It’s encouraging to see so many articles, films, pintrests and youtube videos dedicated to healthy eating, especially those that advocate consuming a mostly plant based, whole foods diet. Hopefully this is a trend that is enduring, not another short lived fad. I’ve long felt that if more people were introduced to quality  fresh produce (instead of canned and/or frozen),  there wouldn’t be so many veggie haters out there. My mom used to make creamed  spinach from a can, canned peas, canned corn and canned asparagus, frozen broccoli and frozen Brussels sprouts. Lucky for me, she preferred fresh, but the family budget only allowed for seasonal fresh ingredients. Frozen produce is fine in a pinch, and in some dishes, like soups and casseroles, it’s hard to taste a difference. A couple veggies are actually better frozen because they’re processed so quickly from the field. Petite frozen peas are most notable, so good just defrosted from the freezer and thrown in a salad or a flash reheat in the microwave, no added water.

Fast forward 30 or 40 years, and the market is a whole different story. Nearly every variety of fresh produce is available year round. I would venture to guess that the average consumer doesn’t think about what’s in season, other than noticing price fluctuations. It makes cooking a never ending adventure, especially if you try to add color to every meal. When life gets too busy I do use occasional canned ingredients, like beans and tomatoes, but I generally try to plan ahead and avoid them all together.

Following a trip to our local farmers market (at a flea market), the house is filled with a variety of fresh produce, allowing for a virtual rainbow of color on the dinner plate.

Cooking with Color

Here I concocted a sweet potato hash with sliced organic chicken-mango-jalapeno sausage (no nitrates or other  preservatives), peeled and cubed sweet  potatoes, purple onions, and broccoli with a, side salad of beets, mangoes, avocado and goat cheese over arugula drizzled with walnut oil and orange juice. No real recipe needed, just start sauteing and add as you cook, soft vegetables last. I threw the broccoli at the very end for a little extra crunch and color.

Last night, we wanted a light dinner and the produce was getting low (it’s a weekend thing), but by perusing the pantry and fridge, I came up with plenty of color. I thoroughly drained and rinsed a can of black beans (organic and rinsed extremely well), chopped an orange sweet pepper, a couple tomatoes, half of a Bermuda onion, corn and avocado and tossed in some lime juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper and salt, and put it in the fridge to marinate.  Also from the pantry I found 2 cans of Wild Alaskan salmon which I mixed with the other half of  the onion, whole wheat bread crumbs from 2 slices of bread, 2 eggs, half of a diced pablano pepper, 1/4c lemon juice, 2t dijon mustard, and salt/pepper to taste. If I wasn’t out of it, celery would be in there too. I heated up the pan, added enough olive oil to coat the bottom, and grilled four patties until golden brown on each side.

Salmon Patties and Black Bean Salad Over Greens

After flipping them, I topped with soft goat cheese, covered the pan, and let it melt/soften while the second side cooked. Since the meal already had plenty of carbs, I mixed up some baby spinach and arugula, and served everything on top. The result was a beautiful color combination and delicious meal!

Part of the trend towards fresh produce is a move away from processed grains and towards more greens. Almost any dish can be served over greens, especially spinach, which “cooks” or wilts perfectly when hot food or soup is place over the greens.

Grilled Salmon, Steamed Cauliflower, Saute’d Green Beans over Salad

Think out of the box – instead of using rice, potatoes, pasta, as a base – use greens. The possibilities are endless…

Turkey Burger Topped with Manchego and Raspberry Vinaigrette over Blanched Broccoli and Greens

Stuffed Pablano Over Greens

Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Mango and Avocado