Spring Vegetable Recipes and Tips

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Each year when spring just seems to pop up out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the power that the weather and our surroundings have on a person’s outlook. Seeing the hills blanketed with lush, green grass and the trees in bloom, walking outside without a jacket for the first time in months, feeling the sun shine on your face — well, it just makes a person feel happier and healthier. And, as if spring weather weren’t thrilling enough, the produce department begins to display a bounty of luscious spring vegetables.

The “same old, same old” veggies that saw us through winter are ready to be retired from the dinner table. I start looking forward to serving artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, sweet corn, fresh spinach, crisp green beans, and Swiss chard.

Here’s how to buy those spring veggies, store them, and cook them, along with three new spring vegetable recipes to try.

Asparagus

Each cup of fresh asparagus gives you 3 grams of fiber and a cornucopia of teeth, you scrape the flesh from the leaf. It takes about 10 minutes to properly eat an artichoke (I actually timed myself). Each medium globe artichoke also gives you 9 milligrams of vitamin C and 107 micrograms of folate.

  • To buy: Look for plump artichokes that feel heavy for their size with tightly closed leaves. If possible, pull back one of the outer leaves to check that the insides don’t have black spots.
  • To store: Refrigerate artichokes, unwashed, in a plastic produce bag for up to a week. Keep dry to prevent mold.
  • To cook: Wash in cold water and cut off stem at base. If desired, you can trim off the thorns by cutting 1/2 inch off the tip of each outer leaf. Artichoke are commonly boiled until tender, but also can be cut in half lengthwise and cooked fairly quickly with some water (1/8 cup per choke) in the microwave.

Broccoli

If you don’t like broccoli, chances are you’ve had it overcooked in the past. When broccoli is overcooked, its bright green color turns to dingy dark green and its flavor can go from pleasantly subtle to stinky-strong. If you’re willing to give broccoli another try, try it raw in salad or as an appetizer with a light dip; lightly cooked in a stir fry; or steamed. It’s worth the trouble because broccoli is what I would call a super-vegetable. One cup of fresh florets provides 2 grams of fiber, 2,130 international units (IU) of vitamin A, 66 milligrams of vitamin C, and 50 micrograms of folate, all for 20 measly calories.

  • To buy: Look for odorless heads with tight, bluish-green florets. If the floret part is yellow, it’s been there too long.
  • To store: Broccoli will keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.
  • To cook: Cook just until tender by stir-frying, steaming, or in the microwave. Watch the cooking time carefully to avoid overcooking.

Green Beans

Green beans are a popular side dish and a welcome addition to salads. Each cup of cooked snap green beans contributes 4 grams of fiber, 100 milligrams of plant omega-3s, 875 IU of vitamin A (some of which is from beta carotene), 41 micrograms of folate, and 55 milligrams of NutritionInformation per serving: 208 calories, 20 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 0.4 g polyunsaturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 510 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%.

Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken with Spring Veggies

Ingredients:

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons lite soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons very hot tap water

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)

3 cups green beans or asparagus (trim about 3 inches off spears), rinsed and cut into 2-inch pieces

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and hot water with whisk. Add chicken thighs to the bowl and move them around to coat well.
  3. Spread chicken with sweet soy glaze to prepared baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables on top and baste the chicken and vegetables with the glaze from the edges of the pan. Bake 20 more minutes or until vegetables are just tender and chicken is cooked throughout.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 serving lean meat with 1 teaspoon fat maximum + 1 cup vegetables without added fat

Nutritional Information per serving: 287 calories, 23 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 2.5 g , 74 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g fiber, 640 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.

Quick Broiled Asparagus

I love grilled asparagus. This is a great recipe for when you want the look and taste of grilled asparagus but only have time to fire up your broiler.

Ingredients:

Canola or olive oil cooking spray

1 bunch long asparagus spears (about 16 spears about 8 inches long), trim the white ends off, rinsed and dried well

1 1/2 teaspoons flavored extra-virgin olive oil (lemon or orange or garlic flavors work well)

Salt and freshly ground pepper as desired (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Start preheating oven broiler. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Coat with olive oil or canola cooking spray. Spread asparagus spears across the prepared pan.
  2. Using a silicon brush, lightly coat tops of asparagus spears with olive oil. Turn spears over and lightly coat other side with remaining olive oil.
  3. Broil about 4 minutes, watching carefully. Turn asparagus spears over using a fork or prongs. Broil other side until desired doneness (about 3 minutes more), watching carefully. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Serve.

Yield: Makes about 4 side servings.

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as: 1/2 cup vegetables without added fat

Nutrition Information per serving: 37 calories, 2 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 2.4 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol 2 g fiber, 2 mg sodium (without adding salt). Calories from fat: 58%.

Sauteed Chard With Goat Cheese Topping

This can be served as a side dish or used as a filling for an omelet.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of Swiss chard leaves (either red or green), stalks removed

1 cup water

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced or chopped garlic

Salt and freshly ground pepper as desired (optional)

1/8 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts (toast by lightly browning in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently)

Preparation:

  1. Stack chard leaves, then cut into thin strips. Add to colander and rinse, draining well. Add to a large nonstick skillet with 1 cup of water. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until leaves are tender (about 4 minutes). Drain in a colander.
  2. Add olive oil to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of minced garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the chard and saute until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
  3. Turn off heat, sprinkle goat cheese and toasted pine nuts over the top, cover skillet and let sit about 1 minute before serving.

Yield: Makes about 4 side servings.

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as: 1/2 cup vegetables with 1 tsp fat maximum

Nutrition Information per serving: 75 calories, 3 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol 2 g fiber, 190 mg sodium (without adding salt). Calories from fat: 68%.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2008 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the “Recipe Doctor” for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.