(Family Features) Whether fresh cherries are a favorite or a treat you’ve yet to try, the time to enjoy them is now.
Orchards in the Pacific Northwest, the nation’s largest growing region, experienced a long, cool spring, which often translates into more time and energy a tree can put into the fruit. When combined with the superior growing conditions characteristic to the area, this season’s fruit showcases what Northwest cherries are known for: their large size and sweet flavor profile.
Popular varieties grown in the Northwest include the mahogany-red Bings and super-sweet, yellow Rainiers. Rainier cherries, with their unique golden color and red blush, tend to ripen earlier in the year. Growers pick Rainier cherries over multiple weeks, selecting the ripest fruit each time.
Other varieties include the early-ripening Chelans and Tietons, followed by the often larger and darker Skeenas, Sweethearts and Lapins. Aside from the light-hued Rainier (which has juice that doesn’t stain) you can typically spot sweet cherries by their dark red skins – in general, the darker, the sweeter.
Great taste aside, sweet cherries are a healthful addition to summer picnics, parties and barbecues thanks to their fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power. They make for a snack that both grownups and little ones can enjoy straight out of the bowl thanks to their stem “handle” and can perk up appetizers, salads, desserts, sweet or savory sauces and more.
Outside of summer get-togethers, cherries make for a better-for-you late-night snack option as well. A cup of fresh, sweet cherries contains only 90 calories along with a low glycemic index of 22 making their cold, sweet crunch a tasty way to satisfy hunger cravings. Plus, they boast melatonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythm and promote healthy sleep patterns.
Fresh cherries should be kept in a sealed bag or container, and keep for approximately two weeks when refrigerated. To extend the cherry season and enjoy their health benefits after summer fades, buy an extra bag or two and preserve cherries by rinsing, packing and freezing them.
Basic freezing instructions
- Select 3-5 pounds of firm, ripe, Northwest-grown sweet cherries.
- After rinsing and draining, spread whole cherries with stems in a layer on a baking sheet.
- Place in freezer until firm then pack into freezer-proof containers or plastic freezer bags. Remove excess air and cover tightly.
- Add frozen cherries to smoothies or juices, or defrost and put in hot cereal, pies, turnovers, cobblers and more. Or enjoy as a frozen, sweet late-night treat.
To create a festive cherry dish for the summer season, try this Cherry Bruschetta as a snack or appetizer. Find more recipes and cherry tips at nwcherries.com.
- 18 slices (1/2-inch thick) small baguette-style bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 cups pitted Northwest fresh sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup diced yellow sweet pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Arrange baguette slices on cookie sheet and toast one side 5 minutes. Turn slices, brush with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and bake 5 minutes longer.
- Combine cherries, cilantro, sweet pepper, green onions, lime juice, lime peel, garlic salt, pepper and remaining olive oil; mix well.
- Top each baguette with thin slice of cheese, 1 tablespoon cherry mixture and sprinkle of sliced basil. Serve warm or cold.
Source: Northwest Cherry Growers
(Family Features) As temperatures climb and summer sets in, a slight change in diet can help maintain energy without overfilling on hot days.
Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming a popular trend, but many people are also opting to be semi-vegetarians, also known as the flexitarian diet. A flexitarian diet means you don’t have to eliminate meat from your diet but can still reap the health benefits associated with plant-based diets.
Plant-based proteins like beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy and lentils are chock-full of nutritional benefits from disease-fighting phytonutrients to cholesterol-lowering fiber. They’re also an excellent way to add low-sodium and low-cholesterol protein to your diet that can leave you feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Light finger foods and dips are ideal summer snacks. Hummus, made from chickpeas and tahini (ground sesame seeds), makes for a quick and easy treat by itself or paired with health-conscious options like air-popped chips, whole-grain crackers or veggie sticks. You can also create simple summer snacks using hummus as an ingredient.
These vegan Cucumber Cups are the perfect refreshing pick-me-up on a hot afternoon, and they’re stylish enough to serve to guests at an upscale cookout. For a cool and creamy summer appetizer, try these vegetarian Southwestern Snack Bites made with hummus, guacamole and Greek yogurt.
Find more healthy ideas to help you snack your way through summer at sabra.com.
Southwestern Hummus Bites
Yield: 30 pieces
- 1 package (7 ounces) whole-grain bagel chips
- 1 container (10 ounces) Sabra Hummus
- 2 cups pico de gallo
- 1 cup guacamole
- 1 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
- 4 green onions, sliced (optional)
- Top each bagel chip with 1 tablespoon hummus, small spoonful of pico de gallo, guacamole and small dollop of yogurt.
- Garnish with slices of green onion, if desired.
Yield: 16 pieces
- 2 English cucumbers
- 1 container (10 ounces) Sabra Hummus
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- Peel cucumbers and slice lengthwise into 1 1/4-inch pieces. Using melon baller, carve out seeds to create vessel, making sure to leave bottom intact.
- Using piping bag or small spoon, fill each cucumber with hummus (about 1 teaspoon each). Sprinkle with paprika and finely chopped parsley.
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound boneless beef top sirloin
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Kikkoman Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons Kikkoman Hoisin Sauce
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 bunches green onions, cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths, separating whites from tops, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Mongolian Sauce*
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed, toasted
- Cut beef across grain into thin strips. Combine next 4 ingredients; stir in beef. Let stand 15 minutes. Stir-fry half of beef in 1 table-spoon hot oil in wok or large skillet over high heat 1 minute; remove.
- Repeat cooking procedure with remaining beef and 1 tablespoon oil; remove. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same pan. Add whites of green onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper; stir-fry 1 minute.
- Stir in green onion tops. Add beef and Mongolian Sauce.
- Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Sprinkle with sesame seed before serving.
*Mongolian Sauce: Combine 1/3 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, 2-1/2 tablespoons Kikkoman Soy Sauce, 1 tablespoon dry sherry and 1 teaspoon Kikkoman Hoisin Sauce.