Green Sharlene

Have a Happy—and Healthy—4th of July

The official beginning of summer and the July 4th holiday bring to mind picnics in the park, parades, and sparklers. Not to mention, backyard parties, burgers on the grill and ice cream. We’re all tempted to over-indulge at times and it’s easy to abandon a healthy diet when faced with giant bags of chips, hamburgers and hot dogs with everything, and tempting desserts. But it is possible to create a healthy (and even locally-sourced) summer feast that will satisfy every appetite. That’s not to say you have to deprive yourself or never have a treat, but creating a foundation of healthy eating will give your body a head start should you find yourself dealing with anything from a cold to a serious illness. The healthier you are, the faster your body will heal.

Planning a healthy feast is something the whole family can help with. If you involve your children in everything from selecting the ingredients to preparing the dishes, they’ll have a new appreciation for the meal, and understand how to make healthy choices. I love having my kids in the kitchen, watching them experiment, and seeing how much they enjoy their creations. Now that they’re home for the summer, they’re going to the pool or Millennium Family Center, and hanging out with their friends of course, but they still have time to join me in the kitchen.

While thinking about what to do with my family this year, I can’t help but remember my own childhood July 4th celebrations. My family enjoyed the local fireworks, we kids ran around with sparklers, and my neighborhood always had a big gathering with plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs and of course, lots of ice cream.

So what am I going to make this year? I haven’t decided yet, but I do have some go-to dishes for the 4th. Cobbler with local blackberries, which are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C, is a family favorite. My kids love homemade peach ice cream, and I love knowing that they’re getting the health benefits of peaches, which include Vitamins C and A and potassium, which works with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance—something vitally important in the summer. Blueberry, watermelon and feta salad is not only red, white and blue, it’s very cooling and a perfect treat on a sweltering summer day. Blueberries are full of fiber, antioxidants, and Vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting and is essential to strong bones. Watermelon contains Vitamins C, A, and B6, which supports the cardiovascular, muscular and immune systems. It also helps the body make melatonin, which helps regulate your internal clock.

Speaking of fun in the kitchen, I recently bought a spiralizer, and am making zoodles, and experimenting with spiralized carrots and beets, for wraps and salads. You can really use just about any vegetable. Pair a fresh salad or a helping of zoodles with burgers made with grass-fed Certified Angus beef or free-range chicken, and you’ll have a healthy and satisfying dinner.

A note about picnics: Since I’m Green Sharlene, I need to tell you how easy it is to have a green, zero-waste picnic. Forego the disposable plates, cups, flatware, and paper napkins and pack your picnic basket with reusable, eco-friendly items. You’ll be doing your part for the environment, and I bet your al fresco feast will taste even better.

However you choose to celebrate the 4th, have fun, be safe, and take some time to savor the flavors of summer.




Green Sharlene

Beautiful, Bountiful Summer

The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and area farms and gardens are bursting with beautifully, fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables. Moving to the Yuba-Sutter area and seeing so many farmers every day, thinking about what they’re growing, and paying attention to what’s in season has not only made me really think about what I feed my family, it’s made me realize how very fortunate we are to live in the middle of such a rich, agriculturally diverse region.

I’m so grateful that I need look no farther than my local Yuba City Midweek Farmers Market—or my own backyard—to find the freshest, most delicious offerings of the season. I’m determined never to take for granted the fact that I can actually talk to the people who grow what I don’t plant in my garden. That is so important, and worlds away from putting under-ripe produce in my grocery cart without a second thought!

Being ideally situated near the Sacramento and Feather Rivers contributes to the richness of this area. The rivers have spread fine, fertile silt along their banks over the years whenever they flooded. That silt, which contains organic matter, continues to increase the fertility of the soil. Our farming history dates back to the 1840s and John Sutter’s Hock Farm. One of the first people to recognize the potential of the Valley, Sutter experimented with peach, fig, and pomegranate orchards, vineyards, and wheat. It’s no secret that California is the nation’s top agricultural state. In fact, the Sacramento Valley is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, with both specialized and diverse farms, offering everything from peaches and plums to rice, almonds and walnuts. It's no surprise that California Grown crops nourish the nation and feed much of the world too.

I was a picky eater as a child (sorry, Mom!) and sometimes think I’m making up for that now, trying new recipes and experimenting with new ingredients as often as I can. Now that my children are older and a bit more adventurous when it comes to trying new dishes, I’m experimenting with different ingredients and the foods of different cultures. I worked in a Thai restaurant while in college, which started me thinking about cooking in a new way and sparked my imagination and appetite to try new things. As a nutrition major, it didn’t take long to realize that what I was learning in the classroom was something I could apply to real life: better, fresher food makes us feel better.

One of the best things about planting my own garden has been having fresh herbs when I want them. They’re easy to grow and I can use them in everything, from a simple egg dish for a relaxed family breakfast to a roast for a formal dinner. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as creating a fresh, nutritious meal for my family with a summer harvest of ingredients I’ve grown myself.  I like to try growing anything I can think of, which at the moment consists of onions, garlic and kale. I plan to grow more types of lettuce in the future.