10 Tasty & Creative Ways to Cook with BlueberriesArticle posted in: Diet & Nutrition
The arrival of fresh blueberry season is a sure sign that summer is here, because they ripen up just as the days begin to grow long and hot. In the weeks that follow, you can enjoy the juicy little purplish pearls’ sweet flavor in so many tasty ways. They are considered a SmartCarb on the Nutrisystem program, which means they are nutrient-rich and measure low to medium on the glycemic index. One cup of fresh blueberries—the serving size recommended for those on Nutrisystem—has just 85 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates, and comes with 25 percent of your Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C. The berries are an especially rich source of fiber, with 3.6 grams in one cup.
Anthocyanins, the compound that gives the berries their distinctive color, are potent antioxidants that neutralize destructive free radicals in your body, helping to prevent several kinds of cancer and even more common ailments like the flu. Overweight people who regularly eat blueberries reduce their risk of heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure), according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Picking blueberries can be lots of fun for the whole family, but if you opt for the store-bought variety, check the bottom of the package to be sure that some berries haven’t been crushed and begun to grow mold. Wash blueberries only when you’re ready to eat them so that lingering moisture doesn’t invite fungi to form. Store them in the refrigerator for a week or so, but for best flavor eat them at room temperature. To enjoy them long after the season is over, spread fresh blueberries on a baking sheet and put it in your freezer overnight. The next day, pour the berries into freezer bags and they’ll keep for months (if you put them in bags before freezing, they all stick together).
Popping blueberries into your mouth is the most fun and easy way to enjoy them, but they’re also delicious when used in simple ways like these:
1. Pancakes or Waffles
Add a fruity flavor to your favorite breakfast by sprinkling one tablespoon of blueberries on top of each pancake while the first side is cooking on the griddle. For waffles, add the berries after pouring the batter into the iron. If you put the berries in the bowl of batter first, they all tend to sink to the bottom. On the Nutrisystem program? No problem! Top your Buttermilk Waffles or Homestyle Pancakes with a cup of warmed blueberries.
Another way to enjoy blueberry flavor with pancakes and waffles or in plain yogurt is to make a quick, naturally sweet syrup with them. Simply combine one cup of blueberries, one tablespoon water, and one teaspoon of Stevia (a calorie-free sweetener that’s on Nutrisystem’s “Free Food” list) in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes, breaking up the fruit with the back of a spoon, until it has a thick consistency.
3. Hot Cereal
Fresh or frozen berries bring a touch of sweetness (and extra nutrients) to oatmeal. About a quarter cup per bowl is plenty. To keep the fruit intact, add it after the cereal is finished cooking. Or, if you like it melted right in, pour a full cup of the fresh fruit into your oats prior to heating, like Nutrisystem’s Deanna Otranto does in this delicious Instant Blueberry Crisp recipe.
4. Quick Jam
Blueberries are naturally high in pectin, the compound that gives jams and jellies their consistency. Chia seeds are full of nutrients and they help cooked fruit thicken, too. Together, they let you make tasty jam in minutes. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring three cups of blueberries and three tablespoons of maple syrup to a low boil. Stir frequently, and reduce heat to low-medium and let the mixture simmer for about five minutes. Lightly mash the blueberries with a fork. Stir in two tablespoons of chia seeds and cook the mixture until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in one-half teaspoon of vanilla extract. The jam will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for at least a week. On Nutrisystem? Count one tablespoon of this flavor-packed jam as one Extra.
Blueberries are an ideal addition to smoothies made with leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale because the purple color looks more appetizing (especially to kids) than the bright green hue of veggies. A half-cup of blueberries is enough for a smoothie made with a half-cup of yogurt or milk. Try this delicious and festive Red, White and Blueberry Smoothie, or check out our Shakes and Smoothies section for more recipe ideas.
6. Cucumber Blueberry Salad
Here’s a fresh combo that brings together some of summer’s best produce. In a bowl, combine one cup of blueberries, one medium-size cucumber peeled and cubed, half of an avocado sliced, a quarter cup of almonds and a tablespoon of feta cheese. Toss with the juice from one lime. If you’re on the Nutrisystem program, count one serving (half of the recipe) as one SmartCarb and one PowerFuel.
7. Grain Salad
Quinoa is a protein-rich SmartCarb that is the foundation of this hearty dish, but you can substitute couscous or even whole grain rice, if you prefer. Cook three-quarters of a cup of quinoa according to package directions, then add it to a bowl along with a cup of shredded spinach, three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and two teaspoons of olive oil. Gently stir in three-quarters of a cup of blueberries and a quarter cup of sliced walnuts. Top with fresh pepper and salt to taste. The whole recipe yields two servings. Count one serving as one SmartCarb, one PowerFuel and one Extra.
8. Fruity Salsa
To make a tasty topping for grilled fish or seafood, peel and cube a ripe peach, then add three-quarters of a cup of blueberries and a quarter cup finely diced red onion. Chop a few sprigs of fresh basil and combine with the fruit, then toss with one tablespoon olive oil and the juice and zest of one lime. Add hot pepper flakes to taste or not, your choice. Serve chilled. Two tablespoons counts as one Extra.
Chilled fruit soups are a refreshing way to start a summer meal and they’re so easy to make. Simply boil one cup of blueberries with a half cup of water, then add the juice from one orange, one or two teaspoons of Stevia (to taste), and a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. Simmer for five minutes. Pour the mix into a food processor or blender and add one cup low fat plain yogurt (not Greek), and blend until smooth. Chill for about an hour and serve with a sprig of fresh mint for garnish. This recipe will yield two servings. One serving counts as one SmartCarb and one Extra.
10. Frozen dessert
In a small pot, combine one-and-a-half cups of blueberries, one-and-a-half tablespoons of water, and three tablespoons of maple syrup. Bring to a boil and stir until liquid thickens. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together three-quarters of a cup of canned coconut milk and a half cup of unsweetened almond milk. Fill small popsicle molds about half-full with coconut-almond milk, then spoon in the blueberry mixture to fill the rest of the mold. Freeze for one hour, then remove molds and insert wooden sticks into each popsicle. Freeze for at least another four hours before enjoying the cool refreshment. Count one popsicle as one SmartCarb.
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