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Tasty Springtime Fruit & Vegetable Recipes
Spring is the season for fruits and vegetables to cover your plates and blanket your blenders. Use these tips and recipes to bring taste and a little color to your pallet.


Photo Illustration by Gabriel Lefrancois
These favorite fruits make delicious and simple recipes this time of year.


Just eight medium strawberries count as one serving, and this serving contains more vitamin C than an orange.”
Spring is here! Apricots, Haas avocado, bananas, beets, grapefruit, green beans, honeydew melon, mango and pineapple are all in season. Check out some of our favorite tips and recipes for April produce.

The Benefits of the Banana

Bananas are fat-free, but contain 2-3 times more carbohydrates that other fruit. Although they may not be the best choice for folks on low carb diets, they are a great choice for active kids and adults. A banana has less water, fifty percent more food energy, four times the protein, half the fat, twice the carbohydrates, almost three times the phosphorus, nearly five times the Vitamin A and iron, at least twice the other vitamins and minerals as an apple. Two important nutrients that bananas offer are vitamin B6 and potassium.

Sometimes referred to as the anti-stress, good mood vitamin, B6 is involved in the transmission of impulses in nerves and muscles and is important in making red blood cells. It is also needed for serotonin production. About 45 percent of people suffering from depression are found to have a low level of serotonin in the brain. Bananas have more B6 than any other fresh fruit and are regarded as an excellent source of this vitamin. Eating bananas helps to keep serotonin levels high, which will keep you in good spirits.

Potassium is essential to mental function, brain power and nerve impulses. In fact, according to certain biochemists, new brain cells cannot be made without potassium. Bananas, one of nature’s richest sources of potassium, are also one of the easiest ways to give your body this important mineral.

Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, peeled
3 ripe strawberries or 1/4 cup blueberries or 1/4 cup of papaya
1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice, such as apple
1/4 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt (dairy or soy)
1/2 cup of ice cubes

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Pour into a covered cup add a straw and serve immediately. This recipe makes two 6-ounce servings.

Baked Banana Crumble

Ingredients:
4 bananas
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into little pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray shallow baking dish (about 9 X 9 inches) with cooking spray. Slice bananas in 1/4-inch circles and place them in the shallow baking dish. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, sugar, oat and nuts. Add the butter. Using a fork or the back of large spoon combine the mixture until it is crumbly. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the bananas, pressing down slightly. Place the dish in the oven and bake until crumble top is medium brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Serves 4-6

Frozen Banana Pops

Kids love bananas! Diced, they are a perfect finger food. Cut in circles and frozen, they soothe a cranky teether. For many, peanut butter and banana sandwiches are a staple for the lunchbox. These frozen banana pops—with or without the chocolate—are a simple summer treat.

Ingredients:
Bananas
Popsicle sticks
Chocolate, 1 ounce per banana (optional)

Directions:
One banana makes two pops. Peel bananas and slice in half crosswise. Insert a Popsicle stick in the end of each piece. Place in freezer for two hours. They are ready to eat (unless you want to dip them in chocolate).

To dip in chocolate:
Melt chocolate according the package directions. You may need to add a bit of cooking oil (1 tsp - 1 tbsp, depending on the amount and type of chocolate) to the chocolate to develop a good "dipping" consistency. You can also purchase chocolate that is specially designed for melting and dipping. It is often located in the baking or produce sections of a grocery store. Once the chocolate is ready, remove the frozen bananas from the freezer and dip or spoon chocolate over them. Put them back in the freezer to set. They'll be ready in minutes.

Storage:
Wrap individually in plastic. Freeze for up to two months.

Green Bean Machine

Green beans are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. They are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin A and folate. These factors and nutrients all help to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and hypertension. Green beans are also a diuretic and may be used to treat diabetes.

Green Beans with Corn and Bacon

Ingredients:
2 lbs green beans
1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off cob
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 strips bacon (turkey or pork)
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Slice bacon into small (1/2-inch) pieces and fry in saucepan until crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Leave 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, add garlic, onion and corn kernels. Saute about 5 minutes over medium high heat.

Wash green beans and remove ends. Place beans in microwave-safe dish, cover and cook on high for 3-4 minutes (until bright green and crisp tender). Toss with butter and place in serving dish. Spoon the corn mixture over the green beans and sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve.

Mango Madness

Ranking high on the list of nutrient dense fruits, the flesh of a mango is peach-like and juicy with a hint of pineapple flavor. The flavor is pleasant and rich and high in sugars and amino acids. Mangoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A, and contain beta carotene. They are also a terrific source of vitamin C.

Mango Milk Shake

Ingredients:
1/2 mango, chopped
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of ice
1 tsp honey

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth. Serve.

Pineapple Express

As an international symbol of welcome, the pineapple is certainly a welcome member of the fruit family for its delicious taste and nutritional benefits. Pineapples are a good source of vitamin C, a commonly known antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage and boosts the immune system. Not only does vitamin C help fend off colds and infections, but a recent study shows that vitamin C can help reduce your risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease too.

Pineapple also contains high levels of an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, sore throat pain, and reduce postoperative swelling. Additionally, the bromelain in pineapple helps break down the amino acid bonds in proteins, which promotes good digestion. Finally, pineapple is full of manganese, a trace mineral that is in very few foods. Manganese protects against osteoporosis.

Pineapple Kabobs

This recipe is super easy and tasty. Make a platter for a party or make a few for your child's snack. Mini kabobs look fancy and are fun to make—even little fingers can help assemble them!

Ingredients:
Pineapple chunks, 1/2-inch pieces
Marble cheese cubes, 1/2-inch pieces
Slices of ham cut into 1-inch squares
Toothpicks

Directions:
Assemble the mini-kabobs on a toothpick in the following manner: Ham square, pineapple chunk, ham square, and a cheese cube.

Veggie version:
Substitute teriyaki-flavored baked tofu for the ham/cheese. Baked tofu can easily be sliced into small cubes and is very tasty with the pineapple.

Storage:
Refrigerate before serving. Mini kabobs do not keep well in the refrigerator for longer than 3-4 hours.

Super Strawberries

Looking beyond their sweet juicy taste, strawberries are loaded with nutrients, including powerful, disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamin C. Just eight medium strawberries count as one serving, and this serving contains more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries are also a good source of iron, folic acid, fiber, and potassium.

Smoothies

Smoothies are a great way to incorporate fruits, and perhaps sneak a few vegetables into your child's diet. You can vary this recipe with seasonal fruits. Also, adding a handful of kale, a sliced cucumber, or a chopped carrot provides a bigger nutritional kick.

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana, peeled
3 ripe strawberries or 1/4 cup blueberries or 1/4 cup of papaya
1/2 cup of 100% fruit juice, such as apple
1/4 cup of plain OR vanilla yogurt (dairy or soy)
1/2 cup of ice cubes

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Pour into a covered cup, add a straw and serve immediately. This recipe makes two 6-ounce servings. Age to introduce: Over 12 months.

Cheryl Tallman is the founder of Fresh Baby (www.FreshBaby.com). For more than 10 years, Fresh Baby helped has helped parents foster their children’s healthy eating habits and proactively respond to the childhood obesity epidemic that plagues our nation. Cheryl is the author and designer of the company’s award-winning cookbooks and nutrition education products that support many stages of family life including: pregnancy, breastfeeding, introducing solid foods, and feeding toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children.


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