Start your summer with yummy, healthy foods

Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. Photo by David Stuck
Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. Photo by David Stuck

Memorial Day weekend truly announces the beginning of everything summer. Juicy red and blue berries march out in time for our patriotic red, white and blue summer holidays.

Of all the berries looking for attention, those blackberries call out to me the most.  They are simple, dark and juicy, and you can eat them, cook or bake with them or use them to garnish a fruit tray.

Taste them for sweetness first. If they are too tart, sprinkle with any sweetener and let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours. At their prime, blackberries have a short harvest, so grab the fresh ones when you can.

And blueberries are in the beginning of their prime season.  Firm and sweet, they are just so versatile and healthy. As for strawberries, the local ones may be smaller and not as sturdy as those brought in from other states. And locals are not guaranteed to be sweeter. If you can, taste one before buying them.

Here are a few tips for favorite summertime foods:
• To clean berries before eating, gently roll them in a clean damp kitchen or bath towel.
• Rub some sesame oil and sesame seeds on corn before grilling, slowly turning to get grill marks.  While hot, season with salt, pepper and a splash of sugar.
• Wash and dry the perforated bags that grapes come in.  Use them for transporting salad greens to your picnic. They keep greens crisp in refrigerator.
Try these recipes to make summer eating special.

Healthy broccoli fritters
Makes 2-4 servings

1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped small
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons flour or fat-free pancake mix
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
A few twists of black pepper

Coarsely chop broccoli into small pieces.
Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
Coat a nonstick pan with cooking oil spray.
Form the broccoli mixture into patties. Place patties in heated pan and press them down slightly.
Cook on low to medium heat until brown on one side, about 5 minutes.  Turn and pat down again.  Cook until brown on other side, about 5 minutes more.

Cheesecake-stuffed strawberries
Dairy or pareve
Yields approximately 24 strawberries

A pint or quart of fresh large strawberries (depending on size) or 24 large strawberries
24-ounce container of Philadelphia  (or other) Cheesecake Filling (dairy) or homemade pareve filling
Mini chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, crushed almonds or other topping
For pareve filling
12 ounces pareve cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
A few drops of milk (use pareve milk or creamer substitute if making nondairy) to reach consistency for filling berries

Clean and dry berries as suggested above.  Using a strawberry huller or very sharp paring knife, remove the leaves and most of the inside of each berry but do not cut into the bottom.
Spoon or pipe the dairy or pareve filling* into each berry and gently dip into any toppings. Lay the berries on their sides or upright on a cookie sheet. Cover loosely with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
To serve, place the berries as upright as possible on serving tray.
*To make pareve filling
Combine all pareve filling ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Easy blackberry or blueberry cobbler
Dairy or pareve
Makes 8-10 servings

4 cups sliced or whole fresh blackberries or blueberries, dry on paper towels
3/4 cup butter, or 1-1/2 sticks; use margarine if making pareve
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk (I use coconut milk, which is pareve.)
Optional: ice cream or, for pareve, nondairy ice cream

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish as the oven heats.
Mix 1 1/4 cups sugar with 1/2 cup flour. Add blackberries and gently toss. Let it sit so the sugar dissolves a bit.
In a separate bowl, mix remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk. Whisk until mixture is smooth.
Remove dish with melted butter from oven. Pour batter over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon berry mixture on top of batter, but do not stir.
Bake one hour or until cobbler is golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm.
Optional: Serve with ice cream.

Ilene Spector is a Maryland-based consumer, food and travel writer.

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