Creative Ways to Use Fresh, Summer Ingredients

(StatePoint) In summer, the abundance of fresh ingredients can be overwhelming, especially if you stick to the same old recipes. Make more of the fresh produce available to you at the grocer, farmers market and even your own garden, by thinking creatively.

To help, the summer food experts at Betty Crocker are offering some great ideas for using fresh, seasonal produce.

Berry season is far too short. Make it last longer by freezing berries for the cooler months. Choose fruit at peak freshness, and then store it in high-quality freezer bags that seal tightly, removing as much excess air — fruit’s worst enemy — as possible before freezing. Label bags with the freeze date and remember: a full freezer is more efficient, so stock up!

If you have more fresh tomatoes than you know what to do with, consider these creative uses:

• Caprese Salad. Layer sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Preserving the summer bounty of cucumbers doesn’t mean you need to spend days canning. For a tasty shortcut, layer cucumber slices, onions and carrots in a glass container. Mix with sugar, vinegar, salt and dill weed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, but no longer than two weeks.

Mash 4 cups strawberries, until slightly chunky, to make 2 cups. Mix with 4 cups sugar in large bowl. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix 3/4 cup water and one package powdered fruit pectin in 1-quart saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Pour hot pectin mixture over strawberry mixture; stir constantly three minutes. Immediately spoon mixture into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims of containers; seal. Let stand at room temperature about 24 hours or until set. Store in freezer up to six months. Thaw and stir before serving.

Summer’s flavors can be fleeting, so make culinary creations count by using the freshest ingredients in new ways.