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Go beyond tomatoes with fresh salsas

The heart of summer brings delicious fruits and vegetables from our gardens, farmers markets and the overflowing produce departments at local grocery stores. Salsa is a popular way to capitalize on these riches.

Salsa entered the English language from the Spanish word meaning "sauce." We think of salsa as a red sauce made from tomatoes, onions, garlic and chilies. Salsa has become a general term for a sauce served with chips or as a side dish to a grilled meat, chicken or fish. There's a lot of creativity in today's salsa recipes.

Trying new salsa recipes can be a fun way to add more fruits and vegetables to our diets. Vegetables and fruits are an important part of a healthy diet, and variety is as important as quantity. No single fruit or vegetable provides all the nutrients we need to be healthy.

A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar.

Often jarred salsas are high in sodium. Many of the top name brands have close to 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a half cup. We should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium all day. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart failure or kidney disease should limit their sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams per day.

Make your own fresh salsa to cut the sodium and boost your vitamins and minerals. You don't need to stick to tried and true tomatoes. Lift the fresh flavors of summer to new levels, like eating a little watermelon with a tortilla chip.

Celebrate the heart of summer with a salsa party. Provide some grilled chicken or fish and whole-grain chips and ask your guests to bring a fresh salsa recipe to share. Any of these recipes will be a hit.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

  • 4 large tomatoes (homegrown are best)
  • ¼ cup onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (to taste for desired hotness)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ small green pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Dice all vegetables. If you like it hot, leave a few seeds in the jalapeno. Combine in a bowl, sprinkle with cumin and red pepper and mix together.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 10; serving size, ½ cup; calories, 35; total fat, 0 gram; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 grams; sodium, 8 milligrams; potassium, 360 milligrams; carbohydrates, 8 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 1.5 grams.

Cantaloupe Salsa

  • 4 cups cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (1 large lime)
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest (grated lime rind)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to mix. Great served with chips, grilled chicken or grilled fish.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 10, serving size, ½ cup; calories, 45; total fat, 2 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 70 milligrams; potassium, 250 milligrams; carbohydrate, 7 grams; fiber, 1 gram; protein, 1 gram.

Peach Salsa

  • 1 cup fresh peeled peaches (about 2 peaches), diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Place all diced and chopped ingredients in a bowl. Add lime juice and stir. Enjoy with whole-grain chips, grilled chicken or grilled fish.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 3; serving size, 1/3 cup; calories, 30; total fat, 0 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 3 grams; potassium, 270 milligrams; carbohydrates, 7 grams; fiber, 1 gram; protein, 1 gram.

Watermelon Salsa

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 cup peeled nectarine (1 large), cubed
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Place all ingredients in bowl and mix. Serve with whole-grain chips or grilled fish or grilled chicken. Serve inside a watermelon rind bowl.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 8; serving size, ½ cup; calories, 35; total fat, 0 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 35 milligrams; potassium, 140 milligrams; carbohydrates, 9 grams; fiber, 1 gram; protein, 1 gram.

Blueberry Lime Salsa

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 5 medium strawberries, stems removed
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ avocado, chopped

Combine blueberries, strawberries, onion, lime zest, juice and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have the consistency you like. Scrape salsa into a bowl and fold in chopped avocado. Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips, grilled chicken or grilled salmon.

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 8; serving size, ¼ cup; calories, 30; total fat, 1 gram; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 20 milligrams; potassium, 100 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 1 gram; protein, 1 grams.

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