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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle

Cheery, Cherry Summer

Probably the quintessential summer food activity, get ready to fire up the grill for National Grilling Month in July! Before you break out those marinated steaks or grilled veggies on skewers, make sure you are keeping those foods safe on the grill. Check out "WEB HIGHLIGHT 1" below on outdoor grilling food safety.

Since most everyone who grills has their own style or preferred grilling method, I will not step on toes, so for all you grillers, keep on grilling (safely). Instead, this month, I want to talk about one of summer's great fruits: cherries!

Find sweet and sour varieties of cherries during the season that come in different hues from deep red/maroon to lighter red and yellow. Not only are cherries sweet and juicy, they are packed with nutrition. One half cup of raw sweet cherries contains 43 calories, no fat or sodium, and is a source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate. Some research shows cherries provide additional benefits to health beyond just their nutritional content.  Although more research is needed to draw conclusions, you will certainly benefit from eating this summer fruit!

If you are a fan of cherries from cherry pie or ice-cream sundaes with maraschino cherries, but have never bought your own, read below for the basics on getting your own sweet and juicy cherries:

  • Buy: Look for cherries that are large, glossy, and firm, ideally with the stems still attached. They may yield a bit to pressure when ripe, and if the variety should be red, look for cherries that are deep red in color. Discard small cherries that will be less juicy and discard cherries with wrinkled skin, bruises, cuts, or other signs of decay like mold.
  • Price: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fresh cherries are priced $3.51 per pound on average and $2.58 per pound when canned. This is certainly the most expensive food I have highlighted in the blog so far, but when 1 pound of cherries yields about 3 cups (before pitting the cherries), you can serve 1/2 cup of cherries to 6 people for around $0.60 each!
  • Store: Keep cherries in a cool place like a refrigerator and cover loosely. Use within a week or before they become soft or overripe.
  • Prepare: Remove stems from cherries, inspect the skin, and wash right before eating. (Discard cherries with cuts, bruises, or mold.) If you can do so safely, eat whole and spit out the cherry pits. Or, remove pits before eating with a cherry pitter or cut the cherry in half around the pit with a small knife and remove the pit with the tip of the knife or a spoon.

Note: Remember cherries have pits, so take caution with giving to children.  They can be a choking hazard.

  • Eat: Cherries can be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, cherries are usually part of a recipe, rather than eating a bowl of cooked cherries.

Reference: Utah State University Extension, Food Sense, Cherries, 2011

Now onto the delicious part:  if you grill this July, try this Cherry Crisp Dessert with your meal.

Cherry Crisp Dessert (serves 6)

Cherries are in season in Illinois for summer, so enjoy them while they are available. The oats in the crumb topping add healthy fiber and the almonds add healthy fat.

Cherry Filling Recipe
3 cups (about 1 pound) sweet cherries, pitted (if frozen, thaw)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Crumb Topping Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and juice.
3. Spoon filling into an 8x8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
4. Prepare Crumb Topping Recipe and sprinkle evenly over cherry mixture.
5. Bake 35 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is crisp. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Crumb Topping Recipe
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)
3 Tbsp cooking oil

1. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and almonds, if desired, in a medium bowl.
2. Drizzle oil over flour mixture and toss until crumbly.

Nutritional analysis per serving (without almonds): 210 calories, 7g fat, 0mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g protein

Nutritional analysis per serving (with almonds): 250 calories, 11g fat, 0mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g protein

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Check out more information on outdoor grilling through the University of Illinois Extension. Grill it and grill it safe!

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Did you get more cherries than you can eat? Learn more about preserving them at the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia.

FOOD SCIENCE HIGHLIGHT: Anthocyanin: Anthocyanin was the food science highlight last month for red cabbage, but this pigment is also found in cherries giving them their deep red color.

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