A Rainbow of Produce Through the Years

For the past nine years, School Nutrition has explored the world of colorful produce with features on brightly hued fruits and vegetables, based on the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s “5 A Day the Color Way” campaign. The series concludes in the May 2015 issue with a look at blue and purple fruits, but let’s review all the colors from the past almost-decade of articles.

Note: Please review for adherence to federal regulations, as requirements have changed since many of the recipes were originally published.

May 2007: Orange and Yellow Vegetables

Color rules in 21st century cuisine. Color combinations are almost as important as taste profiles when professional chefs create signature dishes…vegetables in the yellow/orange group help to accomplish [health] goals by providing varying amounts of powerful antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids and bioflavonoids.

Orange and yellow vegetables include yellow beets, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, yellow potatoes, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, yellow tomatoes and yellow winter squash.

Chicken Pita Sandwich

YIELD: 24 servings


Chicken breast, boneless, skinless, grilled—3 lbs. 

Red onion, sliced ½-in. thick, grilled—1 lb. 

Yellow onion, sliced ½-in. thick, grilled—1 lb. 

Red bell pepper, wedged, grilled—1 ½ lbs. 

Pita bread pockets, whole-wheat, halved—12 pounds 

Lettuce, romaine—24 leaves 

Tomato slices—48 slices 

Mozzarella cheese, part-skim, sliced thinly—12 ozs.   


  1. For each sandwich, fill a pita pocket half with chicken, onions and red pepper.
  2. Add at least 1 slice of cheese, 1 lettuce leaf and 2 tomato slices. 

Photo and recipe: National Onion Association, www.onions-usa.org  

March 2008: Green Vegetables  

According to PBH, “green vegetables contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals, such as lutein and indoles, which interest researchers because of their potential antioxidant-rich, health-promoting benefits.” As a key element in a diet full of other deeply hued produce items, green vegetables are believed to lower the risk of some cancers and aide in vision health and the development of strong bones and teeth.

Green vegetables include asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, leafy greens and lettuces.    

Zesty Green Beans  

YIELD: 4 servings 


Silvered almonds—1/4 cup 

Green beans, stem-end trimmed and halved—1 lb. 

Water—1/3 cup 

Extra virgin olive oil—4 tsps. 

Salt—1/2 tsp. 

Finely grated lemon peel—1/2 tsp. 

Minced parsley—2 Tbsps.   


  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat. When the pan is hot, add the almonds and toast them, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and fragrant, or about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add the reen beans, water, oil and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cover and cook the dish until steam escapes around the pan lid. Set a timer for 5 minutes and continue to steam the dish until the green beans are brightly colored and just tender.
  3. Remove the lid and continue to cook the dish until the water evaporates and the green beans start to saute, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and stir in the toasted almonds, elmon peel and parsley. Serve immediately, using ½ cup per portion. 

Photo and recipe: North American Olive Oil Association, http://www.naooa.org/  

February 2009: White Vegetables  

So much of the food news in recent years has swirled around the importance of “eating your colors,” and making sure one’s daily diet contains a wide range of different-hued fruits and vegetables. But what we may tend to forget is that colorful eating includes pale, white produce, too! Behind the neutral color of white veggies lie many healthful vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, such as vitamins C and K, folate, potassium, allicin (a powerful, cancer-fighting compound found in garlic and onions), selenium (an antioxidant that shows up in mushrooms) and much more.

White vegetables include cauliflower, garlic, ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, white fleshed potatoes, shallots, turnips and white corn.    

Savory Potato N Root Stew

YIELD: 48 servings 

PER SERVING: 246 cal., 5.6 g pro., 41.8 g carb., 7.1 g fat, 2 mg chol., 1,181 mg sod., 12,819 IU vit. A, 108 mg ca., 1.5 mg iron 


Canola oil—1/4 cup 

Carrots, peeled, diced—3 qts. 

Onions, sweet, diced—3 qts. 

Parsnips, peeled, diced—2 qts. 

Broth, vegetable—2 gals. 

Au Gratin Potato mix—1 ½ cartons 

Parsley, fresh, chopped—1 cup 

Thyme, fresh, minced—1/4 cup 

Salt—To taste 

Pepper—To taste  


1. In a large bowl, combine the oil, carrots, onions and parsnips. Toss well to coat all ingredients with the oil. 

2. Transfer the vegetables to sheet pans and roast at 425 (degree) F for a conventional oven or 375 (degree) F for a convection oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and reserve. 

