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Posted: August 26, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Garden to Kitchen – help yourself to nature’s bounty

Nothing tastes better than foods picked fresh from the garden. Even if you don’t have a garden yourself, you may have a neighbor or a co-worker who shares their garden goodies. Your local grocery store is also likely to feature home-grown produce this time of year.

As the summer growing season begins to wind down here in Newton County, some garden items are in abundance. Eggplant, tomatoes, basil, peppers, beans, squash, and many other crops are plentiful, sometimes to the extent that you may be wondering what to do with your growing supply of vegetables.

Be a culinary creative. Eggplant and peppers can serve as healthy, edible bowls for other foods. Bake them, add a healthy whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, and top everything off with a modest sprinkling of cheese for a quick, nutrient-rich meal.

Try these bountiful options. Throw a harvest party for family and friends that features fresh garden produce. For lasting enjoyment, consider canning or freezing. Freezing is the simplest way to extend the taste of your garden, but first blanch your vegetables to prevent undesired changes in color, texture, or flavor.

How to blanch vegetables:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a dash of salt.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- Rinse, trim, or chop the vegetables.
- Put the vegetables in the boiling water for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. The timing depends on the type of vegetable. Harder vegetables (like butternut squash) need more boiling time. Softer vegetables (like tomatoes) need less time.
- Drain off the boiling water, or lift the vegetables out of the water with tongs or a slotted spoon, and transfer the now-blanched veggies to the ice water bath until cool.
- Drain and pat dry or, in the case of greens and spinach, squeeze the water out of the vegetables.
- Stick the vegetables in plastic freezer bags, seal them air-tight, and freeze.

Here is a recipe that feature garden produce. Try them for tonight’s dinner or a future meal. The recipes were prepared by the Canyon Ranch Culinary Team and are used with permission.

Stuffed yellow bell peppers
Servings: 4

Nutrition information (per serving):
Calories 305
Sodium 679 mg
Fat 14g
Cholesterol 0
Protein 10 g
Carbohydrates 47 g
Fiber 6 g

Ingredients:
4 large yellow bell peppers
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced red onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup diced zucchini
½ cup diced fennel
½ cup diced yellow squash
½ cup diced eggplant
1/3 cup finely chopped pine nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup Marinara sauce

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly coat a sheet pan with canola oil spray. Place whole bell peppers on a sheet pan and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until skin is brown. Transfer from oven and quickly dip in ice cold water. Peel skins, being careful not to remove the stem. Using a sharp knife, make a slit, starting at the base of the stem, lengthwise down one side. Carefully scoop out seeds and membrane. Set aside.
In a large sauté pan, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add zucchini, fennel, yellow squash, and eggplant. Add nuts, raisins, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a food processor and chop slightly. Stuff each roasted bell pepper with ½ cup mixture. Lightly spray with olive oil and roll in Panko breadcrumbs. Place back on sheet pan.
Increase oven temperature to 400F and bake stuffed peppers for 15 minutes, turning every five minutes, until golden brown. Serve with ¼ cup Marinara sauce.

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