Celebrate Summer's Bounty

5 easy recipes to help you make the most of warm-weather fruits and veggies

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Don't you just love summer? All the watermelon and strawberries you can eat, plus farm-fresh corn on the cob and green beans. What's not to love?

This is the time of year when my crisper is chock-full of produce choices. This is the time of year when I venture out to my local farmer's market almost every Saturday with a $20 bill in my pocket, just waiting to see what the growers in my area have in store for me that week. Summer bliss!

In honor of summer, I've pulled together an assortment of quick and painless recipes that celebrate the fruit and vegetable bounty we're lucky enough to experience this time of year.

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Journal as: 1 teaspoon oil OR 2 teaspoons light margarine/butter

This is a light summer dressing for any vegetable salad, or you can use it as a dip for raw summer vegetables.

1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda (or increase the sugar to 4 tablespoons and leave out the Splenda)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon peel

  • Add light mayonnaise, fat-free sour cream, fat-free half-and-half, sugar and Splenda, vinegar, poppy seeds, and lemon peel to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.
  • Cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Yield: One cup (8 servings)

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 55 calories, 1.5 g protein, 6.3 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0.3 mg cholesterol, 0.1 g fiber, 70 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 47%.

Baked Asparagus with Balsamic Sauce

Journal as: 1 cup vegetables without added fat

1 bunch fresh asparagus, white ends trimmed off (the bunch should weigh about 1 pound)
Canola cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon whipped butter
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange asparagus spears in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or similar). Coat the top of asparagus with canola cooking spray, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bake asparagus until tender (about 10 minutes depending on thickness of spears).
  • Melt butter in a small, nonstick saucepan over medium heat, then remove pan from heat. Stir in the soy sauce and vinegar to make a sauce. Pour the sauce over the baked asparagus spears and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 47 calories, 3 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 2.2 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 148 mg sodium (not including salt to taste). Calories from fat: 35%.

Savory Sugar Snap Peas (or Green Beans)

Journal as: 1 cup vegetables without added fat

1/2 pound sugar snap peas or green beans (trim off the ends)
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt to taste (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place snap peas in a single layer in a 9 x 9-inch square or round baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the snap peas and toss to coat the beans.
  • Sprinkle the shallots, Italian seasoning and salt (if desired). Bake until tender but still firm (6-8 minutes).

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 48 calories, 1.5 g protein, 5.5 g carbohydrate, 2.3 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 2 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 42%.

Fresh Berry Muffins

Journal as: 1 pancake/waffle OR 1 small muffin OR 1 serving of low-fat crackers

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
1 large egg
1 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda
1 1/4 cup chopped strawberries (or substitute any fresh berries, unchopped)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners (you'll need about 11 liners).
  • Add oil, sour cream, milk, and egg to mixing bowl and beat until smooth; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add flours, salt, baking powder, sugar and Splenda; whisk to blend well. Add the chopped strawberries to the flour mixture and toss well to coat them with flour. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to blend together well.
  • Put 1/4 cup of the batter in each muffin cup. Bake until the tops bounce back when gently pressed (about 20 minutes). Cool muffins about 10 minutes.