca Recipe

8 cups of fruit, peeled, sliced and seeded as necessary
1 cup water
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp Honey or Agave syrup

If you want herbs or an herb flavor, you can add 1/2 cup of herbal infused syrup to this mixture or add 14/ cup chopped fresh herbs such as basil, mint or tarragon.

Mix with a hand blender in a large bowl, or mix in batches in a blender or food processor until all is blended. Add crushed ice and enjoy throughout the day.

Spa Water

Spa Water is also a great way to cool down. Using sprigs of fresh herbs, slices of citrus, berries and cucumbers, and add them to a big picture of water or a water dispenser this is a refreshing way to create tasty sugar free low calorie refreshment without creating bottle or can waste. It is also a lot cheaper. Have this on hand to drink all day long.

Some of my favorite combos:

Cucumber and Lime
Orange and Mint
Strawberries and Basil

Cooling Summer Salads

And of course salads. I like to go to the Farmers Market, see what is there and then make up salads from the selection for the week. Vegetables are very cooling as well. To cut down on the calories, make non-fat yogurt dressings. Instead of using mayonnaise and buttermilk for your dressing base, yogurt has all the flavor and few fat calories. If you are like me, you LOVE dressing and this simple trick is a way to load up on dressing without all the fat. When you make your own, you don't have all the salt and chemicals in bottled dressings, and is it so much less expensive.

Basic Yogurt Dressing

1 cup low or non fat yogurt, 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice, 1 tsp Dijon Mustard, 1 tsp chopped parsley, 1 tsp minced shallots, a dash of garlic powder, add Tabasco sauce, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let the flavors meld for several hours for best results. You can play with different herbs and spices if you like, say use cilantro and cumin, or basic and garlic chives, dill and lemon zest .........

And Ah Yes, FINALLY Tomatoes are starting to come into season! In Chinese Food Energetics, Tomatoes are very yin, for us westerners, this means cooling. What better way to cool down than with sliced tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella? No cooking required, and just think, you will be doing your body a favor!

So, you have my deepest compassion and empathy, I hate being hot, but I love the cooling foods of summer, and these ideas will really hit the spot on the long hot days of July.

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