Asparagus is popping up, and I do mean popping up, this interesting vegetable grows straight up, and can pop up to almost a foot. Most asparagus you will see is green, but there are two other varieties you may sometimes see, white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier in flavor. No matter the type you choose, asparagus is a tasty, versatile vegetable that can be cooked in lots of ways or enjoyed raw in salads.
Besides taste and versatility, Asparagus is loaded with nutrients. It is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
Asparagus can aid in the fight against cancer
Asparagus, along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts—is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
Asparagus is loaded with antioxidants:
It’s one of the top ranked fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.
Asparagus is a natural diuretic:
It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but also helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.
Chicken With Asparagus & Orzo
8 oz. whole-wheat orzo
¾ lb. thinly sliced chicken breast
1 bunch asparagus
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Cook 8 oz. whole-wheat orzo. Brown 3/4 lb. thinly sliced chicken breast in skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat, 3 min. Remove.
Add 1 bunch sliced asparagus, 3 lg cloves minced garlic, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, and 1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes. Cook 3 min.
Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and cooked chicken and orzo. Bring to a simmer and add 1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar. Season to taste.
Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 308, Fat 3 g, Protein 28 g, Carbohydrate 44 g,
Fiber 6 g, Sodium 222 mg,
Easy Baked Asparagus
2 bunches asparagus, washed
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse grained salt and cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place asparagus in a large plastic bag. Drizzle half the olive oil over the asparagus, seal the bag and shake until asparagus is coated evenly with the olive oil. If necessary, add only enough of the remaining olive oil to coat the asparagus. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender or crunchy depending upon your preference, about 12 to 20 minutes.
For a variation, toss cooked asparagus with fresh lemon, plate and garnish with thin curls of Parmesan.
Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Vegetables
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large red bell peppers, diced
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound raw shrimp, (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, asparagus, lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk broth and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth and add to the pan along with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the vegetables.
Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 182, Fat 6 g, Protein 20 g, Carbohydrate 12 g,
Fiber 4 g, Cholesterol 143 mg, Sodium 1,091 mg, Calcium 97 mg.
Spring Veggie Soup
(You can vary this recipe and use whatever fresh vegetable you want to add)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large leek, trimmed and diced (about 2 cups)
1 celery stalk, diced (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 pound very small red potatoes, quartered
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup (1 1/2-inch) slices asparagus
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup torn fresh basil
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add carrots, leek, and celery; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add stock; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add potatoes; reduce heat to medium, and simmer 8 minutes or until potatoes start to soften.
Add peas, asparagus, and beans; simmer 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add spinach, thyme, and basil; cook 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls; top evenly with cheese.
Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 340, Fat 9.5 g, Protein 19 g, Carbohydrate 48 g,
Fiber 11 g, Cholesterol 3 mg, Sodium 616 mg, Calcium 170 mg.
Asparagus & Mushroom Mini Lasagnas
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
⅛- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped 2 cups chopped baby bella mushrooms
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups thinly sliced asparagus (from 1 bunch)
24 wonton wrappers
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup prepared pesto
Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 12-cup nonstick muffin tin with cooking spray.
Whisk milk and flour in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until bubbling and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese and pepper to taste.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot, mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes. Add asparagus and cook, stirring, until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
Place a wonton wrapper into the bottom and partway up the sides of each muffin cup. Combine ricotta and pesto in a medium bowl. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the ricotta mixture into each muffin cup. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the Asiago sauce over the ricotta and top with about 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture. Place another wonton wrapper over the filling, pressing down gently to form a “cup.” The corners of the wrappers will stick up, forming 4 little points. Repeat with another layer of the ricotta mixture, Asiago sauce and vegetables. Coat the tops with cooking spray.
Bake the mini lasagnas until the tips of the wonton wrappers are golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen and remove with a paring knife. Serve warm.
Serves 6, each serving contains; Calories 339, Fat 18 g, Protein 16 g, Carbohydrate 29 g,
Fiber 2 g, Cholesterol 34 mg, Sodium 563 mg, Calcium 363 mg.