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How to have a sweet, healthy summer

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Not sure how to avoid gaining weight this summer? Substituting a sweet tooth for ice cream or pie, to the natural bounty of summer sweet vegetables can help reduce those unintended pounds.

During the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day most of us think we will lose weight. The weather is nice outside and outdoor activities and later evenings should enhance physical activity. Many of us though, will drink more sweetened beverages, chilled wines, and frozen desserts.

This season the recent drought in Michigan has made this first batch of vegetables incredibly sweet. If you haven't tried local sugar snap peas-get your hands on as many as you can. They remind me of my childhood, when we visited our family friends farm. (My brothers and cousins would go to the fields to snack and throw peas at each other.)

These fresh snap peas aren't tough or stringy. The peas are so sweet you don't even need to cook them. Just wash and use in your favorite salad. Or better yet, just rinse and serve in a bowl on the kitchen counter to engage your family in a crunchy, sweet snack.

Using sweet basil in drinks, soups and stews brings summer sensory experiences to a new level. I mixed fresh sweet basil into a honeydew and blueberry smoothie this morning. Try adding chopped basil to your scrambled eggs or pureed into your olive oil for a sweet aioli.

Green smoothies with a hint of basil and mint are eye opening.

This herb called Shiso is a cross between basil and mint. I used it in my vegetable soup with a touch of olive oil to bring a pure summer flavor to my summer tomato cabbage soup.

Summer Herb and Veggie Soup

Inspired by this mornings farmers market, a need to have a low calorie lunch in my fridge (to offset my love of ice cream) and the taste I have for homemade soup. This would be delicious both room temperature, warm or chilled(I would puree 80% of it to serve chilled)

Here's how to make this soup:
Ingredients
1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced

2 garlic scapes, minced or 3 cloves minced

1 large green cabbage, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 box of organic, low sodium veggie broth (or whatever kind you like-or plain water works)
1 can organic san marzano peeled tomatoes
1 farm fresh head of organic kale, stems removed and chopped
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, shiso,)


Directions

Add onions, carrots, and dried herbs and saute in olive oil in a large stock pot. Add the cabbage and 4 cups of vegetable broth.

Add the marzano tomatoes, crushing into the soup.

Cook for 20 minutes and add the kale and fresh herbs.

Cook to your taste until everything is soft and delicious.

Remove half of the soup to your blender and puree half to make your soup more creamy and luscious feeling.

Then add back to the stock pot.

If planning to serve cold-I recommend pureeing almost all of the soup and leave a few pieces of vegetable for texture.

Another option, is to use an immersion blender directly in your stock pot. Remember to be careful blending hot soups-they can splatter.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. The herbs will make this remarkable. Serve with seeded crackers.

PS: the sweet peas were so good raw I didn't need to cook them. But they are amazing sauteed with olive oil and some basil. Use it as a side dish.

For more nutrition tips and recipes, check out DietDetroit.com