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Cooking With Summer Fruit

Make a delicious and healthy main dish, side — or yes, dessert — with the season's best picks

plate containing a grilled peach filled with ricotta cream and topped with nuts

Photo by Michelle Pederson

En español | Sure, there's nothing like freshly picked summer fruit eaten right off the vine/tree/bush. But this time of year, cherries, watermelon, peaches and berries top not only my list of snacks, but serve as the standout ingredients for a variety of my prepared dishes, too. (If you think you love peaches, try one grilled, with a hint of amaretto liqueur.) Whether you decide to whip up a dinner salad that mixes peppery arugula and meaty walnuts with the brightness of cherry, or to give my zesty-and-sweet watermelon “street fries” a try, you may soon find yourself as addicted as I am to making delicious (and healthy) fruit-based summer dishes.

Grilled Peaches With Amaretto Ricotta & Toasted Almonds

I often find that a tiny amount of alcohol can really elevate a dish. Here, a simple 1/2 tablespoon of amaretto liqueur works like a charm to turn these peaches into a satisfying adult dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon zero calorie natural sweetener
  • 1/2 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1 slightly firm medium peach (about 5 ounces), cut in half and stone removed
  • Canola oil spray (propellant free)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted chopped almonds

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, sweetener and amaretto. Mix until well combined.

Lightly mist the cut sides of the peach halves with spray. Place them, cut sides down, on the grill (place away from direct flame if the grill can't be set to medium heat). Grill them until they have grill marks and are warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Place the peach halves on a serving plate. Divide the ricotta mixture evenly between them, spooning it over the center of the peaches. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 (2 peach halves + 1/3 cup ricotta mixture + 1 tablespoon almonds) serving: 200 calories, 7g fat, 2.3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 20mg cholesterol, 120mg sodium, 430mg potassium, 24g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 21g sugars, 11g protein, 210mg phosphorus

Recipe courtesy Devin Alexander from You Can Have It!; copyright 2018

plate of arugula lettuce salad with sliced cherries goat cheese and nuts

PHOTO BY MICHELLE PEDERSON

Arugula Sweet Cherry Goat-Cheese California Walnut Salad

Cherries are addicting this time of year. They are also a bit higher in sugar than some other summer fruits such as fresh strawberries and blueberries. Instead of sitting down with a bowl, I enjoy them guilt-free with this crave-worthy, fiber-filled salad. The nuts and cheese help balance sugar levels, keeping your energy high so you can enjoy summer's many outdoor activities.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (loosely packed) arugula leaves, coarse stems removed
  • 8 cherries, pitted and halved
  • 3/4 ounce (about 3 tablespoons) crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought light champagne vinaigrette, or more to taste
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper, optional

Mound the arugula on a dinner plate or salad bowl. Place the cherries around the outer perimeter. Sprinkle the goat cheese and walnuts over top. Drizzle the dressing over top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Toss, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving: 240 calories, 8g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 18g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 3g fiber, 11g sugars, 139mg sodium

Recipe courtesy Devin Alexander; copyright 2012

bowl of chocolate cherry zoats

Photo by Michelle Pederson

Chocolate Sweet Cherry Zoats

When making “zoats,” (oats with the healthy addition of zucchini), it's important to use a fine shredder to shred the vegetable. If not, you might find the texture unappealing. It's not necessary to peel the zucchini before shredding it; in fact, it's better for you if you don't. Just trim and discard the ends and use the fine shredding side of a box grater, being careful not to cut yourself as you get close to the end.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen tart cherries, defrosted and quartered
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon zero-calorie natural sweetener
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon stevia-sweetened dark-chocolate chips or dark chocolate pieces

Place the zucchini in a lint-free towel and wring the towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the drained zucchini to a small saucepan. Mix in the oats. Pour the almond milk into the pan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture frequently, until the moisture has evaporated, about 4 to 7 minutes on a gas burner (longer on an electric one).

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cherries, cocoa powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt until well combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir them until just evenly distributed — don't completely melt them. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 serving: (about 1 1/3 cups): 330 calories, 9g fat, 2.3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 320mg sodium, 730mg potassium, 45g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 9g sugars, 9g protein, 275mg phosphorus

Recipe courtesy Devin Alexander from You Can Have It!; copyright 2018

cup filled with watermelon cut in sticks and seasoned next to slices of watermelon

Photo by Michelle Pederson

Watermelon Street ‘Fries’

These “fries” are a twist on the cut spears on offer at lots of urban California fruit carts. They make a great snack; this recipe really transforms “plain” watermelon into a sweet and savory treat that’s so nutritious. They’re (obviously) incredibly easy to make and they’re great for tossing in salads, too!

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (about 3/4 cup) seedless watermelon sticks (1/3 inch thick × 3 1/2 inch long sticks)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/16 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/64 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Place the watermelon sticks in a medium shallow bowl. Drizzle the lime juice over them, then sprinkle the chili powder, salt and cayenne evenly over top. Gently toss them. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 (about 3/4 cup “fries”) serving: 35 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 135mg potassium, 9g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 7g sugars, 1g protein, 15mg phosphorus

Recipe courtesy You Can Have It! by Devin Alexander

Devin Alexander is a multi-time New York Times best-selling author and celebrity chef who has maintained a 70-pound weight loss for decades while eating her decadent creations. Go to devinalexander.com for more info and recipes.

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