3. In a large stockpot, bring the broth to a boil. Whisk in seasoning packets from Au Gratin Potato mix. Add in the potato slices and the roasted vegetables. Combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. 

4. Add the parsley and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

5. Remove from heat. Serve immediately or cool, cover, chill and reheat for later service according to HACCP guidelines. 

6. Portion into 48 1-cup servings. 

Photo, Recipe & Recipe analysis: Basic American Foods, http://www.baf.com/recipes/   

March 2010: Red Vegetables  

We’re examining red vegetables—those bright and rosy, jewel-toned specialties of nature that bring not only vibrant color to our meals, but also plenty of valuable nutrients. For example, red veggies are loaded with important phytochemicals, such as: 

  • anthocyanidins—antioxidants linked to improved blood vessel health, which are found in red onions, red potatoes and radishes;
  • lycopene—present in tomatoes and red peppers, and associated with heart protection and a reduced risk for many cancers;
  • betalain—linked to potential effectiveness against colon cancer, inflammation and heart disease, it is found in beets;
  • luteolin—a flavonoid present in beets and bell peppers that’s been shown in animal studies to have anti-cancer, -inflammatory, -allergic and –asthma effects; and
  • quercetin—an antioxidant found in red onions that acts as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. 

Red vegetables in beets, radicchio, radishes, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes.

Basil Tomato Salad  

YIELD: 6 servings* 

PER SERVING: 142 cal., 2 g pro., 23 g carb., 1 g fiber, 5 g fat, 203 mg sod. 


Olive oil—2 Tbsps.

Cider vinegar—2 Tbsps. 

Basil leaves, fresh—2 tsps.*

Salt—1/2 tsp. 

Pepper, black, ground—1/4 tsp.

Rice, cooked, cooled—3 cups

Tomatoes, medium—2 

Cucumber, medium—1

Onion, small, red—1


1. Chop the basil leaves, tomatoes and onion. Peel, seed and chop the cucumber. Set aside.

2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

3. Add the rice, tomatoes, cucumber and onion and toss.

4. Divide evenly into six portions and serve chilled.

Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: USA Rice Federation, www.usarice.com 

March 2011: Blue and Purple Vegetables

According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, blue and purple produce contains varying amounts of health-promoting phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and phenolics, which scientists are studying for their antioxidant and anti-aging benefits. (Along with providing important antioxidants, the anthocyanin pigments in these vegetables are what bestow upon them their vivid, majestic color.) It’s currently believed that a diet that includes plenty of blue and purple vegetables (and fruits) can help lower the risk of some cancers, as well as increase urinary tract health, improve memory function and contribute to healthy aging.

Blue and purple vegetables include purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple carrots, eggplant, purple Belgian endive, purple peppers, blue and purple potatoes and black salsify.

Eggplant Lasagna

YIELD: 12 servings*

PER SERVING: 280 cal., 16 g pro., 41 g carb., 8 g fiber, 6 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 170 mg sod.


Olive oil—1 Tbsp.

Garlic, minced, divided—2 cloves

Eggplant, diced—1 medium

Oregano, dried—1 tsp.

Ricotta cheese, part-skim—2 cups

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated—2 Tbsps.

Tomato sauce, low-sodium—2 25-oz. jars

Lasagna noodles, no-bake, whole-wheat—18 sheets

Spinach, frozen, chopped—2 10-oz. packages

Mozzarella cheese, part-skim—1 cup 


1. Preheat the oven to 375(degrees)F. Defrost and drain the spinach; set aside.


2. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté 1 clove of minced garlic until it is light golden brown.


3. Add the eggplant and oregano and stir. Cover and cook until the eggplant is tender (do not overcook), about 5-7 minutes.


4. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with the Parmesan cheese and remaining garlic. Set aside.


5. Cover the bottom of a 9x13-in. baking dish with 2 cups of sauce. Cover the sauce with a layer of the uncooked noodles.


6. Add the cooked eggplant and another thin layer of sauce. Distribute all of the cheese-garlic mixture evenly over the top.


7. Add another layer of noodles, followed by a thin layer of sauce.


8. Add all of the spinach, followed by another thin layer of sauce. Add a final layer of noodles and sauce.


9. Cover with a baking dish lid or a sheet of wax paper followed by a sheet of foil. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Then, uncover, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and continue baking another15 minutes. Divide evenly in 12 portions before serving.


