quick and easy summer treats


One of the luxuries this time of year is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in almost every region. We love to celebrate the tastes of summer without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when we'd rather be on the beach, at the park or by the swimming pool having fun. But since you don't want to just have the same old, same old everyday, here are a few of our favorite ideas to spruce up nature's bounty and take advantage of the fresh flavors all around us.

1. Fresh Fruit Kebabs. Get those funny little bamboo skewers out of the drawer and spear some alternating chunks of fresh pineapple, pear, plum, strawberry, nectarine or peach, mango, apple and any other fruit you like. Serve chilled. So yummy!

2. Huevos Rancheros. Got a ton of tomatoes from the garden. Why not make a delicious fresh salsa. Use fresh tomatoes with a little canned tomato puree, diced onions (scallions and white work well), add some cilantro, mild banana peppers or whatever your favorite chili pepper is to the mix. Chop some fresh cilantro, a little garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon bring it home. Use this to top off your sunny-side up eggs on top of your corn tortilla. What a way to start the day!


3.  Shredded Brussel Sprouts Salad. Yes, we know they cook up divinely, but did you know that brussel sprouts make a great salad green? Slice them thinly from top to bottom so you get shreds. You can even shred in some apples if you want a little fruity. Top with shaved parmesan cheese and choose your favorite light vinegar and oil dressing - seasoned rice vinegar is great!


4. Stuffed Avocados. Many people love avocados and this time of year they're plentiful. One great way to enjoy them is to split them in half, pull out the pit and fill the hole with something delicious. Shrimp, chicken or tuna salad with a topping of fresh pineapple or chutney would be great, don't you think?

5. Watermelon Drinkables. Watermelon is one of the most versatile of fruits when it comes to making drinks. You can put it in the blender with a touch of water, lime and sugar and make a delicious watermelon fresco. Add some rum or vodka and you've got a lovely cocktail. Sometimes, we like to just drink the juice by itself. It's a perfect refresher for brunch or after a long day of lounging at the beach!


5. Go Greek. Everyone knows the Mediterranean style of eating is considered one of the healthiest in the world. So, how about a big Greek salad. Traditional salads blend fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions in a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing with a sprinkling of oregano and some feta cheese chunks. Add other elements to your taste, such as pepperocini, lettuce, olives or red cabbage. Opah!


6. Tapenade Croutons. Try this next time you want spice up a salad. Cut some bread into double the regular size of croutons and toast them. Then spread some of your favorite olive tapenade on top and place the croutons on your salad. They add a great crunch and the tangy olives really punctuate the deliciousness of your salad greens.


7. Caprese Salad. This one is almost a no-brainer. Just slice up a ball of fresh mozzarella and alternate it with fresh tomato slices and big basil leaves. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and, if you like, a little balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. We're making ourselves hungry now!


8. How about for decorating? It may not be the first thing you think of, but fruits and veggies make wonderful table decorations. There are many companies that create "edible centerpieces" now out of fresh fruit and vegetables. But you don't have to go to great expense for the same intriguing look at home. Think about the colors and shapes and put something together yourself. Even something as simple as some striking purple artichokes make for an eye catching display.


We hope you are inspired by these oh-so-simple ideas to bring a little color and a lot of freshness into your summer menus while taking the stress out of preparation. Be creative and have fun. Tell us about your own quick and easy summer treats!