Spring Vegetable Recipes and Tips (cont.)

Spinach

Spinach, a member of the powerhouse "dark green leafy vegetable" group, is loaded with antioxidants such as beta carotene (3,375 micrograms per 2 cups of fresh chopped), vitamin C (17 milligrams) and folate (116 micrograms). Two cups of fresh chopped spinach also has a good dose of calcium (59 milligrams) and omega-3 fatty acids (100 milligrams).

  • To buy: Look for crisp green bunches without insect damage or browning.
  • To store: Loosely wrap bunches of spinach in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag. Use within a few days. The most convenient way to buy spinach is prewashed in bags. When buying these bags, check the "sell by" date.
  • To cook: Cook until it shrinks down but stays bright green, in the microwave, or a nonstick frying pan over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of water, broth, or wine.

Sweet Corn

Corn is just beginning to come into season now, giving us yet another reason to celebrate spring. And there's no tastier way to enjoy corn than fresh off the cob. Although corn is considered a "starchy" vegetable, each ear contributes 2 grams of fiber, 35 micrograms of folate and antioxidant phytochemicals, along with about 83 calories.

  • To buy: Look for ears with tight rows of kernels, green husks, and fresh silk underneath the husks. You can peel away the top of the husks to do a quick inspection before buying.
  • To store: Refrigerate with the husks on and eat as soon as possible, preferably within a couple of days.
  • To cook: Pull off and discard husks and pull off the silk strings. Cook in the microwave, in boiling water, or over the grill. One of my favorite ways to cook corn is to bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the ears and cover the saucepan. Bring back to a boil, then turn off the heat. The corn is tender-cooked after about 10 minutes.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard, a member of the beet family, is in season in spring in some areas of the country. This dark leafy green vegetable has bumpy (not flat) leaves that look like other greens, but stems that look like thin celery. Both leaves and stems of Swiss chard are edible. It comes in green or red varieties. A cup of cooked chopped Swiss chard has 4 grams of fiber, a whopping 10,000 IU of vitamin A and 6,000 micrograms of beta carotene. It also has vitamin C (32 milligrams), folate (16 micrograms) and calcium (101 milligrams).

  • To buy: Look for bunches of chard with fresh, crisp, green leaves that aren't yellow or discolored.
  • To store: Store your bunch of chard, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper for up to 3 days.
  • To cook: The leaves and stems can be steamed, cooked in a microwave, sauteed in a nonstick frying pan with a little canola or olive oil (about 5 minutes) or blanched (plunged into boiling water briefly until just tender, then rinsed in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process.)

Spring Vegetable Recipes

To help you celebrate the season, here are three spring vegetable recipes: a souffle that works for brunch, lunch or dinner; a flavorful soy-glazed chicken dish; and a quick and easy vegetable side dish.

Simple Spring Vegetable Souffle

Ingredients:
Canola oil cooking spray
3 large eggs (use a brand higher in omega-3s if available)
1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
1 cup 1% cottage cheese, whipped in a food processor until smooth
1 teaspoon oregano flakes (or substitute another dry herb like basil)
2 cups chopped vegetables (small bite-size pieces), such as broccoli florets, asparagus, artichoke hearts, zucchini, or finely chopped spinach or Swiss chard (rinsed and squeezed well of any moisture)
1 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions (the white part and part of the green), optional

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt and beat until well blended. Add egg substitute and half-and-half; beat until smooth. Stir in the cottage cheese, spring vegetables, and cheddar cheese.
  3. Pour into the prepared dish and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350-degrees and bake for 20 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Information 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

Nutritional Information per serving: 287 calories, 23 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 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.



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