Photo, recipe and recipe analysis: American Institute for Cancer Research, www.aicr.org 

June/July 2012: Orange and Yellow Fruit

The fruits in this bright color category are crammed full of powerful nutrients, too, which, depending upon the particular food, can range from beta-carotene and vitamin A to zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium and vitamins B and C. Their health benefits have been cited as helping to lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure levels; aid in building healthy bones and joints as well as good eyesight; and are believed to help reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers as well as heart disease.

Orange and yellow fruits include apricots, cantaloupe, cape gooseberries, citrus, golden kiwi, mangos, nectarines, papayas, peaches, persimmons, pineapple, yellow apples, yellow figs, yellow pears and yellow watermelon.

Whole-Grain Grilled Pineapple Pancakes

YIELD: 82 2-oz. pancakes            

   PER SERVING: 130 cal., 3 g pro., 25 g carb., 2 g fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 310 mg sod.   


Water, cool—72(degrees)F—5 lbs., 8 ozs. or 11 cups

Pancake mix, whole-grain—5 lbs.

Pineapple rings, canned—7 lbs., 8 ozs.   


1. Drain the pineapple rings.

2. Prepare the pancake batter according to the package directions.

3. For each serving: Deposit 2 ozs. of batter onto a preheated griddle set at 375(degrees)F.

4. Place one pineapple ring in the center of each pancake.

5. Grill 1 1/2 minutes.

6. Flip and grill 2 minutes or until puffed and golden brown and the edges begin to dry.

Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: General Mills Foodservice, www.generalmillsfoodservice.com    

June/July 2013: Green Fruit

Many emerald-hued fruits are considered veritable jewels in the produce crown. Give your students the royal treatment by menuing more of these sparkling gems.

Green fruits include apples, avocados, grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi fruit, limes and pears.   

Roasted Corn and Zesty Kiwifruit Salad

YIELD: 12 servings*


Vegetable oil—2-3 Tbsps.

Corn, whole kernel, fresh or frozen—4 1/2 cups or 750 g

Onion, red—1 large


Bell peppers, red, sweet—3

Chili peppers, fresh—3

Lemon juice—1/3 cup or 90 ml

Salt, seasoned—1/2 tsp.

Cannellini beans, cooked*—3 cups or 540 g


1. Slice the onion. Seed and dice the bell peppers and chili peppers. As necessary, drain the beans.

2. Roast the corn kernels in the vegetable oil on a sheet pan in a medium oven, stirring occasionally until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the corn to a large bowl.

3. Peel and slice the kiwifruit into quarters and slice those into chunks.

4. Combine the kiwifruit with the corn and add the onion, bell peppers, chili peppers, lemon juice, salt and beans.

5. To serve: Divide into 12 equal portions.

Photo & recipe: ZESPRI® Kiwifruit, www.zespri.com 

March 2014: Red Fruit

   From richly colored berries to classic red apples to exotic pomegranates, red and pink fruits are a feast for the senses. Due to the longstanding popularity of flavors such as strawberry, cherry and watermelon, it’s probably not too difficult for you to convince students to expand their consumption of some of these beloved fruits. Other options, however, such as the blood orange and red pear, that fall into the red/pink category might be unfamiliar to the kids—and, perhaps, to you.

Red fruits include apples, blood oranges, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, grapefruit, red grapes, red pears and watermelon.   

Raspberry Greek Yogurt Ice Cream Sandwiches

YIELD: 27 servings 

PER SERVING: 100 cal., 4 g pro., 13 g carb., 2 g fiber, 4 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 40 mg sod.


Raspberries, frozen—4 1/2 cups

Graham crackers—27

Greek yogurt, honey-flavored—4 1/2 cups

Whipped topping—4 1/2 cups 


1. Thaw and warm the raspberries in a microwave oven for 2 minutes. Create a puree by pushing the fruit through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon; discard the seeds. Cool.

2. Line three 9-in. square pans with aluminum foil and let the edges hang over the sides of the pans. Cut the graham cracker squares into half for a total of 54 squares. Line nine graham cracker squares evenly on the bottom of each pan.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the raspberry purée with the yogurt and whipped topping until the mixture is well combined.

4. Divide the yogurt mixture into thirds. Pour each one-third portion over the graham crackers in each pan and spread evenly. Top each pan with nine additional graham cracker squares.

5. Cover and place in the freezer for several hours or until sandwiches are frozen. Slice along the edges of the top layer of graham crackers, creating 27 total sandwiches. Each sandwich serving contains approximately 3 1/2 ozs. or 1/2 cup of the raspberry-based filling.

Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: Dole Packaged Foods, LLC, www.dole.com

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