Summer is the best time to try new produce or to use up favorites that have a shorter season and are harder to get year-round. I love this time of year because many fruits and veggies have better texture and flavor and I get inspired to try out new ways to incorporate them into my day. For the last three summers, I have grown vegetables in my garden at home and my husband and I are always looking for new recipes to make with our harvests. I also enjoy getting local produce from the grocery store where I work.

Here are a few ideas to inspire you to incorporate summertime produce into your favorite meals, snacks and beverages.

Salads are my go-to for a quick and nutritious meal, particularly lunches during the workday. They are so universal and can be made exactly how you like them. There is something so special about growing your own mixed leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers and making a crisp salad with a homemade vinaigrette using herbs you’ve grown too. I love adding some protein like chicken, tuna, salmon or chickpeas to make it more filling. I also enjoy adding berries or orange slices to my salads to give it a sweet flavor to balance the acidity from the dressing. It helps to provide additional nutrition, too!

Pasta salad is another summertime favorite. There are many ways to make it, but I always try to include a few vegetables when I do. Bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, beans and more provide color, texture and of course a boost of nutrition. Check out this recipe for Pasta Salad Provencal for a unique twist on traditional pasta salad.

Salsa can also be a great compliment to any meal or as a snack. Traditional salsas made from fresh tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and cilantro are so refreshing. I made many jars of it last summer with my harvests and I am looking forward to making it again this year.

Fruit salsas can be a great option for using seasonal summer produce such as stone fruits, kiwis, pineapples, mangos, berries, and more! These two fruit salsa recipes are sure to be a hit with any crowd! Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips and Confetti Fruit Salsa

Burgers are a perfect opportunity to add fruits and veggies. Any time you have a burger (of any form), add some plants! Make it savory by adding mushrooms, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, or avocado, or even sweet with grilled pineapple or peaches.

Flavored water, smoothies and frozen popsicles can be another refreshing way to savor summer produce. If you have any items that are toward the end of their shelf life you can use them up in any of these forms. Make a tray of ice cubes with chopped fruit and mint or add sliced fruit to a pitcher of water to enhance the taste. Smoothies are simple, quick and another tasty option to use up fruit (fresh or frozen) and veggies such as spinach or avocado, which can provide additional flavor, texture and nutrition. Homemade frozen popsicles with watermelon, berries and mint are a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Additionally, making frozen yogurt popsicles with fruits can be a family-friendly activity and tasty treat. Give this recipe for Cherry Cheesecake Yogurt Pops a try while cherries are in season!

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