“May the sun in his course visit no land more full, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country.” — Daniel Webster

July is a spectacular time for celebrations!  Summer is now in full swing, and kicking off the month with the 4th of July holiday reminds us to be grateful for the many freedoms we still enjoy. Preparing a delicious life in July is incredibly satisfying, as the local farmers’ markets and pick-your-own fields are now brimming with seasonal produce, herbs and berries.

This is the moment to enjoy the exquisite flavor of freshly picked raspberries.  Their scintillating scent and luscious flavor add sophistication and sass to so many summer dishes. Whether it be cold raspberry soup, blackened chicken breasts served with a sprightly raspberry salsa, or grilled raspberry and brie sandwiches, the elegant raspberry adds instant class to any concoction.

Raspberries are just divine when plated with fresh cantaloupe, blueberries and slices of a perky French feta and drizzled with a creamy lime vinaigrette. Grill some nice fat shrimp and place them on a bed of fresh baby lettuces on a pretty plate. Scatter fresh raspberries, rosy red, golden or black, amongst the shrimp, add some wedges of ripe watermelon. Mix up a lively mixture to dress your shrimp salad using pureed and strained raspberries, raspberry vinegar, a bit of grapeseed oil and plenty of finely chopped mint, parsley, and basil, a spoonful of sour cream and just a touch of brown sugar if it needs sweetness.

Raspberries elevate breakfast to a whole new level, particularly for brunch. A few lovely berries added to a bubbling glass of Prosecco is a gorgeous celebration in a glass. Crepes spread with a bit of mascarpone and topped with warm, crushed raspberries heated with a spoonful of sugar and a dash of orange liqueur are an elegant way to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. A bowl of cold Greek yogurt topped with raspberries and almonds will start the day with a beautifully healthy boost.

Raspberries are not only a delightfully tasty food, they are a naturally nutritious choice. Their sweetness will satisfy most sugar cravings, while providing a generous amount of fiber per one cup serving. Cholesterol-free and low in fat and sodium, raspberries have only 64 calories per cup. Raspberries contain potassium, which assists in maintaining healthy blood pressure, as well as calcium and folate. Raspberries contain anthocyanins, water-soluble plant pigments that are responsible for the berries vivid color. These anthocyanins may provide some significant anti-inflammatory protection for the body.

While the flavor of raspberries is bold and arresting, the berries are quite delicate and perishable. This means they must be enjoyed quickly, within 2 days of purchasing or picking. Discard any moldy berries and store them unwashed in the refrigerator, as additional moisture will cause them to decay more rapidly. If you have gathered a great quantity of raspberries they can be preserved in the freezer by first washing them carefully in cool water, pat the berries dry and place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and when the berries are completely frozen, transfer them to airtight containers or freezer bags and return to the freezer, where they will keep nicely for several months.

Chilled Raspberry Soup

Serves 2.

1  cup vanilla soymilk

2  cups frozen raspberries, partially thawed

1/3 cup orange juice

2   tablespoons sugar

sour cream

fresh raspberries, if desired

fresh mint sprigs, if desired

In blender or food processor, place soymilk, frozen raspberries, orange juice and sugar. Cover; blend on high speed about 30 seconds or until smooth.

Pour into 2 serving bowls; top with fresh raspberries, mint and a dollop of sour cream.

Celebrate the great American traditions of farm fresh food as you prepare your delicious life this summer.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com.