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Recipe corner: sweet blueberry quesadillas and strawberry and spinach salad

It’s almost berry picking time! With the abundance of pick-your-own berry farms in Central Virginia, it’s hard not to get excited. Weather permitting, strawberries usually show up this month, followed by blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.

The beautiful berry colors come from plant pigments known as anthocyanins. While lovely to look at, the anthocyanins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, too. Studies have shown consuming these berries and other colorful produce can help reduce risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancers. Ongoing research suggests a possible link between eating strawberries and blueberries and improved cognitive function and memory in aging.

Strawberries are the most popular berries in the United States, with blueberries a close second. They’re both fat free, low sodium and good sources of fiber. Strawberries have 46 calories and 11 grams of carbohydrate per one cup serving. Blueberries have 84 calories and 21 grams carbohydrate—they’re smaller and more fit in that same cup.

Both berries are very good sources of vitamin C. Blueberries have about 20% of the total vitamin C in an orange, but strawberries have 20% more than an orange!

Berries don’t ripen after they’re picked. When selecting strawberries, look for firm, deep red berries with caps. Remove any moldy or crushed berries before refrigerating and eat within three days as they’re very perishable. Choose blueberries that are firm, plump and similar in size with a dusty blue color. They’ll last up to 10 days refrigerated.

Wait to wash the berries just before using. If you can’t eat them all, freeze to enjoy off season. For the strawberries, you can leave the caps on or remove them before freezing. First, wash berries and pat dry. Spread on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer to freeze individually. Once frozen, place in a sealed, freezable container.

Take the time to enjoy the fresh, natural, just-picked sweetness of berries with these two recipes!

Sweet Blueberry Quesadillas

These yummy quesadillas make a great breakfast, snack or light dessert.

Makes 4 servings (1 quesadilla).

  • 10 ounces blueberries, frozen
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup blueberries, fresh
  • 4, 8-inch tortillas, whole wheat
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, part skim
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese, fat free
  • 1 lemon, grated peel

In a saucepan, combine frozen blueberries, apples and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once you have reached a boil, reduce heat and simmer until fruit is soft (about 10 minutes).

Purée fresh blueberries. Add to fruit mixture. Spread 1 tablespoon blueberry spread over half of each tortilla, leaving 1/2 inch border around.

In bowl, combine cheeses with lemon peel. Spread 1/4 of cheese mixture (about ¼ cup) on one half of each tortilla. Place 2 tablespoons of blueberry mixture on top of the cheese on each tortilla. Fold each tortilla over to enclose the filling.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add quesadillas and cook until crisp and lightly browned on bottom. Turn and crisp on second side.

To serve, place quesadillas on plates and top with remaining blueberry mixture.

Nutritional information per quesadilla: 320 calories, 12 grams protein, 7 grams fat  51 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 570 mg sodium and 200 mg calcium. 

Recipe courtesy of Produce for Better Health Foundation,

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

The sweet and pungent dressing brings a delicious flavor to the salad. If you’re pressed for time, use fat-free poppy seed dressing or your favorite low fat or fat free fat free vinaigrette dressing. 

Makes 6 servings.

Dressing ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • ¼ cup white sugar (or sugar substitute to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup water

Salad ingredients:

  • 5 ounces baby spinach, rinsed and dried (about 3 cups)
  • 1 pound of strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
  • ¼ cup sliced sweet or red onions
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Prepare the salad dressing by whisking together the poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and water. Cover and chill at least one hour before serving.

Combine spinach, strawberries, onions and almonds in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the salad right before serving and toss.  Or for individual servings, place salad in 6 bowls, and serve chilled dressing on the side.

Approximate nutrients per serving for salad only:  60 calories, 2 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 18 milligrams sodium and 45 milligrams calcium.

Approximate nutrients for 1 tablespoon salad dressing (made with sugar): 30 calories, 3 grams carbohydrate and 2 grams fat. 

Inspired by recipes found at

Recipes provided by Mary-Jo Sawyer, R.D., registered dietitian in the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic at VCU Health. 

Written by: Massey Communications Office

Posted on: April 28, 2017

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