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Community Health

Spring forward with these veggies

March 13th, 2014 12:00 pm by Marci Gore

Spring forward with these veggies

Brussel sprouts are one of the early spring vegetables that taste fresh and yummy this time of year. As Food City produce manager Brent Harkleroad shows, customers can buy the vegetables fresh on the stalk. (David Grace photo)

With the first official day of spring right around the corner, now is the perfect time to enjoy fresh vegetables. The spring months are usually when you can find the most tender, fragile and flavorful ones.

"In this day and age, everything is available at any time, but when certain vegetables are in season, this is when they can be the most delicious, especially when you know how easy it is to prepare them," said Audrey Kessler, Food City registered dietitian.

There are plenty of options on the stores' shelves right now, but Kessler recommends asparagus, beets, sweet onions and turnips as some of the best — and healthiest — choices.

Asparagus, which is in the same family as onions, leeks and garlic, is the highest folate-containing vegetable.

"The earlier in the season, which is now through June, the thinner they are," Kessler said. "They are pencil thin right now and, as the season progresses, they will start getting thicker and fatter. This is not a reflection of how tender they are. It's really just a matter of how soon you consume them after they are picked. Generally, you want to choose them when they are bright green and their heads are compact."

The thinner spears are also great for eating raw or adding to salads.

If you want cooked asparagus, Kessler recommends stir frying or roasting.

Beets are a two-for-one veggie, Kessler says.

"Beets are often sold with their greens attached. Don't dispose of them. You can actually consume them. The greens are rich in calcium and iron and vitamins A and C. The beets themselves contain folic acid and are a good source of fiber," Kessler said.

But if you are watching your sugar intake, keep your portions in control since beets do have a higher sugar content than a lot of vegetables.

Kessler says beets, also known as beetroots, belong to the same family as chard and spinach and are great roasted, boiled or in a soup, called borscht.

"I'm big on roasting because it's super easy. You just wrap them up in aluminum foil after you've cleaned them and place them in an oven at about 400 degrees. You're waiting for them to get tender enough so that you can put a knife in there easily. That might take up to two hours. But once that happens, the skins will just slide right off the beetroot. And once they have been roasted, they soak up other flavors very nicely. You can toss them in some balsamic vinegar and oil or some sherry — anything you like the flavor of," said Kessler.

Sweet onions, especially Vidalias, are so sweet they are great to use raw in a salad or as a garnish, Kessler said.

"The reason they are so sweet is not because they contain more sugar than other onions, but because they contain less sulfer, which is that strong pungent odor that overtakes the sugary flavor. When that's toned down, you can taste the sweetness of the actual onion," she said.

One of Kessler's favorite recipes — one she says makes the perfect side dish with absolutely everything — is a baked sweet onion.

"Peel a large Vidalia and then cut off the top and bottom to make the onion sit flat. Core the middle and add a pat of butter inside. Microwave for around five minutes on high or wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender," she said. "It comes out with the flavor of a French onion soup."

When choosing turnips in the spring, look for the smaller ones, Kessler advises. These will be the sweetest ones, she says.

"Similar to the beet, they have their greens attached, so it's that two-for-one again," she said. "Turnips can be roasted or you can make soup out of them or even use them as a substitute for mashed potatoes."

In the same family as turnips is the Brussels sprout. Some stores have even started offering fresh ones still on the stalk.

But, unfortunately, these little cabbages that are chock full of nutrients, are often not the most popular vegetable on the family dinner table.

Lisa Gilreath is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Indian Path's Health Resources Center and says 

Brussels sprouts can be prepared in so many tasty ways that it's worth giving them another try.

"They can be boiled, grilled, roasted, sauteed, steamed or stir fried. You can prepare or top them with apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, crumbled bacon, dried fruit like apricots or raisins, honey mustard or plain mustard, olive oil, onions, pine nuts, pistachios or other nuts, or just a pinch of salt and pepper. They can also be eaten alone or combined with other vegetables and disguised in casseroles," she said.

Using some of these spring veggies that many people might turn their noses at, here are a few recipes you might want to try out on your own family while these vegetables are in season the next few months.

Grilled Asparagus, Fennel, & Spinach Salad

From Food City

1 whole fennel bulb

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel

4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

8 ounces asparagus spears, trimmed

4 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

Trim off stem end of fennel; quarter fennel but do not remove core. Place fennel in a small microwave-safe dish or pie plate. Add the water. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high about four minutes or until nearly tender; drain.

Meanwhile, for dressing, in small bowl combine oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper; whisk until smooth. Brush fennel and asparagus with 1 Tbsp. of the dressing; set remaining dressing aside.

Grill fennel on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium heat for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Add asparagus to the grill; grill vegetables for 7 to 8 minutes more or until vegetables are tender, turning occasionally.
Transfer fennel to a cutting board; cool slightly and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices, discarding core. Divide fennel and asparagus among four dinner plates. Arrange spinach on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Top with Parmesan cheese and basil.



8 cups beef broth (see note)

1 pound slice of meaty bone-in beef shank

1 large onion, peeled, quartered

4 large beets, peeled, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, chopped

1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 cups thinly sliced cabbage

3/4 cup chopped fresh dill, divided use

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Note: Use gluten-free broth if you are cooking gluten-free

Bring 4 cups of the beef broth, the beef shank, and onion to boil in large pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Transfer meat to work surface; trim fat, sinew and bone and discard. Chop meat; cover and chill. Cool broth slightly. 

Chill in pot until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Spoon fat from top of chilled broth and discard. Add remaining 4 cups broth, beets, carrots, and potato; bring to boil. 

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in meat, cabbage and 1/2 cup dill; cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar.

Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream and remaining 1/4 cup dill.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Maple-Balsamic Drizzle

From Weight Watchers

2 sprays cooking spray

2 pound uncooked Brussels sprouts, trimmed

2 Tbsp olive oil, extra-virgin

2 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a large nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice Brussels sprouts in half, if large; place on prepared baking sheet. Add oil, 2 tsp. salt and pepper; toss well to coat. Roast, stirring and rotating pan halfway through cooking, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, maple syrup and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in a small saucepan; set over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring frequently, until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Spoon Brussels sprouts into a serving dish; drizzle with syrup mixture just before serving.

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