It’s Fresh Fruit and Veggie Season!
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As the daffodils begin to bloom in the yard and my hens start setting on their eggs, I know one thing is certain: spring is on its way! This means longer days spent enjoying the beauty of the outdoors here in Western North Carolina. One small part of that beauty is the bountiful gardens peppering yards and windowsills throughout town. This year, I’m planting a healthy buffet of fruit and vegetables: kale, tomatoes, beans, carrots, radishes, watermelons, and more! They may only be small seeds now, but soon I will have an abundance of produce that I will need to cook in healthy ways.
A lot of vegetables are prepared in ways that reduce their nutritional benefit by adding unhealthy elements, such as battering and deep-frying. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program—or EFNEP—encourages using cooking methods that retain the most nutrients possible. These include low-fat options, such as steaming or sautéing with a minimal amount of heart-healthy olive oil.
EFNEP follows MyPlate recommendations, which suggest that half of your plate should be made of fruit and vegetables. This means that we need to know a lot of different healthy ways to fix fresh produce! Unfortunately, life’s demands only seem to increase during this season, so we also need recipes that make the most of what time we have to prepare meals.
Last summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to intern here at the Henderson County Cooperative Extension. One of my teaching assignments was the Budding Cooks program. We learned how to make many different healthy recipes, but this was a particularly veggie-packed delight that you and your family could make for your next meal!
Green Beans and Tomatoes
Yield: 6 servings
|Green beans||2 pounds|
|Oil (canola or olive)||2 teaspoons|
|Onions||2, finely chopped|
|Garlic cloves||2, finely chopped|
|Tomatoes||2 cups, finely chopped|
|Green pepper||1, thinly sliced|
|Salt and pepper||To taste|
- Wash the beans, cut off the tips, and remove the stringy piece of fiber along the stem by pulling it off. Put the beans in a colander and rinse again.
- Over a medium heat setting, add oil to a large saucepan.
- Wait approximately 45 seconds until oil is hot, then add raw onions to the pan.
- Sauté the onions in oil until they are translucent.
- Stir in the garlic and sauté a few minutes more.
- Add green beans, tomatoes, green pepper, and water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the beans are tender.
- Serve hot.
There are so many great ways to adapt this recipe with other healthy ingredients that you and your family enjoy. For example, increase the heart-healthy omega-3 content by adding some crunchy almonds or pecans. You could also amp up the flavor with some fresh herbs! Try parsley for a peppery kick, basil for an earthy flavor, or lemongrass for a bright, refreshing citrus note.
This is also a great recipe that the whole family can help prepare. Everybody can help wash the produce to remove any dirt or bacteria. With supervision, older children can learn how to slice and chop the vegetables. Younger children can learn how to measure the oil and water by using a liquid measuring cup. They can also help set the table so that the whole family can enjoy the delicious meal as soon as it’s ready!
A few pro tips for your kitchen:
- Always use a sharp knife! It may seem backward, but dull knives actually cause more injuries than sharp ones.
- Always make sure that you wash your produce thoroughly. Any lingering dirt or bacteria could cause foodborne illness, so make sure that it’s squeaky clean!
- Always wash your hands when cooking and eating. You can transfer bacteria to the food if you don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, petting an animal, or other times that your hands may be contaminated. Make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, then use a clean disposable towel to dry them.
If you want to grow your own produce for this and other great recipes, that’s great! But if you’re unable to grow vegetables in a garden at your home or apartment, don’t worry! There are many people who plant extra so that they can sell them at the farmers’ markets and produce stands. Fruit and vegetables are healthy foods, so they can be covered by SNAP and WIC at some markets and may even have the benefits doubled. Contact your local market to see if they will accept this form of payment.
If you and your family are interested in learning more about cooking and nutrition through fun, engaging classes, EFNEP is here to help! We offer classes for the whole family that encourage eating healthy and getting more exercise together. For more information, please contact me at email@example.com or 828-697-4891.
If you and your family are interested in learning more about gardening, the helpful agents at the Henderson County Cooperative Extension are here for you! Please call the office at 828-697-4891 with any questions.
For a detailed demonstration on how to create this dish at home, check out this video:
For more great recipe ideas from EFNEP, click this link:
For more information about MyPlate recommendations, visit this site: