June 2, 2014

The hot temperatures are here to stay. The beginning of summer isn't officially until June 21, but my family has already been enjoying outdoor festivals and swimming in the outdoor pool at our fitness center.

Warm weather is ideal for visiting farmer's markets and working in our flower beds and gardens at home. During the warmer seasons, we crave healthful fruits and vegetables.

Make the most of summer's harvest with recipes in which fresh fruits and vegetables take center stage.

BLT Salad with Corn, Feta and Avocado

I remember BLT sandwiches were a standard dinner in the summer when I was a child. Who can resist fresh tomatoes when they are in season? The blog, How Sweet It Is, has a tasty BLT salad that will hit the spot on a hot summer day. It has all the flavors of a BLT, plus the addition of corn and feta cheese.

2 cups butter lettuce, chopped

2 cups fresh arugula, chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

4 slices thick-cut bacon, fried and crumbled

1 cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen, not canned)

1 avocado, chopped

4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (could also use bleu cheese to add an extra bite)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Chop lettuce and arugula on a big cutting board by continuously running your knife through it in all directions.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, corn, and avocado. In a small bowl whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil, and lime juice. Pour into lettuce bowl and then toss well to coat. Fold in bacon and feta then divide evenly among 2 plates. Serve immediately.

Parmesan Tomato Bites

For a light lunch or a side dish for dinner, pair up tomatoes and Parmesan cheese for something that feels fancy, but is easy as can be.

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon oregano, dried

1 dash salt

1 dash black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Place them on a baking sheet. Top with shredded Parmesan, fresh oregano, salt and fresh ground pepper (season according to your taste). Drizzle with some olive oil and bake until tomatoes are tender and the cheese is melted, for about 10-15 minutes.

Frito Corn Salad

If you like a little crunch in your salad, you'll like this one. Frito Corn salad goes well with burger or brats or whatever you have on your grill.

2 cans yellow kernel corn, drained (can also use fresh corn)

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced and chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, sliced and chopped

1/2 purple onion, chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

5 oz Fritos Chili Cheese corn chips

In a large bowl mix together all ingredients except the corn chips. Add the chips right before serving.

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon is a real treat in the summer. It's juicy and sweet and can be added to baby arugula to create a refreshing salad.

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 lime, zested and juiced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

4 cups seeded watermelon chunks

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup mint chiffonade

2 cups baby arugula

Add the white wine vinegar, lime zest and juice to a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the thinly sliced red onion and let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Add the watermelon, feta, mint, and arugula to a large bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve immediately after dressing.

Perfect Summer Fruit Salad

This eye-catching fruit salad is a real crowd pleaser. Everyone will love the sweet and tart dressing and you can use any combination of fruit you like.

2/3 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

½ teaspoon grated orange zest

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups cubed fresh pineapple

2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced

3 bananas, sliced

2 oranges, sliced

1 cup seedless grapes

2 cups blueberries

Bring orange juice, lemon juice, brown sugar, orange zest, and lemon zest to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside to cool.

Layer the fruit in a large, clear glass bowl in this order: pineapple, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bananas, oranges, grapes, and blueberries. Pour the cooled sauce over the fruit. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before serving.