Healthy Recipes for Spring’s Freshest Ingredients

Healthy Recipes for Spring’s Freshest Ingredients

You already know eating fruits and veggies will help you stay healthy, but choosing the freshest seasonal foods in your area will keep things inexpensive and eco-friendly. Seasonal eating is a cinch in the spring, when farms across the country showcase produce that can make any locavore proud. Pick out a few of the following foods the next time you hit the farmers’ market — your waistline (and your wallet) will thank you.

Asparagus

Come spring, asparagus are front and center in the produce section. These lovely green stalks are packed with folate (great for expectant moms), high in vitamins A and C, and rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Be sure to make use of these spears as soon as you see them — asparagus tend to lose flavor once they are harvested, so finding them at the market and cooking them up that night guarantees the best taste possible.

Asparagus Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette 

4 servings

  • 1  pound fresh asparagus
  • 2  tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons dry sherry or orange juice
  • 1  teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1  teaspoon snipped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
  • 1/2  teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/8  teaspoon salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6  cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 1  tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. If desired, scrape off scales. In a covered medium saucepan cook asparagus in a small amount of boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus spears to a bowl filled with ice water; set aside.

For dressing, in a food processor bowl or blender container combine rice vinegar, dry sherry, sugar, tarragon, mustard, salt, and pepper. With processor or blender running, slowly add oil in a thin, steady stream. (This should take about 1 minute.) Continue processing or blending until well mixed.

To serve, drizzle about half of the dressing over the greens; toss to coat. Divide greens among 4 salad plates. Pat asparagus dry with paper towels; arrange on top of greens. Drizzle asparagus with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Beets

Beat cancer and heart disease with this phytochemical-rich vegetable. But don’t forget about the leafy greens attached to those bulbous bottoms. When steamed or sauteed (just like spinach or Swiss chard), beet greens yield tons of vitamins and nutrients.

Beets With Blue Cheese and Walnuts 

6 servings

  • 2  tablespoons apple-cider, balsamic or red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3  cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4  cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4  cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1  shallot, minced
  •   6 to 8 medium-size beets, tops removed
  •   Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •   A few handfuls of torn arugula leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400°F.

Wrap beets individually in foil, twisting the ends, and place on a baking sheet. Bake 60 to 90 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 5 minutes; whisk in olive oil to make a vinaigrette.

Remove beets from oven and unwrap them. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with your fingers or a small knife. Slice into wedges or 1/3-inch-thick rounds and place in a serving bowl.

Add vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Top with cheese, walnuts and arugula leaves. (To save time, beets can be roasted the day before, refrigerated, then reheated.)

Strawberries

The list of health benefits you reap from strawberries is lengthy (they are a great source of potassium, fiber, and antioxidants, to start), but here’s some important food for thought: Strawberries are often grown with the use of strong pesticides, so it’s best to purchase the organic variety (look for the USDA seal on packaging). Or buy them from a local farmer — small farms are more likely to use less-invasive farming techniques.

Spinach

While it’s very common to consume spinach from a frozen package or from a can, spring puts fresh spinach center stage — and for good nutritional reasons. The quicker the vegetable is eaten after being harvested, the more the nutrients are retained. So, for a Popeye-sized helping of vitamins K (which helps keep blood healthy), C (which strengthen immune function), and A (which keeps vision sharp), toss a few bunches of fresh spinach into your basket.

Broccoli

Studies show that eating large amounts of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may help stave off age-related decline in memory. Go for bunches that have firm stalks and green florets (the richer the hue, the more concentrated the nutrients).

Marinated Broccoli

  • 2  cups broccoli florets (from 1 small broccoli crown)
  • 2  scallions, minced
  • 1  tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2  tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2  tsp. sea salt
  •   Small pinch crushed red-pepper flakes

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a plastic container; shake well. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Carrots

Put down the vegetable peeler when cleaning off your carrots, as these beta-carotene-rich beauties hold tons of nutrients in or just below that outer layer. Simply scrub the dirt off and enjoy. Little known fact: The baby carrots found in stores don’t hold as much nutritional value as larger carrots because the skin is removed during processing. In this case, bigger IS better.

Roasted Salmon with Carrots, Molasses, and Chili 

2 servings

  • 1  pound carrots (usually 1 bunch without the greens)
  • 2  tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2  tablespoon molasses
  •   pinch cayenne
  •   Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  fillets salmon, 4 to 6 ounces each
  •   Chopped fresh herbs, optional, for garnish
  •   Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Peel the carrots and slice them on a bias (this is prettier than coins and no more work) about 3/4 inch thick.

In a large bowl whisk together 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, the molasses, cayenne, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add the carrot slices and toss well. Spread the mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, until golden and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper and rub with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the fish on a small baking pan and pop it in the oven with the carrots during the last 10 minutes. The fish is done when it’s opaque on the top but still darker pink inside, 8 to 10 minutes depending on how thick the fillets are. You should be able to cut into it with a fork, but it shouldn’t flake (that’s overdone).

Serve the salmon and carrots garnished with herbs, if you have them, and lemon wedges.

Lettuces

We often think of lettuce as simply the base layer for better ingredients in our salads, but romaine, arugula, Bibb, and many more varieties of spring lettuce all pack a serious nutritional punch. To best clean your bunches, swish the leaves in a large bowl of cool water, and let them sit so the grit settles to the bottom. Lift out the leaves and repeat until no dirt remains. Spin to dry.

