Simply Sweet: Think of fruit as summer's natural sweetener

By Clare Miers

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 4:29 p.m. MDT

Almond butter and honey capped off strawberries. (Clare Miers/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Clare Miers, Mct

The fruits of summer, coming from gardens or freshly misted produce sections, somehow seem to make us lose track of the hot, soaring temperatures.

They cool us down with their refreshing bursts of sweetness and color. I love recipes that use summer fruits with minimal stove or oven use, and ones that take minimal preparation time and effort when prepared at someone else's dinner party.

Here are a few fruits to consider this summer.

WATERMELON SMOOTHIES

Watermelon is a wonderful summer treat, and this quick smoothie might be a terrific option for whipping up something cool and refreshing in a jiffy.

This watermelon, pineapple and peach smoothie is easy enough to prepare on a busy workday morning but pretty enough for a party, too. You don't have to buy a whole watermelon to make this. Look for cut watermelon at the grocery store.

WATERMELON, PINEAPPLE AND PEACH SMOOTHIES

Serves: 2

2 cups chopped seedless watermelon

1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

2 cups peach yogurt

Dash of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 321 calories, 9 grams fat, 56 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 30 milligrams cholesterol, 104 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 24 percent of calories from fat.

— National Watermelon Promotion Board ( www.watermelon.org )

ICED LEMON OR LIMEADE WITH MANDARINS

With citrus trees bearing summer's best, capitalize on their tangy sweetness by making your own lemon or limeade. Just squeeze the juice of one or two lemons or limes (or one of each) into a bowl. Remove any seeds. Pour the juice into a tall, chilled glass. Add water and granulated sugar or your choice of sweetener to taste. Give it an extra citrus punch by dropping a few fresh mandarin slices into the mix. Add ice, a straw and a mint leaf.

ALMOND BUTTER AND HONEY CAPPED OFF STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries that taste better than candy? Yes, please.

Kurt Starnes, author of the book "77 Tips for a Grown-Up Man," rounded up this confection. These bites of sheer heaven are packed with all sorts of good stuff, including almond butter. Starnes declared them better than candy, and I agree. They're bite-size bits of fruity, mouthwatering goodness.

ALMOND BUTTER AND HONEY CAPPED OFF STRAWBERRIES

Makes: 6

6 large, ripe strawberries

2 tablespoons local, raw honey

2 tablespoons almond butter (peanut is fine, too)

2 tablespoons crushed pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts or cashews

1. Rinse and dry the strawberries. Cut off the top and the tip of the bottom of the strawberry so it can sit upright when finished. Insert your paring knife to core the inside of the strawberry. It comes out very easily, usually. What's left is a strawberry "shell."

2. With a small spoon, fill the hole with raw honey, leaving a little room at the top. Use a flat, regular knife to "cap off" the strawberry with almond butter.

3. Top with crushed nuts. The strawberries should be served immediately and look beautiful when standing up, grouped on a small platter.

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