Spring cleaning is such a therapeutic activity. Ever notice you get the same feeling when you clean out your refrigerator? I use a minimalist approach when it comes to food storage in my kitchen. I buy what I’m going to eat and by the end of the week, there is nothing left in my pantry but some bagged popcorn and a few bottles of smartwater®. Planning healthy menus and making a grocery list for the week allows me to avoid impulse buys, minimize food storage and stay focused on eating healthier meals.
With temperatures rising and bathing suit season around the corner, there is no time to be choosing unwholesome foods that will expand your sexy waistline. It seems too easy to eat healthy with all the vibrant fruits and vegetables that are now fresh and available to pick in the garden, get at your local grocery store or pick up at the farmers market. Robins Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s party!’” I couldn’t agree more! It’s the big dance for fresh produce and it is time for us to celebrate these bright and refreshing foods that are in season right now.
Apricot • Arugula • Artichokes • Asparagus • Avocados Beets Berries • Carrots • Herbs • Fava Beans • Leeks • Mango • Morel Mushrooms • Peas • Pineapple • Potato • Spring onions • Radish • Rhubarb • Spinach • Watercress
When I think of spring foods I think of salads, pesto, fruits or more vegetable-base-type eating. It is the best time to see what your local farms have to offer. Here are a few healthy recipes showcasing some of these delicious foods that are perfect for Easter, Passover, Mother’s Day or any springtime occasion.
Strawberry Thyme Shortcake Trifle with Lemon Mascarpone Cream
Yields 16 servings
Who loves a cream cheese-like frosting on cake? Me! Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that is creamier and richer than the American version. Thyme has a lemony flavor which pairs well with strawberries and the lemon cream. Think strawberry lemonade. I soaked this cake with a thyme-infused simple syrup and topped it with macerated strawberries for my version of the classic strawberry shortcake.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, room temp
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 cup whole milk
- Thyme Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 bunches fresh thyme
- 3 lbs. Strawberries, tops removed, cut in quarters
- 2 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 cup Mascarpone
- 2 cups Whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8” round cake pans and line the inside with parchment.
- In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients.
- Using a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool cakes for at least 10 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
- Thyme syrup:
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pot over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and has a syrup-like consistency. Set aside to cool.
- Cut tops of cake evenly to expose the cake crumb. Take a pastry brush and dab the syrup on the cake allowing it to soak into the cake. Let sit for 20 minutes. Cut into cubes.
- Toss strawberries with sugar and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- In a mixer, whip mascarpone until creamy. Add cream, sugar and lemon zest and whip until firm and fluffy.
- To assemble the trifle, place half of the cake pieces into the bottom of a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Top with half of the strawberries, then half of the cream. Repeat the layers. Garnish with a few more strawberries and fresh thyme on top. Cover and place in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
Carrot Soufflé with Matzo Maple Pecan Crumble
Yields 8-10 servings
This side dish is light and fluffy in texture and almost dessert-like with its creamy filling and sweat crunchy topping. It would be perfect to serve at a Passover dinner with a lamb roast entree to balance out the sweet and savory flavors.
- 1 lb. carrots
- ½ cup butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 Tbsp. matzo meal
- ¾ cup matzo meal
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup Pecans, chopped
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp salt
- 8 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces.
- Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 dish with canola oil, set aside.
- Soufflé: Steam carrots until soft. In a food processor, blend carrots. Add the rest of the ingredients.
Combine all ingredients using your hands and making sure that the butter clumps are small.
- Assembly: Place carrot mixture in dish. Top with crumble mix. Bake for 25-35
- minutes or until set.
Brisket and Beet Hash with Eggs and Spring Onions
Yields 4-6 servings
Holiday leftovers is put to good use with this dish. People automatically think of pickled beets when beets are mentioned, but their flavor and texture are so much better when roasted and lightly seasoned. It goes great with goat cheese, citrus and – in this recipe – brisket. Chop up the meat, dice the roasted beets and top with some eggs and spring green onions. If you think the colors in this dish look amazing, wait until you taste it!
- Olive oil
- 2 cups leftover brisket, shredded
- 1 pound red beets, peeled and diced small
- ½ pound of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced small
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp. spring onions, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- In a skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add potatoes and beets to mix. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Once potatoes and beets are soft, add in brisket and heat through.
- Make four wells in the hash. Crack an egg into each well and season with salt and pepper. Cook until whites of egg are set and yolk is still runny, about 5-6 minutes. Top with spring onions.
English Pea Soup with Crispy Morel Mushrooms and Watercress
Yields 4-6 servings
Not only is this soup visually appealing but it is also bright in flavor. The watercress adds freshness and the combination of crispy earthy Morels with the mildly sweet peas, leeks and fresh herbs is a perfect balance for this spring soup.
- 1/2 cup watercress
- 1/2 cup fresh spinach
- 1 cup fresh English peas
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 1 cup snow peas
- 1 cup snap peas
- 4 Tbsp. butter unsalted
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- ¼ cup leeks, chopped
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- 2 qt. chicken stock
- 2 Mint leaves
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Morel mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Working in batches, blanch each of the first five vegetables individually, boiling just until tender and then moving to an ice bath. Set aside.
- In a large pot, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat and add garlic, shallots, leek, and celery. Once translucent, add the chicken stock and simmer. Add the mint to the hot liquid.
- Add the blanched green vegetables and the stock mixture to a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Slowly pour the liquid through a chinois or fine sieve into a bowl over an ice bath.
- Blend in the sour cream and season to taste.
- Sauté mushrooms in 2 Tbsp. of butter until crispy. Season with salt and pepper.
- Garnish soup with morels and fresh watercress.
Now enjoy some delicious and healthy spring eating!