Arugula-Fennel Salad with Pear Vinaigrette 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3  cup pear nectar
  • 3  tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1  fennel bulb
  • 2  cups arugula leaves
  • 2  cups romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2  small ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2  of a small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 1/4  cup broken walnuts, toasted
  • 1  ounce Parmesan cheese

Directions

For vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together pear nectar, vinegar, oil, and pepper. Set aside.

Cut off and discard upper stalks of fennel, reserving some feathery leaves for garnish (if desired). Remove wilted outer layer of stalks and cut off a thin slice from base. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into thin slices, removing core (if desired).

In a medium bowl toss together sliced fennel, arugula, and romaine leaves. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over fennel mixture; toss to coat. Arrange the fennel mixture on 4 salad plates. Top with pears, red onion, and walnuts.

Use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave Parmesan cheese. Top the salads with shaved cheese and, if desired, garnish with fennel leaves. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

Peas

If you’re feeling sluggish, piling up on peas (either Sugar Snap, with the rounded pod, or Snow, with the flat pod) might help give you a boost. Peas provide nutrients like iron, whose deficiency results in fatigue, and vitamin B, which is necessary for metabolic function. Don’t be deterred by the name “Sugar Snap” — the naturally occurring kiss of sugar in these pods is a far cry from the calorie-rich cane sugar or corn syrup found on many ingredient lists.

Brown Rice Salad With Snow Peas, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Artichoke Hearts 

4 servings

  • 1  cup snow peas (about 30), trimmed
  • 1  jar (6 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/2  cup red wine or balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 2  cups cooked brown rice, chilled
  • 1/2  cup chopped fresh herbs, such as Italian parsley and basil
  • 4  large leaves of radicchio lettuce
  • 15  sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed), thinly sliced

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for lettuce. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop a portion into each lettuce leaf before serving.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard’s thick, crunchy stalk and hardy, wide leaves have a taste that is “half spinach, half beet” says Sarah Krieger, RD and National Spokesperson for the ADA. Chard is chock-full of vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, which can relax muscles and boost levels of mood-lifting serotonin in the body. Plus, it’s a great source of iron for vegetarians who may not be getting enough without eating meat, says Krieger.

MAKE IT: For a light pasta dish, toss linguine with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and cooked Swiss chard.

Raspberries

In a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, raspberries ranked as one of the richest sources of antioxidants. But “they’re very delicate,” says Krieger, and lose their nutritional richness with every day they are off the vine. If you purchase raspberries at the grocery store, ask a salesperson when the shipment was delivered, and how far it had to travel.

Grilled Chicken and Baby Spinach Salad With Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette 

4 servings

  • 10  ounces baby spinach, washed well and spun dry
  • 12  ounces grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced (about 16 ounces uncooked)
  • 1  pint fresh raspberries, divided
  • 3  tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon orange-blossom honey
  • 1  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  small shallot

Directions

On a serving platter, arrange baby spinach, grilled chicken breasts and three-fourths of the raspberries.

In a blender, combine vinegar, honey, oil, shallot and remaining raspberries; blend for 1 minute, or until smooth. Drizzle over salad.

Fava Beans

The fava is filled with fiber — a half cup yields 9 to 10 grams of the 25 grams of fiber that we need daily. The only downside to this dietary dynamo? They’re slightly labor-intensive, as you must shuck them from the pod, remove their waxy coating, before cooking.

MAKE IT: Instead of hummus, spread this puree onto crackers and veggies. Remove beans from pod and peel off outer coating. Cook shelled beans in water until tender. Puree beans with olive oil, garlic and a dash of cumin.

Radishes

Often relegated to a garnish, the radish rightfully deserves its place on your plate. This little root is low in calories and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. When shopping for radishes, take note of the size of the bulbs. If they’re too big, they might be cracked or have a hollow center. Their leaves should look crisp and green, not yellow.

Artichokes

Fresh artichokes look intimidating, especially when it is so easy to buy the jarred, marinated variety. But packaged artichokes are usually soaking in oil and may have added sodium or other unhealthy jar-mates. Go for the fresh choke and you’ll avoid additives and get right to the antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals this veggie has to offer.

Warm Tarragon Potato Salad 

8 servings

  • 1/4  cup sesame oil
  • 1/4  cup vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1  teaspoon snipped fresh tarragon or dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed, or dried dillweed
  • 1/2  teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1  pound tiny new potatoes and/or small yellow potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2  teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1  cup chopped bok choy
  • 1/2  cup chopped red radishes
  • 1/2  cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2  thin slices Canadian-style bacon, chopped (1 ounce)
  • 1/8  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4  artichokes, cooked, halved lengthwise, and choke removed (optional)

Directions

For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the 1/4 cup oil, the vinegar, sugar (if desired), tarragon, and mustard. Set aside.

In a lightly greased 2-quart square foil pan combine potatoes and the 2 teaspoons oil; toss to coat.

In a grill with a cover arrange preheated coals around edge of grill. Test for medium-hot heat in center of grill. Place potatoes in center of grill rack. Cover and grill about 25 minutes or just until potatoes are tender. Cool potatoes slightly.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, bok choy, radishes, green onions, Canadian-style bacon, and pepper. Add the dressing; toss gently to coat. If desired, spoon the salad into artichoke halves

By Emily Dorn at Fitness Magazine

For more recipes or help putting a meal plan together, contact wendy@fitfoodcoach.com
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